It’s always something. Keeping you from doing your gallery rounds, that is. Right now it’s the heat. And the humidity. And sometimes thundershowers. Nevertheless, last Friday I ventured to Manhattan’s Chelsea art district, anxious to catch a few really big shows before they closed, that very day.
At the hangar-like West 22nd Street space of PaceWildenstein, an exhibition of "outdoor sculpture" by gallery artists, which sounded really good, was due to end, but the gate was already down. At the second Gladstone Gallery space on West 21st, it was the last day for Huang Yong Ping’s 37-foot-tall Tower Snake, which Elisabeth Kley had said was "great" in these pages, but the door was locked, thanks to summer hours (12 noon to 5 pm).
Clearly, though the flesh was willing, it was notably ill-timed.
I had better luck at Tony Shafrazi Gallery on West 26th Street, where "Andy Warhol: From the Factory, 1963, ’64, ’65, Boxes Jackies Flowers," had been on view for two months. At first the installation seemed rather slight. Could Andy finally be anticlimactic?
But no, the art has multiple dimensions: the piled cartons of corn flakes, Brillo, canned soup and ketchup were perfectly poised between David Smith’s totemic abstractions and Donald Judd’s Minimalist cubes; the two-foot-square "Flowers" paintings looked back to the classic still-life genre and forward to Color Field painting; and the "Jackies" had actual human-interest drama.
In the end, Andy ruled. But then again, was I being too sentimental? Flowers, cereal, canned goods, a chic housewife -- a safe and reassuring ensemble. No wonder this stuff appeals to art investors!
Time to sit down for a rest. The X Initiative beckoned, its darkened West 22nd Street spaces freely welcoming its meager handful of Friday afternoon visitors. It’s a little muggy inside, of course -- the absence of AC was what made the Dia Art Center flee the building -- but it has public bathrooms (on the second floor, southwest corner).
Unspooling in a small room on the first floor is Redistribution, a 45-minute-long vid by Seth Price (who shows at Petzel Gallery across the street, where he wrapped the gallery in clear Mylar a few years ago) that doubles as a lecture by the artist on his own work. Elaborately edited with close-ups, fancy wipes and cuts and clips from his own and other videos, Redistribution is fun to watch, if a little self-referential.
All artists are called on to give presentations about their work, of course, and presenting such a presentation as the work itself is an esthetic gambit that had to happen. The subjects Price takes up, though, seem almost random, or rather, randomly selected from an alphabetical index -- sections on patents, plastics and play follow in close order -- but with esoteric art like Price makes, having the artist explain what he’s after is a real help.
In Redistribution, the viewer gets to witness how his mind works. "Hmmm, how can that be art?" seems to be the motivating query. The answer isn’t always that interesting, but you have to admire Price’s ingenuity: whenever he needs to give a lecture, the vid is ready.
Then, a few weeks back, working on an Artnet Design column, I wandered over to Bridge Gallery at 98 Orchard to see "Wild Child," an exhibition of new design objects by an international group of architects and designers.
Thus hatched another brilliant "Weekend Update" idea -- a column devoted solely to galleries on Orchard Street. Everyone knows Orchard Street’s glorious history as downtown Manhattan’s funkiest shopping strip. Now it is home to the estimable Lisa Cooley and Miguel Abreu, as well as another half-dozen or so galleries. I made it to two.
As it happens, I used to live around the corner, and once took my pre-school daughter to a shop there for new shoes. They didn’t fit by a long shot. "They’re perfect," insisted the sales guy. "Just put a little cardboard in."
The relatively new Anastasia Photo at 166 Orchard was opened in March by Felicia Anastasia to show documentary photography, with an added twist: she contributes a portion of her profits from each show to a related philanthropic organization.
On view now are large ink-jet prints of "young towns" -- shantytowns and new developments -- outside Lima, Peru, by Carlos Jiménez Cahua (b. 1986). The young Limeño sets a fairly desolate scene, as most of the pix are sans people and any visible vegetation, and images of densely built-up habitats alternate with ones showing similarly crowded expanses of burial crypts. It’s another world, that’s for sure, one composed by the artist’s eye in desert tones. The larger prints are $2,000 each.
A bit further south, near Delancey Street, is the amiably named On Stellar Rays -- clearly, it’s all about heavenly sunshine -- opened last fall by Candice Madley. She was on hand for the July 30 opening of "One Size Fits All," a "roving" presentation of artist’s t-shirts organized by Jenny Salomon, whose office is on nearby Chrystie Street, and who also made some of the more popular shirts in the show.
The t-shirts -- by Agata Bebecka, Brent Harada, Michael Paul Britto, Chandi, Isca Greenfield-Sanders and others -- are displayed on floor-to-ceiling contraptions made out of interlocking hangers. Gallery visitors seemed to be avidly buying the Ts, which range in price from $10 to $150 for custom-made, one-of-a-kind tops. "It would be a great fund-raising tool for nonprofits!" said Salomon.
The summer’s overall theme, Giovanis explained, has been taken from an inkjet-on-canvas artwork by Glen Fogel, titled All Suffering Soon to End, showing a cheerful African-American couple sitting in a farm meadow at harvest time, surrounded by pumpkins, apples and a moose. Is that ironic? A lot could be said about "suffering," I suppose, but let’s save that for a less happy time.
Works by several valley locals were on view, including some charming folk-art-styled collages with buttons by Jennifer Reeves ($500) and some goofy cartoon drawings by David Scher ($1,000). It’s value for your money in Callicoon! "Which ones are you getting?" asked Giovanis. I made it out of there after spending only $20 for a couple of books from Nightboat Books publisher Stephen Motika, who has an office in the back. They’re having a poetry-prize contest right now! For more info, see www.nightboat.org.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.