Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hot on the trail of influence -- and when to cool down

22 February 2007 (~ 7:30 p.m.)

Everyone’s hard at work after the espressos – or maybe I’m only noticing it now that I’m revived. I barely noticed the Matt Mullican casts at Mai 36, taken as I was by the Thomas Ruff digital work, the Jurgen Dreschers and the Troy Brauntuchs. Mike Ovitz is here (with an advisor?) enrapt or merely nostalgic – who can figure? – before one of the Troy Brauntuchs. “I love Troy Brauntuch; I used to collect him,” he says. I think the ‘used to’ sort of sums it up. But who knows? I’m already leaving the space across the way and he’s still right where he was. To another collector, a saleswoman is insistent about a Stefan Thiel she’s showing off: “This is something that should be in New York.”

The long-standing influence of Luc Tuymans is still very much in evidence, though there’s not that much of Tuymans’ own work to see here (at least from what I’ve covered. Also a new willingness to risk/address the narrative and illustrational. (I wonder about all the things that contribute to this trend: the graphic novel or text? a kind of subliminal return to text as a point of departure? new film and video art? (anybody see that ‘action-painting’ Ezra Johnson thing at the Hammer lately?) Raymond Pettibon?) Zeno X out of Antwerp shows Jenny Scobel’s “But not today,” a grisaille double portrait/diptych, with subtly implied narrative (the male figure makes me think of Gene Hackman in The Conversation), which almost upstages the solitary Tuymans on the other side of the space divider. Speaking of which – grisaille is everywhere. It’s as if painting had universally moved on from the studied pallor of the Tuymans palette to grays in every range available from steel to charcoal to cigarette smoke blue-gray. White Columns showcases Graham Durward’s brute, broad-stroked figures closing in on the image of the cigarette itself, the smoke curling in baroque tactile spirals of blue-gray. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Chris Martin tries his hand with this palette in a Large acrylic and oil canvas “Homage James Brown (Black and blue)”. The title says it all – including the haste of the conceit. It pales in comparison with his far more striking and well thought-out smaller works. (Chris Martin is ubiquitous here – and apparently elsewhere.) Far more impressive are the Jessica Stockholder sculpture – a kind of standing figure in found materials – brilliant – and the veiled, watery worlds of Paul Winstanley (“Veil 17”). Materials and attitude towards the material are an unresolved and maybe unresolvable dividing point. It’s as if these two warring camps are always with us – sometimes in the same artists. The Jack Shainman (New York) space evidences this preoccupation in a tapestry of aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire and Jonathan Seliger’s giant Prada shopping bag in automotive enamel on bronze. Not far away, Greengrassi (London) shows an exquisite tapestry in mohair and silk embroidery from William Kentridge’s “(France) Porter” series, the central brown figure silhouetted over layers of sepia.

There’s so much more to report; but I’ll have to come back to it later when I’ve replenished my empty vessel. You can also be over-stuffed visually – even passing through the spaces at a fair velocity to pick up an overview. I’m visually exhausted after a couple more hours like the one I just sketched above. I head back (gratefully) to a far less crowded VIP Lounge, that now shorn of its overpopulation resembles a place one can actually lounge. I am utterly visually exhausted and must focus for a moment on the WORD. Loaded down with art media from tema celeste to ArtForum and all sorts of little catalogues, I turn first to BookForum and plunge in with abandonment. It doesn’t take much, though, to pull me back into the fray. I am engrossed in Vivian Gornick’s review of Susan Sontag’s last book when in stride Tim Blum with IRVING BLUM and his always remarkably stylish consort, Jackie and seat themselves one table away from mine. Out fly pen and camera. I won’t give away (and in any case could never verify) the substance of the conversation. But Irving’s ebullient dicta are irresistible. Referencing Jean Nouvel among others, Irving pronounces, “I hate architects.” And you have to wonder if he has Richard Meier on his mind in particular. On a work hard to place (for reasons of price, scale, artist, subject matter – it’s impossible to say) – “Call Dean up; he’l buy it and give it to a museum. It should be at MOCA or the Hammer.” Then speaking of MOCA, who should walk in and join them but Paul Schimmel. L.A. in New York is a small world after all. I’ll be verifying that tomorrow night somewhere near Seventh Avenue.

22 February 2007 (~9:00 p.m.)

The L.A. crowd is suddenly here in abundance as I wade back in with the camera all fired up. I run into George Stoll and Kim Light (showing at the L.A. in New York fair) and a host of others before disaster strikes. It’s hard to run around with pen, handfuls of notebooks, swag bags, wine and hors d’oeuvres, several scarves and sweaters and a camera all at once and as I’m shifting something around, the camera slips from my wrist and onto a hard surface – uh, the concrete floor. It’s not looking pretty – and this time I make for the lounge to regroup with a serious cocktail before I finally head for the coatcheck and back uptown FULLY LOADED.

23 February 2007

I’m off to a very late start – but the stress, late nights that stretch into morning, erratic dining (and dubious nourishment) and other off-scheduling are taking their toll. So much time consumed by technical issues. The camera is working again – but only for a NY minute. The images need to be seen (no – not the art: the dealers can provide that; the PEOPLE, the MADNESS. There were more than a couple than satisfied those criteria last night. Should I mention Chuck Close’s screaming fit at (who knows? dealer or exhibitor? another artist? fickle or disloyal collector?)

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