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Category: Chelsea

“Super Thursday” 2014

The phrase “Super Thursday” always makes me smile and at the same time while I think it’s a silly construct for an evening of art openings, at the same time it really is aptly named. I’m going to assume I’ll be seeing you and the few thousand or so people who make up our little community thursday eve.

Here are a few of my highlights – I’m sure other people have a few ideas of their own.

Allan McCollum “The Shapes Project: Perfect Couples” at Petzel Gallery
Yearning Upwards, Painting Trees at The Painting Center
Nick Cave “Rescue” at Jack Shainman Gallery
Jennifer Wynne Reeves “Place” At BravinLee Projects
Gary Panter “Dream Town” at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery
Kwang Young Chun Exhibition at Hasted Kraeutler
Roxy Paine “Denuded Lens” at Marianne Boesky Gallery
Helene Appel Exhibition at James Cohan Gallery

Saturday and Sunday night have a few notable things as well.

Satan Ceramics at Salon 94 Freemans (LES)
Cory Arcangel “tl;dr” at Team Galllery (SOHO)
Ryan McGinley “Yearbook” at Team Galllery (SOHO)
James Bishop Exhibition at David Zwirner (Chelsea)
Carl Ostendarp “Blanks” at Elizabeth Dee (Chelsea)

Truthfully I’m not a listings service – but there are a ton of great shows this September – see you there.


Above: Allan McCollum – The Shapes Project

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Ai Weiwei and “The Peoples Sunflower Seeds”

Ai Weiwei has brought his sunflower seeds installation to the Mary Boone Gallery. To be quite honest I really don’t know what to make of it. Originally planned and executed for the Tate London, the seeds are meant to be walked over as well as allowing people to rest or lie on the artwork thereby adding a number of contextual layers to the experience of the work. However, with many things that are made in China a funny thing happened on the way to the gallery.

The paint on the “Sunflower seeds” are made of toxic paint and this health hazard has made for a rather curious installation. The viewer is to now simply to look upon this field of “Sunflower seeds”. Frankly it’s a bit of a bore.

However I’m sure that there will be viewers that call this life changing. On the other hand what are we to make out of a failed installation by a major international artist? Especially, when we refuse to call it a failed artwork? Which, unfortunately it is.

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The Physical Impossibility of Spots in the Mind of Someone Living to View Them

I’m going to ignore the current drama around the personalities and macro economics of the current Damien Hirst exhibitions currently on display at Gagosian. Instead I’m going to focus on the work itself, I know it’s an odd choice for an art review.

Anytime you develop a show (even a show in a single gallery space) there are going to be great artworks and lesser artworks. The shows at the two downtown Gagosians don’t change this fact in the least. When these paintings work they are impressive and when they don’t, it’s equally unimpressive. And unfortunately a few of the stinkers are the biggest (size-wise) of the show.

What I find working for me is the optical nature of these works as well as the conceptual nature of the works. The titling of these images after chemicals, more precisely pharmaceuticals, works to bring these images full circle. The more successful of these images are the more densely built images offering a more rewarding viewing experience via the visual push pull of the image. Thes owe as much to Hans Hoffman as they do with the artist who is most often referenced in relation to Hirst; Warhol. In fact these more engaging works pull and push your eyes leaving you a bit disoriented. These images with titles like, LSD and Prochlorperazine push and pull as much with the titles of the work as they do the viewer (LSD being a Psychotropic while Prochlorperazine is a Neuroleptic).

The lesser paintings are the ones that seem to pare themselves down by fewer spots and larger surfaces, these paintings in particular are almost a pistache of the other paintings. They often seem to be about the artist rather than the image – and this is the fine line that Hirst is forced to walk with his work. It is when this line is crossed the work fails, usually impressively so.

Endnote: A number of people have spoken of the rules of the spot paintings – everything is to be a certain distance apart, colors never duplicated, etc. I have found evidence in just one of the galleries at Gagosian to pretty much determine all of these rules are wrong. They do however expand the hype around the images in some strange way.

Image: Detail of Zirconyl Chloride, 2008 Household gloss on canvas 84 inches diameter  (213.4 cm)

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The "Hirst" Problem

For part of the morning I’ve been participating in a conversation facilitated by Matthew Collings facebook page about Damian Hirst and the critical thought (or should I say lack of critical thought) around the current show by Damian Hirst at every Gagosian Gallery worldwide. It’s an audacious thing – to have a show in 11 galleries around the world at once, it is even more so to have 11 shows worldwide showing only one type of artwork from one artist. And, to be frank about it, there are very few artists that would be able to hold up to the spotlight and criticisms that would come from such an event.

The initial comment was about the tone of criticism and it’s lack of analysis toward the work. I think many of the reviewers tend to write for the “front of the house” that is, the audience that follows art more aggressively than others. This may account for the lack of analysis of the work. In a way saying “Hirst” is almost like saying “Warhol”, by the time you are done with that one word, most people have a decision in place about the work before encountering the work. Clearly the name is a highly loaded word. However it is only loaded in the speaker and listeners mind and is neither contextualized nor visualized.

I agree with the initial comment about criticism without analysis. I think it’s a serious problem. Right now, the art community is finding the critic only useful to use as a sales tool. It seems that we have been willing to get rid of critical thought for a voice that supports the cost (not value) of the art made today.

When we breakdown the highest levels of the “art world” there are really four major groups of people; artists, dealers, viewers, and critics. Are we really ready to cut out one fourth of our community?

As for Hirst – the personality (or perceived personality) is so big it’s hard to get it away from the art. I find the spot paintings interesting, in a way they are like an episode of Seinfeld – all the concepts and loose ends are tied up and presented as a whole. It seems the biggest complaint is that Hirst has been successful with his artwork. I don’t blame Hirst for making money with his art, I am however bored by the conversation about his wealth when it comes to his work, it’s a valueless canard.

“DAMIEN HIRST: The Complete Spot Paintings  1986–2011″
 Installation view, Photo by Rob McKeever

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Li Songsong at Pace

There are some things that I’m not the greatest at – one of which is my knowledge of the Chinese art world. It seems that everyone talks about Ai Weiwei and maybe Zhang Huan – but for the most part- at least for me, I see a lot of those artists as master of the spectacle (with amazing technical chops) but at the end of the day a lot of these artists tend to leave me cold.

Li Songsong’s show at pace right now is a display of painting unlike you’ve seen in a very long time.

Like any good painter the description of what he does is easy – it’s in the details of how that make these stand out. In a nutshell Songsong paints multicolored grids of paint on canvas and aluminum, which integrate photographs of recent Chinese history and current events into abstraction. When I talk about paint – I am talking about a physicality that is unlike many other painters. Maybe the closet painter I can compare his physicality to is maybe – Guy Goodwin’s painting of the mid seventies. Realize that I’m trying to set up the paint of these paintings as a major force of the work – easily in places the paint is at least 1 ½ inches thick in places. However it’s neither clumsy nor overly gentle. It is applied in a direct and intelligent approach.

Songsong’s images are taken from Chinese genre scenes or elements from recent news events – and while this adds an element if interest to the images, I feel that at the end of the day the imagery is barely necessary. As the viewers experience of the work will bring a more personal association and meaning to the artworks.

Highly recommended, Li Songsong will run through Aug 5.

Detail of Songsong’s paintwork.

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