Friday, July 27, 2012

People Who Work Here at David Zwirner

David Zwirner, 519 West 19th Street, New York, NY, ranks among the bluest of the blue chip galleries in Chelsea with a roster that includes Alice Neel, Dan Flavin, Marlene Dumas, and Lisa Yuskavage.

In a refreshing change of pace, the gallery is presenting People Who Work Here, a group show featuring pieces by its staff members, all art insiders by definition, but whose points of view range far beyond what's commercially saleable. While there is no theme or concept, most of these works have an inward and personal sensibility, from people who love making art just for the sake of it.

The figurative and abstract works include a wide range of media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation. The most beguiling pieces have a handcrafted feel, sort of like outsider art from an insider's perspective.

James Morrill and Chris Rawson, co-directors of Rawson Projects, are employees of David Zwirner and curated the exhibition. According to Morrill:
A lot of art handlers and other people who work here had started to develop reputations even outside emerging areas in their own right. Everyone at the gallery was aware of it and happy for their success. I think there's a lot of support here, and understanding and respect for people who are working in addition to what their normal jobs are.
It's gratifying to note that the works have been selling briskly, no doubt due to the high profile of the gallery.

The show will be on view until August 10, 2012. I hope other venues around town take up a similar idea and showcase their own hidden talent.

Cy Amundson, Thoughts on Proximity (Moon Dog), 2012, Oil on canvas, 60 x 52 1/2 inches (152.4 x 133.4 cm)

Ben Berlow, Untitled, 2009, Acrylic and gouache on paper 11 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches (29.8 x 22.2 cm)

Clive Murphy, Untitled (Calatrava Jaws), 2011, Modified clothes hangers, synthetic cord, and glue, 12 x 9 x 13 inches (30.5 x 22.9 x 33 cm)

Chris Medina, research real technology, 2012, Oil, wax, acrylic, and inkjet transfer on canvas, 24 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches (61.6 x 21 cm)

Justin Davis Anderson, Hello Marcel, 2008-2012. Enamel and gouache on Polaroid, 7 x 4 7/8 inches (17.8 x 12.4 cm)

Ramon Silva, Pyramid Stack #1, RiRi, 2012, Paint marker, acrylic, and one (1) Xerox transfer on canvas; video on monitor, 1:13 min (loop), color, silent, 21 canvases, stacked, Overall: 72 x 54 inches (182.9 x 137.2 cm) Each canvas: 9 x 12 inches (22.9 x 30.5 cm)

David Ording, Shell, 2012, Oil on Masonite, 4 1/2 x 4 inches (11.4 x 10.2 cm)

Joel Fennell, hetoimasia tou thronou, 2012, Found midcentury modern chair, 35-watt RCA valve amplifier, speaker cable, four (4) speaker boxes, and iPod Shuffle, Overall: 132 x 123 x 36 inches (335.3 x 312.4 x 91.4 cm)

Sam Martineau, Only in 3′s, 2011, Acrylic on muslin, 30 x 18 inches (76.2 x 45.7 cm)

Aengus Woods and John Holten, The Appearance of a Conversation About the LGB Group in the David Zwirner Gallery Inventory, 2012, Video on monitor, 36:34 min (loop), color, sound, Overall dimensions vary with installation

Aidan Sofia Earle, Untitled (metal piece), 2012, Mixed metal media, 10 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 7 inches (26.7 x 21.6 x 17.8 cm)

Liz Nielsen, Composition 6, 2012, C-print, 24 x 20 inches (61 x 50.8 cm), Unique print

Brent Harada, A Helpful Trip to Saskatoon, 2012, Ink on paper, 8 1/4 x 6 1/4 inches (21 x 15.9 cm)

Dave Miko, Cesium Plankton, 2012, Ink, enamel, and lacquer, Dimensions variable with installation

More images here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Everyday Abstract - Abstract Everyday at the James Cohan Gallery

The James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street, New York, NY, is presenting Everyday Abstract - Abstract Everyday, a quietly subversive show curated by Matthew Higgs, director of the downtown alternative space White Columns.

These coolly modern pieces have painterly allusions and also recall mixed media pioneers such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. Many of these abstractions are made of commonplace materials that aren't immediately obvious until you read the gallery labels: postcards, instant noodles, koolaid, broom sticks, chewing gum, urine.

The show raised some interesting questions that brought me out of my art school mindset: how is formal perception altered by knowledge of process, is surrealism still relevant, why does abstraction seem more lifelike than figuration, do utilitarian objects have symbolic meaning, and finally, what is art?

This engaging, experimental show will be on view until August 1, 2012. You'll be happy to know that the spirit of Dada is alive and well in Chelsea.

WALEAD BESHTY 20-inch Copper (FedEx® Medium Kraft Box ©2004 FEDEX 155143 REV), Standard Overnight, Los Angeles-New York trk#798399701913, May 15-16, 2012 2012 Polished copper, accrued FedEx shipping and tracking labels 20 x 20 x 12 in. (50.8 x 50.8 x 30.5 cm)

ALEXANDRA BIRCKEN Wärmegitter 2011 Wool, aluminum frame 87 x 55 x 2 in. (219.7 x 139.7 x 5.1 cm)

SARAH BRAMAN Slowpoke 2012 Aluminum, paint, and Plexiglas 43 x 54 x 22 in. (109.2 x 137.2 x 55.9 cm)

TOM BURR his personal effects (white v-neck, two) 2012 Men’s v-neck t-shirt, upholstery tacks and wood 15 x 15 in. (38.1 x 38.1 cm)

ERNST CARAMELLE Untitled 1991 Paper exposed to the sun Paper: 12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.8 cm)

ANDY COOLQUITT LW4EAAEMH 2012 Metal, wire, epoxy, and light bulbs 110 X 5 X 5 in. (279.4 X 12.7 X 12.7 cm)

MICHEL FRANÇOIS Untitled 2012 Paper Approx. 8 x 12 feet (240 x 360 cm)

DAVID HAMMONS Koolaid Drawing 2004 Koolaid and pencil on paper 43 29 in. (109.22 x 73.66 cm)

ANN CATHRIN NOVEMBER HØIBO Untitled #06 2012 Bronze cast of instant noodles 4 x 3 ¾ x 1 ¼ in. (10 x 9.5 x 3 cm) Unique

BILL JENKINS Bed with Rope and Fence 2012 Bed with rope and fence 52 x 73 x 9 in. (132.1 x 185.4 x 22.9 cm)

SERGEJ JENSEN Untitled (Binary One) 2005 Money on canvas 47 ¼ x 45 ¼ inches (120 x 115 cm)

UDOMSAK KRISANAMIS Acid Rain 1996 Ink and collage on blanket 60 X 60 in. (152.4 X 152.4 cm)

AGNES LUX #91-L 2012 Graphite on postcards 82 5/8 X 52 1/2 in. (210 X 133.5 cm)

DAVID MORENO Television Noise #10 2006 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.96 cm)

MICHAEL E. SMITH Untitled 2012 Metal, plastic 19 ¼ x 3 x 15 ½ in. (48.9 x 7.6 x 39.4 cm)

SHINIQUE SMITH Bale Variant No. 0022 2012 Mixed media 90 x 30 x 30 in. (228.6 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm)

AL TAYLOR Untitled: (Rinse) 1988 Wooden broomsticks with enamel paint & metal mounted on Formica laminate with latex paint 92 x 9 ½ x 39 in. (233.7 x 24.1 x 99.1 cm)

HANNAH WILKE S.O.S. – Starification Object Series (#2) 1975 Chewing gum on rice paper, mounted on rag board 33 ¾ x 25 ½ x 2 ½ in. (85.7 x 64.8 x 6.4 cm)

NANCY SHAVER Fanny 2011 Scrap metal, found upholstery board, upholstery fabric, canvas, glue, paper, house paint, acrylic paint 66 x 27 x 20 in. (167.6 x 68.6 x 50.8 cm)

ANDY WARHOL Oxidation Painting 1978 Copper metallic pigment oxidized by urine on canvas - twelve panels 48 X 49 1/2 in. (121.92 X 125.73 cm)

More images here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paris Opéra Ballet at the Lincoln Center

(photo courtesy of Dancetabs)

I last saw the Paris Opéra Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House sixteen years ago in Nureyev's staging of La Bayadère. The company returned to Lincoln Center last week and so I got tickets to three different programs that showcased its latest roster of dancers.

On July 15 I attended the mixed bill which opened with Serge Lifar's Suite en Blanc, a plotless ballet about a series of variations d’école, pas de trois, pas de cinq, adages and ensembles. It's a bit like Harald Lander's Études though not quite as dry and formulaic. Indeed Sabrina Mallem, Audric Bezard, and Vincent Challet imbued the Theme Varié with elegance and poetry, and the cast as a whole danced with crystalline lightness and precision.

Roland Petit's L’Arlésienne is a different sort of ballet. From what I gathered, the story is about the marriage of young man (Jérémie Bélingard) to his fiancee (Isabelle Ciaravola). The young man can't reciprocate the affection of his new wife because he is tormented by his first and true love's infidelity.

The choreography seemed inspired by Les Noces and Le Spectre de la Rose but the whole point of the ballet seemed to be the "mad scene" on the wedding night, where Bélingard rips his shirt off in despair and dances a manic solo before leaping out the window to his death. Melodramatic, for sure, but entertaining nonetheless.

The program concluded with Maurice Béjart's delightfully trashy Boléro, a reinterpretation of Nijinska's original choreography, this time setting the soloist (of either sex) on a platform surrounded by leering male onlookers who, as the music progresses, one by one start gyrating in an equally suggestive manner.

The basic movement is the slow thrusting of the hips to the repetitive beat. Aurélie Dupont was a suitably slinky temptress who managed to exude supermodel hauteur instead of vulgarity.

On July 19 I attended the highly anticipated Giselle, perhaps the most famous French ballet. The sets and costumes, recreated from a 1924 production designed by Alexandre Benois, had a misty nostalgia that suited the French dancing style: soft arms, restrained acting, precise footwork, and a breathtaking synchronicity among the corps.

In keeping with the company's mandatory retirement age of 42, Clairemarie Osta gave her farewell appearance in the title role. Her husband Nicolas Le Riche played Albrecht and there was such a sweet, melancholy aspect to their performance. Their acting was understated yet tender and moving. Their dancing emphasized correct form over virtuosity which gave the ballet a seamlessness that I haven't noticed before.

Yann Saïz almost stole the show as Hilarion. His elegant line and charismatic presence lent a visceral tension to his scenes with Le Riche and the willis. Heloise Bourdon and Axel Ibot performed the peasant pas de deux with clarity and vivacity.

My final ballet was Orpheus and Eurydice on July 22. I'm familiar with Pina Bausch's work only through Youtube videos  and was curious to see how she would adapt her raw expressionist style to Gluck's  lyrical score.

Well, the choreography wasn't anything like the videos. It didn't even seem like Pina Bausch. Rather, I thought it was derivative of Martha Graham, particularly Lamentation, Errand into the Maze, and Night Journey, among her other works. The set evoked Graham's symbolism as well.

There were a few ravishing moments such as the entry into Hades, and it was a nice change to see modern dance performed in near perfect unison. Part of the appeal was the extreme physical beauty of the dancers, both male and female, as well as each gender's nearly uniform builds and heights.

Stéphane Bullion (Orpheus), Marie-Agnès Gillot (Eurydice), and Muriel Zussperreguy (Love) performed their roles with great ardor and commitment but unfortunately the effect was somewhat dulled by the sheer repetitiveness of the movements (which didn't seem to vary with the libretto).

Musically, Thomas Hengelbrock conducted with true feeling and the Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble and Choir sounded marvelous from the orchestra pit. Maria Riccarda Wesseling, Yun Jung Choi, and Zoe Nicolaidou sang their parts with distinction.

My one regret is that I didn't see more performances, particularly of Giselle. I do hope that this most aristocratic of ballet companies plans to return New York City again soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


(photo courtesy of Eater NY)

The restaurant Raymi opened a few weeks ago on 42 West 24th Street in the space formerly occupied by Nuela. The owner, Richard Sandoval, retained Nuela's talented chef de cuisine, Erik Ramirez, who continues to produce modern Peruvian food of a very high caliber.

I've been to Raymi twice and enjoyed:

Corvina classico, sweet potato, habanero ciilantro - Corvina is a fish that is used in Latin America. The ceviche was very fresh with just the right amount of acidity. The sweet potato cubes lent a nice sweetness and textural contrast.

Peruvian corn cake, mushroom ragu, watercress - Excellent dish. It was like an arepa with sauteed mushrooms and a light watercress salad.

Grilled octopus and calamari, aji panca, mortar potato, radish criolla - My favorite so far. Aji panca is a Peruvian red pepper which lent a zesty note to the octopus and calamari.

Arroz con pato - carnaroli rice, crispy duck breast, duck leg, scallops, cilantro - This risotto based dish is quite good though not as spectacular as Nuela's duck paella with foie gras.

Cod cau cau with tripe, lentils, bok choy - I have no idea what cau cau is but the cod was perfectly cooked and paired with a deliciously tangy golden sauce.

Rice pudding, golden raisins, brown butter ice cream - The creamy rice pudding was served between thin crisp wafers. The brown butter ice cream was excellent.

Dulce de leche panna cotta, spiced cookie, burnt meringue - Very good dessert. A must for fans of dulce de leche.

Service is friendly though not yet as polished as Nuela's. The decor has changed from the intense red to a more relaxing blue, with rustic accents to soften the sleekness.

Raymi kept Nuela's communal tables so this would be a great place for groups. It's already hopping, at least in the bar area. Check out this wonderful Latin addition to the Chelsea/Flatiron neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Midsummer Modigliani Mystery

About 10 years ago, my mother gave me a drawing of a female nude as a birthday present. She said she bought it for a nominal sum at a house sale in Cape Cod while shopping for antiques.

The lovely drawing was signed "Modigliani." I've always wondered whether it was an original by Amedeo Modigliani but haven't been able to get it appraised because I couldn't take a decent photograph of the faint image under glass. Because of the large number of fakes, dealers in New York City would not look at it unless I had authentication, and I could not get authentication unless I had clear images.

And so I continued to wonder, over the past 10 years, whether this thing was valuable or not.

A few weeks ago, I bought a Nikon DSLR to replace my Panasonic point and shoot camera. I was finally able to take clear pictures of the drawing and signature.

I was quite pleased with these photos and so last Friday, I sent them to a couple of auction houses and asked for an estimate.

On Saturday, spurred by a hunch, I went to the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum and asked for assistance in authenticating my drawing. I found, on page 301 of Volume 1, Christian Parisot, Modigliani; catalogue raisonné (1990):

Plate 37/16
Nu de femme de face (1916)
Crayon sur papier

You can imagine my excitement. The plate clearly matched my drawing.

The next day I researched recent auction prices and found that Modigliani drawings have been selling for $50,000 to $300,000 USD. You have to realize: that's a lot of money for me.

But one question nagged. How did the drawing get to Cape Cod, and into the possession someone who clearly did not know its value. Was it stolen? Was it seized by the Nazis? How could I ever find out? I didn't want to shop the drawing around only to be embroiled in an expensive legal battle such as this.

Anyway I made a mental note to return to Met on my next day off and ask the reference librarian for assistance in researching provenance, surreptitiously of course, since I did not want to draw undue attention to my secret treasure.

Yesterday, one of the dealers asked for more details and, quite pleased with myself, I sent her the catalogue info and photos.

This morning, she responded:
Thank you for sending images. Regrettably we will not be able to assist you with this piece. The stamp next to the signature is a German publisher that commissioned prints to be produced of Modigliani's drawings. The signature is usually a printed signature as these prints were published posthumously.
Mystery solved. Oh well, so it's not an original after all, but it was fun playing Sherlock Holmes. It's still an interesting antique and a priceless lesson in the economics of art.

Now, back to reality....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mono-ha: Requiem for the Sun at the Gladstone Gallery

The Gladstone Gallery is presenting Mono-ha: Requiem for the Sun at 530 West 21st Street, New York, NY.

Mono-ha is a Japanese postwar movement that means "School of Things." According to this article:
‘Mono-ha’ refers to a group of artists who were active from the late sixties to early seventies, using both natural and man-made materials in their work. Their aim was simply to bring ‘things’ together, as far as possible in an unaltered state, allowing the juxtaposed materials to speak for themselves. Hence, the artists no longer ‘created’ but ‘rearranged’ ‘things’ into artworks, drawing attention to the interdependent relationships between these ‘things’ and the space surrounding them. The aim was to challenge pre-existing perceptions of such materials and relate to them on a new level.
At first glance the sculptures reminded me of Western artists such as Donald Judd, Christopher Wilmarth, Mark di Suvero, and even Matthew Barney, but I think one of the key things about Mono-ha is the juxtaposition of the permanent with the ephemeral: a granite slab encased in paper, a steel pipe filled with cotton, a lacquered box filled with water. Many of these works were recreated for the exhibit under the artists' guidance.

Lee Ufan was a founding member and, like his retrospective at the Guggenheim last year, the Gladstone exhibit has a quiet serenity that is almost zen with an emphasis on polished craftmanship, spatial balance, and the surreal use of ordinary materials such as wax, lightbubs, and railroad tracks.

The show will be on view until August 3, 2012. Don't miss this poetic meditation on Japanese minimalism and conceptual art.

Kishio Suga
Parallel Strata, 1969/2012 
132.1 x 358.1 x 242.6 cm

Noboru Takayama
Underground Zero (Part), 1969/2003
Railroad ties; light bulb; seven ties
100 x 5 x 9 inches (254 x 13.3 x 22.9 cm); 89 x 100 x 113 inches (226.1 x 254 x 287 cm) overall installed

Nobuo Sekine
Phase of Nothingness--Water, 1969/2012
Steel, lacquer and water
Two parts: 47 1/4 x 47 x 47 1/4 inches (120 x 120 x 120 cm) and 11 7/8 x 86 5/8 x 63 inches (30.2 x 220 x 160 cm)

Katsuro Yoshida
Cut-off (hang), 1969/1986
Wood, rope and stone
Installed dimensions variable

Jiro Takamatsu
Light and Shadow, 1973/2012
Light bulb and stainless steel board
33 x 14 1.8 x 12 5/8 inches (83.8 x 35.9 x32.1 cm) installed

Nobuo Sekine
Phase-Sponge, 1968/2012
Sponge and steel plate
51 7/8 x 47 1/4 x 47 1/4 (131.8 x 120 x 120 cm)

Susumu Koshimizu
Paper (formally Paper 2), 1969/2012
Hempen paper and granite; paper
108 x 108 inches (274.3 x 274.3 cm) / stone: 22 1/2 x 64 1/2 x 64 inches (57.2 x 168.3 x 162.6 cm)

Susumu Koshimizu
Perpendicular Line 1, 1969
Brass and fishing wire
Brass: 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 (8 x 8 x 8 cm); Wire: 222 inches (563.9 cm)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fireflies on the Water

This enchanting image is Fireflies on the Water, an installation by Yayoi Kusama which is currently on view at the Whitney Museum.

The small dark room consists of mirrors, a pool of water, and 150 tiny lights strung on wires which give the illusion of a flickering, endless space. On the left edge of the image, you'll see a small platform where each guest stands for the allotted solitary minute.

Here's a tip: wear black, in order to "disappear" into the reflections. When I saw this yesterday I was wearing light clothing which was multiplied  infinitely - all I could think about was "God, I need to go on a diet" which is probably not what the artist intended.

The installation is part of a larger Kusama retrospective which will open on July 12 and run through September 30, 2012. I can't wait to see the survey of this important minimalist and conceptual artist.