Well, it's time to start packing. The Venice Biennale opens in a few days, and the Basel Art Fair after that. But there's so much to do before I go.
Most important is to commend to you Mary Carlson's show at Bill Maynes Gallery in Chelsea. The ambiance is summer in upstate New York; the assortment of things are made from memory. In the front gallery, several homemade lightboxes show a radiant blue night sky with a scattering of stars. On the floor, a swath of terra-cotta stones shapes a creek bed. On the wall by the desk, a motley patch of 15 butterflies, made of crochet.
In the corner of the side gallery leans a haphazard group of tree trunks and branches, without bark, carved of lumber and pieced together, or molded by hand out of sawdust and glue. Draped from the walls and ceiling are the tips of tree branches, with chiffon leaves in orange, green and red, hanging mobile-like on wire stems -- a reminder of where Calder got his idea.
Carlson's show has clarity, character, serenity. No stupid jokes, no abject or vulgar poses. I'm not sure what I would buy. It's all good, priced at $2,500 to $7,500. A few of the lightboxes and the hanging willow branches are sold. Any collector with half an eye, or a half a brain, should get over there.
Does nature depicted through the screen of memory make you melancholy? Imagine, then, checking into the Barthes Motel or Foucault's Trailer Park for a more "continental" stay. The German artist-cartoonist Oleg Westphalen suggests as much in a group of four drawings at Apex Art, the international exhibition space in Tribeca, operated by artist Steven Rand. My favorite is Lacan's Grill and Lounge, an uncanny pun on psychiatric method. Westphalen's work is part of "Arrested Ambition," the last show organized by Apex curator Gregory Williams before he goes part-time. Westphalen is pictured on the cover of the brochure for the show as well, dressed up like a goofy lounge singer. I like him.
Freelance curator supreme Kenny Schachter, who over the last 10 years must have organized 100 group shows in dozens of gallery and temporary spaces, has finally put his own stuff on view at Sandra Gering. He's made an assortment of things having to do with "branding" -- T shirts, coffee cups, a set of weird forks and spoons -- in a game effort to animate a tiresome and increasingly present marketing notion. But most impressive is the cryogenic sculpture called Group Show -- a tank containing sperm samples from Schachter himself and fellow artists Donald Baechler and Rob Pruitt, among others. A potent brew, no doubt -- Schachter's wife is expecting their third. Take your pick, $750 each, plus the cost of a tank. Quail at the thought.
It's a good time for new painting -- it always is, actually. But I fear the car service to the airport is about to arrive, so this will have to be brief. At Feature are new abstractions by Bill Komoski, whose paintings always manage to be unfamiliar. The four works in this show look something like an accelerated technological moment, to borrow a phrase from the artist, who wants to combine the idea of slippage with the immediacy of the emblematic. They're $7,500 and $8,500, and given titles like 5/20/99 -- which seems fairly fresh out of the studio.
In the back room at P.P.O.W. is another painting that avoids clichés. It's by Margaret Curtis and called Sign from Behind. Curtis does a kind of country hayseed feminist burlesque, mixing together gender representations and a love of paint. In this work, from a show at the gallery earlier this year, we see the back of a dilapidated road sign that by its silhouette depicts some kind of glamour girl. Yet some looping shapes at the bottom -- her dress -- are uncomfortably testicular. Similarly, the pretty, flowery, icing-like paint is a bit too much like clods of mud or even feces. What scrumptious, subtle wit! It's $6,000.
It is summer and summer means group shows of new talent. The exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery features several interesting works. The painting that caught my eye shows three colorful birds, apparently copied from a simple guidebook, positioned in tree branches in a gray winter landscape. It's by Roger White, who someone told me was a second-year MFA student at Columbia. The painting is $3,000.
Painting lovers should also hasten to Brent Sikkema's new space on West 22nd Street in Chelsea, where a group show called "Another Country: The Constructed Landscape" is on view. I particularly liked Compression by Benjamin Edwards, which seemed to adapt Peter Halley's painting method to a hyper-signaged storefront -- a Starbucks, I think. It's $8,000.
Meanwhile, down in SoHo, on West Broadway, Nancy Hoffman is hosting a show of 77 miniature paintings of butterflies by the 24-year-old Filipino painter from New Jersey, Gregory Raymond Halili. The artist said the works are about his native land, incorporating beauty, fragility, metamorphosis and ancestor spirits. It's his first big show in New York, and the collection has already been sold as a whole for something like $38,000.
Rarely do art, political and Hollywood legends come together like they do in Diego Rivera's Portrait of Paulette (1940-41), lot 41 in Christie's Latin American art sale in New York on June 2. Begun in Mexico City during World War II, the incredible double portrait shows the actress along with a young Indian model and pre-Columbian objects. At the time, Goddard was married to Charlie Chaplin, who had just finished filming The Great Dictator. Rivera, for his part, was married to Frida Kahlo and playing host to Leon Trotsky, who was dodging Stalinist bullets.
When things began to heat up, Paulette and Diego beat it to San Francisco, where he was painting a 10-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition on the theme "Pan American Unity." It pictured Goddard holding the "Tree of life and love" while being admired by Rivera. Hot stuff. This portrait sold for $552,500 with premium, just at its low estimate of $500,000. Hmmm. The same sale featured a work billed as property of Sharon Stone, a simple figure in a window by Rufina Tamayo (lot 52) that sold for $107,000 (est. $100,000-$150,000).