It’s been quite some time since I last wrote about a trip to Chelsea. It’s not that I hadn’t seen some good shows over the spring and summer — the amazing Chuck Close tapestry & painting show at Pace Wildenstein and the Yayoi Kusama show at Gagosian come to mind — but no single trip to the district had me fired up enough to write about it.
Tonight, though, was the big opening night for many galleries and the neighborhood was packed! It felt to me like the city was ready for Fall, looking for the new art season to push a melancholy summer into the past. My wife and I made it to perhaps a dozen shows and quite a few were worth noting. We worked our way down the streets first to hit a few exhibitions during normal gallery hours, then worked our way back northward to some of the official opening receptions.
On 25th Street, at Pace Wildenstein, the James Turrell show of “Large Holograms” was well worth a visit. The show consists of fifteen “light works”, each approximately five or six feet high and a few feet wide. Each work is comprised of a holographic panel as well as one or two colored lights illuminating the panel from the ceiling. Most pieces feature one or two geometric shapes such as triangles or elipses. Rather than looking like photographic images of more familiar holograms, these look like three dimensional colored shapes of light that move as you change your viewpoint. The shapes and compositions are for the most part simple, but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to spend time with each piece trying to figure out how it works.
Moving southward, we then visited the other Chelsea incarnation of Pace on 22nd Street for an even more dramatic exhibition. While Turrell had us moving left and right in front of the holograms, Maya Lin’s “Three Ways of Looking at the Earth” made you want to circle all the way around (and even under and through) the artwork. The first, and most dramatic piece, consists of approximately 50,000 2×4 blocks of wood laid out in a large rectangle, standing upwards on end. The planks are cut and arranged so that, taken together, they form a huge wave. The effect is similar to a Tara Donovan sculpture, where an accumulation of objects turns into something beautiful. But the hard, solid wood produces a different visual effect than the stacks of every day objects such as plastic cups that you might find in a Donovan piece. The second Lin work, Blue Lake Pass, is composed of approximately 20 separate components, each of which is made up of a couple dozen boards of wood sandwiched together, with the tops shaved into a sort of pixelated terrain (based upon a region of Southwest Colorado). It’s a beautiful visual effect that’s hard to describe, but one that has you walking around the piece to take in all of the angles and slopes. The third piece was less compelling: it consisted of a large aluminum wire gridded sculpture, suspended from the ceiling, whose shape corresponds to a region of the Atlantic Ocean’s floor.
We eventually reached the southernmost tip of our tour, now in “opening reception” territory, and started heading back uptown. At Kim Foster gallery, Sherry Karver has an exhibition entitled, “Private Stories / Public Places.” I had first seen and admired Karver’s work last year at the same gallery. The work here is similar, with a few new twists, and I had a chance to ask the artist about her process. Each painting depicts a scene from a crowded location such as a train station or a city street, populated with what might have been anonymous passers-by. But superimposed upon select characters from these scenes are textual elements, mini biographies that reveal in efficient terms a personality, peccadilloes and all. To make these pieces, Karver begins by printing out (on her own large format Epson printer) black-and-white digitally manipulated scenes that serve as sort of underpainting. The prints are then mounted onto a solid support. Multiple glazes and layers of oil paint provide all of the color in the images, and if you look close enough you can find traces of brush stroke. Finally, a glossy, thick resin is poured and spread evenly over the painting to provide a uniform, polished look. The resin is new to this series, as is the occasional presence of desaturated, ghost-like figures which the artist uses to indicate the passing of time (as if the figure had been there for part of a long exposure, but then had left before the photo was complete). The typefaces used for the textual elements vary with the particular character and Karver says that matching the font with the figure is an important decision in the painting (hmmm, if you could be a font, which font would you be?)
At Danese, Valerie Giles’s works on paper — her first solo exhibition according to the gallery press release — are fantastic. The drawings that I liked the best are the more abstract ones, full of curvilinear, biomorphic swirls of the pencil. There’s a sense of dynamism, confidence, and interplay that makes you want to follow the strokes around the paper.
Finally, Yigal Ozeri’s latest show at Mike Weiss gallery is definitely worth seeing for its virtuosity of paint handling. Although some of the magic disappears when you learn that Ozeri has a team of assistants helping him to paint, some of whom specialize in areas such as flesh or foliage, the paintings themselves still stand on their own. In this series, “Desire for Anima”, Ozeri focuses his gaze on youthful women frollicking about in fields. He begins with a crew of video and still photographers to gather his cinematic source material and then begins the hyper-photorealistic painting process.
It was a very promising start to the 2009 art season!