Those English women, they are such brilliant artists. Cecily Brown, who currently has an exhibition of seven new paintings at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, first came to attention as a sexy post-feminist, positively juiced by her own high-test sexual desire. Many of her earlier works are scenes from a contemporary Kama Sutra, radically pornographic images put through an Osterizer of pink and red flesh tones, a transgression that is deliciously, stridently vulgar.
Now, taking inspiration from pornography may bring a measure of avant-garde success, but it's unlikely to get you into the Museum of Modern Art. Thus, Brown's turn towards the pastoral, towards Poussin, Rubens and other Old Masters as the ostensible models for her allover, painterly compositions. But the girl can't help it (so to speak). In the new show, by example, the one painting that is most easily readable, titled The Quarrel, depicts a naked couple grappling in a luscious green landscape -- a sweet return of Dionysian barbarity to the classical Arcadian setting.
Brown's paintings may once have been rather horrifying. The new work, by contrast, is ravishing. Using the entire palette -- one picture, titled Tripe with Lemons, has a plate of Czannesque fruit in one corner and is suffused with golden yellow -- Brown designs a dense, shredded space, packed edge to edge with a color Rorschach of uncertain imagery, ranging from flowers and leaves, like a girlish echo of Georgia O'Keeffe, to an orgy of fragmentary pink parts. If I had $100,000, I'd buy one, and wait till the price rose to $1 million.
Down the block at Barbara Gladstone Gallery is a new suite of works by the beloved blue-collar Brunhilde of Brit Art, Sarah Lucas. She brings a jocularly focused poetry to junk assemblage; here, a woman is a bucket, a pair of light bulbs and some pantyhose on a hanger. Works with titles like The Sperm Thing and Tess Was Married -- the whole show is titled "God Is Dad" -- are made of two or three elements, including rusty metal bedsprings, battered linoleum tables, a concrete sphere, more buckets and pantyhose, and a pair of work boots cast in cement. The price range is 65,000-75,000 -- no, Lucas doesn't want dollars. Would you? The exhibition is her first New York solo since 1998; see "Smoking and Drinking," Sept. 18, 1998.
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Diana Thater makes video installations, and her two recent exhibitions in Manhattan, one downtown at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea and the other up at Zwirner & Wirth on East 69th Street, show an esthetic that is as light as a cathode ray. Uptown was White Is the Color (2002), a room installation that combines a white fluorescent light placed on the floor, in admitted homage to Dan Flavin, with a projection of billowing white clouds of smoke moving slowly across two walls and the ceiling. It's a peculiarly compact meditation on sublime horror, pairing images of natural and technological power.
The major Chelsea installation, titled Continuous Contiguous, was filmed from a crane in the Panamanian rainforest. Scattered flat across the floor like rectangular digital ponds are three plasma-screen videos, playing footage Thater shot of a sloth and a butterfly. Four moving projections on the walls and the ceiling show rapid pans of the leafy jungle, as well as the towering yellow crane. Here, Thater brings it all together, image and architecture, nature and electronic media, into a kind of transparent gesamtkunstwerk.
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Petah Coyne's traveling survey exhibition, "Above and Beneath the Skin," begins its tour at two venues in New York, the SculptureCenter in Long Island City and Galerie Lelong in Chelsea. Organized by Douglas Dreishspoon, curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the show also travels to Chicago, Kansas City, Scottsdale and the Albright-Knox.
The exhibition makes a compelling case for Coyne's works, which are astonishingly large and complex agglomerations of romantic motifs -- cascades of roses, heaps of pearl necklaces, flocks of birds in flight, scads of used tapers -- often suspended from the ceiling like chandeliers, frequently including symbolic relics (a braid of hair, a religious statue, a stuffed bird) and usually covered with a thick, fragile-seeming coating of either black or white wax.
Coyne's works can suggest root balls torn from the earth or tumors that have been ripped from the breast, a harrowing image of gestation -- artistic and otherwise -- that is carefully balanced with more transcendent elements of meditation and release.
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Don't miss the 15-minute-long film by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, titled Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas - Battle of Easel Point - Memorial Project Okinawa, unspooling in the back space at Lehmann Maupin Gallery on West 26th Street. Nguyen-Hatsushiba, who shows with the Mizuma Gallery in Tokyo and lives in Ho Chi Minh City, enlisted a squad of scuba divers to paint underwater, supposedly making portraits of Hollywood actors from Vietnam-era war films (though the visible paintings look suspiciously like George W. Bush).
To vaguely militaristic electronic music, about a dozen submarine painters carry in the easels and stab at the canvases, bearing paint tubes on belts like machine-gun ammo. The tape is a great (if silly) parody of militancy, and is produced in an edition of eight for $40,000. Work by the Hugo Boss Prize finalist has previously been seen in New York at the New Museum, though this is his first New York gallery solo.
Another hot attraction in Chelsea is the fictional artist Reena Spaulings at Haswellediger & Co. Gallery on the corner of West 23rd Street and 10th Avenue, with an exhibition of homemade flags displayed in cheap aluminum stanchions on the gallery walls. Spaulings' identity remains unclear, though she seems to be a phantasm dreamed up by the Bernadette Corporation, a group of young artists that includes John Kelsey, co-director of the Reena Spaulings Gallery on Grand Street on the Lower East Side. Since New York Times art critic Holland Cotter compared Haswellediger & Co. to the late Colin De Land's American Fine Arts gallery, perhaps it's safe to say that Spaulings is a relative of John Dogg.
In any case, buyers have already been found for almost all 11 of Spauling's flags, one of which has a brick-wall pattern, while others are black canvas collaged with mussel shells, mirror shards or an assortment of pins and embroideries. These emblems of Lower East Side diva bohemianism, which signal a youthful sense of unlimited talent, are unusually hard to resist. The price: $3,000-$5,000.
Also available for $100 is a boxed CD set of cover versions performed by downtown hipsters of the Velvet Underground classic White Light White Heat. And, Spaulings has produced a paperback novel, priced at $30, that doesn't seem to be a complete waste of time. "Reena is standing, but not sitting," it begins. "Her hands are behind her, but not in front of her."
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Phong Bui, the estimable publisher of the Brooklyn Rail -- easily the best thing to happen in New York publishing since the debut of Artnet Magazine -- is also an artist, and his works are currently on view at Wooster Arts Space on Wooster Street just below Houston in SoHo. He joins his amiable drawings, many done "automatically" with his eyes closed, into groups and mounts them on table-like structures that are attached to the wall, or that extend out into the viewer's space. "I didn't have time to make proper frames," said Phong.
Mystical expressionist painter Ruth Kligman, who figures in both the new bio of Willem de Kooning and all those books about Jackson Pollock, has a show of two suites of new works on view at Zone: Chelsea Center for the Arts in the Starrett-Lehigh Building on West 26th Street. Her smaller Jungian line drawings done in colored pencil and crayon on paper, called "Demons," are $8,000, while the mural-sized Minimalist abstractions done with horizontal streaks of pearlescent pigment, purposely designed to resemble Monet's water lily paintings and called "Landscapes of the Sky," are $25,000.
Want one of those 3D ink drawings of plants, embedded in thick slabs of resin, by artist Dustin Yellin at Robert Miller Gallery? Too bad, all 15 works are already sold at $3,000 each. Plus, they say he's a high fashion model magnet. . . . One to watch -- L.A. artist David Radcliff, whose new stencil paintings in the back room at Team Gallery are hot.
Spotted at the Bryant Park tents for New York's winter fashion shows -- Timothy Greenfield-Sanders in his own backstage studio, making portraits of fashion stars and followers, including First Lady Laura Bush, Katie Couric, Heidi Klum and Carolina Herrera, according to Women's Wear Daily.
Lots of tall thin paintings in tall thin Donald Marron's corporate collection at MoMA, including his special Susan Rothenberg commission, featuring not one but six tall thin paintings. . . . Dealer Frank Bernarducci says that his favorite work at MoMA is the restored 1945 Bell-47D1 helicopter -- "it literally transports you."
Glenn O'Brien's TV Party documentary, now unspooling as part of the "East Village USA" exhibition at the New Museum in Chelsea, has its global premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this April. . . . The Jan. 31 benefit auction at Gavin Brown's Enterprise at Passerby for 18-month-old leukemia patient Amina Tastini raised $93,000.
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Out at AIPAD: After a stroll through Central Park last weekend to take in Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates, Central Park, New York, it was only a few blocks south to the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue, where the 25th annual AIPAD Photography Show had set up, Feb. 10-13, 2005. AIPAD specializes in classic black-and-white fine-art photography and journalism, needless to say, with a sprinkling of contemporary photographers whose work somehow keeps at least one foot in the category.
People gripe that the Hilton meeting rooms are a cheesy venue, carpeted in a red and blue abstract floral design, with 75 dealers in small prefab booths spread over two floors. But the crowds of visitors didn't seem to mind. Spotted on Saturday afternoon were svelte Gilligan's Island veteran Tina Louise, dressed in cargo pants and soft fringed boots, conscientiously stopping at every gallery, and the team of Fisher Stevens and Matt Dillon, who co-starred in the 1984 movie, The Flamingo Kid.
Lots of fabulous material was on hand, with dealers obviously keeping the events in Central Park in mind. At the booth of New York's Steven Kasher Gallery was Village Voice lensman Fred McDarrah's vintage gelatin print of Christo and Jeanne-Claude in their SoHo loft in 1976, a bargain at $2,000. But the real find for Central Park fans was at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photography, which had a series of images of the park from its earliest days via small albumen prints from collodion negatives made in 1864 by W. H. Guild, Jr. -- a vine-covered arbor, a nook in the ramble, a shaded seat. Prices: $100-$650.
Another eye-catching 19th-century image was Nadar's Study of a Hermaphrodite, ca. 1860, at Charles Isaacs Photography. A medical, even gynecological study of its subject, the 9.25 x 7.5 in. albumen print is priced at $28,000. Fans of photojournalism could choose among a selection of war pictures at Tartt from Washington, D.C., ranging from an Edward Steichen aerial reconnaissance photo made over France in WWI, ca. 1918 (the only sign of human habitation are some roads and a fragment of a bombed stone building), a vintage silver print priced at $11,000, to a 1937 AP photo captioned "Human target: Japanese use Chinese POWs for bayonet practice, Nankin," that could be had for $750.
Diane Arbus remains popular: at the booth of Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd. from Santa Fe, a wall of nine editioned Arbus prints (printed by Neil Selkirk in editions of 75) had all sold but one at prices ranging from $5,500 to over $20,000. Among the photos were A Prostitute and Her Client, NYC (1970) and Husband and Wife in the Woods at a Nudists Camp, N.J. (1963).
On the contemporary front, Robert Mann Gallery had sold several color photographs by the 30-something French photograph Laurent Millet. His light-hearted new series, dubbed "Les Zozios," depicts room-size constructions of bright, Calderesque shapes linked by wires and the occasional pulley, as if some odd machine for high spirits. The photos, done in editions of 20, are $2,200 framed.
Art and Realty News: Richard Prince is buying a $4 million, 1,870 square foot house near the ocean in Wainscott, Long Island, according to the New York Observer. . . . Kenny Schachter sold his 1830s gallery and residence on Charles Street in Greenwich Village for $5.92 million to a developer, who has demolished it to erect an eight-story sliverscraper. . . . Julian Schnabel has filed plans to build an eight-story tower on top of his three-story, Arts and Crafts-style brick stable building at 360 West 11th Street, drawing a crowd of demonstrators last weekend, according to the New York Times.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.