Gallery Week Part 2: Chelsea

After the Affordable Art Fair, my wife and I headed over to Chelsea where I had  a long list of galleries for us to visit.  On this trip, there was much to admire!

We started off on 29th Street on the upper edges of the art district with Alexander Ross.  I first admired Ross’s work when he exhibited at Feature a long time ago and then enjoyed his work in the fantastic Whitney show, Remote Viewing.  I last saw him at Marianne Boesky, but that show seemed to be lacking a certain oomph.  In this show at David Nolan, he’s back to the creative, dimensional clay-like compositions with topological painterliness that I find eye-catching.

I hadn’t seen the listing for the show, but was very glad that we stumbled into the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at Sean Kelly, also on 29th Street.  While they were setting up for a panel discussion we had a chance to examine the 50 photographs, each selected from the artist’s catalog by someone from a different state.  Most of the photographs are not of the controversial, sexually charged type that is usually associated with Mapplethorpe.  Instead, you find a fantastic collection of formally beautiful images ranging from still lifes to portraits (I especially liked the young Susan Sarandon and the old Willem de Kooning).  I’d highly recommend the show to anyone who loves photography.

We hit a few galleries on 28th and 27th before reaching Robert Miller Gallery on 26th Street where we were both taken in by the work of Robert Greene.  In his present body of paintings, Greene paints oil abstractions on sheets of vellum, which he then slices into strips (ranging from about 1/4 inch wide to several inches wide) and then re-arranges those strips mounted on aluminum panels.  In monochrome works the effect hails from minimal color field painting (with great texture up close and occasionally metallic reflectivity).  In the multi-colored abstractions, you feel more of an inheritance from abstract expressionism.

In a building I don’t get to often enough at 210 Eleventh Avenue, we happened upon Colin Brown’s beautiful nighttime cityscapes at Fischbach Gallery.  Easily passing for photographs at just a few feet away, as you look close you can see incredible detail and paint handling (actually, these pieces are white boards coated with a carbon, charcoal, or nickel black layer that are then carved into to reveal the white lights of the city).

On 24th Street, we dutifully attended the John Chamberlain show of crushed car part sculptures at his new Gagosian home.  For the most part, though, it’s like listening to poetry in Swahili:  I know there’s something formal there that might be beautiful or meaningful, but I don’t speak the language.  One piece, I thought, was stunning:  a 25-30 foot high, narrow construction of chrome, black, and perhaps platinum colored metals whose beauty was evident despite my language deficiency.  A helpful article in today’s NY Times shed some more light on the artist and I can at least sympathize with his tiring of trying to explain his particular artistic vocabulary.

Across the street is something completely different, another tour de force exhibition of photorealistic oil paintings by Yigal Ozeri (& assistants) at Mike Weiss.  Amazingly detailed, Ozeri’s latest work continues to feature muses at play or pose in nature.  Here, the photographic source material is particularly evident through the blurred tall grasses surrounding the figures, the result of a shallow depth of field.  A few paintings on canvas are slightly more chromatic but I think perhaps the canvas texture takes something away from the gorgeous surfaces of the works on paper.

We were starting to run out of steam as we reached 22nd Street and so skipped another Chamberlain show at Pace and hastily skimmed Jasper Johns at Matthew Marks (I love much of Johns’ work, and particularly liked his catenary paintings from a few years ago at the same gallery, but this show of drawings and cast sculptures didn’t have the same sort of immediate formal intrigue to keep us lingering).

On 21st Street, we joined the crowds at the newer Chelsea Gagosian Gallery for another must-see, museum-quality exhibition at this flexible, changeable space:  Picasso and Marie-Thérèse.  We forgot about our tired feet as while we took in an amazing quantity of Picasso paintings, all inspired by one of Picasso’s muses.  Useful photographs and later on some video clips of Marie-Thérèse give you a sense of who this model is that struck Picasso so forcefully.

Finally, before heading homeward, we caught a few more shows on 20th Street, most interestingly the steel-and-car-paint sculptures of Luke Achterberg at Kathryn Markel.  While the colors and materials may seem to be related to Chamberlain, and perhaps this show is timed to coincide with the two crushed car exhibitions, the effect is completely different:  light looking, lyrical curves hang on the wall in bright colors, with references to calligraphy and perhaps Lichtenstein brushstrokes.  These works are written in a language that’s easy to understand and enjoy, no translation required.

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