Two weeks into the fall art season, and the quiet days in Chelsea are a distant memory. Things are already in a whirl. On the final day of "Cézanne-Pissarro" at the Museum of Modern Art last week, the dense crowds included curator Robert Storr, taking notes -- will Paul Cézanne make an appearance in the 2007 Venice Biennale?
For all its beautiful pictures, the show had next to none of the late works -- and yours truly was thinking of the Bathers, with their curious mix of sensuality and formalist architectonics. A few days later, MoMA unveiled a new installation of its collection on its piano nobile, full of challenging works (for a mass audience) and including Dana Schutz’ own version of Cézanne’s gawking throng, the 10 x 14 ft. Presentation (2005), placed across the gallery from a grand Andy Warhol Hammer and Sickle (1976). A self-portrait? Where Cézanne left off, she begins.
Also on view at MoMA is Charles Ray’s revolting Family Romance (1993), the group of four naked figures in a row, father, mother, son and daughter, holding hands, who have been made all the same size. It stands at the very entrance to the galleries, greeting visitors young and old, as if the museum were positively asking for trouble. Good work!
As long as we’re going on about people standing around naked -- a motif that seems to remain both avant-garde and hidebound, so to speak -- there’s Richard Dupont at Tracey Williams, Ltd., in Greenwich Village. As has already been thoroughly reported -- the show got two reviews before it even opened, part of the whirl of art criticism that seems to attend every artist of promise -- Dupont cast the 24-inch-tall pink plastic figures from a digital scan of his own body, done with a laser just like in science fiction.
The artistic avatars are stretched or squashed along the horizontal axis, made wider or flatter or suchlike distorted so that an observer circling the sculptures can see them become more or less properly proportioned depending on the point of view.
But what makes the show hot is not this bit of digital legerdemain, but rather the subtle allure of the supple plastic contours -- hello, Barbie! -- and the narcissistic charge of standing around in the buff. Dupont’s sculptures are naturism for the postmodernist age. "When the gallery goes dark for the night," says Charlie Finch, "the tiny Duponts tiptoe around and bugger each other!" A single figure is $10,000, while a large group goes for $50,000, in editions of three plus one artist’s proof. Word is that Ron Lauder is a patron -- expect to see a Dupont at MoMA!
Up at the Guggenheim Museum, where "Russia!" has just opened, there’s nary a nude, though plenty of icons, romantic figurative paintings, Socialist Realist comrades and several representatives of the contemporary Russian avant-garde, including Leonid Sokov’s 1986 The Meeting of Two Sculptures -- that would be a statue of Lenin and Giacometti-style striding figure -- from the Guggenheim’s own collection. I like it in this context for obvious reasons!
Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke at a special reception at the museum, sounding alternately like a docent, a cultural diplomat and a publicist for the Guggenheim! "We have always considered the Guggenheim Museum one of the foremost centers of world culture," he said. "Today, I have been absolutely convinced of this. Not only do its curators know Russian art very well, but they hold it in high esteem.
"We, on our side, value this respect for our country and our culture." He went on. "You will all feel the soul of the Russian people," he said, noting that the show should make clear "Russia’s contribution to humankind’s artistic heritage and modern civilization."
Downtown, the anthropological note resounds across the ages with the show of sculptures by the young Dutch artist Lara Schnitger at Anton Kern Gallery and the survey of wood "herms" by the veteran Pop artist Robert Indiana at Paul Kasmin Gallery. Both artists make simple vertical constructions encircled by words -- though Schnitger is rather more sexual. "It ain’t gonna lick itself," exclaims one wall work in capital letters.
Another work proclaims, "Fuck you, fuck me," which captures perfectly my feelings during my divorce.
Schnitger also did a large installation uptown at Triple Candie on West 126th Street that she calls "Blacks on Blonds." Made of fabric stretched over slim wooden lathe, her sculptures have a sprawling feminist tensegrity -- or perhaps that should be "post-feminist," since this one's made of pink white lace that’s stretched and prodded and edged with grommets and corset straps. "Smell my pie sweet meat," reads one of the texts at Triple Candie.
The Indiana works at Kasmin begin at about $70,000 for more recent sculptures and climb in price to $400,000 for older pieces (he started making them down on Coenties Slip in Manhattan in the 1950s, and one was included in MoMA’s landmark "Assemblage" show in 1963). Schnitger’s paintings and sculptures range in price from $6,000 to $14,000.
Another hot show is Adam Cvijanovic’s "Love Poem (Ten Minutes after the End of Gravity)" at Bellwether on Tenth Avenue. In the gallery back room, this master of large-scale trompe l’oeil has painted a wraparound mural of Los Angeles tract houses floating up into the air, whole and in shards. It’s kind of a reverse disaster, a visionary ascension of the contemporary suburb that is strangely inspirational. Whirl, indeed.
Architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro tell Artkrush magazine that the futuristic new home for Eyebeam they designed for Chelsea may never be realized. "It’s a victim of 9/11," according to Ricardo Scofidio. . . . Painter Matthew Magee has a new website up at www.mattmagee.info. . . . Boston critic Charles Giuliano launches Maverick Arts Magazine at www.maverick-arts.com.
Queried about the name change of C&M Arts to L&M Arts, dealer Robert Pincus-Witten noted, "You can’t spell ‘glamour’ without ‘l’ and ‘m’". . . . The renamed Sikkema Jenkins & Co. opens at 530 West 22nd Street with a show of photos by Mitch Epstein, Sept. 17-Oct. 22, 2005. . . . MullerDeChiara gallery in Berlin becomes Magnus Muller, as Laurie DeChiara departs to work as an independent curator and art consultant.
Andrea Rosen Gallery now represents glass maestro Josiah McElheny. . . . Painter Cecily Brown headed in the winning goal in the soccer match celebrating the closing of the "Drunk vs. Stoned" group show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, says a source, who couldn’t remember which side won. . . . Louise MacBain is moving her entire art-magazine publishing operation to Chelsea, insiders say, though the exact location is a closely guarded secret.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.