Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Out and about in the naked city

This Spring has been a season of supreme nudeness.  Between Marina Abromovic at MoMA, Carolee Schneeman at the Dorsky Museum in New Paltz (through July 25), Tania Bruguera at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY.  Robert Curcio, who was co-organizer on the ill fated SiteLines in Beacon art Fair produced the cringe inducing Great Nude Invitational 2010 nude art fair held in mid May.
I ran into fellow Beacon artist, Winston Roeth, at the Beacon Post Office recently, and he, by chance is the only abstract artist represented in an exhibit entitled Naked at the Jensen Gallery in Auckland New Zealand.
Antony Gormley's figurative nude sculptures that constitute Event Horizon caused an uproar initially, not because of their buckness but their resemblance to suicidal jumpers

After spying folks sizing up the casts of the artist's body, I took in the April 14th opening of Harvey Tulcensky's installation at the Center for Book Arts (on view through June 26.)
Tulcensky's Notebook Project is a shallow corridor consisting of 50 accordian sketchbooks filled with dense scribbles made with black ink ballpoint pens arrayed on two facing walls forming a narrow corridor.
The resulting effect of these otherwise humble objects was almost magical with the mellowed yellow hue of the paper and the iridescent sheen of the ink taking on the bearing of intricately gilded screens with an architectural heft.  The the transcendant shimmery-ness does not translate well in the photos I snapped.

A few days later, I made a quick round of gallery visits in Chelsea.
The highlight of the day for me was an exhibit I nearly walked by: Norbert Prangenberg at Betty Cuningham Gallery.  Prangenberg's small paintings are beautiful with a subtle weirdness.  This was an understated but exhilerating show of painting, and I'm happy to catch it.  Equally understated is the artist in his conversation with John Yau in the Brooklyn Rail (via twocoatsofpaint.)

In contrast, an exhibit which garnered a lot of attention was Amy Sillman's Transformer (or how many lightbulbs does it take to change a painting?) at Sikkema Jenkins.  Given the amount of laudatory response to this show, I found it competent, predictable and not so captivating.  There were a couple of stand outs in a back gallery, the large,predominantly orange, Shade, accompanied by a wonderful pair of tiny paintings. Sillman's work here was not simply an evocation of the moves and manners of dead white men like Guston and Diebenkorn, it was a full on channeling of them, and I had a hard time getting past this aspect.
The most effective and interesting part of the exhibit was also its most superfluous.  A zine available for $1 (on the honor system) complete with pull out poster and accompanying cd was direct, humorous and - to me - offered up a truly personal statement from the artist in a way the paintings and drawings didn't.  The zine was wholly complete and could work as a stand alone piece, but its presence in this exhibit appeared to me to have the purpose of augmenting the rest of the exhibit with an overlay of conceptual currency, which felt like an unneeded reach. The zine also seemed to work as an unintentional apologia for the embarrassing, anachronistic endeavor of painting. 
I guess this sounds harsh. It's a fine show.  But unlike Prangenberg's exhibit, this one felt less about the work of an artist and more about the artist's postion among other artists.

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