Picture this: Your intrepid correspondent, poised last Saturday evening at about 7:15 in the Arctic chill on West 24th Street off the Hudson River, waiting in the rapidly advancing dark for a tardy rendezvous.
Waiting outside, because the gallery opening, like all too many these days, had been scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Openings are nice for you and me, but the hardworking art dealer just wants to go home.
Regardless, a steady stream of gallery-goers trailed through the bitter cold to Chelsea's remoter precinct, only to be turned away. Ah, the things we do for art.
Moments later, down on West 22nd Street, as if to underscore a newly Puritan outlook at gallery openings, it happened for a second time. At our approach, the milky glass door was flung open and squads of black-dressed people came pouring out of the darkened gallery, stumbling over the single, final-exit step.
Drat, foiled again. Late for the two power openings of that Chelsea Saturday, Bill Jensen at Mary Boone Gallery and Hiroshi Sugimoto at Sonnabend.
A bird tells me, though, that the Jensen paintings, priced between $25,000 and $40,000, are still the kind of organic, mystical, rich and pretty works that the artist has been making since the 1970s. And that they're way too small for Boone's vast, dim space -- though it doesn't really matter, since you look at them one at a time.
As for Sugimoto, a friend said, "Wow, not only has this guy photographed Dalí and Princess Di but also there's Oscar Wilde and even some dinosaurs -- he must have been working for a really long time!" The Sugimoto photos, big black and whites in editions of five priced at $50,000 each, are actually pictures of exhibits in a wax museum. They were also recently on view at Jay Jopling's in London. Truth be told, they are good to look at but you just can't get too excited about the idea. Sugimoto's best stuff has always been the pictures of apparently empty movie theatres, done in long exposures while the movie was playing.
Better luck was to be had a few days earlier with James Nares, whose large new paintings on view at Paul Kasmin each consist of a single, quite Baroque monochromatic brushstroke. The artist has apparently rigged up an apparatus that allows him to be suspended in the air while he makes his massive swipe at the canvas. The effect is magnificent, like a force of nature, but at the same time there's something comically old-fashioned about them. The image of a block-and-tackle painting machine seems straight out of the tales of Baron Munchausen or Jules Verne. In the front gallery, the one on the northern wall is titled Northern, the one on the west wall is called Western.
At the opening, Kasmin artist Walton Ford mentioned his new painting, which he had in transparency, of a black spotted leopard that had escaped from a zoo in Switzerland one winter back in the 1920s, and managed to wreak havoc for several weeks throughout the snowy countryside despite its being a tropical animal. In Walton's picture, you can see the leopard's breath in the cold air, while in the distance is a crowd of peasants with torches heads out on the hunt, like in the movie Frankenstein. In the end, Walton said, a hunter caught the leopard and ate it.
A few blocks down, the intrepid young dealer Rupert Goldsworthy reopened his scrappy gallery after a brief hiatus. The works that caught my eye were some black ink drawings by Elisabeth Kley of autocratic old biddies like Louise Nevelson, Pauline Trigere, Elsie de Wolf, Adele Simpson. An interesting metaphor for the artist's subject, to be sure! They're $500. Kley used to write for Artnet, before the magazine had its editorial budget cut to the bone!
For some geometric animation, visit the show of paintings from the 1980s by Nicholas Krushenick lent by his widow Julia to the Mitchell Algus Gallery down on Thompson Street in SoHo. Krushenick, who died about two years ago just before his 70th birthday, was a genius at taking serious, utopian hard-edge abstraction and filling it with real life and comedy. "He was the real thing, an original," said the artist Claudia de Monte. "One time he moved his entire studio by subway."
Back in 1997, the New York artist Katy Schimert betrayed a certain fascination with things lunar, exhibiting some models of mountains on the moon made of tin foil at the Whitney Biennial. In her new show at David Zwirner on Greene Street, she's turned to the human body. In the front gallery are a number of body parts -- arm, leg, head with open mouth, torso, woman's pelvis, brain, knee and penis, lungs -- made of ceramic and installed on beige plinths.
The sculptures are glazed in a shiny, dark color, like they're covered with an oil slick. My antiquarian tells me that in Roman times, for speedy recovery from illness, people would request help from the gods by burying an effigy of the body part on the temple grounds. Perhaps that's what's going on here, but probably not. In the rear gallery, the same objects are presented in a heap on a low platform, like the robotic residue of some kind of cybernetc crematorium. Scary.
On the top floor of the 560 Broadway building, A/D, a gallery that specializes in high-art multiples, was showing several fanciful lamps made by the artist Tom Sachs -- who is probably Mary Boone's hottest young artist. One is fashioned of a brick and a buddha, another has a pull made of nickels welded together into a cube, a clip-on lamp is constructed with a wrench.
The lamps, all one of a kind, were made over the years. "Every once in a while he just has to make a lamp," said the lady at the gallery. They are $5,000 each. A/D also has a bargain-priced artist knick-knack, Sachs' Quarterscrew (1999), a kind of pocket screwdriver made from a Phillips drill bit welded to a quarter. It's $25.
Down the hall at Janet Borden, the celebrated photo gallery was getting ready for a show by Ray Mortenson of new works from a series called "Weeds." Now that's a subject with allegorical potential! It opens Mar. 5. In the meantime, a selection of works by gallery artists is on view, including a group of untitled photographs of cats by Jan Groover that are dated from 2000.
I'm not quite sure why, but I've always considered Groover to be a hard-core ontological photographer -- maybe it was those snaps of speeding trucks taken right at the moment when they lined up with telephone poles. So now I am pleased to see kitty pictures enter her repertoire. I always knew they were philosophical, somehow. These are charming, in an edition of five at $500 each.
Uptown in the Fuller Building, Danese has mounted a gallery retrospective of the paintings of Anne Truitt, who is perhaps best known for monolithic color sculptures made of acrylic on wood. Truitt, who was born in 1921, had her first show at Andre Emmerich in 1963. The Danese show includes seven paintings and six works on paper, ranging in price from $12,500 to $30,000.
They're beautiful, like gift-wrapping, and are a pleasant reminder of the '70s esthetic that would have artists seek "color in three dimensions ... the support should dissolve into pure color," to use the words of the artist as quoted in the gallery press release. Truitt has published at least two editions of her Daybooks, her artist's journal, and most recently exhibited at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and at Grant Selwyn in Beverly Hills.
One final painter -- the British artist John Walker, whose recent work is on view at Knoedler's on East 70th Street. The paintings in the show are somber, elegiac, landscapey and apparently about World War I, which makes them reminiscent of Anselm Kiefer's work. That's a shame, because the smaller square ones (without the poetic drivel written across the surface) are beautiful and mysterious, like a swamp marsh done with rich and viscous paint.
The mystery comes from a peanut shape -- a "pinched rectangle" that is a version of the "talismanic abstract symbol" that Walker has been using for 15 years, and that is said to be based on the hourglass shape of Goya's Maya. Five of the 12 works are sold midway through the show's Jan. 18-Mar. 3 run; the 48-inch-square works are $35,000. One final note: Hilton Kramer praised the exhibition.
Odds and ends: The White Columns 2001 benefit, open from now through Mar. 5, includes a photograph unearthed from the AP archives by f/x artist Julian LaVerdiere of his dealer Jeffrey Dietch as a seven-year-old boy posing with his hero, rocket scientist Werner von Braun. Bidding starts at $500 ... Is Sally Mann leaving photo dealer Edwynn Houk after 11 years for the richer fine-art pastures of Larry Gagosian? Looks like the answer is -- no. Now that's settled, when can we see those pictures of Sally and her husband having sex that she keeps talking about? ... Is Inka Essenhigh departing Mary Boone for other climes? Looks like the answer is -- yes. Stay tuned.