History is never objective and our relationship to the narrative is often deeply personal.
In unofficial conjunction with the inauguration of Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, the galleries on Chelsea’s 26th Street decided to go big and throw a block party last Saturday. If there is one kind of party that galleries excel at, it’s glamorous and exclusive after-hours functions, on a rooftop suite somewhere far above the streets of Chelsea; if there’s one area where galleries are found unanimously wanting, it’s dealing with the public, with “regular” people, the viewers who venture through their doors simply to look and not to buy. Considering this, it was surprising and encouraging to see high-end Chelsea galleries reaching out, in a coordinated effort, to the art-going public.
Two shows in Chelsea look at conformity, the uniform and the limits of masculinity. Catherine Opie photographs boys in athletic gear while Ian Davis paints herds of men in suits.
The central thing that distinguishes Chris Martin from his forebears (Forrest Bess, Alfred Jensen, and Simon Gouveneur) is his meshing of visionary symbols and images derived from mass culture, particularly from the world of popular music. He has paid homage to James Brown, “the hardest working man in show business,” in a number of collages and paintings, including, in this exhibition, “Reverend Al in Mourning” (1989 – 2011), which is a large painting made of industrial aluminum foil, which includes a photocopy of a tiny, grainy newspaper photograph of Al Sharpton mourning the legendary singer. The other distinguishing feature is his slyly anarchic humor. (It’s hard to imagine Forrest Bess telling a joke).
There’s no point in giving you a “review” of the mothership of art fairs in Miami, Art Basel Miami Beach, so I thought a photo essay with some observations were more appropriate.
I admit that I got a little bored after three hours of wandering around. I found myself seeing the same thing and getting the same numbness I get during marathon holiday shopping trips or walks through ancient souks … there’s only so much merchandise you can see in one stop.
It was still refreshing to see some galleries display the prices of their wares freely, and examples of excellent abstraction by names mostly absent from the art history survey books, but I was most shocked to discover what must be the most awful Basquiat I have even seen in my life.