Friday, May 23, 2008

Inhaling, exhaling -- and still off-balance

Before I continue posting this, a quick note about the week-end just past and the spring New York sales. I mentioned sometime earlier that they shook out more or less as I expected, though not necessarily with respect to specifics. The first principle is that quality trumps all – cultural iconography, historicity, provenance. (So much for the DeDe Brooks doctrine of “provenance, provenance, provenance.” Though it’s not like there aren’t exceptions; it’s a big, wide-open market out there.) Scanning over the most outstanding results, the quality is inescapable. Just to take randomly, say, the Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes bild (625), that fetched a record for the artist, it is not simply a prime example of Richter’s abstract style, it’s almost an epitome – and its style-setting influence over an entire range of visual arts is fairly apparent. So, to put it another way, regardless of the specific lots on the block, this is generally a thin, and pretty rarefied segment of the larger art market. Looking more closely at specific lots, I continue to be surprised at how strong the market for both Bacon and Prince (and to some extent, even Rothko) are – though obviously that, too, says something about the overall state of visual arts and, more specifically, the culture’s ambivalent, even (well beyond ironic) alienated relationship to image-making (e.g., reversal, appropriation, reconfiguration, recontextualization). The fact that the iconic Lichtenstein Ball of Twine failed to sell also says something crass about both his market and the culture.

11-12 May 2008

It’s funny. I was just saying something about the inhale-exhale symbiosis of the Kordansky and Hug spaces that works so well you’d think they planned it that way; and after the Vergueiro show at Kordansky that just about knocked me off my feet, I was ‘waiting to exhale,’ so to speak. But it wasn’t quite that simple. Erika Vogt’s show of C-prints and video didn’t exactly knock me off my feet – but they sure as hell kept me off balance – and in a very good way. Vogt’s work (inasmuch as I know of it – which is probably as much in the context of group shows or stuff she’s done with other artists), her art – in film, video or mixed media – appears to be essentially an art of collage, in which the actual art-making process is itself ‘collaged’ into the work (cut, sectioned or cross-sectioned, displacement, reduction, fossil, sedimentary; falling back upon itself (reflection)). But unlike collage in the original quasi-Cubist sense, this is is a collage in flux, where both actuality and representation are shifting (which would seem where she is going with video – where the ‘representation’ seems to recede before the viewers who bring their own actuality – presence, attention, shadows – to what seems linear yet non-narrative) in both space and time. (Though the emphasis here is on time – movement; the performative aspect aside, this remains essentially two-dimensional work.) Although her large composite C-prints have a certain virtuoso, tour de force aspect – they’re very sophisticated productions – it’s her video that is truly extraordinary – in terms of texture, color, its evocative-in-spite-of-itself quality, and abstract beauty. Though I was initially taken with C-prints, Vogt’s strength and future is in the video work. The more conventional photography and ‘collage/assemblage’ modes tend to lock her down into a two-dimensional domain her overall scope as long since outgrown.

One of the events, if not the event, of the evening was the Terence Koh ‘walk-through’ installation at Peres Projects. This was apparently the destination in Chinatown Saturday night. Without going into specifics (which, in any case, I can’t legitimately do here), the palette was white and the texture was powdery – and possibly painterly. I ran into Kulov there, who restrained my native curiosity with a gentle reminder that my choice of shoes for the evening might be less than suitable for this event – as his were also apparently. Advisory to gallery visitors: suede may be cozy, but you might want to bring a pair of old sports shoes for the walk-through. In the meantme, Kulov reminded me that we could not afford to miss Sandeep Mukherjee’s show at Sister, which I hadn’t been to in quite a while anyway. I must say I would have hated missing it – for the first gallery’s (yes Sister apparently has a ‘sister’ space – down the block and around the corner at Cottage Home) panels alone. I have long been familiar with Mukherjee’s substantial yet somehow ethereal etched duralene panels – frequently in intense, vibrant colors – but these were in black and white, which nevertheless did not lack for intensity. As with much of his work in the past, these too bore affinities with fabric and fabric art, but here the effect was as much about the play of light – a complex topography of reflection and refraction, rather than simply drapery or stippling – a kind of seismic mapping of light, mounting, eddying, diffracting, radiating. Also interesting was the way he brought off this effect in jet black (the surfaces were fairly matte, which made the topography somewhat more legible). There was something really wonderful about these panels – which left me completely unprepared for the long, horizontally oriented panels at Cottage Home – rolling, roiling, cycloids, starbursts and supernovae, in a jewel-like yet somehow earthbound palette of golds, ambers and verdigris – golden, luminous – galaxies rolling by on a rain/wind-swept grassy plain. I must sound ridiculous trying to compress the impression of some very large and impressive works into a quasi-metaphorical impression; but first off, the panels themselves appear to compress a theme Mukherjee has explored ‘in large’ elsewhere (a Schindler House installation); secondly, the structure and color are far too dense, complex and vivid to do justice to in a single paragraph. For anyone who might have coveted any of that work at Schindler House, this show is a must-see. (MORE)

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