The moveable feast that is the avant-garde art-world -- some 900 top collectors, curators, museum directors, artists and dealers, according to critic Linda Yablonskys recent estimate in the New York Times on the occasion of the 2004 Site Santa Fe Biennial -- was in Pittsburgh this weekend for the opening of curator Laura Hoptmans "Carnegie International." The verdict? "Good," according to Philadelphia art writer (and Artnet Magazine correspondent) Roberta Fallon, who also reports that Maurizio Cattelans contribution, a sculpture titled Now, is a lifesize dummy of a dead Jack Kennedy in an open mahogany coffin. The work is in the museums "founders room," away from the rest of the show, with the lights turned low. JFK is barefoot.
The dead Kennedy has an uncanny resemblance to a pile of dead Minimalist paintings from the same era, a neat stack of eight square monochromes assembled in 1967 by Jan Dibbets. The nonsite is on view at the Swiss Institute on Broadway in SoHo, where the color painter Olivier Mosset has put together a show of anti-paintings from the 1960s by nine conceptual artists, called "Before the End (The Last Show)". Another highlight, looking more than a little totalitarian after 40 years, is the pair of identical, vertical gray monochrome canvases by Art & Language, one labeled "painting" and the other "sculpture."
Also downtown, in the gallery building at 560 Broadway, Peter Freeman is exhibiting Donald Judds only triangular plywood box sculpture, a thing that looks quite strange for all its matter-of-factness. The famously demanding Judd was not really one for angles that werent -- right. Made in 1976, the untitled work spent a lot of time in storage at the Menil Collection in Houston and has rarely been shown in 25 years. It rises rather high from the floor, and the bottom on the inside of the box is not flat but slopes up to one corner. In all, its an impressive bit of calculated carpentry, something that Judd probably found distracting. In this context, Judds equilateral shape, along with Cattelans Kennedy and Dibbets stack of monochromes, seems a sad trinity of dead ends.
After which, it may be advisable to get the blood pressure up some at "Bush-Whack!" the group show of political paintings and drawings organized by George Adams Gallery at 41 West 57th Street. The exhibition is exceptional for two reasons -- first, because all of the works are good, and two, because our dim-witted commander in chief is so suitable for mockery (a tragedy to be sure). What better subject for authentic artistic expressionism could there be than the disgraceful Republicans?
In George W., artists like David Sandlin, Diane Edison, James Barsness, Enrique Chagoya and Andrew Lenaghan have found their perfect subject, as has Peter Saul, whose Dal Advises the President (2004) captures the man and the fizzing champagne of his thought with perfect economy. Political art is more than anger, of course, and of all the works, the most poignant is John Haddocks small sculpture, a model of a perplexed damaged head lying tenderly on a pillow, titled Wounds of an Iraqi Child Transferred to the American President (2004)
But art can also be dependably pastoral. Off Madison Avenue in the lovely Berry-Hill Galleries townhouse is a selection of more than 60 new paintings by Bunny Harvey (b. 1946), gestural landscapes with a fecund painterliness, some fractured by pseudo-Cubist planes, bearing titles like Gesture Fields and Summer Transitions. Harvey has shown with the gallery since 1990, and her works look good in this beautiful space, with its marble stair and dazzling 1867 white sculpture of Sappho by William Wetmore Story. The works are priced from $2,500 to $45,000, and seem to be selling like lemonade on a summer day.
Further downtown, though not too far, in the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery is hosting its first show of paintings by Katherine Bowling (who previously exhibited with Joe Helman). Dubbed "Divide," the exhibition includes 12 works (priced at $20,000-$30,000, and selling briskly). In landscapes, the notion of "divide" suggests a cosmic opposition of earth and sky as well as an abstract approach to the painting itself, one that looks to Rothko and other Abstract Expressionists even though the works are figurative. Bowlings paintings embrace "a painterly stream of consciousness," according to critic Lilly Wei in the accompanying catalogue, who also notes links between Bowlings vision and Albert Pinkham Ryder's nocturnes, Corots hazy forests, the melancholy of George Innes and the golden light of Claude Lorraine. Nice company.
North Carolina writer Allan Gurganus, author of the popular Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, pens the catalogue essay for the current exhibition at Tibor de Nagy Gallery of paintings by John Beerman, a New York artist who was born in 1958 in Greensboro, N.C. Beerman likes a simple scene, and his landscapes from the Hudson River Valley and Central Park can resemble two-part abstractions split by the horizon line, with colors drawn from a pink dawn or a golden morning mist on a lake, brought back into the presence of the real world by, say, a single fisherman in a rowboat. The paintings all have golden frames, suggesting a gateway to a fairytale. Major paintings are $25,000, while a monoprint of Early Morning is $2,500.
Around the corner at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery are "The New York Paintings" of Patrick S. Gordon, who is called "Butch" by his Tulsa friends. Gordon makes large, no-nonsense hard-edged realist still lifes that depict odd ensembles of two or three elements, like a mahogany Empire table with a pair of red womens shoes and a vase of flowers, or a pot of orchids and a group of several lipsticks. One of the first to find a buyer was Lost My Marbles (but found em) (2004), which, though it does picture some marbles and other exotica, is notable for the glorious bouquet of sunflowers. The 12 paintings in the show are priced between $7,500 and $28,000.
Some of us remember the artist Robert Kushner from the 1970s, when he arranged fantastic fashion shows in which the models were garbed solely in bunches of fruit. This admirable predilection for bacchanalian extravagance has more recently manifested itself in paintings that are highly decorative in a Japanese-inspired style. The new works in "Opening Doors" at DC Moore Gallery, in fact, are not so much painted as laid on with puddles of glistening metallic paint, arabesques of glitter and swaths of jewel-like pigment. They feel a bit like a pirates treasure chest. Island Garden, a four-foot-tall screen in alternating panels of copper and gold, with flowers scattered across the surface in a decorative delirium, is 39 feet long. The other works in the show, if not so large, are definitely imposing. Price: $28,000-$45,000.
* * *
Curiously, two of the more interesting exhibitions in midtown are across the hall from each other in 37 West 57th Street. At Lori Bookstein Fine Art is an exhibition of the glistening color-thread embroideries made by Rosemarie Beck, a much-loved teacher at the New York Studio School who died in 2003. Her paintings, which she exhibited only rarely, could be called a cross between Prendergast and Czanne, with a measure of ferocity thrown in. Of interest here are the smallish copies of her paintings that she made in stitched thread, which she gave away to friends. The stitching is painterly, if such a thing is possible, done with no fuss about the craft, which makes them seem contemporary and fresh. The gallery has gathered together several images of bathers and athletes, and one is called Atalanta; its priced at $5,000.
Across the hall, the Project is hosting the debut solo exhibition of Jessica Rankin, who was born in Australia in 1971 and now lives in New York. In the gallerys front room are four fairly large wall hangings of organdy panels, covered with fragmentary, map-like embroidery and stitched block letters that cast faint shadows on the wall behind them. "A throwaway comment," says one sewn phrase. "A request for something, a strange attempt at a joke." The works suggest aboriginal dream drawings, and are popular; all four are sold at $18,000 each, according to the gallery.
* * *
This month has also brought a number of retrospectives and historical exhibitions to 57th Street Galleries. The Maxwell Davidson Gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue currently has a retrospective survey of works by George Rickey (1907-2002), the "kinetic art" master who took the idea of the mobile -- so folksy and circus-like in the hands of Alexander Calder -- and gave it a Minimalist, stainless steel twist, making "moving line" formations with long, thin silver "blades," and bringing in stripped-down mechanical references as well, with works whose movement comes from spinning rotors. The dealer himself has authored George Rickey: The Early Works, featuring 380 photographs of the studio works from the first 25 years of the artists illustrious career (Schiffer Books, $79.95).
Around the corner in the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street, James Goodman Gallery is presenting four decades worth of paintings -- almost 30 works -- by Lester Johnson (b. 1917), the legendary New York School figurative painter who retired from the Yale University painting faculty in 1991. Johnson has a fantastic painters touch, conjuring his people out of the wet pigments on the canvas. The apparent evolution of his work is encouraging, too, from the 1960s, when he made comically dark paintings of Frankensteinian men in fedoras, to the 70s, which is more clearly party time, with groups of people trucking down the street in a signature style that would make Mr. Natural proud. The women look particularly Carnaby Street, garbed in colorful, elaborately patterned dresses. Prices are $20,000-$100,000.
At David Findlay Jr. Fine Art, also located in the Fuller Building, is a survey of "Indian Space Paintings" by the man who coined the term, Howard Daum (1918-88). Daum was one of several artists, with Steve Wheeler, Peter Busa and Will Barnet, who in the 1940s were developing a style of abstraction that could be a mystical, native American answer to Cubism. The 16 paintings on view here have a clear-hued liveliness that suggests Northwest Coast Indian art and decorative American Indian beadwork. Born in Poland, Daum studied with vanguard abstractionist Vaclav Vytlacil at the Art Students League, served in World War II and returned to New York and studied with Hans Hofmann in Greenwich Village before retiring into his own studio. Prices range from $6,500 to $45,000.
For dessert are the 15 works from the early 60s by Photorealist Don Nice at Babcock Galleries, a show that includes a fabulous, irregularly shaped small painting of an ice cream bar that is actually carved into the canvas. Its $15,000. Larger, more typical works -- a bunch of grapes, swallow tail butterflies, peppermint gum -- are selling at $50,000 or more.
And at Susan Sheehan Gallery is "Just Desserts: The Prints of Wayne Thiebaud," an impressive selection of early etchings of cakes and pies by the inimitable California artist. Sixteen of the etchings are from the "Delights" portfolio made at Crown Point Press in 1964. One of the more appetizing, Pies (1964), produced in an edition of 100 plus proofs, is now $8,000. Should have bought it 40 years ago!
* * *
Other 57th Street offerings include a show at Marlborough New York of 16 paintings by Daniel Quintero (b. 1949), a Spanish painter and formal portraitist whose subjects have included Spains king and queen (hes shown at Marlborough since 1977). Here, his exhibition of "Tumbling Landscapes" must represent something of a lark for the artist, who deftly portrays townscapes whose buildings sway and dance in a pictorial fancy that is largely lacking from his previous work.
At Earl McGrath Gallery are sculptures by Vincent Amato, who was born in Palermo in 1966 and who has been a steelworker in New York for more than 10 years. He paints his elemental, welded steel shapes with glossy auto enamel and gives them names like Tanit and Willow Green Ark. The eight works are priced between $6,500 and $9,500.
* * *
Everyone loves the work of the Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), the visionary utopian painter and architect whose sense of decoration and design was nothing if not life-affirming. "Some people say houses consist of walls. I say houses consist of windows," he wrote, in an essay on "window rights." During the final years of his life, Hundertwasser completed three major works that represent a sort of esthetic testament -- works that are currently on view, along with nine earlier paintings, in "Hudertwasser: LOeuvre Ultime," Oct. 13-Nov. 20, 2004, at Galerie Patrice Trigano in Paris. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three hot shows of art-world erotica are coming up this November, just in time for Thanksgiving. Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea rolls out Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' long-awaited series of portraits of porn stars, accompanied by the publication of XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits (Bulfinch, $35). The works are diptychs -- dressed and undressed -- so you can decide which is cuter. . . . Lower East Side erotic auteur Richard Kern returns to Feature Inc. with a new suite of photographs that are impressionist and kinky both -- he's managed to peer down the blouse and up the skirt in the same picture. . . . And fetish photographer Bob Carlos Clarke unveils a new suite of photographs at Eyestorm, titled Love Dolls Never Die. One diptych pairs a model in black latex with a cup of coffee, another puts a girl in a latex bodysuit next to a curvy plastic bottle of dishwashing detergent.
Critic and freelance curator Grady T. Turner has organized "Intimately Acquainted," an exhibition selected from the Visual AIDS archive and viewable online at the Visual AIDS Web Gallery, with works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Mark Morrisroe, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, others.
Kustera Tilton Gallery opens at 520 West 21st Street (former quarters of Silverstein Gallery) with "Low Life," a show of works by Jennie C. Jones, Charles LaBelle, Laure A. Leber, Ivan Perez, Jeff Sonhouse, Elif Uras and Sara van der Heide. . . . Kent Gallery opens on the second floor of 541 West 25th Street in Chelsea on Oct. 23, 2004, with an exhibition of "map paintings" about famous U.S. fugitives by Matthew Cusick.
Former New York dealer Kenny Schachter premieres two Rove Projects spaces in London this week with five solo shows by Melissa Brown, Benjamin Butler, Brendan Cass, Misaki Kawai and Richard Woods. New galleries are being architected by Vito Acconci and Zaha Hadid.
Speaking of Vito Acconci architecture, his other projects include the West 8th Street Aquarium subway station in Coney Island, designed to bulge in and out in imitation of the motion of the waves, and a skate park on a beach in San Juan, a web of ramps and half-pipes done in aquamarine concrete. Architecture is a performative space for people, Acconci says.
The Iona Rozeal Brown exhibition inaugurating the new Caren Golden Fine Art quarters on West 23rd Street has a waiting list of 35 potential buyers. . . . The Art for a Landmine Free World benefit at PaceWildenstein in Chelsea on Oct. 7, 2004, organized by artist Kiki Smith and featuring a piano performance by Terry Allen, raised more than $100,000. . . . Ellen Phelans impressive ensemble of 160 digitally reworked family snapshots (including some of husband Joel Shapiro) at Laurence Miller Gallery is $300,000 for a set, edition of six plus two. . . . Bottles of olive oil from a garden in France designed by Ian Hamilton Finlay are available at Nolan/Eckman Gallery in SoHo for $80 -- a nice collectible, though the oil stays good for only a year or so.
Art-world gossip has two New York Times reporters pursuing a new investigation on the Whitney Museum, which still has admitted tax avoider Robert Hurst as board president [see "Artnet News," May 13, 2004]. The Times has plenty of disgruntled former employees to call for dirt, notes the rumor mill, including ex-director Maxwell Anderson and fired permanent collection curator Marla Prather.
New York dealer Leo Koenig, who moves his edge-of-SoHo gallery to West 23rd Street next year, likes publishing catalogues of his artists -- a new one for Torben Giehler that lists all the paintings, and a big book on Nicole Eisenman is coming up. . . . David Ross, Steven Henry Madoff, three other big-foots team up in a new consulting firm called 5ive. For info, see www.5ivegroup.net. . . . Figurative painter Bo Bartlett spotted lecturing barefoot in the galleries of the Pennsylvania Academy, where his exhibition "Heartland" is currently on view. "Im more comfortable without shoes," he says.
Artnet Magazine 3D cartoonist Elliott Arkin is minting his own first-class U.S. postage stamps with images of his signature sculptures of art personalities, thanks to a U.S. Postal Service program that lets you custom-produce stamps with your own images on them. . . Bright color photographs by Luigi Cazzaniga on view at Connors Rosato, a by-appointment design store at 39 Great Jones. Cannazetto is husband of poet and Artnet Magazine contributor of Ilka Skobie . . . . Former Artnet Magazine D.C. correspondent Tyler Green snags job as art critic with Bloomberg Muse, new culture wire for the exclusive Bloomberg financial terminal being edited by Manuela Hoelterhoff. . . . Artnet Magazine decorative arts columnist Brook S. Mason signs with Art and Antiques magazine as Chief Correspondent.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.