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by Walter Robinson
When Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil.
Is it Spring yet? The bunnies are out at Spencer Brownstone Gallery, courtesy Kelly Lamb, an artist who briefly had a gallery down in Tribeca a few years ago. The bunnies are Playboy ones, and Lamb's photos show that however much Hugh Hefner may be a lizardy old dweeb now, he sure hit on something about the puerilization of sex appeal back in the '50s when he put satin rabbit ears on pretty girls.
Personally, I like Lamb's most straightforward portraits. When those young women shine their lamps on a guy, boy, are they ever exploited! But Lamb is a little artier than that -- she points her camera down at their pins, down at their bosoms, down at their asses. I guess it's all good. She took this set of photographs at a party for Playboy organized by Audrey Bernstein at the Bowery Bar, by the way. They're priced at $600 for snapshot-size, and up to $3,200 for large prints.
More signs of Spring at Cynthia Broan Gallery, where Tim Thyzel has Portable Park -- a patch of bright green turf on a hand truck -- for $2,000. What does it look like in the winter, I wonder? You can also get a block of concrete, cast from a milk carton with a single caster added, for $500.
But that's about it for the Spring metaphor this weekend, as other Chelsea shows fail to cooperate. Notable in this regard is Tracey Moffatt, who could practically be called "first artist" of Australia, and who unveiled a new suite of 12 photolithos done in ultraviolet inks (in editions of 60) at Matthew Marks on 24th Street. They're Gothic, Biblical, Goyaesque, with pot-boiling scenes of witch trios, harpy birds and Hansel & Gretel brambly woods. Not at all Springish, thanks.
The daughter of an Aboriginal woman, Moffatt never knew her father -- she was raised in Brisbane by adoptive parents, a working-class couple, according to the February issue of ARTnews. Her grim storybook pictures, some of which are done in oval or tondo formats, are priced in the $4,000-$6,000 range, depending on size.
Moffatt also shows a videotape in a small downstairs space, which includes an extended sequence of scenes from Hollywood movies showing the destruction of art works -- most recent from the Michael Keaton Batman. I love this clip montage, but I am inclined to oppose anti-art gestures on principle.
The weekend's other high-profile Chelsea opening was also at Marks, in his 22nd Street space -- a sign of the young dealer's considerable clout on the global contemporary art scene. The show, by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, is a triple-threat triumph of avant-garde design. In the narrow front space is a set of five big, dark and shiny photos of leather s&m masks, taken from fetish magazines and digitally altered so as to be clean and iconic ($11,000 each in an edition of two -- one set is already sold).
In the back gallery are three round, blurry-ringed target paintings, eight feet in diameter, part Kenneth Noland, part Damien Hirst spin painting. They're $30,000 each, and are also sold, someone said. The press release calls them "blatantly decorative" -- take that, Ellsworth Kelly! Standing there and copying down the ridiculously long title to one of the paintings -- Achtzehnterjanuarzweitausendundnull -- like I actually care, was embarrassing. Surely I'm too old for this. By the way, it means "18th of January 2000 and 0."
The big space in the middle is devoted to a film installation titled It's late, and the wind carries a faint sound.... It consists of six, blue-tinted black-and-white films, showing individual men and women in mundane actions -- swimming, opening a door, dancing. They're projected slo-mo, and a mournful riff from what sounds like a Chris Isaak song plays over and over (It's actually by the San Francisco band Swell, and the lyrics say, "Everyday, sunshine."). A drop ceiling with a grid of translucent panes is also backlit in the same dark blue. Blue like Valium, blue like Viagra, blue like boys and girls in love. This work is priced at $125,000. The show is called "Love Invents Us."
West 14th Street news: Patrick Callery gallery still closed, waiting for the fire insurance, some say. Meanwhile, girl-tribe photog Justine Kurland has reportedly moved on, signing with Greenberg Van Doren on 57th Street.... Dust-busters, flashlights, boomboxes turned into witty VCD projectors by Paul Johnson at Rare, till Mar. 28. .... Casey Kaplan due to open at 416 West 14th later this month.... Martha at Mothers, the latest homage to dance icon Martha Graham by six-and-one-half-foot-tall drag queen Richard Move, Mar. 1-3, featured guest emcee stint by designer Isaac Mizrahi and guest dance by 83-year-old Merce Cunningham....
Other openings this weekend: "Paris in New York: French Jewish Artists in Private Collections" at the Jewish Museum, with a fantastic collaborative still life by Modigliani and Moise Kisling. The 1918 painting shows a Kisling nude, a Modi sculpture and a bunch of brushes stuck in a pot, a predecessor of Jasper Johns' famous Savarin can.... Renée Green at Pat Hearn Gallery, with two videotapes and a silent film projection, which uses her father's images of the Korean war to explore "issues of inheritance, family and genealogy"....
Mark Tansey at Curt Marcus Gallery, with a show of drawings, essentially an edited look at what was on his studio walls. "It's a work in progress," Tansey said.... Steve Miller at Universal Concepts Unlimited, 507 West 24th, a new space opened by Marian Ziola, former director of Ace Gallery. Miller's unique digital prints, whose images include an X-ray of a clarinet, are $4,700 -- two are already sold.... Bonnie Lucas at Barbara Ann Levy Gallery of Contemporary Art, a new space upstairs from AC Project Room on West 17th Street. Lucas paints bright expressionistic roses and sexy red-tinted storybook images of women....
When Associated American Artists gallery on 57th Street closed (the founder's widow decided to retire), painter Ellen K. Levy had to find a new venue for her paintings of scenes from what must be an imaginary museum, housing both elephants and airplanes. She found one at Trans Hudson Gallery, where the pictures are on view to Apr. 8. The oil-on-wood works are $2,000 to $9,000.
What's the best work in P.S. 1's "Greater New York"? Erik Parker's painting, What it look like (smart art), despite its unflattering installation in a corner of the lobby. The cheery, diaristic picture includes the word "artnet.com." It's courtesy Leo Koenig, from the collection of Susan and Michael Hort....Cindy Sherman showed Queen Lillian of Sweden through her Hasselblad Award exhibition at the Göteborg Museum this weekend....Sotheby's former CEO Diana Brooks has put her house in Greenwich, Conn., on the market, says Bloomberg News. She's asking $4 million....Who loves ya baby? New York Times critic Holland Cotter reviews Rupert Goldsworthy's text-drawings, on view in his own Chelsea gallery, with the following words and phrases: "it's good," "a connoisseur's eye," "real visual wit," "meticulous," "fun reading" and "a distinctive moral texture."
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.