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Some Chelsea Shows in May (2007)

These are recommended shows and artists I saw in Chelsea Galleries recently on a self-guided gallery tour that began at ACA Galleries (see last week's blog below for a full story on that) and ended at the opening for Bill Viola's works from the Tristan Project at the James Cohan Gallery.  I only mention artists and shows that I appreciate, in some way or another. If there is a show I don't mention, well, maybe I missed the gallery, or it was closed so I might have otherwise recommended it – or not.

I begin on west 20th where immediately following my visit to ACA, I wandered into The Haunted Studio , a show curated by Tony Bechara of Russell Connor's work at Andre Zarre Gallery. Russell Connor's paintings are small mimics of the iconic self-portraits by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, and presented each artist's work, in total, moving from the artist as a young man through the final self portrait. This presents a kind of visual autobiography of each artist along with the artist's career growth of expression. Now, I have to admit that I have a problem in that I am so familiar with many of the paintings imitated; that I know selected to “see” the originals and enjoy the idea of the show. So I cannot and would not possibly critic as to style or accuracy, but the imitation seemed good and certainly did not jar me. Including the Rembrandts and certainly the Van Goghs, which had they been too far from the original, I would have balked and never written this good notice. So, I for one an going to keep track of Russell Connor as I am curious as to what he will do next.

I saw another show in the Galleries at 529 20th Street, but somehow I cannot find the material I had on it. I have searched the gallery sites on the web, but so far have not found it.

At the Jack Shainman Gallery I found a show of John Bangston's work at entitled, Through the Woods with Mr. M. The paintings are sort of illustrations for an ongoing story, which has characters that evoke myths and theology, such as a kind of fox and/or devil, a HeShe and figures dressed in robes, lending an Abrahamic sense of epic to the work, whic is busily creating a kind of mythology of its own.

At Sikkema Jenkins I found the work of Leonardo Drew fascinating. Drew takes found what he finds and makes works that are sculpture-paintings out of them. Saw a sculpture painting out of dirt good. Since I assert that the most essential element to any painting and probably sculpture is the stroke, this work has me staring at it in wonder and joy. Since Drew is also using a stroke that is for me symbolic – a found object.

Caren Golden Fine Art has Prime Time, a two-person exhibition featuring the work of Shinique Smith and Mickalene Thomas. As I entered I was immediately entranced by Mickalene Thomas's portraits of African-American women, such as Oprah and Condi Rice, all glitz and glam, iconic reminisces of the in-your-face silk-screens by Andy Warhol. Reminiscent because they reveal nothing of the human being beneath, but serve to serve up a glamorized representation of the image. This is a knock-out show with bouquets of cloth (clothes) and items feminine by Smith. Both artists are African-American women, as a European-American woman, I know this work transcends race and I suspect gender too.

Zach Feuer has a show of Dana Schultz's, Stand By Earth Man. According to the press release, “The paintings in this exhibition are conceived as stories to our future selves or miscues to that future.” What fascinated me were the areas in paintings that were enigmatically painted with dark strokes or shapes, obscuring or failing to reveal what one would assume is the continuing narrative image beneath. It mimics the mind and understanding, which seems to always be incomplete, even in denial of some part of reality. Since Dana Schultz is focused upon the future, perhaps these spaces evoke parts of the future that are yet to be decided or created in some way. The work is intriguing and challenging.

At Andrea Rosen Gallery I found a show of text based paintings by Sean Landers. Landers paints words that float on the support, then often layers them until they are almost obscured, which draws the viewer into his subject matter. I also appreciated the sheer painterlyness of the work, which I often find lacking Word Art, as other artists strive for their letters to appear uniform and possibly machine made or just scrawled. many of the works shown here are large canvases and one feels that one can just walk into them, perhaps like strolling into Sean Landers' mind.

At Mitchell-Innes and Nash there's the first New York solo exhibition for Dublin-based artist David Godbold. In his unique way, Godbold is waking the fine line that I also walk as an artist between Word or Conceptual art and narrative based art. He creates small ink drawings on sheets of tracing paper that resemble the work of masters. He places these over scraps of found paper, such as shopping lists and love letters. Then he inserts his own textual element, adding a typed quotation, remark, or truism to create a satirical interplay between text and image. I paused before a drawing of Jesus on the cross beneath which was a perfectly common in red EXIT sign with an arrow pointing the way. Whatever one's beliefs, the crucifixion is the best known and visually recognizable death of any human being, so the drawing is as symbolic as the word “exit” beneath.

 My final destination was the opening and reception for Bill Viola at the James Cohan Gallery . The three videos shown were in conjunction with the presentation of The Tristan Project at Lincoln Center of Richard Wagner's opera, collaboration between Bill Viola as video artist, Peter Sellars as artistic collaborator, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. At the gallery were the videos without the music, but with some sound for the effects. Like the story of the two lovers, Biola's work is both mystical and enchanting. One of the videos begins with the tiniest possible spot of light in the center of the screen. Slowly it grows. It pulsates closer until the indistinct shapes become the two lovers entwined as they break into the water through which we see them. The videos are as mystical and marvelous as the story of Tristan and Isolde.

May 16, 2007

 

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