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by Walter Robinson
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Here in the U.S. we aren’t really familiar with Spartacus Chetwynd (b. 1973), but with a name like that she seems a shoo-in. A slim, dark-haired woman from London, she launched her performance residency at the New Museum a couple of weeks ago -- yes, this Weekend Update is a little behind schedule -- with a short and wacky dance in the unfinished storefront space next to the New Museum proper.

Her dance esthetic -- informal, self-parodying, comically gothic -- is drawn from the art world, and wastes no time with the discipline’s traditional arts. The squad of dancers wears loose-fitting leotards decorated with hand-painted striations that extend to their faces. At the center of the pseudo-primitivist goings on -- swirlings around, group salaams, etc. -- is a giant cloth construction of a kind of sci-fi spider, which true students of pop culture will recognize as a semblance of the boss “brain bug” in Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 Starship Troopers.

Along one side is a series of model stage sets, including a Yucatan clearing filled with Mayan temples and a futuristic city of endless apartment blocks. They look scaled for Lincoln Center, which is doubtless in Chetwynd’s future.

What else has passed by this fall with insufficient notice in this space? Georges Braque is the real “Matisse Picasso,” as the Museum of Modern Art had it in its 2003 exhibition. Braque was with Henri Matisse and Fauvism and then Pablo Picasso and Cubism, a unique trajectory that resulted in complex, hard-to-parse paintings of still lifes and interiors that are marked by exotic patterns and a sophisticated color palette that includes an inordinate amount of black.

The masterful Braque career survey at Acquavella Galleries, which closes at the end of the month, draws together major works from MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Tate and other museums, plus some private collections. (Plenty of Braque works trade on the art market, though nothing here is for sale; generally speaking, lithos are inexpensive, and the artist’s auction record is $10.2 million.)

Also uptown, which preserves its rep as a big-money stomping ground, was an opening of new pitch black bronzes of what you might call foamed gnomes by Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth on West 69th Street. In the back room is a giant, and fantastic, sculpture in dark walnut of a blurrified Snow White singing to a bluebird or, maybe, preparing to gobble it down. It looks like it’s made from chocolate pudding, and is almost beautiful -- a notable turn for McCarthy’s abject esthetic.

Gallery director Marc Payot notes that White Snow and Dopey, Wood, as it is called, was conceived at the computer and digitally carved. The price range for the sculptures is $1.5 million-$2.8 million.

The same day, Luxembourg & Dayan unveiled the New York showing of “Grisaille,” an exhibition organized by Alison Gingeras that debuted in London. Though to the cynical observer it may feel like an arrangement of inventory, the show is brilliant, not least for its hanging of a Frank Stella chevron-shaped “Notched-V” painting on its side (and why not?). The curiously bright colors on the walls -- mars yellow, hunters green, burgundy -- are courtesy David Adjaye.

A little earlier in the month, the SoHo veteran Charles Simonds -- I first met him with Lucy Lippard in the 1970s, when he had effectively miniaturized Earthworks and brought them inside, notably into the Whitney Museum stairwell, which permanently hosts a Simonds adobe-brick structure on a ledge  -- opened “Mental Earth, Growths and Smears” at Knoedler & Co.

One gallery is filled with 3D terracotta “arabesques,” like strange islands floating in space, while the other holds models of mystical clay earth structures on solid bases. One porcelain made this year at the Sevres factory in France, delicate with tendrils, is signed on a thorn with a drop of the artist’s blood. Prices are in the $85,000-$95,000 range.

Last week the Museum of Modern Art unveiled its “portable” Diego Rivera murals from 1931-32 -- actually they’re painted on plaster, concrete and steel and weigh half a ton -- in a festive event that drew the city’s Mexican elite, an ironic touch for the old Communist. It’s good to see these things, so frequently reproduced, in the flesh. Among the crowd was a beauty queen with a sash representing the show’s sponsor, BBVA Bancomer, Mexico’s largest financial institution. The show has a special website,

Back down in Chelsea, everyone went to the opening of “Playboy Advisor” at Salomon Contemporary on West 26th Street, where Judy Hudson was successfully relaunching her art career after starting her life anew sans husband Richard Price. The oversized watercolors, which are $4,500 (with many sold), are sexy and suggest a certain exasperation with men, though I can’t imagine why. “My husband only stares at his Jasper Johns,” says one, accompanied by an image of a woman’s hindquarters with a target painted on them.

Upstairs at Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts was the opening of the debut show by Nick Poe, a tall, handsome and soft-spoken young man who is the son of Sarah Charlesworth and movie-maker Amos Poe. His small pictures have the feel of those medieval cabinet paintings crossed with Minimalist monochromes, so that a diamond-shaped work, say, may be done with a sky blue called “daylight moon,” while others are done in boudoir flesh pink. Prices for the works are in the $2,000-$6,000 range.

More recently, the combined star power of Pirelli Calendar photog Terry Richardson and Bravo’s “Work of Art” judge Bill Powers drew mobs to Powers’ Half Gallery on Forsyth Street on the Lower East  Side for Richardson’s “Mom and Dad” show. If the crowd had been at Zuccotti Park, the cops would have arrested two dozen people for standing in the street.

In his show, which I haven’t managed to see, the old libertine apparently demonstrates a sentimental streak, reconstituting a kind of family album by bringing together his snaps of his long-divorced parents, a fashion photographer (dad, now dead) and a former Copacabana dancer and Jimi Hendrix paramour (mom, living in Ojai). 

On the other side of town, last Saturday evening, gentle giant Urs Fischer was marking the end of his show at Gavin Brown’s enterprise by having a late lunch with his family and the handsome art dealer on one of the 180 tables he had jammed into the huge space, often piled two and three tables high. Made in the artist’s studio from enameled steel, each table boasts a photo-collage on its top. They are design desirables.

Plenty have been sold at prices between $30,000 and $118,000 (or thereabouts). “It’s transitional work,” ventured the curator and critic (and former Artnet Magazine columnist) Max Henry, in town from Vienna, his adopted burg. “It’ll look better in retrospect.” Don’t know what he was talking about.

A last stop, last Saturday, the debut show of works by Margaret Lee (b. 1980) at Jack Hanley Gallery included a really real-looking sculpture of a watermelon, life-sized, made from painted plaster. Artists love watermelon! It’s the apple of the 21st century. This one is $4,000, and I want it.

WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.