Today was the first day of the Art20 fair at the Park Avenue Armory and I used the occasion to visit several shows on 57th Street as well. I had hoped to make it up to the Met to catch Vermeer, but with the wind whipping away under threatening gray skies and a need to get to Trenton by 6pm for an opening, I had to save Johannes for another day.
It’s rare that I’ll return to see the same exhibition at a museum more than once. In 2002, however, the Gerhard Richter retrospective at MoMA really blew me away. I recall visiting that show at least three times — there was so much to see and so much variety. So it was with much excitement that I approached the Marian Goodman Gallery (24 W 57th) for what was Richter’s first NY show in four years. The first room is full of “White Paintings” (which started out as green paintings): large paintings that have been squeegeed over with white paint. I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that whatever was underneath the white might have been more interesting than the result, though one that was less green and more mauve had my eyes searching for gestalt.
In the second room, some more familiar looking Richter abstractions of squeegeed, contrasting colors shared the space with lacquer-behind-glass paintings. The glass works are arranged as diptychs in the gallery, though not on the web site, and the are probably the most enjoyable pieces in the show as they were something different, with the 2-part arrangements giving your mind something to do in puzzling together the composition.
In the back room are some more white paintings as well as a few smaller works that have representational elements, such as this one, which to me reads as landscape (even in its portrait orientation).
Overall, I left this show somewhat disappointed, not because of any real problem with the work or with the installation, but only because I didn’t feel any of that same excitement that came with the MoMA show. Whether that’s due to changes in my own appreciation of art or in changes to Richter’s work, I can’t tell.
In the same building, the Michael Rosenfeld gallery has a wonderful small show of paintings by abstract expressionist Norman Lewis (1909-1979). This gallery consistently puts on museum-quality shows with a focus on “expanding the canon of American art” and “increasing the visibility of under-recognized American artists”, often African-Americans. I wasn’t very familiar with Norman Lewis, but loved the bold colors in works like Fireflower and Pink Boogie, where brushstrokes read like stick figures and the painting feels like a jazzy dance party.
There’s a lot more color to be found in the Fuller Building at David Findlay Jr Fine Art where a show by John Opper (1908-1994) calls up ideas from Rothko (turned on its side, perhaps) and Clyfford Still (here).
At DC Moore (724 Fifth Ave), Jane Wilson exhibits some simple but lovely brushy landscapes that capture the skies (and seas, and horizons) of the northeast in mostly pastel tones. Compositions focus mostly on the sky with just a touch of the horizon to provide some grounding contrast. Brushstrokes inflect the sky with cloudy texture and capture fleeting effects of moving light.
Continuing with my colorful day but perhaps moving out of the influence of Rothko and away from abstraction, I visited the David Hockney show at Pace Wildenstein 57th Street. This is Hockney’s first New York show of new paintings in twelve years and it features landscapes — part plein air and part studio work — that describe the English countryside in startling, but pleasing colors. My favorite was “More Felled Trees on Woldgate”, a work full of bright greens, blues, oranges, purples, and pinks.
After finishing up with the galleries in the 57th Street area I headed up to the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street where the Art20/Modernism art fair is up through Monday. This is the first year that the art of the twentieth century show was combined with the modernism design fair. Although I went into the show worried that I wouldn’t care at all about the design component, it in fact provided a nice change of pace with galleries that focus on wall-based works of fine art alternating with spaces dedicated to objects of design (lamps, tables, chairs, etc). Though most of the design objects felt dated to me (in a sense that I wouldn’t want to live with them the way I would a similarly dated painting), it was visually stimulating to have them as part of this show.
There was a lot to enjoy at the fair (though if you thought a down economy might make buying art cheap, think again!). There were a number of good Marsden Hartley still lifes scattered throughout but mostly concentrated at BG. One of my favorite artists, Oscar Bluemner, was present in at least three different galleries. At Jonathan Boos, a Bluemner oil painting (which are rarely available) could be yours for the low, low price of (cough, cough) $925,000. A much smaller work on paper at Levis Fine Art went for $85,000 while a sketch whose margins were filled with detailed notes about color and composition was listed at $75,000 at Michael Borghi Fine Art. A very nice example of a Sol Lewitt ribbon gouache on paper, priced $38,000, can be found at the Converso space.
I started to head towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Vermeer and Robert Frank, but realized I would never make it down to Trenton if I didn’t reverse course and get back to the PATH train pronto, so I’ll save those shows for another time.
After a long drive down the Turnpike and then over into Trenton, I attended the opening reception for “Point of View” at Gallery 125, where I have one painting in the show. The reception was packed and the show is full of creative, quality work (including paintings by friends Florence Moonan and Joy Kreves, who both happen to be former members of Artists’ Gallery). Usually, the first question I get about my paintings is how long they take to make, but nobody asked me that last night: instead, at least four people asked whether I used a roller to make the marks on my paintings (nope, they’re all hand painted stroke by stroke!). I received some very positive feedback about the colors in this piece, which made it a nice way to end a color-full day of art.