It’s not that we have too many art fairs. It’s that we have too many artists. Call it a “luxury problem.”
The other day I went over to Friedrich Petzel Gallery on West 22nd Street in Chelsea to drop off a Beck’s beer bottle with a hand-written art review stuffed inside it -- if you must know, something for a Christian Jankowski show, which opens there next month -- and decided to take a look around.
Or at least a look at the galleries on the block, which I figured I could do in 90 minutes or so, which is all the time I had, even on a beautiful day. I wasn’t really able to finish, though I had a great time, starting with Petzel itself, where is “Dana Schutz: Piano in the Rain.” The show is so good, I felt suddenly enervated, and considered calling it quits and going back to the office straight away.
Now, two of my illustrious colleagues here at Artnet Magazine have already expressed a certain disappointment, shall we say, with Dana’s show, but I have a standard answer for any disagreement about art: They are blind.
Schutz has a beautifully lucid way of painting, of giving each mark and swipe of pigment its own perfect pitch, a little like Wassily Kandinsky would do in his abstractions. I thought of being in a Babies “R” Us, faced with rows and rows of pastel doodads. Flasher is particularly wonderful, a guy opening a raincoat to reveal an inventory of scrawls.
More could be said about other pictures, the series of Yawns and the Falling Cat, but we don’t have all day here.
Upstairs at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects -- not an Artnet client, hard to believe -- is a group show on the theme of “sex and philosophy,” meaning I suppose you have to look closely to find something that’s actually erotic, like the small black-and-white photos of a hairy quim by Hans Bellmer.
The exhibition has many covetable items, though I wouldn’t necessarily include among them the tiny pink cast of Nietzsche’s penis, mounted on the wall, courtesy of East Bloc artist Serkan Ozkaya. Some things -- penises, not Nietzsche -- are just not a fit subject for humor. Ozkaya also contributes a world globe with an ass crack running down through the Atlantic (is that the location of the Mariana Trench?), a comic variation on Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World (1866).
At P.P.O.W. (also not an Artnet client) is a kind of mini-retrospective of the great HIV-positive art diva Hunter Reynolds (the show closes on May 19, tomorrow), who is known for his white wedding dress gear as well as for an interest in self-mummification as tool for shamanistic self-actualization. He was acting up on West 22nd as part of his exhibition, and the gallery is full of relics of same.
Also on view is a selection of very nice Rorschach Blots, done with glitter, which are I think $4,500. Almost in passing, as it happens, Reynolds has provided a rationale for the Rorschach as an art motif, having suffered a stroke and being limited to the full use of only his left hand, with which he makes the left half of the design and folds it over to produce the full picture.
The 1980s star painter Mark Innerst is back at DC Moore Gallery with his precise, architectonic cityscapes that are larger and certainly more mystical than previously, now shot through with horizontal and vertical coronas that suggest a vision that has gone from precise to otherworldly. I seem to have forgotten to ask the prices, which is in a way a good sign.
Yancey Richardson Gallery had no problem selling the color photograph diptychs of Los Angeles artist Alex Prager, priced at $18,000 a pair (large, strange set pieces, each paired with a smaller close-up of an eye). In the back is her short film, titled La Petite Morte, which delightfully mixes fine photo-detail with surrealist CGI, showing actress Judith Godreche -- a sultry cross between Ann-Margret and Monica Vitti -- facing down a locomotive, falling into a pond, rising up out of it in dry clothes, staring up at a censorious crowd, and then dropping like a bolt to the ground. Not bad as a metaphor for orgasm.
At the sprawling Pace Gallery space is a selection of the huge props from the Claes Oldenburg / Coosje van Bruggen Venice installation from 1985, plus items from another big work in 1990, on view after being in storage, a nice thought for works by such superstars. Especially choice, as usual, are the handful of Oldenburg’s drawings. The gallery has produced a small and memorable catalogue to go along with the exhibition.
Down the road at Matthew Marks Gallery is Brice Marden’s show of two sorts of new works, my favorite being the slabs of ornate marble to which he has added a simple pencil line or a strip or two of subtle color, a quietly daring act matching his own careful geometry with the magical disarray of geology.
Also at Marks is a new show by Thomas Demand, featuring a movie, or rather a realistic stop-motion animation, complete with convincing soundtrack, recreating the violent sliding back and forth of the tables, chairs and more in the café of a ship caught in a storm. Based on a video of the actual event, the work -- Pacific Sun (2012) -- suggests that art is often a demonstration of otherworldly technique.
Sonnabend is participating in the three-gallery show of “London Pictures” by Gilbert and George, a whole series of works made from the posters newsstand vendors use to hawk the latest tabloids. I neglected to ask the price, sorry, but the show of photos of placards arranged in grids by theme -- “stab,” or “cry,” for instance, highlighted in red -- is a palpable demonstration of the way that the mass media keeps us all in a state of barely contained hysteria. Nice piece of work, guys.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.