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by Charlie Finch
I stepped out for a cup of coffee last Sunday morning and ran into Julian Laverdiere walking his bulldog, Virgil. The man who devised the "Towers of Light" memorial post 9/11 has left the conventional art world to design sets for Hollywood and make his own film. "What happened with Lehmann Maupin?" I asked. Julian shrugged his shoulders at the mention of his former gallery. "I should have stuck with Andrew Kreps."

And what of the germ-free, biological laboratory studio where, not too long ago, Donald Trump used to watch Laverdiere conceive his commentaries on civilization? "It’s been torn down in the Chelsea construction boom." With a fraud like Olafur Eliasson riding high, it’s a shame that a real genius like Julian no longer hangs his shingle in art land.

Veteran artist Douglas Blau stopped me on Third Avenue. "I went underground during the Bush years, Charlie, but now I am making a comeback." Turns out Blau opens a solo show (all new work!) at the Institute of Contemporary Art this September. Curator Ingrid Schaffner persuaded Doug to come out of retirement. "She’s fantastic!" Blau blushed.

Sherry Wong returned from a much needed week in Jamaica, covered with jellyfish bites. Her ordeal mimics her new painting currently on view at Chelsea’s Elga Wimmer Gallery, courtesy of Sherry’s representative, I-20. The painting depicts the idyllistic Ms. Wong embedded in a seaside berm under towering clouds.

Group shows (group gropes?) abound. Vancouver artist Stewart Paley has a lively Peter Blake-style collage of John Lennon and Bob Dylan downstairs at Knoedler, where photographer Christopher Dawson also exhibits an amusing snap outside of the Britney Spears custody deliberations in Los Angeles. Upstairs at Knoedler, Catherine Murphy, darling of conservative critics like Mario Naves and David Cohen, has produced her usual one masterpiece per show, a portrait of the artist under an undulating comforter. Murphy’s singular effort to thread the needle between photorealism and trompe l’oeil is too difficult a task to fully master more than once every two years.

If you want to ogle superdealers Bill Acquavella and Larry Gagosian, then lunch at Sant Ambroeus on Madison at 78th Street, where the King Crab salad satiates, then catch the first half-hour of Wall-E, that new Pixar robot movie, in deep air-conditioning. Before degenerating into a typical Pixar toy orgy, Wall-E will remind arties of Watts Towers, Richard Serra and what a trash compactor could do to improve on Jeff Koons. The lists of credits on these productions, their length and abundance of technical tasks and titles, never ceases to amaze me. Too bad there were no credits for the slaves who built the pyramids.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).