"Woman is sex," wrote Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex more than 50 years ago, and it remains true today, though the definition seems to have gotten a bit more inclusive. Penises, for example, are everywhere in the new show at the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue and 27th Street in Manhattan. "Get Off! Exploring the Pleasure Principle," Apr. 1-Sept. 30, 2004, is a modest but revealing group exhibition organized by artist and curator Robin Kahn, with "ephemera" selected by Kirby Gookin. And there are some animals, too.
The show includes black-and-white photographs from 2003 by Michael Schmelling and Matthew Salacuse of male performers in "outlaw" stripper parties in the Bronx -- the fringed "rifle sheaths" the dancers wear are awfully fashion-forward -- and satirical monoprints from 1980 by Jane Dickson that mock men's fond relationship with their members. These last, more or less ignored at the time, are classic feminist artworks. One shows a man with a cock as large as a skyscraper, while another depicts a professor type looking at his wiener and saying, "Bet those girls wish they had one of these!"
Also on hand in the penis department is the 1974 Artforum ad by Lynda Benglis in which she posed in sunglasses and nothing else, except for the double-dong between her legs. Among the other ephemera here are magazine pages featuring handsome art he-man Jeff Koons hugging his porno-bride Cicciolina, and the revolutionary lyrics by Tuli Kupferberg for the Fugs' 1965 antiwar anthem Fuck for Peace (pace this, see the new peace-sign paintings by Robert Indiana at Paul Kasmin Gallery)
In a bow to the animal kingdom, the show includes three large verdigris-colored bronze bas-reliefs by Tom Otterness, the New York artist whose antic 3D characters are a cross between Thomas Nast and Saturday morning cartoons. Titled Animal Nature (1985), the work includes a human couple in the 69 position in the center, flanked by a bear banging a babe and a man doing a donkey. It makes you remember the roots of Otterness' otherwise political sensibility in the ribaldly polymorphous perverse.
Art's elemental impulses -- exhibiting the body and looking at it -- are simultaneously present in the peep show, recognized here via another set of works by Dickson. Her oilstick on sandpaper drawings of strippers in Show World on 42nd Street are bright but blurry, highly tactile images. Dating from 1992-94, they are perfect records of a now-vanished erotic underworld. RIP.
The final frontier -- and its not much of a border anymore -- is a performative one, in which the artist changes teams, moving from being the observer to taking part as a sexual actor. In Blue Ribbon Fun: A Love Story, a brief series of video vignettes by Laurel Nakadate and Dora Malech, the kittenish young artists do what might be called a frisky update of Body Art -- smooching strangers in the park, wrestling in the bath, sucking the ears of a pet rabbit, peeing on the street, kissing and touching and generally performing like little sex nymphs. The DVD can be yours for $1,000.
The show's installation is nicely done by AMP, a hip firm of three young Manhattan architects. Upstairs is a second exhibition, "Sex among the Lotus: 2,500 Years of Chinese Erotic Obsession." General admission is a stiff $14.50, though a visit to the well-stocked gift shop is free.
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Sax player and Lounge Lizards front man John Lurie, who also finds occasional work as an actor (Down by Law, Jesus of Nazareth, Oz), is adding another arrow to his quiver -- he opens "Life Is Interesting," a show of his drawings, at Anton Kern Gallery, May 6-June 5, 2004 (sharing the space with a show of early works by Andy Warhol). Some of Lurie's drawings are cartoons (a woman hands a man a fish and says, "Not tonight dear, I have a haddock") and others are ideographic, graffiti-style images that are reminiscent of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. No wonder, Basquiat used to crash at Lurie's house in downtown New York back in the 1970s. The drawings are priced to move -- they're selling already -- at $500 and $1,000 each.
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Uptown at Michael Werner Gallery on East 77th Street, "About the Three Graces" by German Neo-Ex giant Markus Lupertz, a show of drypoint etchings of Paris and the Three Graces, hand colored in transparent red, blue, green and yellow, plus four cheerfully gargantuan bronze heads of the Trojan prince. They're delicate yet ravaged, Cézannesque yet German Expressionist. Works on paper are $7,500, the heads are $120,000 (in editions of six).
At Salander-O'Reilly Galleries on East 79th, an impressive show of Precisionist paintings and black-and-white photographs by Ralston Crawford (1906-78). They look good -- for once, the photographic source material doesn't overshadow the paintings based on them. Crawford has a terrific 20th-century resume: He worked at the Walt Disney Studio in Hollywood in the 1920s and later studied at the Barnes Foundation; a map-maker in the Air Force during the 1940s, he was eyewitness to atomic tests in the Bikini Atoll. Following World War II he came to New York, and exhibited his paintings at the Downtown Gallery, Grace Borgenicht and Zabriskie. Black-and-white photos are $6,000-$12,500; paintings are priced up to $475,000.
Across town at 303 on West 22nd Street in Chelsea, a new film of an old manual typewriter gradually being covered with ash by Canadian artist Rodney Graham. Is he trying to say something about writers, perhaps, something not very nice? In the back room are doodle-ish drawings, including one dedicated to Memphis crooner Charlie Rich -- a dense page of text about Angkor Wat with a childish graffito reading "Charlie Rich" -- and emphasizing the "lie" in Charlie. It's $6,000.
Around the corner in Daniel Reich Gallery's West 23rd storefront is "Evolution is Extinct," a new show by the team of Delia R. Gonzalez and Gavin R. Russom, who make films and records as well as artworks. The installation includes several suites of Minimalist-style geometric volumes painted with black enamel and disposed like living-room ensembles, with some of the elements doubling as shelves and others as audio synthesizers, complete with small hi-fi knobs (the music they make sounds something like a Geiger counter).
Interspersed among these shiny black elements are lavender wedding cakes sitting on the floor and large cement-covered monoliths, whose sides hold small faces made of cowry shells -- images of the Afro-Cuban Santeria figure Elegua, the messenger between humans and the supernatural. On the wall are square paintings in shiny black monochrome, while sitting on shelves are small bullet-headed busts of Elegua (with the cowry-shell eyes and mouth), covered with sequins.
If nothing else, the show should continue to bolster Reich's reputation as one of the best showcases for interesting new art in town. A suite of seven sculptures is $5,500.
At Elizabeth Dee Gallery, three wall-sized "grand cosmic statements" by Carl Ostendarp, large pastel-colored paintings made to the dimensions of Joan Miro's nine-foot-wide "Mural Paintings" from 1962, works that both responded to the nascent Color Field painting of the day and revisited the then-69-year-old artist's proto-Ab Ex "Constellations" paintings from the 1940s. A golden yellow expanse is marked by a diagonal zigzag path in brown; an aqua canvas is touched along its top edge by the image of hanging leaves; and a dark pink painting has some blades of dark red grass sprouting from its lower left-hand corner.
It's hard to say what Ostendarp is up to, mixing abstract art's rhetoric of the sublime with minor cartoon motifs from Dr. Seuss -- except that the works are smart and challenging. The price: $40,000 each.
At Feigen Contemporary on West 20th, moody monochromes of winsome, smoking girls and cars in the night by Okie artist Joe Andoe, in his first New York exhibition since leaving longtime dealer Joseph Helman. Long celebrated for simple Midwestern landscapes and portraits of equally winsome horses, Andoe seems to be in an expansive mood, filling out and adding new details to his latter-day "Outsiders" world (including short and evocative narrative texts, too, on www.joeandoe.com). The paintings go for $14,000-$40,000.
Downtown, at the Tribeca alternative space Art in General, an exhibition of sound art inspired by John Cage's work that was itself inspired by Royanji, the famous Zen rock garden, with an installation of electronic speakers arranged Royanji-style in a field of white Styrofoam peanuts. Almost 20 sound artists are in the show, which is organized by Wesleyan prof Ron Kuivila and called "Rock's Role (After Royanji)," Apr. 24-June 26, 2004.
At Mitchell Algus Gallery on West 25th Street, a show of paintings by Dennis Kardon, who, according to New York Times critic Ken Johnson, "continues fruitfully to struggle simultaneously with the viscous inertia of paint and the embarrassing muck of his psyche." One star work, Roughhousing (with the Inner Child) (1997), depicts a John Belushi-like father wrestling with an underwear-clad offspring (or is it his own homunculus?) in a composition that is an update on Caravaggio's painting of Abraham and Isaac. Price: $5,000.
At Jeffrey Coploff Fine Art in the Chelsea Fine Arts Building on West 26th Street, fiery abstractions by Mary Jones, some including scraps of silkscreened imagery from photographs. One painting is an Ab-Ex mandala that combines Cagean drips, sweeping brush gestures and images of suns and chrysanthemums. Price: $8,500.
At Capsule Gallery on West 26th Street, comic kinetic artworks activated by the viewer's presence, including a giant pickle that rocks woozily back and forth by Yale MFA Brett Budde (called Pickled, $6,000) and a spouting fountain that anoints the wall with brown water by David Kennedy-Cutler ($5,500). Maybe too funny for the serious art world?
Gearing up for the Scope Art Fair in Los Angeles, May 21-14, 2004, the Proposition gallery on West 22nd Street plans an installation on the theme of "Girls & Guns," with a preview in its back room that includes a large prison drawing of an M-1 by convicted art forger Alfredo Martinez (now out of jail and living in a halfway house) and a fantastic painted photo by Allan Hasty of a drag queen dressed up as Andy Warhol's Orange Marilyn (prices are $5,000 and $9,000, respectively).
At Guild & Greyshkul on Wooster Street in SoHo, a tinfoil rainbow growing out of two beer bottles by Halsey Rodman, called Time Is Stopped on the Planet of Mist, the Castle Awaits (2004). . . . Coming up at Fredrich Petzel Gallery in June, the scandalous new video work by "Institutional Critique" artist Andrea Fraser in which she has sex with a collector for money. . . . Lower East Side stalwart Bobby G with new Op Art abstractions, wavy lines painted in contrasting colors, on view at Alphabet City's new teahouse, Drink Me, on East 6th Street between Avenue B and C.
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Eve Sussman's 95 Seconds to Alcazar, unspooling at the Whitney Biennial with a "making of" exhibition at Roebling Hall in Williamsburg, is one of the hits of the season. The Whitney has bought one, MoMA's looking at another, word is that there's only one left in the edition of 10. It's $65,000. . . . Insiders say Michael Ovitz bought $500,000 worth of works by Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson from Haunch of Venison and Arndt & Partner at the New York Armory Show.
At Robert Miller Gallery, Patricia Piccinini's realistic, life-size model of the eerie, imaginary gene-engineered Bodyguard (for the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater) (2003-04), designed to protect an endangered Australian bird, finds favor with collectors; one of the edition of three is left, at $55,000. . . . At Michael Steinberg Fine Art, eight "white paintings" of 1950s-style wedding dresses, wedding cakes, wedding bouquets by Julia Jacquette sold like hotcakes at $7,500-$40,000.
Chelsea dealer Thomas Erben sells giant 15 x 25 foot woodcut by Fang Lijun to MoMA. . . . Participant on the Lower East Side sells out its Tony Oursler benefit multiple, Orange Blob -- a biomorphic shape with a little hole with a searching video eye -- an edition of five for $10,000 each. . . . At Jack Shainman Gallery, photographs of South African cane cutters by Zwelethu Mthethwa are popular, with five selling to museums. Large prints are $16,000.
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The deluxe hardcover catalogue for "Alexander Liberman: No Regrets" at Ameringer Yohe Fine Art, Mar. 25-Apr. 24, 2004, comes in a monogrammed leather slipcase by Coach. . . . Shows at ATM Gallery on Avenue B have gotten four positive reviews from the New York Times, which resulted in a total of zero sales -- so much for the market power of the art critic. . . . Damien Hirst titles his essay in the catalogue for "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" at Tate BritainWhen Cunts Sell Shit to Fools. You tell 'em, DH. . . .
Dia Art Center considering selling its 22nd Street headquarters for loads of dough, people say, and is scouting other sites in Chelsea to custom-build from scratch. . . . Jack Tilton Gallery finally departing SoHo for Chelsea, moving into the old space on 21st Street of Silverstein Gallery. . . . Monya Rowe moves from Williamsburg to the fine arts building at 526 West 26th Street, #504, opening with Kevin Christy on May 7. . . . Former Artnet auction specialist Uta Scharf opens her own gallery at 42 East 76th Street, in the same building as Lawrence Markey.
Anita Huffington's pink alabaster Persephone is acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's "her most astonishing work," writes critic Amei Wallach. Huffington's new sculpture is on view at O'Hara Gallery in the Fuller Building on East 57th Street.. . . Art in America skipping its July issue. . . .Whitney Museum interviewing architects for a new expansion.
Peter Hort is running for Congress from New York's 8th district, which includes the West Side, Chelsea, SoHo and parts of Brooklyn. He's son of supercollectors Susan and Michael Hort and director of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. . . . The installation of "Singular Forms" at the Guggenheim Museum was done by Michael Gabellini, husband of curator Nancy Spector. He put in fluorescent lights for that Minimalist feel.
A funny story about Jackson Pollock of questionable accuracy: in the '50s he wrote an article about lawn care for a national magazine. His advice? Let it grow.
Artnet totals as of the end of February 2004 -- 18,367 artists with 91,815 artworks in the Artnet gallery network, plus 2,628,143 lots in the Fine Art Auction Database.