If anyone is interested, a painter I very much admire, Neo Rauch opened a show yesterday in Soho- they let me take pics of his work. I’m smitten.
Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retropective Whitney Museum
I like Wayne Thiebaud. I thought this was going to be my summer painting show. But somehow, something in the work did not entirely engage me. He is a beautiful painter, but his style leans toward the academic. With the exception of his mid-sixties food series(which he is still best known for)his subject matter is too reminiscent of others from that era. I saw shades of Jim Dine and lots of Richard Diebenkorn (especially in his San Francisco street landscapes).
I felt a little sad, because I respect his work immensely. I just didn’t have any epiphanies as I did when I saw the Diebenkorn retrospective a few years ago, or my mild obsession last summer when I saw Alice Neel’s work numerous times. Not really a disappointment, but it somehow just didn’t resonate beyond the door.
Another thing that didn’t make it out the door were photos of the Mies van der Rohe architecture exhibit. Upon entering the Mies chamber, there was a strange feeling of being in a Wings Of Desire sub plot. Lots of low level lighting, immense black and white photos and a strange hush in the room. I was busted almost immediately for trying to take photos. Photos I might add would not have come out anyway with the lighting situation. All the same it put a damper on my evening and I decided to come back and see more of Mies some other time.
*[please note: Thiebaud has a beautiful palette of color that he works with, and the poor reproductions I have put up here really don’t do justice to his work, just thought I would mention that it is my ill handy work, not his].
Here I sit in the side cafeteria/cafe/school lunch room on the bottom floor of International Center of Photography’s main branch. I am sipping on my really delicious and oh so worth it $1 and 90 cent coffee. Mmmm.
Okay, I have just come to see the Hans Bellmer show, which unfortunately I find a might bit boring. Why all the buckle shoes? And the bows. A little too much German sensibility for my tastes. To be fair this era (1930s and 40s) has been covered so much before, I have lost my interest in picking apart the sexual/political overtones of that time.
There is an photo he took of a human head wearing a bird cage, which immediately brought to mind the famous photo of Anais Nin dressed in the same manner. Maybe she saw the photo and decided to make her costume for that “Come As Your Madness” party she went to. My problem is I read too much Anais in my 20’s and then bookended it all with that Deirdre Bair biography where she kind of let the cat out of the bag. Yeah, how did Anais live so wonderfully and charmingly on her little houseboat? Her husband paid for it! The one she never mentioned. Oh.
At any rate, the other two shows at ICP I enjoyed a lot more. First off, I found it nice that the International Center for Photography let Kiki Smith install not only photos, but her sculptures, videos and drawings as well. Working with 3 intermixed fairy tale themes,she also uses doll imagery,(yes), like Hans Bellmer, but I personally found her take on it a lot more engaging. The first thing you see as you enter the gallery is series of poisonous black apples that are nice and wicked. Smith has always had a certain organic quality circulating throughout her work, and the photos shown here are a natural extension to what she has previously done. The exhibit is titled Telling Tales.
The other show, Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together,1840-1918 gathers daguerreotypes, tin types and other photos from the mid 1800’s. The photos documenting male friendships from the Victorian era are almost alarming in their show of intimacy. The very tender depictions of (now anonymous) friendships are surprising, and in this day and age, very refreshing.
For myself it was a very interesting window into how acceptable behavior in our society has changed,and how social norms have shifted over the course of time. I think people would now be far too self-conscious to shine through a photo with such genuineness.
Of course you have to take into consideration our conception of photography, and why you would be posing for a portrait has undoubtedly changed in the past 150 years. It was lovely though to see such a comfortableness depicted between people,especially considering the Victorian age brings the word “stuffiness” immediately to mind. This small but very interesting gathering of photo documents was a wonderful surprise to find out about.
So, there you go. There was much to take in at ICP Midtown. I like knowing now that they are open late on Friday nights and offer a “pay-as-you wish” program. My coffee cost more than my admission.
Here is a nice review of Kiki Smith’s work in the show, unfortunately the photos have disappeared since I viewed them yesterday.
(As seen at the Whitney Museum)
After some optimistic hope that the Whitney could pick up the ball and show some innovative stuff, I have found myself disappointed with their offering in the digital exhibit bitstreams. Nothing grabbed me.
What I took away from the show was, “Wow, that sure was a lot of fancy, expensive computer equipment they hoisted up on the wall there”.
Not one image managed to gel with my brain over the long haul (edit- obviously untrue down the line). The curators voices which read via the accompanying wall text were eager to point out cross references to some of the pieces: “Just like El Greco!” (uh ,no.),” Just like Paul Klee!”.
I imagine as to justify to themselves what the heck this stuff was doing in the Whitney.
Unfortunately, like all multimedia shows,this one had you subjected to a lot of those “little dark room” installations, which unfortunately make me claustrophobic.
I hate going from the bright white light of one part of an exhibition, groping your way into a small, black side room with 20 silhouettes squished up against the wall, that you gradually start to decipher as you simultaneously try to decide if you want to give this piece your five seconds or not.
Unfortunately another diatribe I can express involves a piece that the Whitney had on display maybe a year ago of Janine Antoni’s “installation”. This piece had you walking mazelike into utter and total darkness- only to be confronted with an image of yourself (surprise-a mirror),which I basically smashed into and screamed loud expletives,something that I am generally not up for shouting in public spaces.
Just fucking hilarious. I hate that kind of crap. I hadn’t come there to be on the Flight To Mars.
At any rate my crankiness should be taken with a grain of salt, considering I have a thing about my personal space being trotted upon in public situations. So(back to bitstreams) of course a lot of pieces in the exhibit where shown like this.
There was also a bank of audio pieces that you had to stand in line for and when I put the head phones on, I got some asshole’s idea of an art piece- total feedback.
Glenn Branca none withstanding, I didn’t see the merit in that.
So do I have any thing constructive to bring to this?
1. First of all, I think the Whitney was burdened by being a high profile art institution shouldered with the responsibility, shall we say, of convincing people this is art. I think the blandness (for my taste) of the show reflects that fact.
2. My first thought after stepping away from the exhibit was, “this is a curatorial problem”.
3. My other thought was, “the technology is still young and awkward- that must be the problem”.
4. My last thought was – “it’s me, I am stupid for coming here on a Friday night because I am too cheap to pay full admission so I am stuck with the hordes of other Pay-As-You-Wish attendees,which didn’t allow any breathing space”.
One other thing I chewed on was I don’t know if some of the pieces were really justified being blown up to a size for mass (crowd) consumption. Perhaps I am used to being alone at my desk, peacefully grazing.
Lest it appears that I have some vendetta going against digital art,I hope that is not true. I have twice seen the downstairs digital lounge at the New Museum and really enjoyed what I saw. They have presented their works in a more, shall we call it “casual environment” though. I guess there was just something about the presentation at bitstreams that rubbed me the wrong way that night. Who knows.
That same evening I proceeded to go up one more floor and immensely enjoy a quiet, intimate retrospective survey of Kenneth Josephson’s photography. Hardly anyone was on the floor.
At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum from Mr. McCarthy, is the extraordinary painter Julie Heffernan. We found ourselves a few blocks down the way from the New Museum at a Soho’s,P.P.O.W. gallery.
Until a couple days ago,I was not even aware there was not only one, but two shows of her painting in NYC this month. As usual it is always a treat to see her work. In my humble opinion, she is the most talented painter on New York’s horizon. This new work retains its wonderful organic focus,continuing to combine those elaborate Velazquez suggestive self portraits with nature(and landscapes). This time around though she has snuck in bright pigments(lots of pinks hues)and additionally found a way to return to those strange allegorical “paintings-within-a-painting” that I first witnessed at the beginning of last decade. I almost missed this show (it all comes down in a couple of weeks) which I would have really kicked myself over later.
I feel very fortunate that I had the good luck to stumble upon her work eight years ago,for it has been fascinating to see how she has evolved. Her technique alone is phenomenal, I don’t know who as a contemporary, in this country anyway, would be considered comparable. As usual I find it really surprising she has not had more critical attention, although I suppose her quiet subject matter (oriented in the manner of seventeenth century still life painting) doesn’t qualify as hype provoking. All the better for viewers.
At any rate I could go on and on about the pleasure her work brings. A second exhibit of her painting can be found uptown at Littlejohn Contemporary Gallery, which I am hoping to grace with in the next week. At P.P.O.W. I purchased a catalogue of this new work for a reasonable $10.00.