Monday, September 12, 2011

Alessandra Exposito at Mixed Greens Gallery

The front gallery of Mixed Greens is currently dominated by a large branch-like structure sprouting from a nightstand. The clay piece is adorned with flowers, however upon closer inspection there's an odd assortment of other items as well. Are they passing visitors, like the little mouse, or dead/dying remnants like the potato sprouting "eyes" or pea pods? For that matter, what's up with that mouse? A pet? unwanted vermin? or a natural wanderer into this porcelain garden? and what about that potato - amusing and strange.

This whole structure and its inhabitants look as if they gazed into the face of Medusa and turned to stone, frozen in time. Alessandra Exposito has mined this terrain before, most notably combining skulls of various animals with fictional narratives in a gorgeous show from a few years ago, also at Mixed Greens. According to the artist, the nightstand is reminiscent of one she had growing up in the 70s. Ever seen a piece of wooden furniture left outdoors for an extended period of time? Nature overtakes, and perhaps this tree sprouting from the nightstand is a metaphor for life moving on, memories getting colored over time, and how we wish that some childhood memories could indeed be frozen in time. Or how they're attached to us whether we want them there or not.

Another similar piece hangs on the wall, only with a much smaller branch and covered with a glass dome. Suspending it on the wall rather than setting it on the floor was a nice touch and gives it an otherworldly quality. On a more formal level, it keeps it from being overpowered by its larger counter-part. From a pop culture perspective, it would fit in with the other floating objects in the opening sequence of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone."

In some ways these pieces are like a giant cigar box filled with items from someone's youth. While so much work today looks dashed off or made sans dirty hands on a computer, this is no rush job, it's clearly labor intensive, well-planned and engaging for us viewers. Ms. Exposito has a unique gift for combining humor and melancholy with excellent craftsmanship.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Misc Gallery shots: Haring, Van, Kirkland and Lee

Did a gallery hop on 6/2, here are some quick notes and shots:

- Feature Inc (131 Allen St) has large paintings by Isabella Kirkland of fauna and flora. I'm often left a bit cold by work like this that seems scientific and mechanical, but Kirkland brings a sensitivity and sense of reverence that makes them more accessible. And from a technique standpoint, they are stunning! The detail in the plants and trees and leaves, and the various birds and jungle critters is a feast for the eyes whether you're a painter or not. (til 6/18)

Over to Chelsea and when walking by Nicholas Robinson Gallery I was drawn in by the large red paintings by SeaHyun Lee. Upon closer inspection, washy monochrome paintings of landscapes and traditional Korean architecture are mashed up with modern battleships and industrialization.
Lee recounts his time in the military wearing night vision goggles and observing the heavily mined 4km wide demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The goggles bathed everything in red, hence these images. There are times when reading artist statements seems merely an exercise in artspeak and being pedantic, and then, as with Lee, you learn something that brings the pieces to a different place of appreciation. (535 W 20th St, til 6/27).

Jonathan Levine Gallery
had a return show by French-born, Barcelona-based Miss Van. She started painting her couquette-ish "poupée" (doll) figures into her street art before moving to canvas and the gallery. Many of the works in this show are on paper. This show, "Bailarinas," brings these characters into the realm of dance and still blends her animal imagery and role play with her mysterious, pouty figures. (529 W 20th, til 6/25).
Stopped at Gladstone Gallery (515 W 21st, til July 1) to see the large scale works on paper by Keith Haring. They also had pages from his sketchbook of geo drawings, and amusing penis sketches.
Always bittersweet when I see his work - he was so prolific and talented, always pushing - it's inspiring. At the same time it makes me sad to think what he would've produced if he didn't die so young.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 Art Fairs: Pulse, Scope and Fountain

Made my way to the PULSE NY art fair show on Friday and saw quite a bit of interesting work. Previously I noted the trend of words and text, but the other trend was butterflies! Lots of butterflies throughout all five shows I attended, from Damien Hirst prints in metallic inks to sculptures to Sandy Skoglund photos. Here's a sculpture at the Morgan Lehman booth.

Brooklyn's Black & White Gallery had some cross-stitched portraits from Alicia Ross's "Hot Mess" series, phrenological (shape of skull and bumps as it relates to moral character) studies of famous/infamous women from Miley Cyrus to Jenna Jameson.

Fouladi Projects from San Fran had this hilarious text painting (below) by Graham Gillmore, a rejection letter to a gallery, rejecting their rejection letter! The gallery also had a signature Barry McGee, a painted face on an empty flask bottle of liquor for five grand, which to my knowledge is way, way out of range with his prices. Odd.

Christina Ray (NY) had new graphic dog pieces by Casey Porn, David B Smith from Denver had an eclectic mix of work including some tight graphite drawings of birds by Christina Empedocles.

Over at the SCOPE show, Spinello Projects from Miami had impressive chalk pastel pieces by Barnaby Whitfield (below right). A difficult medium to work with, Whitfield is deft at handling chalk and has created some thought-provoking images. Also at Spinello were some oil portraits by Kris Knight. Realistically painted with an intense color palette, this young artist has the technical chops and I'm curious to see what he'll create if he moves beyond straight portraiture.

Janine Bean Gallery from Berlin had paintings by 20-something artist Anna Bowory. Canvas in the 3-5' range of women painted realistically and a bit washy and lots of - yes, butterflies. Her career is taking off and is worth keeping an eye on.
Contra Projects had large faux cereal boxes by Trustocorp satirizing religion and big banks.

Also grabbed a pic of this mixed media piece by Jason Shawn Alexander at 101/exhibit from Miami.

Lastly I made way over to the tugboat on the pier off the West Side Highway, home of the Fountain Art Show. This is the most bohemian of the shows with a strong Brooklyn feel. Similar artists from past years with some new additions, it feels like an artist studio building on water rather than an "art fair" with work varying from an art school-like mashup of styles and media to more mature work by others. Collage artist Ray Sell had a large assemblage piece which was not only successful but fits right in with his previous work. McCaig Welles had some pieces by the Morning Breath team who mix layers of silk screened magazine images and ads with cartoony odd faces (sorry, pic didnt come out). Evo Love presented chairs covered with small, fun objects and covered in resin. Much of the other art was very raw and has a ways to go in its development, but it works in the anything-goes vibe at Fountain. So, if you decide to hit the art fairs next year, don't just do the big one, Armory - make sure to hit the other shows as well, you'll be glad you did!
NOTE: click on any of these images to see them larger.

Friday, March 4, 2011

2011 Art Fairs: ARMORY and VOLTA

The beginning of March in the art world means one thing - time for the Art Fairs in NYC! Last year I went to several smaller venues (and wrote about them here) but skipped Armory. Just as well because everyone I spoke to was pretty down on it, however this year I made it my first stop to avoid the weekend insanity.
The Armory show is massive. So much work from all over the world, some of it great, some mediocre, some best to go in with as open and objective a mind as possible. Looking for trends (I write this on Day 2 after attending 3 fairs so far) I've noticed quite a bit of text based work. Not so much statements as words for words sake, or playing with letterforms, but there were several narrative pieces. One of the first I saw was at Cajablanca from Mexico, a series of monochromatic paintings with text in the center. Artist Gustavo Artigas handpainted the name of the color and below it the health warning and side-effects from using that paint.

Nice to see David Kramer's watercolor and text based pieces again. Seen his work at different galleries many times over the years, the text often has a retro feel as does some of the imagery. The text varies from sayings and ad slogans to slices from a novel or a diary.

Right is a random shot of another text based painting (I didnt get the artist's info) but I did get info about the other piece from London's Hales Gallery. The words in these pieces are painted large in vibrant colors in a novelty typeface probably of the artist's own making. In them, Laura Oldfield Ford comments on the art world and struggles of an artist in often humorous terms. Her encounter with Ronald Feldman is funny on one hand, yet on the other it shows the difficult hurdles, barriers and sometimes non-sensical aspects of the artist/gallery relationship.

Not just text, but there were several images of books and actual books used in pieces. Doing paintings of old bookcovers or spines of books is not an uncommon subject in painting, and at Armory and Volta were several drawings and paintings of books in various media. One gallery had bookcovers splayed and collaged on raw linen canvas. Others had actual books with the covers painted over, and one had pseudo digitally recreated covers. One gallery from Japan had a well-rendered watercolor of a few books and I commented to the owner that it was a common thread throughout what I'd seen so far. "It must be the economy," she mused. I asked why, to which she replied, "Maybe people can't afford to go out so much and they're staying home and reading books. It's cheaper."

The Armory show had much more than text pieces. It was very much anything goes from styles to media, but overall it felt a bit "safe." In the past, France and Germany's galleries presented edgier, pushing the envelope, in your face type work especially in sculpture and installations. Last year I felt French work had more meat to it, that they were pushing but hadnt gotten there yet, but were onto something. This year, not so much, it felt a bit repetitive and not very energetic. Italy surprised me with the energy in their modern work, the artists seemed to be having fun, the work had more life to it. Another observation at Armory and Volta was the lack of sexual themes, notable only because at these shows there's usually a fair amount of graphic (and often banal) work dealing with sex.

Jim Houser was featured at Jonathan Levine Gallery's booth at Volta. His trademark text pieces and palette were in full effect with new and old paintings, painting on the walls of the booth, and his music playing. I've written about Houser's work here in a previous Old Metal Lunchbox entry.
Armory and Volta didnt have alot of painting which I attribute to it having lots of EVERYTHING - drawing, collage, photography, sculpture, installation, you name it. A.D.D. on the part of galleries or the artists? Hmmm...
Near the entrance to Volta check out the very cool Nick Cave sculpture, a lifesize figure with dozens of tin horns and noisemakers on the upper body. ADA Gallery had 3D photos and watercolors by George Kuchar (a huge influence on Warhol and John Waters), and the Mulherin Pollard Gallery featured amazing large scale (like 4'x6'!) colored pencil drawings by Winnie Truong . These are eye-catchy, fun and well-crafted portraits with hair gone wild! Untamed surreal hair, beards and pig-tails - a must see at Volta.
Berlin's Wilde Gallery had several interesting pieces by EVOL with lots of red pins (sales). EVOL started as a product designer in Stuttgart and began doing graffitti on electrical boxes of faux building facades. The pieces here are done on cardboard and include windows and terraces with the cardboard acting as the building facade. They are not done with brush but with several layers of stencils and spraypaint! Really exciting work and the gallerist described it to me as "Banksy and Shepard Fairey gone super German obsessive."

ARMORY - Piers 92 and 94, 55th St and 12th Ave
VOLTA - 7 W 34th St and 5th Ave

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gallery Reviews: Marc Jancou & Mike Weiss Galleries

"Private Future" is the current group show at Marc Jancou Contemporary, curated by Michael Cline. A veritable variety show of styles, media and imagery, the show wanders far and wide.
"These artists re-present the world as their own and refashion it to their own private means" makes sense with the title, as these works are individual and not of a distinct theme. 16 artists, mostly male - graphite, mixed media, acrylic, photography - abstract, pop, commercial, realistic - all find their place here. Jim Shaw's "Kill your darlings #3," 48x72" (left) has floating heads glaring at eachother on a swirly ground, an Asian woman on the left and three men on the right. Noir-ish, and this simple composition allows for imaginative narratives to be created by the viewer.
On the other hand, Lari Pittman's "Untitled #6," mixed media 88x102", (above on right side of wall) is a collage of recognizable and unrecognizable shapes and images drawing you in but not via a narrative. Then you have Peter Saul's "Squeeze Pimple," acrylic, 59x59" a suited figure with a pimple head which is gross but eye-catchy, a pop image reminiscent of Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids stickers.
The ages of the artists in this show is wide-spread as is their geographic locations, again adding to the meandering feel of the show. Marc Jancou Contemporary, 524 W 24th St, NYC, show up til Jan 29th.

Mike Weiss Gallery (520 W 24th St, NY) has a second solo show by Christian Vincent titled "Tunnel Vision." Many of these large scale pieces feature rows of young boys in perspective, a reference to the title. He also seems to be commenting on conforming to group mentality or instruction - the tempering of the individual, blind obedience, or "the desire for empowerment through belonging?" Are they in a phys-ed class? at a cult or religious camp? is the boy pointing to a "messianic figure" as the statement suggests?
These eight large-scale oil paintings have a retro feel in one way, while also imbued with a sense of futuristic foreboding, sort of like the feeling one gets when watching Fritz Lang's "Metropolis." The images remind me of an old stereotypical British boarding school, where conformity and following rules is paramount and individuality is squashed with harsh discipline. Vincent is a resident of LA now, but I'm curious about his past. Paintings that bring other images to mind and make the viewer curious about not only the imagery but the artist must be considered successful. Through February 12th.

Friday, January 21, 2011

GALLERY REVIEWS: Freight & Volume, Lyons Wier Gallery

"Haymaker" is the current show at Freight & Volume, 530 W. 24th St, NYC. A group show with the main room featuring paintings by Damian Stamer, a mash-up of abstract expressionism and realism. Fairly large canvases with wide washy brush strokes with rural images of old barns and shacks, fields, and barely rendered objects that resemble bales of hay. Makes for an interesting discussion - it's all brushstrokes, but some combine to form a recognizable image, some don't...can they live amicably in the same composition?

The statement says that Stamer's imagery reflects "the art market’s fluctuations, its in-favor/out of favor oscillations between the two genres." Whether anyone would take that from the paintings without the statement is debatable. Regardless, there is some good painting going on here and Stamer meets the challenge of combining two styles/genres quite well.
Above left: "Golden Leaf" 30x40", oil - Right: "South Lowell" 58x72", oil

Another artist in the show, Eric White, takes a jab at music market sound bites by recreating, in actual scale, album covers from the 70s and 80s.

I've been following Michael Lyons Wier's galleries for many years because of the consistent high quality of the work. This is to my reckoning his third space and he still maintains Lyons Wier Limited over on 7th Ave and 20th.
This is the debut show at his new space, a group show of some of the artists he reps. Mostly geared towards realism but with stylistic variety - photo realism, loose painterly, pop, and in cases like the always amazing Cayce Zavaglia, mixed media. One of the most underrated artists today, her portraits are layered and woven onto linen canvas with crewel wool, and then a painted background. "Abbi," the size is 11x27" (detail left) shows her amazing skill which has been championed in this blog before. When seen in person they're kind of awe-inspiring.

James Rieck's "Cockblock," 82x54", is interesting because the artist only uses 3 colors in this series of paintings: napthol crimson, sap green and white. The model is wearing a t-shirt with Bruce Lee images and humorous titles which correspond to them.

One more piece of note is another personal favorite, Fahamu Pecou. His piece, "Him and I (and Me)," acrylic and oil stick, 60x72" continues his ballsy self-portraits as pseudo pop/hip hop/celebrity icon. There is an energy in his work with a dash of Kehinde Wiley and a hint of Basquiat fed into the hip hop hype machine.
This group show is up til January 29th and Lyons Wier Gallery is located at 542 W. 24th St, NYC.