All the world's a stage, especially when you're Philip Johnson, master of modernism and current DJ booth designer for P.S.1's second annual music series, "Warm Up." The lively nonagenarian's outdoor dance pavilion is the first collaboration between P.S.1 and MoMA since their merger was announced early this year.
Described in the architect's words as a "medieval amphitheater with a sci-fi feeling," the bleacher-style structure has five towers soaring as high as 56 feet. The maquette called for pennants flying from their tops -- but the real thing had none, giving a more industrial feel.
At the gala afternoon opening, Johnson revealed a heretofore unknown aspect of his work -- disc jockeying! He inaugurated the booth with a medley of tunes ending with the disco standard, I Will Survive. Techno trendies and ambient admirers, take note, PJ's in the house! Dance parties are slated for every Saturday throughout the summer.
Inside the former school halls were multiple openings, including one for the traveling exhibition, "David Reed Paintings: Motion Pictures," organized by Elizabeth Armstrong, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and recently on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. The show ranged from Reed's seminal 1974 "Brushmark" paintings to his more recent works that integrate video and installation.
In both Judy's Bedroom (1992) and Scottie's Bedroom (1994), Reed has ingeniously inserted one of his works into Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, installing a painting on the wall exactly where it didn't exist in the original scene. The self-referential Chinese box effect is the kind of thing that appeals to super-philosopher Arthur Danto, who has authored an edifying text on Reed's method in the summer issue of Artforum, which illustrates a Reed work on its cover. Reed's definitely in the house…
In the "Animal.Anima.Animus" show, which purports to examine links between us hominids and the so-called lower orders, look for the visceral Dennis Oppenheim installation Above the Wall of Electrocution (1989), a mixed-media carousel of carcasses.
Also, check out the installation by French artist Hubert Duprat, who has trained some cassis-fly larvae to build their pupae out of gold leaf and mother-of-pearl instead of twigs and leaves. At P.S.1 he has this long thin tank of water on the wall, where you can see the little amphibious bugs wiggling around with their golden sarcophagae in tow. Duprat is truly one!
Another attraction is "Philippe Starck: Furniture and Objects," an installation designed by Johnson of a collection assembled by his long-time collaborator David Whitney -- it's a proposed gift to the Museum of Modern Art. On view is an assortment of colorful lamps, as well as the outlandish chairs and stools Starck designed for hotels such as the Royalton in New York, the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles. MoMA certainly should acquire all that stuff!
Seven Women Seven Years Later
At Andrea Rosen, the photo-conceptualist Vik Muniz has organized a reprise of Rosen's controversial "Seven Women" show from 1992, which featured works by Stephan Balkenhol, John Currin, John DeAndrea, Yves Klein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mel Ramos and Thomas Ruff. Back then, the show was negatively reviewed for the Village Voice by feminist critic Elizabeth Hess. Times have changed and one wonders what all the fuss was about.
In any case, this time around, the same seven artists have contributed different pieces from the same period. De Andrea's Seated Figure (1994) is a polychromed polyvinyl figure of a slight, nude woman so lifelike you can see the veins. Balkenhol's Liegende Frau (1991) is a reclining nude hewn from cedar. Klein's ANT 58 Monique (IKB/paper) is a loosely drawn femme in the famous YK blue. Ramos' studly Banting (1971), a vintage oil on canvas, depicts a blonde bombshell standing naked behind a large bull, painted over a milk chocolate monochrome.
Also there's Currin's virtuoso Moved Over Lady (1991), a portrait of an elegant aged woman done in soft grays and browns. Mapplethorpe and Ruff round out the seamless installation. The feeling is vintage Playboy ca. 1975, with the refinement you expect from fine art.
Liz Larner at 303
Liz Larner, the feminist Minimalist, makes what appear to be colorform doodles come to life. She specializes in gravity-defying structures made of interconnecting, colored gel coils that can snake around a column or sit up on a shelf. Her sculptures are like geometric shapes gone awry, striving to gain shape and solidity without being totally physical. As unspecified objects they have an existential humor about them.
While searching for real space in the unreal, and finding an intangible mass in the imperceptible esthetic of space, Larner seems to have taken the Samuel Beckett line to heart, "nothing is more real than nothing." However funny its title, Suffering Succotash (1999), made from synthetic resin, is priced at a serious $30,000.
Christian Schumann at Postmasters
What is it that lurks in the mind of the bookish, unassuming Christian Schumann, who makes glib word-picture associations in gum-colored storyboards spelling out hokey phrases, showing goofy grinning heads and elongated extra-terrestrial figures run amok? His recent show at Postmasters, his first solo since 1995, featured ten new canvases dating from 1999 (acrylic and mixed media, ranging in price from $25,000-$35,000), musing about and riffing on pop culture, movies, literary associations, techno music and humor.
Some of Schumann's paintings are intensely dense, diaristic, estheticized commentaries on the sorry state of the world. Full of black humor, Schumann is utterly pessimistic, yet detached enough to laugh it off. He still leaves room to improvise, using goofiness to poke fun at and accentuate the maudlin.
Dairyland, a wacky farm landscape with a Gumby-looking cow, brings to mind the landscape paintings of everyone from Kenny Scharf and Sean Landers to Verne Dawson's views of Manhattan when the Indians roamed. Good Sport is a hilarious portrait of a plaid-shirted, coverall-wearing farmer with the word "sport" spelled out in colored blocks above a wide stripe of faux wood, heavy on the grain. Once you crack the surface of Schumann's fecund formulae, you realize there is a madness to his method.
Woodman at Goodman
What is it about prodigies dying young, then being resurrected through their work? Sadly, Francesca Woodman, a young photographer living in the East Village back before it was gentrified, flung herself from the window of her apartment on Jan. 19, 1981. Born in Denver in April 1958, she was dead at the age of 22.
The work currently on view at Marian Goodman Gallery comes by way of the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in Paris, which assembled a big show of about 100 photos. A new monograph from Scalo Publishers includes essays by Philippe Sollers, David Levi Strauss, Sloan Rankin (a close friend of Woodman from their RISD days) and Elizabeth Janus. Goodman has a selection of 27 gelatin silver prints in editions of 40, priced between $1,400 and $1,900 for either 8 x 10 inches or 11 x 14 inches.
Woodman's work shows a kinship to the "l'amour fou" brand of abject Surrealism. The artist was her own muse, using herself as her subject matter, posing nude in her rustic Lower East Side apartment, which had a spare interior containing very little furniture. Woodman often used mirrors to reflect her poses, which could be demure or whimsical, and rarely showed her face. Sometimes she costumed herself as an actress would, eroticizing her private moments for the camera. She made use of her body with the purity and spookiness of Ana Mendieta, leaving the rough edges, but still graceful.
In January 1981, Woodman published Some Disordered Interior Geometries (Synapse Press, Philadelphia), a reproduction of her journal in which written inscriptions were whited out and then rewritten. Woodman also included collaged photographs of herself posing with a mirror, clothing and other objects she received from her grandmother, captioning the pictures with a rumination on "where I fit in this odd geometry of time."
Philippe Sollers quotes the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud in Lettre du voyant (1871): "When the infinite servitude of woman is broken, when she lives by and for herself, when man has finally let her go (till now she has been abominable) -- then she too will be a poet. Woman launch out into the unknown! Will her worlds of ideas differ from ours? She will find things that are strange, unfathomable, repulsive, delicate; we will take them and understand them." The show of Woodman photos is on view through August 31.
Finch a wrestler?
The June 11 opening reception for Patrick Callery's summer group show was upstaged by a colorful ruckus outside on 14th Street. The principals were Charlie Finch, the misanthropic scribe known for his vitriolic pen (and considerable girth), and the art-world dinosaur Simon Cerigo, who accused the writer of betrayal and numerous other indignities before going on the attack with fists flying.
Finch's response was to flick a cigarette at the gallant Cerigo, who all but wrestled a surprised Finch to the curb before the pair could be separated. The blasé art crowd took it in stride with the usual professional ennui. Perhaps the World Wrestling Federation should order a rematch on pay-per-view! Yep, all the world's a stage!
MAX HENRY is a poet and curator.
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