Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Pictures From Patrice Helmar

Patrice Helmar

Paul Gagner @ Allen and Eldridge

So, I often write about people I know and like, whose art I own and have curated. Paul Gagner fits all those disclaimers. But good damn, his new show is good. Over the last year or so, and most prominently at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, Paul has been showing paintings of fake self-help books for artists. The paintings are downright funny with titles and covers that take shots at the art world and the curious state of being inclined to make art. The work revels in a thick luxurious painting style that at times verges into the world of cartoons a la Philip Guston. My enjoyment of the book-cover paintings made me lose sight of the complexity and expanse of Paul’s work, which is on full display at Allen & Eldridge, James Fuentes’s project space in the basement of his main gallery. The current show focuses on Paul’s large figurative paintings of a disparate selection of subject matter that are laden with humor, like the self-portraits of the artist as a bunch of useable parts. But there is a mix in tone in the work, for example the self-portrait of the artist terrified, naked and huddled in the pale blue glow of a laptop. The work is probably best summed up in a painting of large meteor crushing a canvas and, in theory, the artist. The show speaks not just to our state of things but to a general and relatable dread and growing anxiety that makes up a large part of choosing to be an artist into adulthood. As loose as Paul’s work is, the lusciousness of his thick almost Play-Doh looking surfaces is quite enjoyable, and there is a level of visual excitement that I almost missed due to the paintings’ compelling content, in, say, the plant leaves in the painting of the person taking an iPhone picture of a plant or the meteor.

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Allen and Eldridge (55 Delancey St. (under James Fuentes Gallery) btw. Eldridge & Allen Sts.)

Crys Yin, If You Were Home, You’d Be Here By Now @ Amy Li Projects

I do like physical things as the subject matter of paintings, and there is a quick directness in Yin’s painting that reveals an excellent eye for color. The objects chosen have a solid palate, where red and green objects float in warm backgrounds or the lovely crisp white and blue hues of a bowl rest next to a similarly colored container of mike. The impreciseness in the rendering of subject matter starts to bend into a world of mismatched shadows, where it makes sense to see bendy limbs disappearing behind counters. It is a world inside a child’s imagination where household objects take on the importance and meaning of totems, clearly lodging themselves into the self-conscious, until in adulthood, they bring back long-forgotten emotions. The basketball magazine above an Asian studies book does hint at a cultural context for the work that I am sure resonates strongly for people of color, but the lovely looseness in the painting makes you feel you are looking through the eyes of a well behaved and inward child, a feeling that maybe rooted in a specific ethnic background, but helps create a universal and touching view of the world. Might I add that it was quite a plus to see the show in what appears to be a still operational button shop, complete with a cutout in the base of the wall for a Buddha statue was quite a plus.

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Amy Li Projects (166 Mott St. btw. Broome & Grand Sts.)

Sarah Morris, Finite and Infinite Games @ Petzel

Very nicely executed graphic abstract paintings form the always reliableeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee……. Oh shit, sorry, fell asleep typing that sentence. But in this otherwise good but dry show. The highlight is, Morris hits you with her fantastic line work on a particularly beautiful movie poster for Dune which reminded me how much I like her video work. Her abstract paintings aren’t bad just not nearly as good as her fantastic videos.

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Petezel (456 W 18th St. Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Richard Mosse, Heat Maps @ Jack Shainman Gallery

I don’t know, I like Richard Mosse’s work with film that turns green things pink. The effect heightened the tragic absurdity of the alien world of African poverty and military conflicts. The pictures were beautiful and political art at its best, bringing together the tension of the real world and the esthetic of the photograph to highlight a part of Africa where things had gone very wrong. The work that climaxed with his brilliant video installation, which started to reveal that some of things in his pictures were potentially happening for the camera and were not always in the middle of conflict. To his credit, he has moved away from the dated military technology designed to make camouflage useless and on to state-of-the-art military surveillance technology that creates images from the heat emitting off things and, I assume targeting people to be killed from great distances. Mosse is using this technology to expose the recent refugee crisis in the Middle East. The problem is that the process has led to pictures that aren’t very interesting to look at. The images from heat just form a silver-gray muck that coats what would be an ever duller Burtynsky photograph. Looking at the work, it is hard not to be reminded of an early 90’s music video effect. Conceptually, it sounds great to use a military technology for good, but the result does little to show the plight of refugees. All you can make out are large encampments, occasionally showing people at a great distance, so their individual plight clearly isn’t the point and the locations that the settlements are in is what one might expect.

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Jack Shainman Gallery (513 W 20th St. Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Uta Barth @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

At some point, Uta Barth will die. At some point, Chelsea galleries will have to find younger artist to show. It is understandable that to pay rent, do nonstop international fairs and generally make money, galleries might show the same ever-aging artists doing riffs on the work they have done for decades if it continues to sell. But as shows are more and more made up of museum-level artists and all your small to midrange galleries have been pushed out of the neighborhood, there is a shortage of bridge or feeder galleries where one might get into a summer group show, which could yield another show that might be noticed by a bigger gallery operating on an international level. We now have the Lower East Side, which is certainly vibrant but also seems to be in a continuous state of flux where galleries come and go, expand and move at such a rate it is hard to develop a relationship with a space or even remember where it is located. And it’s still hard to tell how connected the Lower East Side is to the greater art world. The galleries are certainly getting covered, but they aren’t nearly the destination that Chelsea was, say, pre-Sandy. So, I guess what I am saying is, you would think there will come a time when people get tired of seeing the same Uta Barth show over and over again.

PS: Got on a tangent there. I don’t like the new Uta Barth show. It is more sculptural than anything she has done before, but it’s still not interesting.

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Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (521 W 21st St, Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Figures, Grounds and Studies @ Yancey Richardson

I think we can all agree that the photograph is a constructed object with a tangential relation to the world? I think that’s fair, right? And it strikes me that I am seeing Sepuya’s work through older eyes that can’t help but see the more illusionary aspects of his work as treading, conceptually, on very settled ground. But maybe this is matter of perspective and for younger photographers, the issue isn’t so settled that it can still be used for the more productive end of making things look good. I think this may be the case in Sepuya’s Figures, Ground and Studies. The disorienting effect of not being able to distinguish a reflection from a large print directly in front of the camera is fun, and Sepuya does produce some enjoyable stark and graphic images with a touch of male sexuality occasionally peeking out from behind a black sheet. All good stuff, but for my money I still preferred the few straight-on portraits of men in disorienting studio setups. Also, this is the most compelling show Yancey Richardson has done since moving to the larger ground-floor space.

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Yancey Richardson (525 W 22nd St., Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Vik Muniz, Epistemes @ Sikkema Jenkins

See Uta Barth review.

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Sikkema Jenkins (530 W 22nd St. Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Roe Ethridge, American Spirit @ Andrew Kreps

I love Roe Ethridge, but that last show had me shaken. I thought maybe the man who birthed a million undergrad portfolios of random free associated photographs was finally hitting an end point for bodies of pictures that kind of make sense together. And like all agents of change, when the world catches up, your new work become more footnote than avant-garde. But oh, shit, the king is back with work that certainly takes his formal, well-crafted vernacular pictures and steps it up. Here he offers layers of pictures on pictures that at times create a rapturous explosion of image culture into a fluorescent yellow haze or at times just looks like the visual manifestation of my cluttered desktop. But the fact that some of the new work fails hard is exactly why Ethridge is badass. He is pushing his art into a place where it might not work, but for better or worse, it feels like work trying to break out of what it had become, that is, a predictable collection of tasteful well-executed photographs and create something that, even when it works, is kind of hard to look at. Now there are some visual connections in the grouping of pictures, say, flowers next to a program from the Rose Bowl that seem ham-fisted. If overwrought, ugly collages aren’t your thing, then Ethridge always has some stunning photographs of landscapes and models to balance out the visual chaos. Also, the book is even better than the show. In the book, the visual connections between Ethridge’s pictures and American Spirits cigarettes are both clearer and subtler. It is very exciting to see Ethridge back kicking ass, but like all things when does it end? When does he run out of an ability to mine the abundance of vernacular images to create bodies of loosely associated photographs? I am not sure, but he has strung it out this long with a degree of success that makes each new show even more compelling than the last.

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Andrew Kreps (537 W 22nd St., Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Austin Thomas @ Morgan Lehman

It was pretty exciting to walk around the corner at Morgan Lehman to confront a giant pink wall with a salon hanging of Austin Thomas’s work. I’ve always been a fan. Maybe it is the scale, which is often small, or that she tends to work on faded pieces of paper that look salvaged from books or discarded note pads, which makes the work feel quiet, yet lovely. I say that not to diminish the power of the pieces, but to point out that things that are genuinely nice are not easy to do artistically without hitting a note that is decorative or worse. Thomas has the ability to make striking work that feels like the result of spending a warm day in a sun backed attic making the best form of a doodle one can image. It in no way runs away from being likable and accessible without feeling trivial. 

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Morgan Lehman (534 W 24th St. Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)

Good Pictures From Maureen Drennan

Maureen Drennan

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stuff I Liked at SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017

Tamara Santibanez curated by Justin De Demko 

Brandon E Cannon curated by Johann Wolfschoon 

 Ellie Krakow curated by Lynn Sullivan

Robin F Williams curated by Stephen Eakin and Rebecca Morgan

Ken Weathersby curated by Stephen Eakin and Rebecca Morgan

Devra Freelander curated by Devra Freelander

Rives Wiley curated by Blair Murphy and Alissa D. Polan

Devin Balara curated by Will Hutnick

Dan Perkins curated by Will Hutnick and Mark Joshua Epstein

Liesl Pfeffer good photo abstractions curated by Will Hutnick

Amie Cunat curated by Nicholas Cueva

Ben Sisto curated by Ben Sisto   

Julie Tuyet Curtiss curated by Hein Koh

Paul Gagner curated by Paul D’Agostino

Chris Bors curated by Chris Bors    

Amanda Browder curated by Scott Chasse

Rachel Frank curated by Jacob Rhodes