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    Weekend Update
by Walter Robinson
 
     
 
Headless bodice?
Armani at the Guggenheim,
Spring/Summer
1997
 
Robert Wilson's
scrim-stretched rotunda
 
Tunnel of fashion:
Armani at the Gugg
 
Matthew Ritchie
at Andrea Rosen
 
Carrie Moyer
God's Army
2000
at Debs & Co.
 
Zoe Leonard
Mouth open, teeth showing
2000
at Paula Cooper
 
Sean Mellyn
Free Range
2000
at Tilton/Kustera
 
Sean Mellyn
 
Tony Tasset
Carving Again
at Feigen Contemporary
 
Judy Glantzman
(detail)
at Gracie Mansion
 
Judy Auchincloss
with Jessye Norman's
anti-Bush T-shirt
 
Natasha Zupan
at Folin/River
 
As everyone must know by now, the Guggenheim Museum is currently filled with clothes by 1980s fashion icon Giorgio Armani, Oct. 20, 2000-Sept. 19, 2001. Art-world purists are hating it as a plunge into kitsch and commercialism. As outreach, the show's a success -- Hollywood celebrities and Fashion District types flocked to the weeklong series of nighttime parties that started Oct. 25.

Art lovers will want to take note of the exhibition design by Robert Wilson, which takes Gugg museum chief Thomas Krens' propensity to mess with Frank Lloyd Wright's classic modernist spiral to an astonishing new level. Using all the artifice of the window-dresser's art, Wilson has turned the ramp into a kind of tunnel of fashion, laying down soft gray carpeting on the terrazzo floors, closing off Wright's trademark bays completely and stretching translucent scrim all along the balcony from railing to ceiling, blocking the famous views across the rotunda.

The dresses and suits stretch out in almost endless procession, grouped by color and style and displayed on "invisible" mannequins so that they stand there in their purity, the clothes hollow but erect, a shaped shell on an absent body. The fashion itself looks pretty good, as far as that goes -- gilded and tailored and bejeweled. Is there any design he didn't do? It's like Sol LeWitt and the stripe!

"If there had been people in the clothes," said television guru Douglas Kelley, "I would have thought I was at the most fabulous party ever." In one of the side galleries was displayed "Amazons of the Avant-Garde," the traveling show of works by six Russian Constructivist women artists -- but the museum had stationed guards to prevent any of the Armani army from straying...

*      *      *
While the glam crowd hit the Gugg, tout le art world showed up at Matthew Ritchie's debut opening at Andrea Rosen gallery, a festive display that includes an illuminated glass wall, four large paintings and a huge wall construction that splays out onto the floor. Say what you will about Ritchie's theory-of-everything cosmology -- this show, dubbed "Parents and Children," is the next-to-last chapter in a chronicle of the Pregnant Actress, the Golem, Mademoiselle Florida and 46 other characters -- his paintings carry considerable graphic punch and inventiveness, part Stan Lee, part Roberto Matta Echuarren, part explosion in a paint-chip factory, part molecular diagram. "You may already be a winner," scrawls Ritchie across the wall. Such a sunny outlook on life, who wouldn't appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Debs & Co. on West 26th Street, the hip dyke crowd that came to see Carrie Moyer's new paintings of "God's Army" -- Pop supergraphics featuring images of Jesus as well as the famous Burmese Htoo Brothers -- marked the event as truly chic and hot, too. Her paintings are done in bright primary colors, with the occasional appliquéd marijuana patch or draped plastic lei, and have titles like Helter-Skelter Yantra and Brain Box. They feel adolescent, revolutionary, intense -- and at $1,400 for a 24 by 20 inch painting, are great bargains. Larger works, ca. 70 by 80 in., are $5,500.

Is it me, or is there more warm sentiment in new art today? Zoe Leonard's installation at Paula Cooper Gallery wasn't warm, exactly, but it captured the kind of bittersweet melancholy that makes heartbreak so tender. Along the wall in the entrance foyer opposite the desk is a stack of 75 suitcases, motley and battered and redolent of nostalgia and longing (price: $30,000). In the front gallery is a group of new color photographs of signs and shop windows from the Lower East Side, a place that however newly chic still has, as shown in these simple images, a visual culture that's folkish and homemade ($4,000 each in an edition of six).

Inside, in Paula's grand wood-beam-vaulted space, is Mouth open, teeth showing (2000), a collection of 162 well-used dolls positioned to stand in a grid on the floor. The Surrealists liked dolls for their gothic character (as do contemporary horror movies), and Mike Kelley uses soiled ones to express a kind of violated innocence. Here, they're all girl dolls -- it's that female tribe again. Leonard's installation suggests a multitude of individual subjects, all children sweet and dear. Is she an expressionist? "I'm still just playing with dolls," she said.

More innocence is on display at Sean Mellyn's show of paintings and sculpture at the newly rechristened Jack Tilton/Anna Kustera Gallery on Greene Street in SoHo. Mellyn's forte had been modestly sized, hyper-realist paintings of children that often had a mild Twin Peaks oddity to them -- two kids wearing paper-bag masks, for instance. He also liked to attach things to his pictures, such as building a sculptural nose onto a picture of a kid's face.

The new work is large -- from four by five feet to six by nine -- and immaculately painted. He's still immersed in a children's world, making big portraits of kids with exquisite expressions and beautiful eyes. Crème Brulee shows a girl with a Dr. Seuss hair-do and a light-hearted moue. Huevo Ranchero depicts a girl with Pippi Longstocking braids and hazel eyes. In It's a Beautiful Day, a cavalcade of 29 pastel-colored papier-mâché fantasy objects -- walking houses, bunny rabbits, wagons, etc. -- stream from the forehead of a gleeful boy. In the back is a giant sculpture of a bird's nest with three eggs in the fork of a tree trunk. The works range in price from $5,000 to $30,000.

More family life at Feigen Contemporary on West 20th Street, where Chicago artist Tony Tasset has a collection of stuff -- DVDs of himself morphing from thin to fat and back, a photo of his mom and dad, another photo called The Eye that is presumably a big blow-up of his young son's eye, and still another life-size photo showing his sexy wife, the painter Judy Ledgerwood (one of her abstractions is on display downstairs). As for sculpture, Tasset has made a taxidermied dead blue jay, and a life-size model of a cherry tree from his yard done in realistic painted wax.

Tasset is the joker who, back in the 1980s, made abstract paintings using commercial paint-chip colors and stretched swatches of fur. This time around, his Duchampian focus on his own biography -- "the self as the ultimate readymade," said Feigen factotum Lance Kinz -- is superseded by -- dare I say it? -- the esthetic interest of the objects themselves. The blue jay can be yours for $5,000 -- it's unique -- while the portrait of Ledgerwood is $9,000 in an edition of three.

At Gracie Mansion, people were calling the new paintings by Judy Glantzman "beautiful" and "poignant." Glantzman is de Kooning's East Village heir, making portraits of children and adults in expressive pink and blue brushstrokes. "It'd be okay if they made you cry," said Judy, whose sense of costume always added a lively presence to the E.V. scene. The paintings range in price from $750 for a small seven by five inch work to $12,000 for a large oil.

*      *      *
Some things seen at the $150-a-head Gore-Lieberman benefit held at Robert Miller Gallery in West Chelsea: a painted self-portrait by Tipper Gore of herself nude and pregnant on the 12-minute Gore family home-video made by Spike Jonze... Judy Auchincloss holding up the spirited anti-Bush sweatshirt designed by opera diva Jessye Norman (price: $100)... Incredibly sexy fashion pictures from W Magazine by Mario Testino, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, Craig McDean, Fabien Baron, Ines van Lamsweerde (Jeez, what would Tipper say?)... Artists Brice Marden, Bryan Hunt, Archie Rand and his wife, Maria, Ena Swansea and husband, ABC film critic Joel Siegel, photographer Todd Eberle, reporters Jeffrey Hogrefe, Ken Bensinger and Anthony Haden-Guest. No, neither Gore nor Lieberman showed up, though someone from the Democratic National Committee gave a speech...
*      *      *
Open house at the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Tex., earlier this month, Oct. 6-8, was hit by an ice storm, with temperatures dropping from 90 to 20 degrees. Visitors, who included Nicholas Serota and Glenn Lowry, were reduced to going about wrapped in blankets and wearing gardening gloves... Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Claudia Schiffer were among the celebs at the opening of Natasha Zupan at Folin/Riva on West 20th Street. Zupan takes underwear, stockings, even bedsheets and embeds them in pools of milky white latex and wax. Hmmm... Somebody called in a bomb scare at the Damien Hirst show at Gagosian on Saturday, Oct. 21. Cleared the place right out... Congrats to New York Times scribe Milt Freudenheim -- he wed Times art critic and legendary art-news reporter Grace Glueck.


WALTER ROBINSON is editor-in-chief of Artnet Magazine.

 
 
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