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?
This month’s Brooklyn Rail didn’t just update me on the critical reception of the past months’ art exhibitions, it also kept me well-informed about the state of vegetarian burritos, Indian call centers and the misunderstood G train! The November issue (my copy is elegantly covered in a Jonas Mekas lithograph of a hand cradling a flower bud) is a primer for anyone who hasn’t necessarily seen all of the right shows and read all of the right books for the recent spat of cultural production. Taken as a whole, though, the weighty newsprint publication’s most interesting articles lay in unexpected places and concern unexpected topics.
Last Sunday’s BETA Spaces 2010 didn’t disappoint as we all got what we were looking for. Organized by the all-volunteer organization Arts In Bushwick, BETA Spaces (Bushwick Exhibition Triangle of Alternative Spaces) offered the public a big block party full of art. A truly overwhelming affair with more than 50 exhibitions spread out across galleries, studios, apartments, temporary locations, and any place else that could possibly contain art, it displayed the works of 400 artists in a fantastic collaboration between curators, artists, and art fans of all kind.
It’s easy enough to tell that The Believer is a publication from California from looking at the cover of their 2010 Art Issue, much less getting to the table of contents. A 70s psychedelic mashup of art icons, a John Baldessari suited figure, a dinosaur figurine, and a Picassoian acrobat by Clare Rojas march up a ray of red and yellow light into … the mouth of a skin-less human body? New York this is not.
Famously co-edited by Vendela Vida, writer spouse of writer wunderkind Dave Eggers, The Believer is well known for its cutesy tone and off-beat vibe, helped along by its graphic design and a coterie of Californian cultural denizens. None of these are bad qualities in themselves, but when editing an “art issue,” it might be best to start looking outside of the narrow perspective of your own aesthetic.
Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out into the bordering on bad weather and braved the gray skies to bring you the latest on Chelsea this November. The gallery district is probably much as you remember it, with high-end galleries showing off their blue chip stables and smaller spaces skipping to keep up. Yet there are still pleasant surprises to be found in the warehouse-strewn streets, from lesser known painters that include (gasp!) a ceramicist to commercial shows that may as well be museum retrospectives. Continue below for the blow-by-blow of my blue-chip Chelsea trip.
The trek out to PS1 for the 2010 New York Art Book Fair took me on the E train to Long Island City, away from Hyperallergic’s Williamsburg office. Yet somehow, the population of Williamsburg had followed me there. The concrete colonnade and ramped steps leading up to PS1’s converted school building were filled with more keds, more obscure totebags, more skinny jeans and photocopied zines than one often sees in a single place. Once inside, the books on offer only slightly outnumbered the visitors.