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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  
 


Robert Irwin's
Prologue: x183
at Dia




Irwin at Dia



Irwin in 1980,
from Gail Ellison's photo



Taniguchi in the Times



MoMA incrementalism



Brooke Alexander



Otterness statues from the Times Square Show



Tom Otterness



Cindy Sherman



Bernard Chaet
Self Portrait in Striped Shirt
(detail)
at MB Modern




Yale's Art and Architecture Building



Bernard Chaet
3 Gray Clouds
at MB Modern




Dinos and Jake Chapman
Miss Many Fanny
1997




Jerry Saltz



Rirkrit & Elizabeth
   Heaven opened on Easter morning, as the Dia Center for the Arts unveiled Robert Irwin's dazzlingly infinite white cubes, an exquisite walkabout on an unusual day and time for an opening.

Angelic blue and white javelin-like lights guide us through a multiplicity of veiled transparencies -- Irwin's paradise is positively disorienting, in counterpoint to Bill Viola's hellish, black, Platonic caves uptown at the Whitney.

But there's something deeper here: a masterful effort to portray the experience of immortality, of something beyond ....


Who knows what curators at the Whitney or the Modern might cook up if they regularly had free run of a building like the Park Avenue Armory?
         -- Roberta Smith in the New York Times

Trust the Museum of Modern Art not to leave well enough alone and produce a stupefyingly dull, unending cover story in the New York Times Magazine on the museum's expansion plan by architect Yoshio Taniguchi.

Every time Aggie Gund has tea or Ron Lauder goes to the bathroom, it is sanctified as the holy unction of the great bishops of MoMA meeting in council blah blah blah.

A close look at Taniguchi himself and crystal carriages turn back into pumpkins -- he really is just a functional office designer and his biggest qualification seems to be that his wife heads the Tokyo office of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. (Is that booze in your suitcase, sir?)

This stupid, unnecessary piece replaces the initial good feeling surrounding the Taniguchi choice with fears that more cautious incrementalism (Cesar Pelli, Philip Johnson) awaits.

What MoMA continues to lack is the quality so abused by the Rosses and the Krenses, but necessary nonetheless -- showmanship.


At least Marcia Tucker had vision. That's more than I can say for the courtiers who now fill Gotham's curatorial departments.
         -- Howard Halle in Time Out magazine

Demonstrating his effortless class, so rare among art dealers, Brooke Alexander read the roll call of Colab artists in the legendary "Times Square Show" (two decades ago!!) at Artists Space's chintzy tribute dinner to artist Tom Otterness and Brooke's ex, former MI-6 agent Carolyn Alexander.

"John and Charlie Ahearn, Fab Five Freddie, Peter Fend, Walter Robinson, Robin Winters, Rebecca Howland, Judy Rifka," Brooke intoned, before recalling his first visit to Otterness' studio.

"He had these tiny hydrocal figurines of Mussolini and Hitler. I wanted to pocket them!" Brooke blushed.

The buzz of a V.I.P. SoHo crowd masked the usual truck-sized holes in Artists Space's $250-a-head do. Restaurant Barocco provided what looked like prison food in toddler portions: a little strip of eggplant, a spoonful of pasty risotto, and buckets of strawberries barely tapped the gullet.

And the wine was ordinary.

Board members were remarkably candid, in their after-dinner speeches, concerning Artists Space's recent troubles.

"In the early '90s, when board members were at each other's throats, only a phone call to Carolyn Alexander (an A.S. boarder since 1984) saved the day," as founder Irving Sandler gushed.

Carolyn was even franker. "in the early '90s we nearly closed," she commented, before praising A.S. manager Claudia Gould in embarrassingly over-the-top terms.

As for your scribe, Cindy Sherman gave us a really dirty look -- but, hey, Shermo, we're still a fan!

By the way, the site of this underwhelming dinner, first staff: New York Gallery at 495 Broadway, marks the return of '70s dealer Michael Steinberg to the retail art wars, after a long hiatus designing furniture.

Steinberg has transformed half a photo studio into a venue showing young unknown artists.

Welcome back, Michael!


I paint a window just as I look out of a window. If a window looks wrong in a picture open, I draw the curtain and shut it, just as I would in my own room. One must act in painting as in life, directly.
         -- Pablo Picasso

Just in time for Yale grad Chuck Close's MoMA retro, Leffingwell professor emeritus Bernie Chaet (whose Marsden Hartley-like paintings are currently on view at MB Modern) regurgitates the hell inflicted on years of Yale art students like Jessica Stockholder, Matthew Barney, Roni Horn, Nancy Graves, Peter Halley and Ann Hamilton by America's ugliest structure, Paul Rudolph's Yale Art and Architecture Building, in a letter to the Yale alumni magazine.

Since Rudolph's death last year, young architects have ignorantly attempted to resurrect his deservedly desiccated reputation. As a Yalie ourselves, we can testify to the building's suffocating qualities.

Chaet's chatter: "One mistaken idea is that Rudolph met with student painters and placated them -- he didn't placate them with soothing words. He bought them off by getting them a rundown building on Crown Street. The class of '64 in painting had to survive for a year jammed into the seventh floor with poor light and less air, before moving to Crown Street. (There is still not an adequate air-handling system 30 years later.)"

"The sculptors were assigned the low-ceilinged basement, which prompted me to announce at a meeting that Yale would only recruit sculptors under 5'5: who exclusively did horizontal work. The sculptors departed for Hammond Hall (across town) never to return."

"Graphic design was then moved into Rudolph's cramped basement, before they too escaped to 212 York Street -- never to return."

Going on to describe similar disasters in the architecture and printmaking departments, Chaet concludes, "We artists were, and are, naive. We mistakenly thought architecture's purpose was to produce a beautiful servant, instead of what it turned out to be: a hostile tyrant."


Bill Clinton has contempt for us all.
         -- Mort Sahl

Frank Stella was just another anonymous New Yorker to WPIX-TV reporter Julian Phillips, when he stopped Stella and asked him on camera what should be in a proposed Museum of Sex on 27th Street and Fifth Avenue.

"I think there's enough sex in the neighborhood," Stella stammered.

"But who do you think should be in the museum?" Phillips persisted.

"The Chapman Brothers?" Stella replied, drawing looks of non-recognition all around.


When we grabbed this week's copy of colorful, hard-to-read listings rag Time Out, first thing we spotted was an apparent mea culpa from alleged conflict-of-interest gnome Jerry Saltz, reviewing Collier Schorr's curation, recently on view at Apex Art: "As a critic and American editor of Frieze magazine, Schorr has written about nine of these artists. She has worked for one of them; two are represented by the same gallery that handles her. She also wrote the essay that accompanies the show.

"In fact, I'm a good friend of hers and have written about her work -- so the loop of insider trading is complete, I suppose."

We rang Jerry up for comment:

"It doesn't refer to me. I want to encourage my students to collect each other's work. If they make it, great. If not, they have an art collection.

"I've never made any money in this game."

We asked Saltz if the public's perception of the art world as an insider's game was driving people away to movies, TV, music and the Net, rather than to their neighborhood gallery.

"Let them go. I don't want them!" Jerry gurgled defiantly.


Spotted in San Francisco, new San Francisco MoMA boss David Ross, buying a new house on Telegraph Hill, under the watchful eye of Gap art collector Doris Fisher.

Local museum honchos are ready to toss Ross in the bay after his opening address to S.F. MoMA staffers last week. Qouth Diamond Dave: "I'm happy to be at the only real museum in town." Yes, he doesn't want to raise any bucks from local Asian patrons.


Hack slacker Elizabeth Peyton welcomed a select group to Gavin Brown's Enterprise to celebrate her drawings book Live Forever. Lithe and grey Alex Katz schmoozed intensely with buff redhead Jack Pierson, while Jay Gorney chatted up a Brown staffer trying to glom a Rirkrit Tiravanija remnant on consignment.

And where was Rikshit during this schmoozefest? On the road betwixt Philly and L.A. Rikki-tikki and six of his students are ripping off Jack Kerouac on the old Route 66, reporting daily re their dull autodoings on the Net.

Meanwhile, Gavin Brown jealously guarded two precious new Peytons, refusing to quote a price -- "They are not for sale."

To which Simon Cerigo replied, "She paints just like Walter Robinson."


CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.