For those approaching 60, especially the rambling critic, Brooklyn is often a bridge too far and one is stretching it a bit to even take a windy walk on 11th Avenue in Chelsea. I'm glad I did, especially to see three brilliant new Keith Mayerson paintings in a new show at Derek Eller.
Mayerson made a splash with his excellent "Pinocchio" series at the Drawing Center in 1995 and, like a lot of very talented painters, has struggled to maintain a market foothold since. Looking straight through to the back of Derek Eller, there's a stunning painterly take on Warhol's Empire, a masterful Childe Hassam-style flag, stiff against a black breeze and a painting of the New Yorker hotel sign at night. They don't sound like much, but these three Mayersons have a psychological dread about them and a conviction of paint handling bordering on the masterful.
I stopped by the Winkleman Gallery for the first time. Joy Garnett's paintings of bubbly bouquets based on mysterious television signals bursts suffer a little from sloppy brushwork and dilatory drawing, but the Nam June Paik installation in Wink's closet-sized project space is marvelous and significant. Who knew that 1970s-era New York Times television critic John J. O’Connor was a gay and that his surviving lover could provide Ed with Paik's correspondence with him? The lacunae are fascinating, with Paik breathlessly mentioning that David Bowie is going to participate in a film with him.
Paik’s desperate attempts for validation in TVworld underscore the point of this show: Without careful handling Paik's work and the memory of him will vanish under the techno avalanche which he foresaw.
It was a hop and a skip to Leo Koenig's project room to see the newest stuff from another true innovator, Debora Warner. I bought two pieces from her amazing Kentucky horse farm installation at I-20 Gallery in 2002, during which, through sound and light, Warner brilliantly recreated the thoroughbred breeding process, every groan and whinny. Since then, whether through lack of funds or ideas, Warner has returned to the painting with which she started her career, disastrously.
The Koenig show is a senseless charcoal-smeared semiotic take on 270 words common to all languages. Time for Debora to return to the crisp sound and high concepts of her very best stuff, like the night she simulated a helicopter landing, via sound alone, on a Chelsea rooftop. Dealer Koenig, scaling back on his triathlon obsession and soon to wed, is rumored to be paying attention to his artists once again. He should commence with his ex-girlfriend and current artist, Ms. Warner.
Keith Mayerson, "My Modern Life," Oct. 15-Nov. 13, 2010, at Derek Eller Gallery, 615 West 27th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
Joy Garnett, "Boom & Bust," Oct. 15-Nov. 13, 2010, at Winkleman Gallery, 621 West 27th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
Debora Warner, "The Full Story," Sept. 16-Oct. 23, 2010, at Leo Koenig Inc. Projekte, 541 West 23rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).