My visits to New York almost always include an afternoon wandering the galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood. And I was able to get back again this year and see how the neighborhood had rebounded from Sandy last year. The area was hit hard with flooding, and last November many galleries were closed, while others were physically open as crews removed drywall and ran industrial fans. There was little outward evidence of the damage this year, save for a musty aroma in a couple of galleries. Thus, the focus was on the art itself.
The major event in the neighborhood appeared to be Yayoi Kusama’s solo exhibition at David Zwirner. The large exhibition including both paintings by Kusama as well as several installations. A large video installation Manhattan Suicide Addict featured the artist with bright red hair and outfit greeting visitors in front of changing psychedelic patterns. Nearby was a visually captivating immersive installation Love Is Calling featuring light, sound, sculpture and mirrors. The experience within the space was disorienting, but not at all disturbing with the large softly curving forms and cool colors.
Because of the limited space inside, access to the installation was limited. However, there was no line for Love Is Calling when I visited, while the wait for Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013 was several hours long. There was no wait at all to see Kusama’s paintings, which while equally loud, had more of a cartoonish or folk-art quality to them compared to the overt technological nature of the installations.
A surprise discovery was Piece of Silence, an exhibition of new drawings, paintings and sculptures by Sandra Cinto at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Among the major themes in her show was music, and indeed the entire lower gallery featured a series of elaborately illustrated cellos and other musical instruments mounted onto walls covered in musical staff systems. The illustrations featured elaborate naturalistic landscapes and water, themes that were also used into Cinto’s other sections of the exhibition. As the gallery was not too crowded, it was possible to linger in the stark gallery and take in the “silence.”
We then go from something unexpected to something completely as expected. There wasn’t much surprise in Richard Serra’s monumental sculptures at Gagosian Gallery’s two Chelsea locations, but they are nonetheless favorites of mine for the scale, metal texture and industrial quality. (I have heard is work derided as macho in the past, but that is a topic for another day.) At the 21st Street location, there was a single installation made from huge undulating sheets of rusting metal. One could walk through and explore the interior spaces, which ranged from round chambers to narrow passageways.
The pieces at the 24th Street, by contrast, were very linear in nature. I did particularly like this set of rectangular slabs.
Michel de Broin’s sculptures at bitforms featured industrial elements, but on a human scale and constructed from existing utilitarian (or formerly utilitarian) objects. Tires, utility boxes, broken light bulbs, are all fair game in de Broin’s work, which is arranged quite minimally and efficiently around the gallery’s space. There is also a playful quality to these pieces.
Found machinery and industrial objects are also the essential elements of Hidden Tracks, a solo exhibition by Reinhard Mucha at Luhring Augustine. The large pieces in the exhibition included working elements such as model railroads and old TV screens playing videos of similar industrial apocrypha.
In reflection, the industrial and the technological dominated the art that I focused on during this particular tour. But that is not surprising. It also was a major part of Michael Light’s photography exhibition at Danziger Gallery. The show focused on human technology set against the natural landscapes of the western United States, as seen from the air. That included several images of large freeway interchanges, including some classics from California and Arizona that we have included in our “Fun with Highways” series here at CatSynth.
As always, my Chelsea gallery walk ended with a visit to The Red Cat for a Manhattan and some samples from their menu. This time, that included a season soup with sausage confit that was highly recommended by my server and definitely worth enjoying slowly between sips of the cocktail and reflecting the days activities.
During my visit to New York, I had the opportunity to check out a few events from the Performa 11 biennial. I had a great experience, too years ago, and wanted to check out the final weekend. My time this year was quite limited, but I did have a chance to attend a few events.
The artistic highlight of my brief visit was a piece by Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler called SEVEN, which took place at Nicole Klagbrun Project in Chelsea. It was described as “a chakra sauna channeling chromatic body fluids from New York to Cradle of Humankind in Africa.” There are seven chakras, which correspond to areas of the bodies and states of being in Hindu and Buddhist traditions (you can look up tons of information on this if you’re curious), with an addition of colors of the spectrum in some recent practices, particularly in Western societies. The installation consisted of a full scale urban spa, with exercise area, working sauna and a lab with a bizarre combination of equipment and a technician who appeared to be running the show:
At the same time, the installation featured a video from an arid landscape in Africa. It is the combination of both the live installation and the video that becomes interesting. In the video, a succession of people in the African landscape extract cylindrical cores of mud from the parched ground. These are given to a local man in a small hut, which he then places into a bizarre looking contraption. When he turns it on, the core suddenly appears in the local lab in a similar looking piece of equipment. These are then placed in the sauna. Meanwhile, in New York, people take turns on an exercise bike, which both powers the sauna and helps the participant work up a sweat as they take turns moving from the bike to the sauna. The participants are assigned colors from the chakras/spectrum in succession, and their perspiration from the sauna generates a vial of “chakra juice” of that color, which is then collected.
This process repeats slowly for each of chakras, with the participants in Africa bringing the mud to the machine and the local participants generating the colored vials in the sauna. The synchronization between the installation, live performance and video is very well done, and does give the illusion that these events are happening together in real time through some process we don’t quite understand.
When all seven chakras are filled, the set is then sent back through the device to its counterpart in Africa in the video. At this point, the video completely takes over and we see the purpose of this ritual. If anything, the conclusion was perhaps the least convincing part of the piece, as it seemed a bit forced compared to the surrealism and illusion created by the synchronizing the video and live performance. But overall, it was a strong piece and I’m glad I made the trip over to the west side to see it.
Back at the Performa Hub in SOHO, I spent some time at the brew pub, where a variety of beers from local homebrewers were on tap.
I particularly liked a couple of spicy brews featuring chili, but there were also some great seasonal beers with pumpkin and cinnamon. In addition to the beer itself, it was an opportunity to interact with artists, the brewers and other visitors. Attending art events in New York can sometimes be a lonely affair, so it was a nice change of pace. In my haste to get to the next event, I misplaced my list of the beers (along with my copy of the Occupied Wall Street Journal I picked up earlier in Zuccotti Park), so I don’t have exact info to share with readers. If I find something online, I will update.
Overall, I did not get to see as much as I did in 2009, and it did not have the same abstract/modernist/future-retro vibe that it did two years ago, but overall it was a good experience and a good start to my week in New York.
To explore more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.
In truth, the highlight of the afternoon was not inside the galleries, but out on the street. I wandered around my favorite neighborhoods architecturally speaking, and visited the High Line for the first time since it opened. Both the refurbished elevated structures and the surrounding post-industrial landscape are quite photogenic. I presented a couple of my photos on a previous post.
After spending time outside taking in the neighborhood at both street and aerial level, I came indoors to a solo exhibition of works by Dan Flavin at David Zwirner. Flavin’s large-scale pieces were series of fluorescent lights in alternating colors. The simplicity of the lines and lights and spare nature of the large white concrete rooms of the gallery made of a stark contrast with the intensity and energy of the city just outside. The way to experience these works was to take in the expanse from the center, and then slowly walk along the perimeter with the lights, a sort of walking meditation.
Another exhibit that lent itself to a more slow, contemplative viewing was Spencer Finch’s The Brain — is wider than the Sky. This exhibition consisted of three works. The Shield of Achilles (Night Sky over Troy 1184 B.C.) featured a series of cans hanging from the ceiling, each containing a light bulb and a small hole in its base to let out a point of light. Viewers were invited to lie on a mat below and gaze upward, as if looking at the night sky. Although the cans are meticulously arranged to represent ancient Greek constellations, I found myself thinking of them simply as an abstract array of lights and cylinders. Nearby, 366 (Emily Dickinson’s Micalous year) interpreted the 366 poems Dickenson wrote in 1862 as a colorful spiral labyrinth composed of candles, each of which is colored according to the corresponding poem. The candles are lit in sequence, one a day, so that when I saw the piece several of the candles were already melted. The third piece Paper Moon (Studio All at Night) consisted of gray four-sided shapes as was described by the artist as “a very boring piece and clearly not for everyone.”
Matthew Ritchie’s solo exhibition Line Shot at Andrea Rosen Gallery stood out for me, with the abstract, mathematical quality of both the sculptural and two-dimensional pieces. The swirling, intricate forms with circles, curves, latticework and polyhedra suggest both a mechanical or computer-generated origin, and an organic living structure at the same time, perhaps a large city in space or a rather complex molecule. The two dimensional pieces seem to be projections of the sculptures onto a flat surface, with added layers of color. I was particularly drawn to the title work of the exhibition, Line Shot, an animated feature film with moving versions of his projected sculptural forms, with floating text and spoken word, and a sound track built from metallic resonances – and sound that is very rich but also familiar and inviting. I was impressed to read about Ritchie’s past and present collaborations with physicists, musicians, writers and a host of people from other disciplines; I wish I had been around to see The Long Count, a related performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music back in October.
At Greene Naftali I saw Paul Chan’s sexually charged show Sade for Sade’s sake. At first glance, the drawings in the first gallery were simply abstract nude figures drawn with curving black lines, and reminded me a bit of the charcoal drawings of Reiko Muranaga. The sexual dimension becomes more apparent in the accompanying video animations, which feature the similar abstract-figurative shapes moving and convulsing while geometric shapes float in the background. Chan also created a set of fonts (available for download) in which individual keys are mapped to sexual phrases that can be used for generating live poetry or performances. In the gallery, he presents several large-scale panels presenting the character set for each font. In the center of this room was a computer keyboard in which the keys had been replaced with modernist geometric tombstones.
At Stricoff, I once again saw Catherine Mackey’s Wharves and Warehouses (I had previously seen her and her work at Open Studios. It was interesting to see her work, which focuses on the modern urban landscape, paired with the work of other artists in the gallery, such as Zachary Thornton’s woman in a yellow dress set against a dark background.
When I saw the sign Edward Burtynsky’s photographic series Burtynsky: Oil at Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery, I was thinking, “oh, ok, another politically charged photo series…” and not expecting much. But the images were surprisingly beautiful. There were area views of open pit mines that had an abstract beauty with their curved contours and subtle shades, if one can dismiss the ugliness of the practice being shown. Other symbolic images included towers in oil fields, and a highway interchange from Los Angeles, a theme of which I am quite fond (and featured in an old Fun with Highways post).
Some other quick notes. I saw early drawings of Jean-Michel Basquiat at Stellan Holm Gallery, which displayed the frenetic combinations of text, figures and shapes that characterize his paintings. Yvonne Jacquette’s intricate and detailed wood carvings featured familiar scenes from around New York City, including buildings, bridges and the waterfront. Hope Gangloff’s large canvases at Susan Inglett Gallery included one nude figure with a cell phone and beer, and another with a writing bad surrounded by abstract shapes, as well as several figures with interesting clothing. Robert Motherwell’s Works on Paper at the architecturally interesting Jim Kempner Fine Art were simple and quite calming, with little bits of detail to discover like cut sections from musical scores.