Regional Painting (2010), at Winkleman Gallery, is not a remarkable presentation; the casual viewer could be excused for thinking it is just another painting show. Twelve paintings on linen, each twelve by sixteen inches, beautifully framed in walnut, greatly varied in technique and style, are hung equidistant around the gallery. Some are intentionally amateur, others unexpectedly virtuosic, all preserve some part of the clear-primed linen. There is an antique quality to some, taking their cue from early 20th C. abstraction, others are more contemporary and even a little slick. They are Christopher K. Ho’s legitimate attempt at earnest painting, but also represent a much larger system of conceptual artworks.
In Chris O. Cook’s first book, called To Lose & To Pretend, published by Williamsburg’s own Brooklyn Arts Press, the poet creates a collection of poems that are perfectly suited for subway rides. The brief passages are at times funny, at times ambivalent, turning from contemporary cynicism to a world-weary romanticisim that lends itself to depicting the poignancy of everyday crap. That’s meditations on shitty summers and bad jobs, old girlfriends and meaningless personal flailing, grasping at shreds of nostalgia-inducing pop culture names and places but ultimately only holding on to the feeling of loss.
Filling an entire gallery with the repeated face of Osama Bin Laden might sound like a bit of Warholian task for an artist interested in interrogating politics: an international criminal turned celebrity. But James Esber’s exhibition You, Me and Everybody Else at Pierogi in Williamsburg actually aims to do exactly the opposite. By repeating Osama’s image so many times, Esber seeks to remove the political content from the image, simplifying into just a visual work of art. The real trick? The Osama portraits aren’t even drawn by the artist. By asking artists and non-artists alike to copy his original portrait, Esber blurs the line between subject and meaning.
Everyone loves songs and singing, right? Especially during the holidays? Well, with this video conceptual artist John Baldessari sings his own carol, putting Sol Lewitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art to your favorite well-known tunes.
On Friday, Art in General opened two newly commissioned works by Ohan Meromi and Brendan Fernandes. The former is an evolving “rehearsal”/performance, while the other delves into the origins of African sculpture using some effective audio and fantastic neon signs.
You’ve heard of the White Cube. No, not that London gallery, the idea: that art thrives best in a blank white box, removed from any context and given its own domain of pure space to dominate as the work and the artist see fit. Well, Sperone Westwater’s new gallery space on the Lower East Side, an attenuated tower on the same stretch that hosts the New Museum, stakes a claim for the white castle instead of the white cube. Designed by Norman Foster, this gallery is as much a power play for the LES as for Sperone Westwater. The space, currently showcasing a Bruce Nauman solo exhibition, is like Chelsea minimalism gone mannerist, clean low-key gallery spaces turned into a show-offy art fortress.
At James Fuentes LLC, a gallery on the Lower East Side, a four-artist exhibition pays testament to the influence of minimalism on contemporary artists. Yet these homages aren’t just a rehash of surface fetishist Donald Judd or the austere conceptualism of a Carl Andre brick grid. This is DIY minimalism, knock-down drag-out rough and tumble sculptures that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
Adam Marnie takes on minimalism in a very physical, hands on way: he appropriates construction materials, beats them up, and re-encases them for display in an interesting reversal of minimalism’s often aloof perfectionism.
Kill Screen is a highbrow magazine about video games. If this strikes some as a bit of a contradiction, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it certainly makes sense to me. Being a young’en, I didn’t exactly grow up during the heyday of print journalism. There were no magazines or newspapers or any kind of periodical that defined my childhood, that I felt close to. The internet, with its forums and blogs, came to take that place. Then I found Kill Screen, a magazine that, against all my preconceived notions of print, feels like it was edited and written for me alone.
There are condos going up all over Williamsburg, facades decked out with panels of bright colors that bring to mind a sort of yuppie Piet Mondrian: sickly oranges, pea greens and off-reds, all surfaced fiberglass matte and smooth. All those bare walls seen through the under-construction picture windows must need something to hang on them, right? In the burgeoning gallery scene on the Lower East Side, Jen Bekman has an answer: anemically pretty, blandly abstract paintings by Jessica Snow.
An exhibition of LA-educated artists Brody Condon and Jen Liu at Lower East Side gallery On Stellar Rays showcases two different methods of abstraction. Beyond abstracting painting to an ever-flatter surface, artists use their work to flatten visual and symbolic content as well. In the work of Condon and Liu, the emotional and social connotations of material and subject matter are altered and re-used into sculptures that question fixed meanings. Where Condon goes for the jugular in his video work with abstractions of luscious color and light, Liu plays with symbolism in her work, appropriating images and then abstracting from their literal meanings.
Though the art world seems to have recovered from crisis mode with the enthusiastic approach to (and beginning) of Art Basel Miami Beach 2010, the remnants of our previous recession-driven apocalypse are still close at hand. Auction successes are blazing beacons of money, but seem shaky and could prove to be singular. Museum administrations have become dangerously insular, commercially driven and intermixed with business and political influences. In comes Jerry Saltz’ Cassandra paean Seeing Out Louder, a collection of the critic’s writing from 2003 to 2009.
The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century purports to display “the radical transformation of the medium of drawing throughout the twentieth century,” but what the genre retrospective really does is to narrow the definition of “drawing” considerably, limiting works not by medium but by execution: almost every work in the show is non-objective. This festival of the abstract is visually impressive but conceptually lacking. Shouldn’t any century-long survey of drawing include some less academically austere work?