Monday, April 30, 2007


This is the last week to see Jenny Dubnau's new paintings at Bernice Steinbaum in Miami, a series of self-portraits juxtaposed with paintings of flowers. I saw some of these in Dubnau's studio before she shipped them off. I was least interested in the flowers until I noticed a subtle detail--a theme, really--that all the flowers had in common. They were just on the very edge of beginning to wither. The slightest darkening of the petals, a faint curling. No matter how it's represented the descent has begun. Face or flora, these paintings are the artist staring into a mirror. Dubnau, in her mid-early 40's, packs all the emotions--sadness, anger, but also power--that one would expect to see from this vantage point. In the end the work feels honest, and most significantly, hopeful. This series of paintings isn't about how life moves out of us as much as it is about how we can move through it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Off The Page.

If you're going to Chelsea today, this is the last day to see the Works On Paper show at D'Amelio Terras. John Morris of Digging Pitt Gallery and blog fame has some exquisite and unruly drawings in the show. I very much liked Case Calkin's orgasms of nature, but Morris's work is where I spent most of my time. They reminded me of Sly & The Family Stone records. No matter how Morris lays down the tracks they've got their own, unique and unstoppable grooves. Sometimes the beats go careening off the paper, and sometimes they stop short of the edge. Whatever time they're keeping, there's always a sophisticated intentionality behind them. It shows a total control of rhythm and motion by the artist. Magical and engrossing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cover Up.

I need to say something about the Marilyn Minter c-print in the Foam of the Daze show at Smith-Stewart. I pretty much can't get it out of my head. And when I do, I miss it. There are some other wonderful pieces in this show, Kate Gilmore's and Ylva Ogland's among them, but the main reason you need to see this show is Minter's photo, Unarmed (Pamela Anderson). This is an image that lies at the very core of her work.

When Creative Time did a studio visit with Minter last year she mentioned that she was going to work with a big star who had freckles. She, understandably, didn't want to say who it was. My guess was Lindsay Lohan. I should have known better. It was Pamela Anderson. Huh? Pamela Anderson? Freckles? Who woulda guessed it? Actually, the real question is, "Who would have allowed us to guess it?" Certainly not the entertainment and fashion industry in which Minter practices her day job as a photographer.

Minter shot for the center of the target when she chose her subject here. Anderson is an icon. We've all seen her image thousands of times whether we've wanted to or not, and yet we've never really been able to see her. The freckles, usually considered an imperfection by the industry, are always hidden under a wall of foundation. Minter is on the inside. She knows exactly what's being covered up, whether it be dirty feet or hair above the lip of a supermodel. The perfection being sold to us stops just behind the scrim of makeup, and is never achieved without the help Photoshop. With this photo the artist burns the curtain and pisses on the stage of our conditioning. Kudos to Anderson for understanding what she was getting into, and thanks to both her and Minter for helping us step out of it. Un-fucking-missable.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just Press Pause. (taped over)

I'm always bemused (and a little scared) when things from the underground "rise" to the surface. In the May issue of Modern Painters (Wow. Could an art mag website be more pointless?) there's a wide-ranging article on cassette tapes penned by Alan Licht, the Bob Weir of Noise. Thankfully well-written, it's a good historical primer on the events and years that brought us to Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now opening at Printed Matter on May 12. Licht does a fantastic job of conveying the seemingly irrational affection that some of us have for the tape format. Obviously this is a subject close to my heart, so I feel the need to fill in the some of the blanks left behind.

I had one quibble with the Licht's article, and that was the omission of one of the most crucial players in the contemporary tape and noise community, Hospital Productions. This slight will be partially corrected when HP head, Dominick Fernow, guest curates at the Printed Matter show. The label's releases are primarily noise and unstable, scabrous drones. It's a significant oversight on Licht's part because not only does Hospital release aurally and visually intoxicating cassettes, they also have a retail shop in New York that specializes in both noise and black metal* cassettes (also, vinyl and CDs). There are probably a handful of places like this on the planet. Fernow has put as much care into creating the environment of the store as he has the design and production of his releases. Both the work and the works embody a very specific place.

I already had a couple of their releases, but I fell madly in love with Heavy Tapes when I came across their booth at the NY Art Book Fair. Maya Miller's cover designs are consistently compelling, and the quality control on the music at the label is always top notch. Heavy Tapes releases run the gamut from noise to drone to pure electronic explorations.

What the Recycled series lacks in finesse, it makes up in duct tape and the subversion of not just the cassette format, but the entire recording industry. By covering the tabs the releases are dubbed over old crappy pre-recorded cassettes probably found in the 25 cent bin at Value City. On the Merzbow joint there are times when the dubbing has failed and the ghosts of the it-was-useless-before-but-now-it's-really-useless music effectively become a part of Merzbow's composition. My favorite tape in the series is by Skin Crime. Recorded over a Bad English cassette, when the caustic wonder of Skin Crime's music stops, the listener is left with the tail end of John Waite and Neal Schon's bad idea. It's a hilarious moment, and it's also appropriation and deconstruction at its best. When you see me smile, indeed.

Chances are, you won't like this stuff. Trust me. Listen to a couple hours of Filthy Turd and call me when you're done cleaning up. One of the funniest things that I've seen in the art world (And let's face it. We're on fertile ground here.) was when a DJ at the NY Art Book Fair played a noise record. I witnessed no less than three booth holders run over to ask him to turn it off almost immediately. It can get a little rough. Personally, I love the immersion that noise insists upon. Forget how I started this paragraph. Get your noise on. I dare you.

Here's a list of the contemporary cassette labels listed in the Modern Painters article with a couple distributors thrown in for good measure.

American Tapes
bone tooth horn
Heavy Tapes
Hospital Productions
Fag Tapes
Fuck It Tapes
Hanson Records
RRR Records
Self Abuse Records

*The history of the black metal tape scene alone has filled the pages of several books and countless websites. A few artists, Banks Violette and Matthew Barney, have tapped this dark vein for the undercurrent of contemporary cultural it tends to expose.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Sometimes when I get my haircut I walk across White street and pass the Synagogue for the Arts. I plotz like a muthafucka every time.* Hands down, one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the city.

*I'm quite proud of myself. I just googled it, and it seems that this is the first time the phrase "plotz like a muthafucka" has been used on the internet. I rule.

The Only Thing Dumber Than Opening Night In Chelsea . . .

. . . is opening night on the Lower East Side. Not a surprise though. And really, not a complaint. Openings are openings. At this point, anybody who goes to an opening expecting to see--let alone think about--the art is just delusional.

Again, that's ok. There are ways around this. Last night I just walked over to Spring Street Natural, had a martini and their relatively magical SESAME CRUSTED SASHIMI RARE YELLOWFIN TUNA STEAK with a soy mirin glaze, served with wasabi mashed potatoes, sauteed baby bok choy and crispy leeks entree. (Serious love, obviously.) Then I went back to the scene of this crowd control issue, Amy Smith-Stewart's new gallery on Stanton, Smith-Stewart.

Marilyn Minter, Unarmed (Pamela Anderson), C-print, 36 x 50 in, 2007.

Still didn't see much of the art without shoulders and hands included in the deal, but that's to be expected and I plan to return this afternoon to view it without the obstructions (And the BO. Shower, kids. You can do it! I promise it won't wash away any of that cool you've worked so hard to maintain.). The two main draws for me are a Marilyn Minter c-print and a video by one of my faves, Kate Gilmore.

Kate Gilmore, video still from Baby, Belong to Me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Yeah. I thought that'd get your attention. I lifted it from Frank Haine's totally illin' blog which was listed on the Creative Time staff's top ten websites over at NYArts. I just posted the link and a slew of other items over at my Creative Time blog including a gallery hop on the LES and a farewell to CT artist and friend Sol LeWitt. Of special interest might be the interview on NYSD with the philanthropist and Creative Time/Whitney board member, Joanne Cassullo. This is someone who knows how to get it done, kids.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Window Dressing.

This wasn't as cool as the Dan Flavin at 5 Worth I came across in February, but I'll take it. Last night, walking through SoHo I found these two Ryan McGinness dresses in the Agnes B. window. Righteous.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Heart-Shaped Box

OK. Agenda fueled by love. Here we go. Hopefully every month.

Alexander Gray Associates
Jo Baer, April 4th - May 12th 2007
In his review of Cary Leibowitz's show last month, Jerry Saltz said of Alexander Gray Associates, "Whether it's a noble cause or a survival strategy, this gallery's stated mission is to 'focus on mid-career artists who emerged in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.'" I don't know. I vote for all of the above. A deep well too seldomly drawn from, a little integrity, and good health . . . sounds like a good foundation for a gallery to me.

The less I tell you about the Jo Baer show, the better. (No pun intended.) Neither abstract or minimalist, these paintings offer a new twist on the afterimage, and they will crush you. Look, and look hard. You'll find the skeleton key to these works in the white edges that frame them.

Little Cakes
Closed for the month, but Christopher Martin's SHAPESHIFTERS opens April 20th. Thrilling little gallery in Alphabet City. Nobody knows how to exploit a small space for the good of the art like the Cakes crew. Last month the gallery showed Cristina Toro's engrossing paintings in two consecutive installations. Two months ago, Oliver Halsman Rosenberg mounted some of the paintings in his show on a big wheel that the viewer turned by pedaling an exercise bike. What's not to love about that?

Corey McCorkle, opens April 14.
In all ways, this gallery is in a category by itself. I love the confidence of Michelle Maccarone's eye. I love the new space. And I love the refusenik attitude towards Chelsea. A few years ago I was talking to a friend about Marian Goodman's gallery on 57th street. She said, "Goodman doesn't need Chelsea." I feel the same way about Maccarone.

Image lifted from Saatchi

I wandered into the new space on the last day of the Christian Jankowski's disorienting, challenging, and surprisingly touching show, Super Classical. What does it mean to be ignored and seen at the same time?

When I went to see the Jankowski the floor of one of the rooms was lined with Corey McCorkle photographs waiting to be hanged for his show that opens Saturday. Um. Yeah. Kind of beautiful. And kind of lonely. Actually, I hope that the gallery doesn't hang the photos on the wall but leaves them as I saw them: leaning against the wall in various stages of being unwrapped. That would augment the theme of the work. Again, what does it mean to be ignored and seen at the same time?

Outrageous Look, MARCH 17 - APRIL 22, 2007
Gavin Green, March 17-April 22

Love this gallery. Love this gallery. Love this gallery. Either last year or the year before they received the Village Voice's "Most Consistently Interesting Gallery" tag. True, but so much more. They're fearless when it comes to beauty. That's not an easy row to hoe these days, and they do it with aplomb.

I finally saw Gavin Green's stunning show at Outrageous Look Tuesday night. Hard to believe it's his first solo show. The colors in the above painting, Now, are almost impossible. (Click on the image for a serious closeup.) It's the first piece I saw when I entered the gallery. I had a visceral reaction to it, smack dab between nausea and lust, tipping slightly towards the latter. The Voice review references Barnett Newman and Carl Andre, but I'd also add Richard Tuttle to the list. Pay attention to what happens outside the object. Whatever you do, get out to see this show. Sunday is your last chance.

Venetia Kapernekas
Margo Victor, March 22-April 28
Venetia Kapernekas seems to have a special gift for showing artists with whom I should be familiar, but I'm not. They then proceed to kick my ass. Turning on a dime the gallery will shift from exploding plastic inevitable one month to exquisite the next. Not a problem, because it's always good. Very, very good.

Up now is Margo Victor's utterly delightful Space Oddity, which I went off about here. Martin liked this one as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No, She Is Not.

Negation of Jo Baer painting by HAA.

Forget whatever preconceptions you might have regarding Jo Baer's work, and then think about her 1983 essay "I am no longer an abstract artist". Next, go get schooled by her new show of paintings at Alexander Gray (Opening tonight). She's never been afraid to do what needs to be done or say what needs to be said. Listen up, class.