After visiting the show in Newark, I headed into Manhattan to for this year’s first trip to Chelsea. Although many of the galleries are still closed for the winter break, it was opening night for many shows. Even with the chilly and windy weather, the receptions still drew good crowds. In an economy where nobody wants to spend any money, free wine and free art (at least to look at) is a bargain.
I was glad to catch the Al Held show at Paul Kasmin, which I had accidentally missed on my last trip to the neighborhood. The exhibition consists of approximately half a dozen medium-sized paintings (for Held they’re medium-sized, for me they would be gigantic), each a highly saturated, hard-edged colorscape of perspectival scaffolding and twisting roller-coaster-like beams. In what I consider a sign of a good show, the other two people in the gallery with me were similarly scrutinizing the paintings carefully, from near and afar, from the front and from the sides, looking for color and composition, working to see how they’re all put together.
There are a couple of interesting shows on 23rd Street, a street that often gets short shrift on my visits to Chelsea. At Pavel Zoubok Gallery, George Deem has a show entitled, “We Were There”. It features a series of gouache and oil paintings (I think) whose subject matter is taken from combinations of famous works by the masters, particularly Vermeer. Of particular note is “Sargent Vermeer”, which places one of the girls from Sargent’s “Daughters of E D Boit” (perhaps my all-time favorite painting) into a Vermeer interior, with the Sargent painting itself hanging on the wall Vermeer-style.
Also on 23rd Street at Leo Koenig (extended beyond its Jan 3 end date) is an exhibition of works on paper by Christian Schumann. Each of the pieces in this show consist of obsessive, meticulous, paper-filling drawings of a sort of fictional landscape that’s reminiscent of the movie Wall-e. The imagery is of blobs of… something, perhaps organisms, maybe robotic, mostly organic, not a lot of straight lines. Although all of the works are fairly similar except for differences in the light washes of color underneath the drawing, there’s a cumulative effect of seeing so many of these works lined up in the gallery one after the other. Given the nature of my own work, I can appreciate the kind of voluminous mark-making and mindful process that must have gone into each of these pieces.
At Kathryn Markel gallery on 20th Street, there’s a fine exhibition of oil paintings on aluminum panels by California artist Tyrell Collins. Each of the panels contains a lovingly painted landscape in mostly yellowish hues, a combination of trees and fields. The aluminum supports make these perceptually very interesting, as the works can glow depending upon the angle of view, an effect that reminded me of Daguerreotype photos.
There’s a very nifty show at Gana Art, a gallery that consistently puts on high quality shows. Korean artist Lee Jung-Woong shows a dozen paintings in a series called, “Brush”. Each work presents a very finely depicted paintbrush on top of an ink-splattered piece of paper, and you’re compelled to think about how the work was painted and what it’s a painting of. The press release says that the artist splatters Chinese ink on the “canvas” (though I think the supports are stretched Korean paper) and then renders the brushes in oil paint.
Finally, there’s a beautiful show of “Railings & Shadows” by Andrew Jones at George Billis Gallery. Jones (who’s a friend of a friend of mine) captures the light on the stoops and railings that line the streets of the West Village. The paintings are representational but through cropping and carefully selected points of view have somewhat abstract compositions. My favorite pieces in this series are the ones where the articulations of the brush are visible even in what would be a flat area of color, giving you something very interesting to look at up close. Some of the works — the ones with the most contrast, I think — really pop when you stand back, especially “West 15th Street Newels” (already sold!).