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Fiercely Independent Abstraction for Idiots

Janet Kurnatowski has run her gallery out of the ground floor of 205 Norman Ave. for the last seven years. There is something both welcoming and powerful about her modest space. The finished plywood and low ceiling are a welcome environment; a spacious hobbit hole for art. The owner’s earthy dedication to her craft seems to radiate throughout the space. The current exhibition Idiot’s Delight was curated by Craig Olson, one of the gallery’s artists. The exhibition is a love poem of sorts, an ode to those who spend their days in the studio. Old skool Brooklyn artists like Jim Clark and Chris Martin hang their work proudly next to young up-and-comers like Elisa Soliven. The resulting installation is less about a unified aesthetic than a kind of rugged independence.

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Cory Arcangel and Pierre Bismuth Tag Team in Soho

When I walked into Team Gallery this week to see their current exhibition, Cory Arcangel vs. Pierre Bismuth my gut reaction was annoyance. The exhibition presents three works by each artist. Though Arcangel’s rise to fame has come somewhat immediately and unexpectedly, as a kind of young hip digital concept artist Pierre Bismuth’s 20-year career is equally concerned with technology and media. The result is seamless and startling to an admittedly backwards curmudgeon like me.

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I Am Underemployed and Underwhelmed

On Saturday I visited Underemployed at Zurcher Studio on Bleecker Street. I read the press release for the show and got excited. First of all, the show is curated by an artist, Josh Blackwell. The premise of the show hinges on Oscar Wilde. His quote from The Decay of Lying: An Observation gives Blackwell’s exhibition form: “The ancient historians gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact; the modern novelist presents us with dull facts under the guise of fiction.” The art in this exhibition tickled my fancy and my funny bone, but I’m not sure that much of it stood up on its own.

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A Bedroom for Art

The pop up alternative exhibition has become a digital alternative to the fixed “alternative” space of yesteryear. Most of these experiments are on Brooklyn or the Lower East Side, and unusually accompanied by a fair mess of e-hype. When I was invited by a close friend to accompany her to Second Guest Projects an apartment based space in the East Village, I couldn’t help but smiling. Here was the respite from the free tote bag giveaway credit card and Ford Taurus-sponsored art world that can be so headache inducing.

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Feeling Unengaged at Carsten Höller’s New Museum Playground

There has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding Carsten Höller. His “mid-career” retrospective/whole building takeover of the New Museum opened last week. Determined to see for myself, I wandered into the space last Friday with a relatively open mind. My only previous knowledge of the artist was from his installation of slides in the massive turbine hall at the Tate Modern in London a couple of years ago. His installation there was pretty well received. Though I never saw it in person, it is easy to imagine how the installation fits into the Tate’s turbine hall shtick. Like Olafur Eliasson’s sun, or Ai Weiwei’s field of sunflower seeds, Höller’s slides were engaging and dramatic. They served as an anti-pretentious pallet cleanser, a preparatory shot of courage before heading into the art-soaked wilderness of that museum.

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1970s Flashback to the Birth of Alternatives

The current exhibition A Show About Colab and Related Activities at Printed Matter in Chelsea is a perfect example of the positivity that can result from discontent. First known as the Green Corporation and subsequently named Collaborative Projects, Inc. Colab was a loosely organized group of artists that functioned from the late 1970s through the early 1980s, serving as a platform, agency and collective for art making. The current exhibition consists of original artworks and ephemera (including meeting minutes, flyers, posters and publications) that document and sample from the slew of work produced under the organization’s moniker.

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Dear MoMA, Don’t Tease Me

So … by now we are all familiar with the critical fanfare surrounding MoMA’s de Kooning retrospective. Jerry Saltz is a big fan of the exhibition, Peter Schjeldahl thought it was awesome, Tyler Green keeps writing about it, even MSNBC covered the opening. I’m going to go ahead and agree with the common wisdom on the show. The exhibition, which is organized chronologically, takes the artists career as a whole, for better or worst. Apart from a slightly out of place wall of abstractions from the 1930s in the first room (small and gemlike) the whole show flowed intuitively and easily from development to development.

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Art That Requires More Time

Last week I had the pleasure of checking out Step and Repeat at Toomer Labzda gallery on Forsyth Street in the Lower East Side. The space is new, and this is their first attempt at a group show. As I’ve written before, I am often skeptical of the whole commercial gallery thematic show thing. I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibit, which features the artwork of Marin Abell, Ivin Ballen, Alisa Baremboym and Leah Dixon. The first thing I realized when I walked into the gallery was how much I love small spaces. I think that gallery goers often take the large caverns in Chelsea for granted. I for one, find it difficult to actually be reflective in Gagosian or Pace. Instead I rush around on their polished concrete floors like a wanton six year old lost in his parents snack cupboard, gorging and sampling, but always short of reflection. On the flip side, the physical constraints of Toomer Labzda gallery are pretty extreme, it’s super tiny, but the husband and wife team have put that to good use. In a one room gallery there is nowhere to hide weak ideas, or b-list artworks.

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A Zine Archive 30 Years Later Is Still Punk As Fuck

To my pleasant surprise this weekend, while going about my business I was stopped by several New Yorkers, from various walks of life, all advertising information about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Occupy Wall Street seem to be on the top of everyone’s mind these days or at least the tips of their tongues. Indeed, the spreading protests all over the country seem to harness a certain discontent present but aimless in the public unconsciousness. Love them or hate them, there is definitely a public zeitgeist surrounding the whole thing. Visiting the goings on downtown I was reminded of the power and necessity of cheaply produced posters, pamphlets and broadsides and their relationship to organized resistance. With thoughts of protest and grass roots organization I happened onto the newest show at Boo Hooray Gallery on Canal Street in Chinatown.