Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yes. We've Got Contact.

This has happened more than once. I think I'm getting jaded because I'm so immediately turned off by just about everything that I'm seeing; and then, out of the blue, I come across something that puts all my self-doubts to rest.

I attended the DUMBO Arts Festival back in October. I usually find work I like at Smack Mellon or the DAC so I was optimistic. The performance piece with an electric guitar and many leotarded bodies in the Fulton Ferry Park should have been all the warning I needed, but what can I say. Sometimes I'm too hopeful for my own good. At any rate, I started looking. And looking. And loooooking. Nothing was turning my crank. The videos at Smack Mellon and the text-based works at DAC left me cold. I never found the Space 1026 installation. I just was not being moved. That's when I started to question myself. Am I seeing too much art? Have I become jaded? Was I experiencing some kind of general art fatigue? Walking around the arts festival I certainly felt fatigued.

That's about the time I was stopped in my tracks. (That's when it always happens, isn't it?) Suddenly, I was having a one of those mini Stendhal moments, and everything was going to be just fine. There, on the sidewalk, was a collection of pieces that immediately grabbed me. If there's one thing I've learned in all my art viewing it's to always obey that pull. It tells me just about everything I'm ever going to need to know about the work.

Turns out that it was the work of a Pratt student, Vannessa Bucci. She wasn't even part of the festival. I should have known. She paid for a permit to sell her work on the street. Other people with street permits were selling jewelry and scarves. Bucci did not fit into that category, and she certainly didn't fit in with all the bad art in the festival. So, maybe it was perfect that I found her out on the sidewalk. Or maybe it was just typical.

Whatever. It kicked me in the head and then some. I can't say that I completely understand the process, but the end result is a wonderful thing. Using photo etching and silk screening she creates work that is as delicate as it is caustic, as jagged as it is inviting. Disembodied wrists and hands reach for laptops, viruses, bad text. All the things we're touching while we're not touching.

Bucci exploits our overload. We can't come to her. We're too locked in, too hooked up. So, the artist comes to us in a place where are wrists are numb, our eyes are bleary, and our hearts are aching. She comes to us, finds her way into the house, and drops our baggage inside the door. If we're lucky we'll trip over it in the morning.

Yes. It's a viewpoint we've seen before, but is that a bad thing? It's something we humans seem to need to be reminded of, constantly. One way or another, the best art always reminds us to wake up, lest we become the ghosts sleeping in our own machines. You can agree with Bucci or not. It certainly won't take away from the beauty of her work. There is a deft hand at work here, and I'm glad it found me.

Vanessa Bucci is having a exhibition of her work at the 240 East Gallery on the Pratt Institute campus, 2000 Willoughby Ave., from Dec. 5 through Dec. 9.

Power Spot.

Maya Lin opening things up in my hometown. The Peace Chapel at Juniata College was the project she did right after the Viet Nam War Memorial. It's some kind of cosmic anchor.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Color Me Thankful.

Wyeth's Groundhog Day. I know. It's not Thanksgiving, but the colors seemed right. This is my favorite Wyeth. He so often managed to screw up things like this. 97% of the painting would be perfect and then he'd use some dud color over in the corner that was so off that it's spectral gravity would pull the whole thing crashing into the dirt. Not with this one. This is nothing but on.

Everybody have a great holiday.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fed Up With Being Sweet.

Easily my favorite name for a show ever. Apparently, these women have had enough of it. Salon Show and Benefit Auction Tonight. Click here for the list of participating artists.

147 Bowery @ Broome, 6-9

Monday, November 14, 2005

Jenny Dubnau's Opening, This Thursday At PPOW.

November 17, 6-8 pm
555 West 25th Street, 2nd Floor

It's gonna be kickin'. I paid Dubnau a studio visit in August and the new work was looking strong. Really, really strong. You can read about my visit here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Gray Kapernekas Gallery.

I ran into Alex Gray at the Creative Council party for Ellen Harvey's wonderful new book, New York Beautification Project. We usually spend our conversations waxing poetic about Warhol, but Alex had news this time. He and Venetia Kapernekas have opened a gallery in Chelsea that focuses on mid-career artists. Can I just say how refreshing that is? You know the rules here. I just want to see good art, and I think it's a crime when good work doesn't get the attention it deserves just because it doesn't fit into some power-guarding marketing mold. Thankfully there are galleries like Gray Kapernekas.

Their next show, with Sam Samore, will be open this coming weekend.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Power Pop.

Let me save you the 11.99 you might be tempted to spend on Art Review's Power 100 issue. To boil the fat off of everything for you, number 6 on The Best Shows Of The Year list captures the spirit of this fetid thing.

"6. Damien Hirst, Gagosian Gallery, New York
It may have had critics shaking their heads at Hirst's over-inflation, but the enthusiasm of buyers, and rumours that the larger works were selling for $2 million dollars a piece, made this one of the most talked-about shows of the year."

The Hirst was a crap show, and everybody knows it was a crap show.

So, um. is it really the best time to be judging art based on "the enthusiasm of buyers"? At Phillips de Pury on Saturday I found that there were an inordinate number of pieces on the block that had been in shows just a year or two ago. That tells me that (a) buyers don't trust their own judgements, or more likely (b) investment is a large factor in buying right now. Of course, people are still spending boatloads of money on art because they love it, but the collective taste of buyers is a bit skewed at the moment.

I've been a record geek all my life so I'm a big fan of lists, but I almost never trust public conversations about power. People confuse it with celebrity and influence. I know. That's the context that Art Review has given us. Fine. Whatever. Here's what I call power . . . Zach Feuer in the July 2005 issue of Art + Auction: "I wouldn't dream of poaching another dealer's work."

It's called honor and respect y'all, and it will kick your ass everytime.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Buddha Machine.

All you need. I received mine in the mail today, and I couldn't be happier or more confused. It's baffling, wonderful, and full of Breath.

Hirst Be Gone.

I'm an unashamed lover of looking at art in auction houses. There are all kinds of justifiable beefs that people have with the feeding frenzy nature of it all (especially in these filthy times). Me? I just want to see good art. And as much of it as possible. Auction houses provide a messy and overwhelming experience in that area. I like it.

I bring this up because of a particularly hilarious room I walked into at Phillips de Pury on Saturday. Agnes Martin, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst. The Koons was pretty grand, but the Martin barely had to lift a finger to put it in it's place. And the Hirst? Well, you can imagine. From dirth to dust in the bat of Martin's eye.

On the PdP site they offered up this quote from Hirst with image of the painting:
"I see every spot within each painting as being alone yet together with all the other spots; I can find the pieces sad or happy, or even dumb. I think I'll always make them. The end result is always optimistic, no matter how I feel"

Y'know, when Warhol used the word "dumb" it was Andy being Andy. It was an opening. When Hirst uses the same word it just feels like an escape hatch.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


On Sunday I went to see the Carlos Roque show at Joymore. This tiny but consistently excellent gallery has become one of the best reasons to make the trek to Williamsburg. Thanks to a Halloween party that was a little too good the night before I was dragging when I got off the G train. However, as soon as I looked through the gallery's front window the haze began to lift and fast. It downright disappeared once I got inside. Pierogi is still a reliable and solid standby (and the current Daniel Zeller show is a predictable kick), but Joymore has become my go-to gallery for thrilling art. Seriously, man. Just exhilarating. I'll be writing more about it for Fallon and Rosof. Speaking of which, here's my review of Joymore's last show. In the meantime here are some pics. (Definitely a good time to click-on-the-pic for full effect.)