Posted inArt

Seeing Enough Shows on the LES

A generic survey of New York’s Lower East Side galleries, perused at random on the first week of November, 2010, including observations from a viewer completely outside the art world.

Jerry Saltz often ridicules artists for not going to see enough shows; that they have several cookie-cutter reasons: too busy, not wanting to overexpose themselves in the scene, fear of polluting their unique and singular artistic vision, etc. Well, I set the fear of contaminating my art aside and I went around the New York City’s Lower East Side gallery circuit on Saturday to bring you the report.

Posted inArt

Yoshitomo Nara Rocks Out At Asia Society

Yoshitomo Nara’s retrospective Nobody’s Fool at Asia Society is what you would get if art museums loosened up and let themselves have some fun. After climbing the institution’s glassy modern stairs, what greets visitors isn’t a succession of white-walled galleries but a mishmash of wood-walled cubbies and tiny chambers that force participants to kneel down and greet Nara’s drawings, paintings and sculptures on their own terms: close to the floor, like a child exploring a new world. And that’s what Nara’s work is all about: a journey through a world influenced by childhood, small emotions writ large and wonder in hidden corners.

Posted inBooks

Reading New Museum’s “Free” Catalogue

The New Museum’s “Free” exhibition is based on the freedom of cultural exchange that has followed the advent of the internet and digital technology. Following up on that emphasis on online activity, the exhibition’s catalogue is entirely digital as well, a website-hosted document that’s somewhere between an online PDF and an interactive vertical blog.

If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a digital catalogue as a book, it’s because this is a book — it’s just online.

Posted inArt

New Museum’s “Free” Isn’t Just About the Money

To see the New Museum’s Free exhibition, you’ll have to fork over at least enough dough to make the $12 admission fee. For an exhibition that’s all about the limitless dispersion of culture quickly, easily and cheaply through the internet, the title presents an unmissable irony.

Despite the joke, Free represents a rare chance of looking at the visual and information cultures of the internet in a controlled context rather than in the anarchy of their native habitat. The New Museum is presenting a chance for removal, a step back from the computer screen and onto the wall. Not so much an escape from commodity or currency culture, Free pushes the boundaries of how we look at the flow of cultural artifacts themselves.

Posted inBooks

Reading Ian Berry’s Fred Tomaselli

The Brooklyn Museum’s catalog for their Fred Tomaselli exhibition is pretty mammoth for a show that only takes up three galleries. Still, the tome serves well as a way to expand on ideas presented in the exhibition and give a greater view of the artist’s work than would otherwise be possible in the limited space. Just do yourself a favor and don’t stop at the book version.

The diversity of works included in the catalog, from early installations and sculptures to constellation drug charts and later lacquered collages, is fascinating to see, but the ability to see so much at once also comes at a cost.

Posted inArt

Art Stars Fly Their Freak Flag for Hans Ulrich Obrist’s New Interview Book

Obrist is strange. There, I said it. In an event that often felt like a coffee klatch at Obrist’s house, the art world power broker known as Hans Ulrich Obrist — he’s #2 on Art Review’s Power 100 — had a book reading last Saturday at MoMA’s PS1 in Long Island City for his newest publication, Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews, Volume 2. The event venue looked like a cross between a set for the Last Supper and a conference stage thrown together by Leni Riefenstahl and there was coffee and books being served on the periphery of the event.

Posted inArt

How the Guggenheim’s “Play” Failed

The first offering of the Guggenheim’s Youtube Play biennial kicked off with a lot of spectacle, not limited to a ladder-perch musical performance by Ok Go and a stage setting more suited to a television show than an art exhibition. From the emcee to the nightclub vibe, this was no normal biennial exhibition. In fact, judged as an art exhibition, I think Play was a failure.

However, that doesn’t mean the whole event was a failure. In evaluating Play I think we have to first carefully state our terms- what we’re judging the show as and what we’re judging it against.

Posted inArt

Jim Herbert Is Big, Intimate and In Your Face

Jim Herbert’s paintings of naked lovers are not for the feint of heart. At first glance, viewers might want to look away as though catching a glimpse of a couple kissing. And some people will totally avert their eyes from these intense canvases. At the opening for the recent show at the English Kills Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a young couple strolled in, saw one work, and then bolted out the door.

They left because these works are not simply nudes. With today’s porn-soaked internet and sexually liberated gaze, nudity’s shock value is dismally low. Something else plays out in Herbert’s huge canvases. By depicting the tenderness between lovers, these images portray intimacy — the same emotional concept that pays therapists’ mortgages.

Posted inArt

Celebrity Approved: Kalup Linzy in LA

Ltd Los Angeles is an inconspicuous gallery nestled into Sunset Blvd. a block from a great comic book store, two good restaurants, and an awesome dirty Mexican joint. The gallery has been open for a while, but with blacked out windows and a small logo, it is hard to spot. Their fourth and current show in the large and welcoming space features the work of Kalup Linzy in an exhibition titled Fantasies, Melodramas, and a Dream called Love. Unfortunately, Linzy’s show is disappointing.

Posted inBooks

Reading Poster Boy’s The War of Art

You might remember Poster Boy from his days wreaking havoc on the New York City (Brooklyn) subways, slicing up vinyl-adhesive posters with a pocketed razor and remixing them at will. The prankster switched up celebrity bodies, rearranged words, got big in the blogosphere, profiled in New York Magazine, got questionably arrested, and has now put out a book of his works. It remains a mystery to most people who Poster Boy is, though the smart guess would be a collective of like-minded street artists, and the War of Art book doesn’t do anything to clear the mystery up. What the slim volume does do well is to document Poster Boy’s work, a collection previously only visible on Flickr.

Posted inArt

5 Observations from London’s Frieze Art Fair

This past weekend was the annual Frieze Art Fair, held in London. Featuring over 150 galleries from all the best Western nations (and maybe a few others), the Frieze Art Fair is one of the largest and most notable in the world. This was my first outing to Frieze, and people keep asking me “How was it?” I think “how it was” can best be summed up as the top 5 parts of Frieze I actually remember (presented here in no particular order).

Posted inPerformance

Men Made of Marble

Every now and then, if lucky, you’ll encounter a mode of performance or an artwork that simultaneously requires and supplies a kind of attention that you didn’t even know existed. Sitting in an otherworldly, attentive, stupor, I had that experience watching marble white humans covered in a thin layer of dust on a stage that seemed to be both as empty as nothing at all and, at the same time, as full as a night sky.

As Sankai Juku begins their recent piece, TOBARI, everything melts into darkness and a lone human form materializes — bald, half-naked, monochrome; the dust looks like it’s marble or bone, maybe a thin layer of atomic ash, and it covers the body, which, for a while, is motionless; a quiet, lunar presence in a dark room.