Saturday, May 2, 2009

Portraits, Powhida and Picasso


Continuing on the Chelsea gallery hop with Painter Lou and BAMA Chris, a large portrait in a window caught our eye and we popped into the Axelle Fine Art Galerie. The large, like 4x6' (?), pieces were from a series of self-portraits by French painter Laurent Dauptain. He's done over a thousand self-portraits ("A little narcissistic," mused Painter Lou). The formal training and approach is there, yet he is very comfortable with loose brushwork, and there is more of a hint of impressionism than abstraction here. A skillful use of color, shading, and just plain old solid painting. He also has some equally loose city scenes and scapes, but the portraits are more memorable.

An unplanned stop presented a pleasant surprise as I once again got to see work by William Powhida. Simply put, he makes lists. But that is far too simple a description. They are like pages torn from a journal that he replicates in graphite that at first glance seem like journal scrawl when in fact there is an order to them, a graphic anarchy that seems about to burst into wild scribbling like a kid ignoring the coloring book lines, but that never happens. He's funny, satirical, observant, factual and bitchy. "Book Ideas" and "Chronology" are drawings, and he also has painted pieces including some of his signature appropriated newspaper and magazine articles, often about movie and art world "celebrities".
"Relational Wall" (below) is a large painting surrounded by photos of art world figures. In it he replicates their images with text and arrows in a wild informal flow chart. Under or near these artists, critics and dealers are facts and observations ranging from the person's job title to pithy opinions like "shows mundane work." Ballsy, skewering, and definitely worth going to see. This show is up til May 16th at Schroeder Romero Gallery, 637 W 27th. Oh, and go to his website, it's also well worth the trip, too: WilliamPowhida.com


We trekked over to the 21st St Gagosian Gallery with the museum quality exhibition of late Picassos, "Picasso: Mosqueteros" featuring work by Pabs from 63-73, mostly his musketeer pieces. I saw the last show of late Picassos at the Guggenheim in 1984 and thought this was better. I'm not going to attempt to analyze Picasso here, there are dozens of books by writers more able than I to do that. Unfortunately, many fall into what I call "the cult of Picasso." He was surrounded by sycophants (often with his encouragement and enticement) who, like many writers, think that every stroke by him was a stroke of genius. No denying his genius, but some of his late pieces seem as if he fell victim his own cult of personality and was playing "Picasso" as he painted.
The thing I like about the Gagosian show is that it's clear when he was bored or uninspired or just noodling around on some pieces, and then on others you can see his enthusiasm and energy bursting through when he was pushing himself and working hard - color mixing, brushwork, and the image itself. Musketeers, lovers entwined, interpretations of old masters are here in this large show which is up til June 6, 2009. Picassos are best appreciated in person.
"I enjoy myself to no end inventing these stories. I spend hour after hour while I draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they're up to."
--Pablo Picasso, 1968