In his new collection of New Yorker columns, entitled Let’s See (Thames & Hudson), Peter Schjeldahl writes of wandering the East Village with David Hammons, trying to imagine chaff like a roll of aluminum foil in a restaurant doorway as art. On the other hand, F. Scott Fitzgerald advised in Afternoon of an Author that "it is not good to go out without a destination."
I tried to combine these two approaches as I set out for SoHo a few afternoons ago. Approaching 60, I can’t take the bright sunlight anymore, so thus dodge back and forth between the building shadows. My destination was the Brooke Alexander Gallery to see "Colab Redux," in which those wild ‘80s expressionists like Joseph Nechvatal and Walter Robinson have become as formal as prom tuxedos 25 years later. These blasts from the past include a striking orange and sky blue image of a woman by Judy Rifka, John Ahearn’s bas-relief of Tom Otterness with a gun, and some goofy figurines by Robin Winters.
To find a legatee of these former freaks, I stopped by Guild & Greyshkul to observe the always talented Ryan Johnson, whose new sculptures of graffiti-drenched spectres with mandala clock heads are a bit too close to Tim Burton’s cartoon ectomorphs. Simmer down, Ryan! Dropped into Deitch to observe a painting of Catherina Zeta-Jones lounging in a sea of tots, then dropped back out.
I hopped a cab to SLAG Gallery in Chelsea, next to Scores West. It’s a Rumanian space, being promoted by Simon Watson. The art, kitschy depictions of peasants on carved wood by a guy named Gorzo, is just awful. Roses on the floor of the space were a redeeming touch.
My last stop was Ena Swansea’s loft for a celebration of P.S. 1’s Tony Guerrero being awarded the honor of Chevalier of the French Institute of Arts and Letters. The Museum of Modern Art crowd (Glenn Lowry, Peter Galassi, Alanna Heiss) was there, looking surprisingly powerless in a cocktail setting as their handlers helicoptered to the Hamptons. Ena Swansea had borrowed her best painting, The Dinner Party, from collector Harvey Shipley Miller, for our entertainment.
This work features a table with beer, wineglasses and cigarette packs glowing like Holy Grails, as the diners (Adrian Dannatt, Andre Schlechtreim, Horst and Anthony Haden-Guest) fade to gray around them. "It’s because the objects survive," Ena explained. Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith arrived late, and Roberta and I settled down on the couch to discuss hedge funds and immigration. She was delightful. We embraced with feeling and I found my way home.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).