Friday, July 6, 2007

Austerity, authenticity, and the temptation of sheer excellence

2 July 2007 (cont’d.)

[Ross at ACME (cont’d.)] How to speak of – or yes, for that matter, photograph – the unspeakable, enclosed spaces in which the instruments or apparatus on view can be designed for only one purpose: to torment, torture and ultimately terminate human life? You’re supposed to focus on the instruments of control (clocks, lighting, spare interior articulation, telephones, etc.), focus on them as instruments of control, which of course they are. The light itself, whether artificially emphasized, as if to heighten the sense of tension, exhaustion; or flattened, bleached, diffused, is another ‘problem.’ (Sometimes (I think) solved: when the light moves towards a slightly grisaille range that casts its elements adrift, maroons the objects in an unearthly limbo.) The geometric presentation is another problem – though the allusions are hardly lost on me. It’s what Mies (speaking of Mies, as I was a moment ago) would have called, that damned “Doric column” in back of just about every International Modern architectural monument. The relationship is there – the koure and doryphorae of ancient Greece. (It was, after all, a martial civilization; then, too, so was the court of Versailles.) But this is not that kind of authority or even authoritarianism.

More interesting to me were the studies of the sets for various television series (e.g., Law and Order, NYPD Blue) – their muted authenticity, their similarities. How do you design (psychological) suspense for (dramatic) suspense?

Late spring and summer usher in the group shows – some way-over-the-edge agit-aesthetic theses with an ax to swing, others sedate groupings frequently culled from a gallery’s own stable. But few really cleave to the latter model anymore. What would be the point? If the art world – at least as much as the science and cyber worlds – is about the ‘next next’, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain in voyaging well beyond the already mapped shoreline. For at least a month or so, no risk should be too great. Still, even among the more adventurous, some shows are more assured, focused, playful than others; and quality should never be seriously compromised. It’s a given that young and emerging artists will figure prominently among these groupings, which are frequently international in scope. (Leave it to Fette to start the summer with a small but select such group – a piquant salsa to heavier, but not always as satisfying, work to come.) But one usually hopes to see something new, or at least something of the artist’s best and most distinctive work.

I had already seen Germaine Kruip’s flashy kinetic sculpture (a kind of broken square with rotating, mirrored elements, that alternately catch the viewer’s reflection in its segments and strobe a beam of projecting light as the segments break apart and regroup; in New York it made me think of a line from a Simon & Garfunkel song: “I said – be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.”) at The Approach’s booth on Pier 94 this past February. But she’s done far more interesting environmental installations (in UK, too); and it would have been such an opportunity to do something on that order here at Marc Foxx. I guess the problem would be that it might take up a lot of the space. On the other hand, Foxx does have that project space that could work for a slightly smaller installation. (In that regard, Blum & Poe took the reasonable approach of limiting the number of artists to three or four.) I have to say I was excited to see Chris Evans’ piece (speaking of the Armory – gee, haven’t I spoken about it too much already? – Evans’ work was like a rumor floating out of the UK around the Pier). His work is almost always, whether in sculpture or other media, installational, conceptual – but he can work very effectively on a surprisingly compact scale. He makes deliberately heavy sculptural work look light. Jimmy Robert (who I think is actually French, but is UK-based) is also here, along with an impressively balletic sculpture by Karen Sargsyan (whose work always seems to verge on kinesis); as well Maaike Schoorel and Guido van der Werve. (I get the impression that Foxx picked up on a lot of this work not at the Armory, but in Amsterdam. He certainly has company – e.g., Carl Berg’s extensive involvement there.) I hesitate to say anything more about the show (mysteriously titled, “ZES” – what the hell does it mean?). I overheard Rodney saying something about reinstalling it and am thinking I should re-visit – Kruip mirrors and all – before I give an opinion.

3 July 2007

I just looked up ZES on-line. It’s either some obscure (or not so) Dutch reference (hey, cut me some slack – I can barely negotiate my way through French and German) – I guess that’s likely; or it stands for Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (“a rare disorder that causes tumors in the pancreas and duodenum and ulcers in the stomach and duodenum.” I wondered what my indigestion of the last couple days was from.

After the austerity at ACME and a less than coherent presentation of some otherwise compelling work at Foxx, it felt positively luxurious, almost overwhelming, to take in the riches of an extensive show of drawings at Daniel Weinberg – whether by established or emerging artists, master drawings all. I’d tick off a few highlights – but where to begin? (Shall I start with what I know? Most familiar? Most startling? Outstanding?) There’s so much. Chris Martin; Peter Young (these were very interesting, intimate studies, obviously for larger works); John Wesley; Malcolm Morley; Joshua Aster – ah, here and everywhere apparently; also his classmate, Annie Lapin; also Rebecca Morales (remember that show down Hilgard a piece?) (breathtaking, too); speaking of which, there’s an Eva Hesse (must be seen; I didn’t take written notes) – shall we stop there? How about Brice Marden, Barry Le Va and Sol LeWitt? Ian Davis, Lee Lozano, Carroll Dunham – oh for chrissakes just GO – and bring your checkbook. (Now I sound like a shill.) What can I say? – it’s that kind of a show.

I’ve got to take a break – to look for the checkbook I hid from myself.

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