To hell with the high prices at auction for contemporary art. Around here we're obsessed with the high number of exhibitions that we have to see and write about.
Easily the most flamboyant show in New York this month is Marc Quinn's group of life-sized, smooth white-painted bronze statues of a female yogi -- with Kate Moss' face -- twisting herself into a pretzel at Mary Boone Gallery on Fifth Avenue. Surely you've seen them -- one is on the postcard announcing the show, and a gilded version of a guru-like figure, all gaunt and sitting in the lotus position, is in a full-page Artforum advertisement.
So far most coverage of the show has come from the gossip press, which was just happy to see the supermodel so remarkably portrayed. It seems there's little enough to say about such a calculating production. Quinn himself notes that "celebrity has replaced divinity" and that Kate Moss' "image has a life of its own." More than that, I would say that Moss has a face that retains its appeal, no matter how often we see it.
Quinn compares Moss' likeness to the sphinx, which is more about ancient knowledge than timeless beauty. It's funny, too, that while Quinn posits these images as gods for our time, they are false on their face. "This isn't really Kate in these poses," is the first thing you think of going into the gallery. But whatever, the sculptures are all marked sold, at $200,000 each, with the gold one priced at $300,000, in editions of three.
(Quinn's work has an uncanny resemblance to the gag sculptures of Daniel Edwards, who shows at Capla Kesting in Williamsburg, and who most recently came up with a realistic nude sculpture of Paris Hilton and her dog Tinkerbell -- for more details, see www.parishiltonautopsy.com.)
Though Quinn's work has an alchemical secret at its core -- some mysterious fabrication method, vaguely kin to Minimalism's use of industrial production (rather than traditional artisanship) -- otherwise it is out of step with avant-garde transparency and simplicity. Presumably, it involves computers.
New forms brought to life by new technology -- that is a subtext of the sculpture of Tony Cragg, on view at Marian Goodman Gallery. Impressively fabricated in bronze, stainless steel, stone and wood, again by some mysterious technological process, the works are deceptively simple in concept -- physical 3D traces of forms, notably profiles, dragged through space. They're Futurism for the f/x era, and remind me of a digital effect used to indicate transcendence of time and space in my favorite Vin Diesel movie, The Chronicles of Riddick. Still, Cragg's sculptures are difficult things to see and comprehend. No gestalts here.
New public sculpture in town includes a 20-foot-tall moveable obelisk on casters by Damián Ortega, installed in Doris Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park by the Public Art Fund. Obelisco Transportable, as it is called, suggests that what once were timeless verities are now rather more flexible.
Meanwhile, down in Madison Square Park, best known these days for the long snaking lines of people waiting for ice cream at Danny Meyers' Shake Shack, Roxy Paine has sited two life-sized stainless-steel trees and a stainless-steel boulder, all under the auspices of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
The tree sculptures are pendant figures of a sort, with the 40-foot-tall Conjoined being a kind of arboreal victory arch consisting of a pair of trees with their branches joined high above in midair, and the 42-foot-tall Defunct depicting a tree that is dead or dying. Sited in a grassy open space, Conjoined seems perfect for wedding pictures (in fact, the artist was recently married himself).
One great thing about the Mr. show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery was the way the artist spent the opening -- dressed in a plushie panda outfit, crawling around the gallery floor on all fours, toddling out to the street and rubbing up against the gallery visitors. The costume was ass-backwards, so to speak, with the panda head attached to the artist's behind, and the artist's head sticking out of what would be the panda's rear. Mr. had his head covered with a plastic bag.
Other wacky stuff around town included an oddly shaped coffin at Apexart by Lan Tuazon, designed, according to the artist, so that she can be buried face down so God can kiss her ass! With its angles, it looks kind of Cubist. The sculpture was included in a show titled "Don't Get It Twisted! Violence Affects Everyone," organized by students from a "second chance" New York City public school called Satellite Academy. The young curators posted typewritten statements explaining their curatorial choices, and one hazarded that though she liked Acobe as an artist, she was confident that she would go to hell for her blasphemy.
Still another fun artwork on view in town is a painting from the late 1960s by Betty Tomkins, a black-and-white airbrush Photo Realist close-up of an overscaled mons veneris with a tiny Holstein cow perched on top, apparently grazing away on the pubic growth. A first-generation feminist artist, Tompkins only made eight paintings in the series, and one was recently acquired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This one is $135,000.
The show also includes new works by Tompkins in the same series, with the same graphic directness and explicit sexual imagery, made from accretions of rubber-stamped words, typically sexual colloquialisms.
As long as we're traveling back in time, Michael Werner Gallery is featuring a fascinating series of paintings by Markus Lüpertz from 1965. Called "Tents -- Early Dithyrambs," the paintings ostensibly inventory different kinds of tents, directly and simply, with the tent panels painted in different colors of red, green, blue, ochre and yellow.
Who knows what was going on in Lüpertz's studio, but now that the works are on view in New York, it's hard not to think of them in terms of the formalist painting battles of the decade. Tents are made of canvas, after all, and in Lüpertz' hands provide a good model for a wry take on geometric abstraction. Plus, it's painting as a type of provisional structure.
Also from the Wayback Machine is Jacobson Howard Gallery with its show of Minimalist paintings by Darby Bannard from 1959-65, perfect circles painted on perfect squares. The card for the show features a painting of a blue circle slightly above center on a near square, called The Marriage #3 (1961) (back during the ten days that I was a devotee of Guru Maya, they told us to meditate on a blue circle) and another work titled Yellow Rose #1, which places a yellow semicircle at the bottom of the canvas, like a rising sun. The paintings are a bargain at around $35,000 each.
Down in SoHo, the Spencer Brownstone Gallery has been darkened and turned into a theater by the Lithuanian-born New York artist Zilvinius Kempinas. Walk into the space and it seems at first as if black-and-white static is filling a screen at the end of the gallery, but it turns out to be plain black videotape densely stretched across an actual hole in the wall, rattling in the wind of an electric fan.
Made in an edition of three, the sculpture is $45,000. Titled "White Noise," the show is Kempinas' third at Brownstone. His last exhibition was bought in toto for the Margulies Collection in Miami.
Last but not least, the show of recent color photographs by Steve Giovinco at Jim Kempner Fine Art at Tenth Avenue and 23rd Street has come down, but some images can still be seen here. The pictures have a subtle sense of wandering, of a ramble, a search that is not about colonizing and claiming space but simply looking for something.
Thus, Giovinco's camera peers through tree branches across a river, looks down at a leaf-strewn path through the woods, or spots some feral cats in a dump. It would be about the journey, then, not the destination. The pictures were taken in the Pennsylvania countryside, in Rome and Palermo, up at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs. Prints begin at $1,800 apiece.
While you're out, go see "Culinary Arts: Delicious Still Life Paintings" at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery on West 57th Street. I have a painting of some waffles in it!
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.