Tino Sehgal notwithstanding, the commerce of Chelsea still lies in tasty, reasonably priced and portable objects, as a visit to two West Side galleries recently confirmed.
Alexander and Bonin’s second estate show of the late Michael Buthe, a kind of German Rauschenberg who was a friend of Polke and Richter, features a yellow totem sculpture full of delicious toys called Torso, priced at $42,000. Upstairs at the A&B space is a spectacular Willie Cole assemblage of black shoes, which resembles a Gaston Lachaise. Titled Gloria Vanderbilt with an Empty Nest, the sculpture is a steal at $25,000, prefiguring Cole’s solo show "BLACK AND BLUE," which debuts at the gallery on Mar. 13, 2010.
Carolyn Alexander pointed to some greenery in her office window, "Do you know why I am growing grass, Charlie?" It is not medical marijuana, just field grass, sprouting up from delicate wooden cenotaphs -- new funerary sculptures by Doris Salcedo, which should mature by spring.
The mortality theme continues at "Nobody Sees the Wiz," up the street at Anna Kustera Gallery, a show curated by ex-Honcho magazine editor Doug McClements and based on the apocryphal tale that a munchkin hung himself during the filming of The Wizard of Oz. The bargain here is Daphne Fitzpatrick’s beaver felt hat hanging from a silver wire, priced at $2,000. For the museum buyer, Nayland Blake’s gorgeous 18-foot-long felt-and-hair Cowardly Lion’s tail can be had for a reasonable $18,000.
Another museum classic in this show, Robert Gober’s 1990 single red slipper, edition of 35, is known for its condition issues. Various pieces from the edition have either faded or cracked, with Gober offering the option of refabrication. Considering the theme and timeless beauty of these slippers, one might think that deterioration would add to the value and uniqueness of each piece, consistent with Gober’s philosophy of fragile existence.
Finally, those on a tight budget (most of us) have a collectible option: the card (free!) of the Diana Thater exhibition at David Zwirner. The video of a magician is not one of her best, but the card, featuring a pink-nosed bunny emerging from a black top hat, available in two sizes, is a keeper at the price, which is nothing.
"Michael Buthe: Paintings, Objects and Paper Works, 1968-1994," Jan. 23-Mar. 6, 2010, at Alexander and Bonin, 132 Tenth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011.
"Nobody Gets To See the Wizard. Not Nobody. Not Nohow," Jan. 21-Mar. 6, 2010, at Anna Kustera Gallery, 520 West 21st Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
"Diana Thater Between Science and Magic," Feb. 11-Mar. 13, 2010, at David Zwirner, 525 West 19th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).