It's all going on uptown this fall, or so the Madison Avenue dealers like to say. In addition to the exhibition at Acquavella Galleries in October of James Rosenquist monochromes -- that is, various works by the Pop master all done in a single color -- we currently have blue-chip shows of Cy Twombly, Yves Klein and Jackson Pollock all within a few blocks of each other.
Receiving the most comment from artists is Twombly's new "Bacchus" series at Gagosian Gallery at 980 Madison (to Dec. 23, 2005), floor- to-ceiling paintings featuring the artist's trademark loopy doodles, this time done on a superhuman Ab-Ex scale in bloody red paint. A few even have puddley "horizon" lines across the bottom, made from drips caught in a fold of the canvas, as if they were so big that the artist had to let their bottom part lap onto the floor, or perhaps as if the canvases were going to be trimmed but then were left as is. Someone said that they're $4 million each, if you can believe that!
Yves Klein, who died of a heart attack in 1962 at age 34, is the subject of two exhibitions, a "career survey" of ca. 30 works at L&M Arts on East 78th Street and a show of Fire Paintings at Michael Werner Gallery on East 77th. Almost a half century ago, in 1957, during the last gasp of the Paris School, Klein launched his trademark monochromes at Galerie Iris Clert and Galerie Colette Allendy, followed quickly in 1958 by the "Anthropometries" (made with "living brushstrokes," as Klein called his nude female collaborators), and by works made with fire in 1961.
He also had himself photographed as if flying, made paintings covered with craters like the surface of the moon and exhibited an empty gallery. Ah, those were the days. It's worth noting (re Gorgon's complaint two months ago that young artists today look like slobs) that Klein dressed for his legendary moments, wearing a tux for the Anthropometry performances and a lab coat while making his fire paintings. The museums catch-up next year, when a traveling Klein retrospective bows at the Walker Art Center, the San Francisco MOMA, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Menil Collection.
Special mention is reserved for "Tiffany/Pollock" at Jack Tilton Gallery on East 76th Street, which combines about nine works by Jackson Pollock with about 50 lamps and glass vases by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The idea is the brainchild of artist Richard Tuttle (whose retrospective is at the Whitney Museum around the corner), who sees in both artists a new, peculiarly American quality of lighting from within, be it lamps or paintings.
The show doesn't posit real influence as much as a kind of closeness. Both Tiffany and Pollock sought new techniques, new ways to use their materials, and both were familiar with Long Island light -- Tiffany was headquartered in Oyster Bay, where Bradley Walker Tomlin and Giorgio Cavallon had studios. Theodorus Stamos collected Tiffany glass. And, the similarity of the painter's skeins of pigment and the craftsman's floral forms and glazes is clear.
The Tiffany drophead dragonfly lamp on a lighted turtleback base from ca. 1910 is $1,350,000, while a set of silkscreen reproductions of six Pollock paintings from 1951, issued by dealer Betty Parsons and Alfonso Ossorio and sold for almost nothing back then, can be yours now for $550,000.
Downstairs at Tilton is a show of black-and-white photographs that the Dutch artist Berend Strik (b. 1960) has highlighted and adjusted with stitching and embroidery. Strik uses photos that his father took of his mother when they were young -- in these images, the camera and the subject exchange a pregnant gaze. Others are more matter-of-fact, as in the architectural photographs Strik found in some municipal files. He likes to stitch up images of dilapidated buildings, as if to make them whole again, or embroider a Dutch sky with a pattern suggestive of a Mediterranean cartography.
Strik's alterations usually follow the photographic image, but of course the sewing draws attention to the surface of the print, and to the tactility of thread and fabric in contrast to the blurry gray illusionism of the photograph. The abstract image is thus enriched with a certain carnality or, as the artist puts it, "a lascivious fortification of shadow and light." With their velvety black patches and silvery knots, Strik's photos take on an uncanny presence. In the flesh, that is -- in photographs the 3D effect disappears, flattening the photos once again. Collectors seem to like them, too -- the show sold out at $3,200-$14,000.
On 57th Street there's more, including the not-to-be-missed, museum-quality "Giacometti's Women" at PaceWildenstein, a remarkably deep survey that includes early Surrealist bronzes, mature paintings and sculptures and many unusual things in between; over the years, the gallery sold many of the works to their present owners, and thus knew who to borrow from.
Down the street at Marian Goodman Gallery is a show of recent paintings by the septugenarian but ever-vanguard Gerhard Richter. In the north gallery is a suite of a dozen abstractions, an abstract zodiac, so to speak, done mostly in grays with flashes of brilliant and subtle color visible on close inspection.
After 100 years, all abstract painting begins to look basically alike, an effect that is strangely pleasant. Richter's well-known abstractions, with their spreads of squeegeed and lifted paint with occasional desultory brushstrokes, are like Abstract-Expressionism with its pretense towards soul replaced by a certain mechanical, chance effect. They're like Postminimalist process art -- Richard Serra flinging ladles of molten lead into a corner, for instance -- or like John Cage's chance compositions, made by randomly tuning the radio dial. But they're also luscious, like Jules Olitski's all-but-forgotten, misty allover Color Field paintings of the 1970s, or the brightly colored "slab" abstractions Hans Hofmann made in the 1950s.
Richter's abstract zodiac is also like Robert Rauschenberg's great Duchampian gesture of 1957, Factum I and Factum II, the typical Abstract Expressionist canvas and its near-identical twin (recently on view together, though they were sold separately and are now in different museums, at the Museum of Modern Art). Then again, Richter's new works, like those of Twombly, seem to be a response to the recent astonishing success of the most louche gestural painting in the world, that of Chris Wool.
In Goodman's south gallery is another new suite of Richter paintings, blurry and gray, covered with slightly varying, allover macular patterns called "silicates," that are based on the molecular structure of glass. This translucent made matte is a nice subject for the 21st-century artist. Also on view are several airy and gestural -- Twomblyesque -- pencil drawings that faintly suggest the Twin Towers.
Abramović put on a little history lesson, reprising in her own way six of the greatest Body Art hits of the 1960s and '70s -- notably, Vito Acconci's Seedbed (1972) and Joseph Beuys' How To Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1964), but also works by Bruce Nauman, Gina Pane, Valie Export and Abramović's own Lips of Thomas, performed in Austria in 1975. The series had something of the feeling of a memorial, a commemoration of an art movement whose best days are long past. So much, after all, has happened since to "the body" -- cosmetic surgery, stomach stapling, tattooing, depiliation, prosthetics, transplants, CSI.
Abramović's series stands in dramatic contrast to Gelitin's "Tantamounter" performance last week at Leo Koenig, Inc. Both involve endurance, but Abramović seeks a "degree zero" experience that communicates something primal to viewers, while Gelitin is having fun, to the extent of offering the audience a free gift. Is that the difference between then and now, in a nutshell? Gelitin, by the way, was formerly Gelatin -- during an exhibition in Asia, the group's name was misspelled on a rubber stamp printed for the show and they decided to keep the new moniker, courtesy of Fortuna.
Titled "Almost. Again. Almost. One more time" (as if to recognize artistic persistence), Geller's installation presents five five-foot-tall cement columns, each about six inches square, and each with a tiny opening at its top. Three of the tiny proscenium spaces present DVD loops on a 2.5 inch LCD screen, while two contain what could be called kinetic sculptures.
All five feature what could be called "the headaches of New York." That is, one mini-vid shows a truck spinning its wheels in a snow bank on a Manhattan street while a kibitzer on the curb offers comically ineffective advice. Hurry Sundown is a 44-second loop of a nervous pigeon, while Done For is a video of men repaving the street at night, complete with truck and steamroller sounds. In Boutique Artery, the opening reveals nothing but a regular drip of water, while Cosmos Bathos is a puddle of dark oil that bubbles like a cauldron.
Facing this last, a work of art that allows for olfactory judgment, I asked a fellow viewer to identify the bubbling substance. "Heating oil," said one, demonstrating her familiarity with the workings of Manhattan real estate. "WD-40," said another, revealing his handyman roots. The right answer? "5/30 Motor Oil," said the artist. Now, that's criticism.
More recently, Robbins has turned to "grown-up" art, photographing discarded household objects -- a television, a computer, a bookshelf -- that homeowners have placed neatly at the curb for "recycling." A few weeks ago, in a cryptic "classified ad"-type mailer, Robbins announced plans to do the same with those few of his works that remained at Feature, his New York gallery. "Bring your minivan and help celebrate freedom," read the card.
If it's free, the "free press" will be there, so Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005, found me standing outside the gallery on West 25th street, pleased to be first on the scene. I had imagined a pile of stuff heaped unceremoniously at the curb, but instead the gallery staff had boxed up the half-dozen works as if for shipping. No shrinking violet, I nabbed the first one out the gallery door and hotfooted it over to 11th Avenue and hailed a cab. One thing I can now say for sure -- Robbins is a genius.
Like chess? Across the hall, Glenn Kaino at Projectile has installed 16 black-and-white portraits of famous chess players -- each done in an hour, timed by a chess clock -- including Alexandra Kosteniuk, Garry Kasparov, Aron Nimzowitsch and Mikhail Tahl. Kaino has also made an oversized chess set with the pieces made of bronze casts of actual human hands. Black pieces have aggressive hand signs -- a black power salute, for instance -- while the white pieces make dovish gestures like the Hawaiian surfer's "shaka" hand gesture, meaning "hang loose." The paintings are $3,500, the chess set $30,000, in an edition of three.
By the way, for the next show the gallery reverts to its pre-lawsuit name The Project, after amicably (and confidentially) settling the court action brought by collector Jean-Pierre Lehmann against dealer Christian Haye [see Artnet News, Jan. 18, 2005], which resulted in a $1.7 million judgment against the dealer. According to a statement issued by the parties, no money changed hands in the settlement -- though observers think that it calls for the transfer to Lehmann of one or more paintings by Julie Mehretu, which was the collector's goal all along. Both parties have decided to treat the case as "as an unfortunate misunderstanding."
German painter Maria Lassnig, 86 years old, returns to New York for her second show at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Nov. 19-Dec. 23, 2005. Last time around, if memory serves, it was pantless soccer-playing nuns. This time we have the artist in a bright self-portrait, dancing with death. A steal at €90,000. . . . Hollywood mugshots done in needlepoint -- Nick Nolte, Sid Vicious, Robert Downey, Jr. -- by Maria E. Piñeres are available at DCKT Contemporary at 552 West 24th Street for $1,500 each. . . . Calling all network hosts! Po-Mo Neo-Ex versions of the NBC peacock logo can be yours at Buia Gallery at 541 West 23rd Street, the work of 25-year-old Cooper Union grad Matt Jones. They're $3,000 each.
More than two dozen intricate comic drawings by the prize-winning cartoonist Chris Ware (b. 1967), on view in "The Acme Novelty Library No. 16" at Adam Baumgold Gallery on East 72nd Street last month, were mostly sold at ca. $5,000 each. . . . Four new paintings by Pieter Schoolwerth last month at Elizabeth Dee gallery sold all four in the first hour at $35,000 each, critics don't get it though. . . . Among the prizes at Melody Weir Gallery at 507 West 24th Street was Christopher Isenberg's limited edition T-shirt showing a bridge and the slogan, "Balco Labs." Come January, Weir plans a new gallery at the former site of El Flamingo (home of "The Donkey Show") on West 21st Street, opening with actor Matthew Modine's photographs from Full Metal Jacket, recently published along with Modine's diary of the shoot as a coffee table book.
Bad reviews aren't all bad -- New Republic art critic Jed Perl's new book, a revisionist history of modern art, got panned by John Updike in the New York Times Book Review and then soared to 240 on Amazon, said the author. The print run is 27,000, plenty hefty for art criticism. . . . Modern Painters is seeking a new name, say insiders. . . . W magazine is thinking of launching an art magazine, W Art, by November 2006.
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts assets now total about $180 million, according to Warhol Foundation chief Joel Wachs. . . . Deitch Projects ex-director James Fuentes is on to a new project -- a history of video art. . . . John Post Lee and Karin Bravin are opening a works-on-paper gallery on the second floor of the big gallery building at 526 West 26th Street.
Speaking of the Nouveau Réalistes, before the great Arman died last month he made some final works in collaboration with Mark Kostabi -- a series of "poubelles," clear vitrines filled with shreds of unsuccessful Kostabi paintings. Arman spoke of selling his for €60,000 each. "I'm keeping mine," Kostabi said, "unless the Museum of Modern Art wants one."
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.