Fashion's encroachment on the art world has had mixed results, and the quality has run from high to low. Vanessa Beecroft's event at the Guggenheim Museum last June became a cause célèbre after it filled Wright's modernist masterpiece with 20 statuesque young models in glittery bikinis. This June, we see fashion photographer David LaChapelle at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in SoHo, where his colorful neo-Surrealist shots of celebrities, models and transvestites cast an aura from the shadow of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Further down Wooster from Shafrazi, at number 88, the famed design house Yves Saint Laurent has inaugurated a boutique designed by Richard Gluckman. The idea is to showcase three artists a year, along with all the fashion. Jean-Michel Othoniel and the American surveillance photographer Sam Samore had the first two shows, followed by the Swiss-Italian artist Ugo Rondinone, who participated in the 1996 São Paulo Biennial and is now based in New York.
For his installation, Light of the Falling Stars, Rondinone covered the store's huge plate glass windows with violet gels and placed a stainless steel partition in front of them. Two 12-inch video monitors show a man submerged underwater and a woman dancing. Playing in the store is a Leonard Cohen-type soundtrack with a voice singing the French words for "No more affairs," over and over in a melancholic tenor. It turns out to be the voice of a woman, computer modified to sound masculine.
Along one wall is a large painting on fiberglass of horizontal stripes, a static image in techno-colored car enamel to accompany the droning, comic music. In the rear of the space, Rondinone has placed two videos on the floor by the dressing rooms. Each one is shot as a "nowhere noir," with a male and female protagonist approaching a doorway, pausing, then stepping through it. The whole sequence runs in reverse, and then over again. Overall, Rondinone's installation is laconic and atmospheric.
Toba Khedoori is diminutive and shy, but not shy in the studio, where she makes huge encaustic drawings on heavy paper that measure around 11 by 20 feet. On view at David Zwirner Gallery in SoHo are six new works, all snapped up by collectors. Her subjects include a pair of open doors, a wooden table and chair, an iron fence in dramatic perspective and a detailed sprawling cityscape. When these monumental drawings are made, they're laid out on the floor, so strands of hair and staples cling to their surfaces.
Precise and three-dimensional, Khedoori's new works are like vitrines keeping their waxen clones in place, somehow rendering muteness and absence on paper. Since her Whitney Biennial appearance in 1995, Khedoori has quietly built an indelible body of work.
The British artist Victor Burgin, author of several books of art criticism, including In/Different Spaces (1996) and Some Cities (1996), is a pioneer of conceptual art who teaches in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His recent show at John Weber included four small video monitors, a suite of color photographs and an enigmatic text on the wall related to the imagery.
The video showed transient images of a city and country landscape, shot as if the viewer were disembodied and floating. The scenes shift from public domains to pastoral vistas. One shows a woman standing on a hillock, the wind blowing through her dress as she poses like Helga in a Wyeth painting.
Another depicts an elegantly costumed woman from the back, standing alone on a balcony, a wooded estate visible from her perch. The photos seem like stills from a period movie, and are grouped on the wall. Burgin's travelogue can be loosely traced to Henri Lefebvre's notion of space as divorced from the body, formed instead by representations created by TV and computers. Strange, elliptic and haunting.
Painting this season has seen blue chips from Terry Winters at Matthew Marks to the Cézannesque works of Paul Bloodgood at AC Project Room. Young painters abound in the galleries. Some are outright copyists, stealing any idea they can, but not having the drive, ability or vision to reinvent those ideas.
You know the T.S. Eliot saying, "a bad poet imitates, a good poet steals"? It's the same with painting. What innovation can one add to the lexicon that makes the work last beyond yesterday's puff piece in the Times or New York magazine? The gamut has run from lousy to impressive.
At Cheim & Read, the painter Juan Uslé had new, large abstract works of intersecting grisaille patterns, lines and loopy forms made with vinyl, dispersion and pigment on canvas, each measuring up to 96 by 120 inches. A stylist falling somewhere between David Reed and Jonathan Lasker, Uslé makes ultra-refined paintings that are ambitious in scope and marked by an emphasis on depth and physicality.
Nina Bovasso, a young painter who recently showed at Clementine gallery and curated a funny show there called "Son of a Guston," is unabashedly influenced by Guston's palette, painting hyper clusters of comic book color and tangly spheres of exploding striations in mixed media on canvas. Chaotic and controlled, her best compositions are cheery, bright and visually dexterous. Bovasso has come of age in this show, and among the hype of the new painters, should not be overlooked.
Peter Halley's first solo show since 1992 was at the new 57th Street gallery Grant Selwyn Fine Art, and coincided with a new booklet of essays published by Edgewise Press (1999). The paintings still look like computer chips, although his fluorescent palate of day-glo colors has mostly been subdued into a less garish gray metallic surface of connecting squares and horizontal bands. The stucco-like texture of some areas breaks up his smooth surfaces, adding an architectural element to the otherwise two-dimensional images.
At American Fine Arts, "1999" is the latest annual installation from those cultural agent provocateurs Art Club 2000. The members call it a "retrodisrespective" with selected works from the last seven years, including favorites such as SoHo So Long and 1970. The front gallery is transformed into a stage-like entranceway, which should look familiar; it parodies the image of Charles Wilson Peale's 1822 oil painting, The Artist in His Museum, as seen in the "Museum as Muse" exhibition at MoMA.
With the millennium approaching, it's appropriate that Art Club has placed a sculpture of the grim reaper to greet the gallery goer. Inside there's something for everyone to enjoy, including cardboard fuzzy bunny suits, the repro of the Scharf Shack, and an entire wall plastered with Art Club's photographs poking fun of advertising and fashion iconography. The collaborative was started in 1992 and has produced a serious brand of madcap satire that will make even the most jaded art world insiders appreciate Art Club's deadpan sitcom touch.
Mary Boone cotton picking?
The painter William Cotton has evidently been talking with Mary Boone about showing next season in her new Chelsea satellite space, or even in her 57th Street gallery. Cotton has shown in New York for the last five years in venues such as Exit Art and Silverstein Gallery. He's known for his paintings of toys, and more recently the "Candyland" series depicting aerial shots of gingerbread row houses à la Jeff Koons' "Celebration" series. Boone seems to be revving it up for a millennial run towards the glory days when she was the arbiter of young, cutting edge art.