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I’m most drawn to art that cannot be explained or re-represented in any other way. The current video installation by Claudia Joskowica at LMAKprojects is a prime example: no photograph can represent what’s actually going on, my attempt to capture it in a 6 second video failed, and though the press release offers some insight into what it means, words are incapable of explaining what it looks/feels like. And like all great art, it's that visual inexplicablility that holds you in front of the work long enough to really pay attention, become curious, and suddenly care about things like Bolivian history.
The BEST I could do was a sketch… but you’re still going to have to see this one in person.
Claudia Joskowicz: Intersections, is on view at LMAKprojects (139 Eldridge St) through June 23, 2013. exhibition website
lead image: http://www.lmakprojects.com/
His concurrent show at Gagosian will overwhelm you with sparkle, but this one at David Zwirner offers far more to discover, contemplate and enjoy the longer you look. Plaster Greco-Roman sculptures hold “gazing balls”, typically found on suburban lawns with an angel or gnome. In other words, he has reduced 2000+ year-old trophies of civilization into the most expensive lawn art ever… that can’t go outside. In case that wasn’t clear (I honestly had to look up what a “gazing ball” was), he also displays a birdbath, an inflatable snowman, and several mailboxes, each also made from solid pure white 100% plaster.
My enjoyment of the show isn’t about the “joke”, but rather the insane level of perfection in every millimeter. The accuracy of the Greco-Roman copies is questionable (at first) since the originals were carved by imperfect human hands and broken/worn over the last few millennia. The snowman and mailboxes therefore also serve as proof of how precise he can be with the medium – rendering metal, wood, plastic and wire so realistically that you’d swear it was the real thing spray-painted white. Only after marveling at them, walk back to the “Greeks” to appreciate at every toenail, chisel scratch, and crack, knowing that you might as well be standing this close to the real thing… if it were spray-painted white.
P.S. Make sure to sneak behind both the “Snowman” to find the inflation valve (rarely seen but not ignored), and the massive “Hercules” (can’t miss it) to find the apples in his right hand.
Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball, is on view at David Zwirner Gallery (525 & 533 W 19th St) through June 29th, 2013. exhibition website
She’s not real.
You’ll find a naked woman in Hauser & Wirth’s uptown gallery right now. It’s a sculpture so lifelike that there are only 2 ways to tell she’s not alive: #1 she doesn’t blink, and #2 there are 4 versions of her in the gallery. Her beauty and unbelievable realism draw you close, but her fully naked, confidently casual, and open-legged posture on a raised table is discomforting. By “discomforting”, I don’t mean “offensive” (at least not to me). I mean that it’s extremely intense: an immediate and forced intimacy with a stranger. It’s Manet’s “Olympia” for 2013.
As strange as it sounds, it takes a few minutes to acclimate, as if you need to get to know her well enough to objectify her... or it. The show continues to surprise with another hyper-real sculpture of the artist lying flat on his back with his eyes closed - the question no longer if it’s a living person, but if it’s a REAL dead guy (Wikipedia says he’s still alive… so we’re good). And upstairs, various videos reveal “the making of” as workers pouring purple goo over the model’s body parts (including the inside of her mouth), or methodically photographing every inch of her for reference. It’s strange to see the real person after such an intimate examination of her exact copy downstairs. But that’s just it – the video isn’t “her” either… it’s just another copy.
Paul McCarthy: Life Cast, is on view at the uptown Hauser & Wirth Gallery (32 E 69th St) through July 26, 2013. exhibition website
Image: Paul McCarthy "T.G. Elyse", 2011. 4 channel video, colour, sound (video still).
© Paul McCarthy. Friedrich Christian Flick Collection. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Richard Learoyd’s photographs are beautiful, vulnerable, and so real that they have literally startled me twice.
The image resolution in these life-sized photographs is beyond anything I’ve seen to date – a result of his incredible camera obscura method that produces one-of-a-kind photographs without a negative. You won’t see what I’m talking about on the gallery website (or image above) because THOSE are limited by the resolution capacity of your computer screen, only after each image was degraded by re-photographing the originals with a "normal" camera. In short, the only way to really SEE these… is in person.
Twice now, while examining the finest details of a shoulder or cheek from inches away, I’ve flinched when my eyes suddenly met the stare of the model. Like catching the eyes of a stranger on the subway, I quickly shot my stare (and neck) away, and for a moment felt something that I never have with a work of art: shame for my voyeurism. That’s amazing.
Richard Learoyd: Still/Live is on view at McKee Gallery (745 Fifth Ave, Fl 4) through June 21, 2013. exhibition website
Image: Detail of "Flamingo I", 2012, 58 x 48 inches, unique Ilfochrome photograph. Courtesy of Richard Learoyd and McKee Gallery, New York.
For the latest “1 Minute Gallery Tour” video, I challenged myself to recreate a number of early Richard Serra sculptures out of playing cards.
The idea seemed easy – after all, his most famous sculpture in the group is titled “One Ton Prop (House of Cards)”, but through a number of unexpected challenges, I learned a great deal about the real thing.
#1. Cards Aren’t Square
Rather than cut the cards to be square, I decided that the spirit of the work (unmodified building blocks) was more important than an exact scale model. The result was a discovery through experimentation rather than an exact 1-to-1 copy.
#2. Scaling Gravity
The lead sculptures are able to balance in gravity-challenging configurations because of the material’s extraordinary weight, and therefore it’s extreme floor friction. Though scaling the work down reduced the gravity problem, the cards were still too lightweight to create the necessary friction (the corner piece was a tricky one). Though initially an aesthetic decision, painting the “floor” with grey acrylic created a nice “grip” to solve the problem.
#3. Cigarettes vs Pencils
A number of Serra’s works have rolled lead cylinders. Their roundness adds a greater sense of precariousness and visual interest, but presented a challenge with the cards. I tested pencils, rolled cards, and cigarettes. It turns out that cigarettes are the most ideal material for making Richard Serra models! They are extremely lightweight, accurately scaled, and require no modification (see #1). Most importantly, they’re soft. The cylinders on the real sculptures succeed not just because of their weight, but because the soft lead dents slightly to grip the squares, floor, or wall. I was able to barely dent or curve the cigarettes as necessary (as gravity would on a larger scale) to insure contact with all cards.
I encourage you to bum a cigarette and try a few of these yourself. It’s frustrating, but provides a fun and incredible understanding of Serra’s process.
Watch the full video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1MRdqxAoLo
Find an image of the real thing here: http://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibition/richard-serra-early-work-6/?slide=2
Go see Richard Serra: Early Work, on view at David Zwirner (537 W 20th St) through June 15, 2013. exhibition website
These stacked rocks by Swiss born New Yorker Ugo Rondinone occupy two locations: Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea (above), and Rockefeller Plaza (below). The Rockefeller sculptures are much larger and SHOULD be more impressive, but I love everything about the installation at Gladstone more – the eerie stillness, concrete-skimmed walls, cave-like natural light, and most memorably – the rocks themselves.
The rocks here are boring – at least they would be if I saw them in a park or back yard. And for me, it’s not just the cute and diverse personalities the artist has created by selecting and stacking them, it’s the consideration of the material itself. With minimal cutting (only a few unseen ends have been smoothed for a better fit), the age of the rock is “preserved”. Often when I look at a Greek marble statue, I think about how old the sculpture is, but rarely do I consider how much older the rock is. Its function as “art” is only a tiny and temporary blip in its existence.
My favorite exhibitions are those that I exit with a greater awareness of the world around me. In this case: boring rocks are amazing.
Ugo Rondinone: soul, is on view at Gladstone Gallery’s 21st Street location (530 W 21st St) through July 3, 2013. exhibition website
Ugo Rondinone: Human Nature, is on view at Rockefeller Plaza through July 7, 2013. exhibition website
There is no blanket strategy for art viewing*. A ballerina and a soccer player both use their bodies, but to apply the same criteria to their performances would be ridiculous - a ballerina isn’t trying to win a game and a soccer playing isn’t trying to look pretty.
My point is that I’m not upset by Jeff Koons’ supposed lack of “depth” in the work, nor do I feel outraged by the absence of his own hand (130+ assistants execute his work in a studio a few blocks north of the gallery). I view the art of Jeff Koons differently - more as “design” than “art” (if you know about my love of great design, you know that’s not a value judgment). His work is in the same category as a chair so beautiful you don’t want to sit down, or an architectural wonder that stops you in your tracks.
It is very possible that Koons’ sculptures are the most perfectly executed objects on the planet, and I’m not going to let any argument of “but is it art?” lessen my experience of them. The majority of my time in the gallery is spent inches from the canvas or metal with my jaw open, trying unsuccessfully to find any fault at all. It’s amazing, whatever you want to call it.
Jeff Koons is showing at two galleries. Information for both is below. I recommend Gagosian if you only have time for one.
* Don’t worry I’m writing a book about it.
Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture, is on view at Gagosian Gallery’s 24th Street location (555 W 24th St) through June 29, 2013. exhibition website
Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball, is on view at David Zwirner Gallery (525 & 533 W 19th St) through June 29th, 2013. exhibition website
A Mark di Suvero sculpture indoors is like a beautiful caged bird. Yes, it should be outside, but you’d never see it like this if it were. The sculpture will be released soon, so I suggest you take this opportunity to see it in this extremely rare and intimate context.
A crane parked in front of the gallery for the first two weeks of the exhibition (below) was a happy reminder of the honest humanity behind these massive pieces of metal.
It also kinda looks like a Mark di Suvero sculpture.
Mark di Suvero: Little Dancer, is on view at Paula Cooper Gallery (534 W 21st St) through June 29, 2013. exhibition website
If you’ve never seen one of Holton Rower’s incredible “pour paintings” in person, now is your chance to see ten. The process is frustratingly “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” simple, but the result is magic – not just a dazzling roller coaster for the eyes, but a smart lesson in the physics of liquids.
Also on display is a new series by Rower called “Focus Paintings” (which are actually out of focus), and a great group show called XSTRACTION which features many of my favorite process-based painters that pair perfectly with the “pours”.
(This whole post feels like a tongue twister)
Holton Rower: Focus Paintings, Pour Paintings, is on view at The Hole (312 Bowery) through June 20, 2013. exhibition website
Massive, muted, and caked with so much paint that you’ll wonder how it’s holding on, new paintings hang in a room with a strange and mysterious energy.
The air in the gallery immediately felt odd, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until something amazing happened: on that cloudy morning, for just a moment, the sun broke through the clouds outside. Suddenly, inside the gallery, shadows strengthened under cresting brushstrokes, faint colors brightened ever so slightly, and I swear I could almost feel the breeze indoors. And then it was gone. My eyes drifted to the ceiling to find not a single light fixture: the entire exhibition is lit only by skylights.
The magic of this exhibition is in the contrast between the overwhelming power of these objects (a real airplane wing projects out of one), and the gentle, ever-changing, ever-so-subtle dance of light across their surfaces.
It’s a dark show in more ways than one, but makes me the happier than anything else up right now.
Anselm Kiefer: Morgenthau Plan, is on view at Gagosian Gallery’s 21st Street location (522 W 21st St) through June 8, 2013. exhibition website (with some great installation shots)
Image: © Anselm Kiefer. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Charles Duprat