In 1966, when Brian Wilson titled his album SMiLE, he probably wasn’t attempting to give directions to his listeners, but rather to himself—a soothing whisper in his own head, reminding him to lighten up, cheer up, get it together. But for a guy who then spent five years morbidly depressed, more or less in bed, a quick, cheerful mood adjustment may have been an impossibly tall order. Anyone who has listened to Wilson’s tortured masterpiece knows immediately that behind this beachy, boyish auteur has always lurked the soul of a haunted artist—very bad vibrations, essentially.
It’s evidence of some unwritten rule governing the division of artistic labor that Andrew Forge’s work as a teacher and critic would color our understanding of his paintings, and not the other way around.
Will we ever know Hedda Sterne as a painter of paintings and not primarily as the only woman and last surviving member of the “Irascibles”?
A few weeks ago Ken Johnson wrote something in The Boston Globe about a show called Big Bang! Abstract Art for the 21st Century that stuck with me. According to the ex-New York Times critic, “Making art appear more meaningful and relevant by relating it to some other field of study is a strategy that’s become all too common among artists and curators of the postmodern era.”
Imagine that Yao Ming, upon his retirement from the NBA, becomes a sculptor. His gallery issues a press release on his exhibition, and just in case you don’t know who he is, talks about the artist’s height and how it affects his work: obviating the use of a step-ladder, skewing a certain tallishness, and so on. This would, of course, be patently silly.
During these last few months, I’ve found myself remembering the above quote while thinking about contemporary Williamsburg and its, as yet, unfulfilled potential. It seems the art world’s deck is stacked against us and even the long arms of Brooklynites can’t compensate for the short end of the stick we’re constantly handed.
My initial acquaintance with Gary Hill’s work occurred in the early nineties, first with a large-scale, computer-generated video installation entitled Tall Ships (1992), shown at the Whitney Biennial in 1993, and later, with an exhibition of six works presented during the summer of 1994 at the MuÅ›ee d’Art Contemporain in Lyon, as well as several other encounters, including a traveling exhibition that came to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1995.
In July, 1907, Ed Keefe brought his roommate George Bellows (b. 1882, Columbus, Ohio) into Tom Sharkey’s notorious fight club, across the street from the apartment they shared at the intersection of Columbus Ave and Broadway.
This show frames the terms of a debate about painting carried out 30 years ago in Soho’s, galleries, studios and bars. Its omission from the history books, argues the show’s artist-advisor, David Reed, is a reason for the general lack of dialogue and sense of history among young painters today. He’s right.
Looking at Bill Jensen’s paintings demands effort and openness. Their emotion runs the gamut of experience with touching vulnerability and imposing force.
A painful ambivalence emerges from a viewing of Lee Tribe’s show Prayers, Angels and Spirits. Tribe uses constructed steel to make sculptures that have a feeling of totemic obsession and pre-industrial roughness, from tiny amulets formed of bolts and other metal scraps to a giant bent phallus with two heads.
The late art career of Arnold Odermatt did not unfold until the early 1990s when the artist was already in his sixties. Though a long time coming, it led quickly from a few gallery exhibitions to an installation at the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) and even a solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago (2003).
It is rare that an institutionally staged exhibition of contemporary art succeeds in clearly articulating the limits of the law. For obvious reasons, publicly accountable museums and galleries steer clear of exhibiting work that addresses the ideological, economic and legislative systems that govern them.
Lust and Debacle seem to be on the mind of a coterie of avant filmmakers these days. First there was the Whitney Biennial and Francesco Vezzoli’s _Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula,” _ which used fresh man juice as skin crème, then Matthew Barney’s _Drawing Restraint 9, _ where Bjork and Barney sliced and gobbled each other up alive, and now Eve Sussman’s _Rape of the Sabine Women, _ an 82-minute visual musing on the look and feel, if not the actual rape, of the ancient Sabine women. Sussman,
The title of Pedro Reyes’ first New York solo show, _Principles of Social Topology, _ refers to the work of German social scientist Kurt Lewin, founder of a psychological typology known as Field Theory. A “field” is defined as “the totality of coexisting facts which are conceived of as mutually interdependent.”
The press release that accompanies Nancy Radloff’s solo debut at Outrageous Look features a conversation between Gallery Director Brook Bartlett and the artist. It deals matter-of-factly with the artist’s bout of mental illness as a student at Cal Arts.
For an artist born with such enviable pedigree, Kiki Smith earned her reputation through downtown nouveau. Playing a seminal role in activist/artist collectives in the 1980s, Smith should be considered the venerable godmother of the downtown art scene, currently resurging in the Lower East Side.
Failing surgery or stroke, it’s virtually impossible to unknow something. So we can only guess what our reaction to the art of Martín Ramírez might be if we encountered it in a traditional gallery setting, unburdened by knowledge of the artist’s story.
There are no skin grafts masking third-degree burns, no tangled cords of scar tissue, no missing eyes or shattered jaws in Soldier, Suzanne Opton’s exhibition of large-scale color portraits of recently returned veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.