Monday, September 19, 2011

Autumn in Chelsea.

The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.
-Andy Warhol

Between Thursday and Friday of last week, over 90 openings were unveiled; just about half took place in the Chelsea area.  Quite the scene, residents back from their summer get-a-ways and visitors from all over donned the Chelsea blocks, frolicking to their favorite galleries in anticipation for the newest cream of the crop. Indeed, the lulled days of summer were over and fall, ahh, fall time in Chelsea had arrived.  

The streets of Chelsea during a fall opening night.

Agenda, pen, notepad and of course camera in hand, I started off at NYC's oldest alternative art space, White Columns on W13th street, right on the borders of the West Village and Meat Packing districts, where an all art-star exhibition was taking place.  

White Columns, 320 West 13th Street

Some years ago, Gordon Matta-Clark, the American artist who turned food dining into an exotic event and is best known for his building cuts, with the help of the lesser known artist, Jefferey Lew, sought to and succeeded in exhibiting and developing workshops to help those that did not have the luxury of gallery representation. The two experimental artists became pioneers that spurred on the artist-run space movement.

Much can change, and more so in this case, enrich throughout forty years.  I stepped in, and it had that gallery vibe, with the "gallerinas" (gallery staff) behind the tall desk, the displayed catalogues and press releases and the infamous closed-off back room. Maybe White Columns does not hold the same rugged basement feel it once had when it dwelled on 112 Greene Street in the 70s, but that was then and this is now. The current exhibition, Perfect Man II, curated by Rita Ackermann and Parinaz Mogadassi, held a plethora of sustenance as they juxtaposed the emerging with blue-chip artists.  Featuring a mostly male cast, just as Perfect Man I from 2007 featured mainly women, the exhibit is about men who attempt to free themselves from reference for a purer self discovery, through sometimes perverted, destructive and pointless studies (see the following five images/ descriptions below), by stepping outside the banalities of art. The show, premised on gender issues, broadcasts art stars, Bas Jan Ader, Richard Sierra, the artist collective labeled Bernadette Corporation, and Peter Doig (amongst several others); alongside were emerging artists, Antonin R. Artaud, Hank Hivnor a.k.a. PsychicHank, and Romeo Klein.  

Ken Okiishi, David Wojnarwicz in New York, 1999/2000, DVD, color/ sound, 18:05 minutes, Edition of 5 + 2 AP
To the left is me watching the DVD  on the right by Okiishi as he pays a witted homage to the late David Wojnarowicz.  One clip written by Wojnarowicz takes place on the piers near the West Side Highway, while a narrator, Mike, speaks of him disappointed that a tranny was actually a girl, but simply embraces the moment as he gives her pleasure while they watch The Sound of Music. Hows that for a self-discovery? 

Romeo Klein, Territories, 2011, chalk, variable
A discreet artwork by Klein rests atop the gallery table, with the intention of visitors to carry off.  Another "self-discovery" piece as he writes of his need to smoke marijuana before sexual relations with a woman.  Quite uncensored, the piece is pointless and explicitly pornographic but meaningful in the premise of the exhibition.  I guess the marijuana is where the self discovery comes into play. 

Dan Graham,  Past Future Split Attention, 1972, video transferred to DVD, b&w w/ sound, 17:03 minutes
The psychological study questions and restructures, space and time. Graham writes of the piece,
 "Two people who know each other are in the same space. While one predicts continuously the other person's behavior, the other person recounts (by memory) the other's past behavior. Both performers are in the present, so knowledge of the past is needed to continuously deduce future behavior (in terms of causal relation). For one to see the other in terms of the present (attention), there is a mirror reflection or closed figure-eight feedback/feedahead loop of past/future. One person's behavior reciprocally reflects/depends upon the other's, so that each one's information is seen as a reflection of the effect that their own just-past behavior has had in reversed tense, as perceived from the other's view of himself.
(Above quote courtesy of 

Today White Columns bides true to exhibiting non-represented and emerging artists but I must admit, it was a clever approach in displaying them alongside the blue-chips, as this will benefit the former and jump-start an always desired, bustling season. 

Impressed by my first stop, I was excited for the next. Heading further up into the heart of Chelsea, I popped into Lombard Freid Projects, where they held a solo exhibition, Snobs Behind Ketchup, featuring the works of the Indonesian artist, Eko Nugroho.  His first NYC solo show, the self-made artist created a cartoon-like, colorful and whimsical land within the gallery and the garden area in the back.  Nugroho is a jack of all trades with his use of paintings, embroidery, sculpture, site-specific murals, shadow puppets and video projections that depict surreal characters that fuse human, machines, animals and plants to create an alternate universe. The show is curated like a storyboard that conveys an underlying message about an ambiguous reality, where a child-like environment can subdue the harsh realities of his homeland. Nugroho says of his exhibition, 
The lone figure, whose face is concealed by masks, helmet, or machine parts, never reveals his true self. His many manifestations represent the players involved in the unfolding of [Eko’s] narrative. He is the silent messenger and the narrator; he is you, me, we, Everyman and the Other all at once.” 
(Courtesy of Lombard Freid Projects' press release)

The above four images are highlights from the solo-exhibition, Snobs Behind Ketchup, featuring the works of Indonesian artist, Eko Nugroho, at Lombard Freid Projects.  
The purple embroidered shadow puppet above illustrates an alien-like character hidden beneath, where the artist invites the viewer to literally peel back the folds.

A subliminally morbid exhibition, I deciphered Eko's idioms and was ready for the next stop on my agenda.  A change of pace and not on my lineup of galleries, I dropped into Printed Matter, Inc, a book store that was a having a signing for the professional skateboarder and artist, Mark Gonzales a.k.a. "The Gonz", who collaborated with the photographer, Benjamin Deberdt, in the publication of Le Cercle.  The book covers the 2009 project, 'Circle Board' - basically, Gonzales affixed nine skateboards from end to end to form a circle and rode his creation around the Eiffel Tower, while Deberdt took black and white grainy photographs of the 'event'. Then the photos were shipped to New York, along with Gonzales himself, where he added his 'special touch' to them with some poetry, odd shaped characters and markers. 

Left, professional skateboarder and artist, Mark Gonzales, middle, me, and right, photographer, Benjamin Deberdt

Meeting the producers of the book was a great experience but the time was 'a tickin' and I needed to get moving! Next stop was to Sikkema Jenkins & Co., a gallery featuring a solo exhibition for one of my favorite artists, Vik Muniz, who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple years back at the MoMA, where he selected works from the permanent collection to create his curated exhibition, Rebus.  Unlike his curated exhibition, this show featured his creations, in the show titled, Pictures of Magazines 2, an extension to Pictures of Garbage, where he used garbage as his medium. Instead of physical garbage, Muniz re-created icons from the history of representation using images and texts taken from books and magazines from various sources. Beautifully, masterfully and meticulously constructed, the works are larger than life portrayals of Western Culture in the modern times.  

Vik Muniz
Gustave Caillebotte’s, Floor Scrapers, 2011
Mixed media
Detail of Gustave Caillebotte’s, Floor Scrapers, 2011 image.

After Muniz, I headed to a few more uninspiring openings that were not nearly as striking as those mentioned.  Between gallery hops, I came across this random camouflaged shopping cart affixed to a pole. The culprit? None other than the intriguing lady artist, Olek, who is best known for her crocheted found objects, as seen below.  Her first shopping cart, who she views more as a shrine associated with American life than a found object once it's sheathed, made its debut back in 2003 on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway. Back then the cart carried the phrase "Don’t Steal From The Public”  plastered on the side. 

Crocheted Shopping Cart

Finally, I trekked home, but couldn't resist stopping by the JC Fridays Arts Festival in Jersey City, where I listened to a live band and purchased some affordable art (see below). Although New York is my Artopia, I am still an Artoholic, so, where there is art, there I am. 

Me, checking out the art scene. at the JC Fridays Arts Festival in Historic Downtown Jersey City.

A purchase I made at the JC Fridays Arts Festival from the artist.
Aleksander Milenkovic
Untitled, 2011
Mixed media, oil pastel
Ed. 206 of 300

All images displayed in the above post, were taken by me, with the exception of those I am featured in - thank you to all the by-standers for your several clicks of my camera. 

Stay tuned for the next post, where I feature a detailed listing of nation and worldwide blockbuster museum openings throughout 2011/12.

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