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by Walter Robinson
|"Critics are obliged to be critical," Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe wrote in Artnet Magazine not too long ago. Me, I just feel obliged! Obliged to transcribe titles, obliged to turn phrases, obliged to get off my couch and go see shows! For some, gallery going is a quest for esthetic pleasure. For me it's duty, hard work and deadlines! Pity the poor art critic!
My own colonialist impulse drives this "Weekend Update" enterprise, a grandiose quest to claim every new show for Artnet and its readers. Artists talk about only one person's art -- their own -- while critics can inspect and handle every item in the universal art bazaar.
But this sort of thing takes time and dedication. And not only did I miss scores of the openings on the "Weekend Update" list, your correspondent dilly-dallied so long in writing his report that it should better be called "Thursday Update." Now that's catchy!
[Memo to self: Cut work tomorrow and go see Bill Jensen at Danese, Nicoletta Munroe at Venetia Kapernekas, Amy Steiner and Dodi Wexler at Nicole Klagsburn, Rebecca Purdum at Jack Tilton, "Posers" at White Columns, Steven Hull at Von Lintel & Nusser, Fairfield Porter at the Equitable Gallery (now renamed AXA!), Jocko Weyland at Steffany Martz, Doug Martin at Charles Cowles, Andy Collins at Massimo Audiello, Gianmarco Torriani at Barbara Greene and "(212)," a group show organized by Irena Popiashvili at Gary Tatintsian Gallery. And Grace Graupe-Pillard at Donahue/Sosinski! Oi!]
If we can't get to the new shows, how about the ones that are closing that very Saturday, Mar. 25? Abstract painter Gregory Amenoff was finishing his first solo show in New York in seven years at Salander-O'Reilly on East 79th Street (in the past he has exhibited with Robert Miller and Hirschl & Adler). As everyone has already noticed, his new works, many of which feature a kind of garland-wreathed sunburst and a fragmentary sea vista, are strongly based in the American landscape tradition of Arthur Dove, Charles Burchfield and Marsden Hartley.
"My spiritual practice is through the paintings," Amenoff said, after I asked him whether he was a spiritual person. He said something about seeking a range of sensation, "making some kind of world" from luminous to heavy, ecstatic to lugubrious. "It looks like the Promised Land," said the painter Stephen Westfall, who also caught the show on its last day. The price range goes from $4,000 for small paintings to $35,000 for the large, masterful Arbor 3 -- and many are still available.
Another great show, in case any of you missed it, was the exhibition of finely detailed terra-cotta figure sculptures by Judy Fox at P.P.O.W. in SoHo. Called "Satyr's Daughters," the installation featured a naked, brown-skinned, man-sized sculpture of a Satyr positioned on the floor near the entrance of the gallery, and four life-sized sculptures of similarly nude prepubescent girls placed high on thin white pedestals in a row in the rear gallery. The walls were painted emerald green.
Each of the four girls stands in a culturally resonant pose suggestive of four great continents or civilizations. The half-crouch of Onile seems based on Luba figures from the Congo. Lakshmi is caught in the midst of an Indian dance step. The Asian Court Lady holds a submissive pose, and the fair northern European Rapunzel, twin braids heaped on her head, gestures as if to draw straw into gold.
The ensemble is Fox's best work by far, rooted in contemporary observation and given a light allegorical touch that spans much. The old goat himself is a unique terra-cotta, and was apparently still available at $60,000. Purchasers had been found for the four daughters, however, each of which is available in a terra-cotta and casein original ($35,000) and three hydrostone casts ($25,000).
"Achieving Failure: Gym Culture 2000" opened at the Thread Waxing Space to energetic crowds on Friday Mar. 24. At first we thought the show might serve as a kind of gay answer to the Whitney Biennial, but instead it turned out to be a simpler enterprise -- a group show of works on the theme of going to the gym. Everywhere are muscles, workout gear, photos of gymnasts and weight rooms, t-shirts and trophies. Daniel Cooney contributed a video projection of a flexing bicep, Andre Hébért installed a sculpture of gym lockers and Gabriel Martinez devised a mock steamroom filled with naked hunks ("scrotum piercing is in!" said observant Artnet.com print specialist Deborah Ripley).
George Spencer was handing out silver-painted hydrocal medals to anyone who showed a gym membership card. Jonathan Horowitz had several small ink drawings of ranks of black dots that are immediately recognizable to anyone who's been on a Stairmaster. In a back gallery was a performance by Tom Cole called Crash Diet, featuring a muttering cyclist spinning obsessively while suspended above a tank of luminescent green fluid. The show even included two simple metal sculptures called Prize by a group called Type A -- oversize crotch-protector cups.
The show is organized by free-lance curator and critic Bill Arning, who's off to Cambridge to be curator at M.I.T.'s List Art Center. What a swan song. One question: What do you mean, "achieving failure"?
Down at Lehmann Maupin, the Los Angeles painter Casey Cook opened her first show in New York with eight hard-edge paintings that mix what might be called a chocolate deconstructivist Neoplasticism with assorted fragmentary sexual icons -- nails, eyes, lips, high heels. Needless to say, the pictures are about sexuality and representation -- and I like them. Several works have dogs in them too. The price ranges from $2,500 for a smaller work to $15,000 for a large painting.
Dogs were a mini-theme last weekend, as German Neo-Expressionist Georg Baselitz opened a show of new paintings up at PaceWildenstein on 57th Street. Man's best friend was definitely a subject of the works, with several images being turned not completely upside down, as is Baselitz's trademark, but only on their sides! The paintings were elegantly installed, and the gallery redecorated in three distinctive tones of gray. Of the nine works, all were reserved or sold at the opening except except three, which were priced between $100,000 and $175,000. Woof!
Much beloved 70-something painter Jane Freilicher has a show of 20 new paintings at Tibor de Nagy Gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue. "Jane, she's plain and simple but her colors are incredibly sophisticated," said Rebecca Howland, an artist I'd run into on the way. "She was a wild child in her youth," Howland went on, sotto voce. "Larry Rivers said he'd kill himself if she didn't marry him!"
Howland likes best the paintings which pose a bouquet on a table in front of a window through which we view a cityscape, works like Champion Flowers (1999). Freilicher is clearly in the groove. All but three of the paintings are sold, priced at between $32,000 and $65,000.
Downstairs at DC Moore is a show by Yvonne Jacquette titled "Evening: Chicago and New York." Jacquette likes heights. Since the 1970s she has been doing aerial views, first in airplanes, now in tall buildings. On view are nine major paintings done either in Manhattan's World Trade Center district or in Chicago. Of course, most of the bigger paintings are views of Manhattan, while Chicago gets smaller pictures. The price range is $4,500-$50,000.
Up at Zwirner & Wirth on East 69th Street, a gray and cold concrete space filled with nine examples of Gerhard Richter's gray and cold Iron Curtain pop, ca. 1966-75. A grim 1967 Seestück (seascape), a blurry 1969 Kleiner Akt (small nude), a drawing-sized set of 48 black and white portraits of Jews. "None are for sale," said the lady behind the desk. Next up, classic photos by Thomas Ruff.
So many other notables, and so little time. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle opened at Max Protetch in Chelsea with a three-screen projection called "Climate." Everyone loves Iñigo, whose father is from Madrid and mother's from Bogota (they're both doctors). He's from Chicago, and has a piece in the Whitney Biennial where he is shown washing the windows of a Mies van der Rohe glass house. The projections here show someone assembling an automatic weapon, men talking on controller headsets, a nervous girl in a lobby. They seem to have something to do with revolution.
More Whitney Biennial news: Opening gala so jammed that museum operations director Willard Holmes had to do quick negotiation with NYC fire marshals… Post-gala party in empty Chase Manhattan bank at Park Avenue and 55th Street, courtesy SoHo dealer Jeffrey Deitch, featured free wine bar, lots of food, music. "Overhang," a video projection by Michal Rovner, debuted there a few days later... Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times griping about how silly it was to make a fuss about Hans Haacke's Sanitation -- except it was the Times that launched it all, thanks to a leak from a museum insider.
Art critical sampling, re the Whitney show: "surprisingly unexceptional" (Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker); "clean and tidy… inviting and cheerful" (Mark Stevens in New York); "friendly" and "pretty," with "chatty wall labels" (Judith Shulevitz in Slate); "useless" and "designed for tourists" (Christopher Knight in the L.A. Times); "political correctness with a human face" (Kenneth Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle); "a boring collection of predictable antibourgeois gestures executed by successful bourgeois artists" (Roger Kimball in the Wall Street Journal); and finally, "the art show that went 'poof'" and "a regional show that should have been in a state art museum" (Christian Viveros-Faune in the New York Press).
Oh yes, and New York Observer critic Hilton Kramer hated it -- "there is not to be found a single object, installation or home video worth seeing."
Ah, come on guys, tell us how you really feel! Meanwhile, everyone seems to have overlooked the most extreme work in the show, called Palimpsest, a video installation by Carl Pope in which a poem by the African-American artist's twin sister Karen Pope is alternately tattooed and carved on his body in a spiraling line of cursive text that runs from his head to his toes. Ouch!
Movie notes: Everyone seems to love Julian Schnabel's new movie, Before Night Falls, based on the great autobiography of the gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, who left the island during the 1970 Mariel boat-lift and who, suffering from AIDS, committed suicide in New York ten years ago. Javier Bardem of Jamon, Jamon and Almodovar's Live Flesh fame plays the lead. Sean Penn turns in a cameo as an old Cuban "guajiro," or peasant, Johnny Depp has a dual role as an incarcerated drag queen and as a captain in Castro's army. Brazilian director Hector Babenco (Kiss of Spider Woman) plays Cuban poet and theater writer Virgilio Pineira.
Chase Manhattan Bank art curator Manuel Gonzalez is Jose Lezama Lima, a poet who wrote the baroque novel Paradiso, which has been called the greatest Cuban novel of the 20th century. Julian's wife Olatz plays Arenas' mother, and his son Vito has the part of young Reinaldo. Even his parents have a walk on in the Manhattan scenes. The film was shot in Veracruz and Merida in Mexico, with some scenes in Manhattan. Even though Schnabel lived in Cuba and sits on the board of the Ludwig Foundation in Havana, the Cuban government would not allow him to film on the island.
People: Wexner Center curator Donna De Salvo is new curator at the Tate Modern in London, which opens in May. She's the only American on the team. First project is "Century City," series of nine shows, each focusing on a different city at different moments in history... Is "Carnegie International" curator Madeleine Grynsztejn off to San Francisco MoMA (succeeding Garry Garrels, who went to MoMA in New York)? Maybe, maybe not... Critic and curator Berta Sichel has been named chief curator of film and video arts at the Reina Sofia in Madrid.
Word is that Barbara Delano, former director of Tyler Graphics, signed with Pace Editions. Will she bring the Tyler inventory to Pace's new e-commerce venture?... Art critic and curator Franklin Sirmans has gone to work for Wesley Snipes on his new art website Skilz.com. First project is in collaboration with Fab Five Freddy Brathwaite, with works by Elika Burns, Ed Clark, Dale Edwards, Diego Gravinese, Athena Robles, Mosco and K-Dub Williams.
Odds and ends: Brit art duo Gilbert & George, after years of being repped by Anthony D'Offay, have moved to Jay Jopling/White Cube. "G&G to join JJ at WC," they said... Michael Zahn at Numark Gallery in Washington, D.C., with an installation that strikes this office drone as a multicolored nightmare, a desk surrounded by a cloud of formalist, monochrome file folders --yikes!... New York-based Irish artist Simon Watson, whose show "Melancholia" is up till Apr. 8 at Richard Anderson Fine Arts on West 17th Street is not the Simon Watson of Simon Says and the Downtown Arts Festival. "A hundred people called," said Anderson.
Mark Lombardi, RIP: The 48-year-old conceptual artist, whose elaborate diagrams of political and corporate scandals were last seen at Devon Golden and "Greater New York," was found hanged in his Brooklyn loft on Mar. 22. An intense chain-smoker who was "out every night," Lombardi was an ab-ex painter and art handler before he "got it neat," as he put it. The day before he died he gave all his work to Joe Amrhein at Pierogi 2000; a memorial is planned there in about two weeks.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.