Quality Time

New York
01.18.05

Left: John Lurie, My Name is Skinny, I am a Horse, 2004. Right: Steve McQueen, still from Girls, Tricky, 2001.


John Lurie's sardine-packed opening at Roebling Hall on far West 26th Street was a Mudd Club flashback so intense that Steve Buscemi went unnoticed by everyone including his own wife, Jo Andres, whom he had lost in the crush at the door. Figures from every period of Lurie's professional life—from Lounge Lizard, to Jarmusch star, to filmmaker—came together to support his new life as an art-on-paper man. Musicians (Eric Sanko, Pat Place, and Connie Berg) rubbed elbows with scenesters (Chris Parker and Maripol) and artists (Tom Otterness and James Nares, who said that since Lurie had started drawing and painting so obsessively—partly to counter the debilitating effects of Lyme disease—he, Nares, has started filming himself playing guitar).

Lurie's first solo show last spring at Anton Kern was a sellout, and this one may be no different—not just because most of the watercolors and ballpoint stick-figure drawings are priced under $5,000. Lurie's helplessly naïf style contradicts his more sophisticated sense of space and color. What's more, every single picture is both naughty and hilarious, thanks in part to captions like “My name is Skinny / I am a Horse and I want to have Sex with your Wife. Okay?” (Lurie is keeping that one for himself, alas.) Almost as striking were the bohemians who treat art openings as family outings. Charlie Ahearn and Jane Dickson had their college-dropout son in tow and former Bush Tetra Cynthia Sley was accompanied by her teenage son, Austin, who wants to be an artist. (“I like the camel,” he said of one watercolor. Lurie is keeping that one, too.) So strange: When I was a teen, I didn't want to be caught dead with my parents, even when we were at home. Today, art is a family business (think Mirabelle Marden, Jessica Craig-Martin, and Will Ryman). “It's nice to see your art is so popular,” I said to John when he emerged from his hiding place in the back. “I wish they would all go home,” he said.

Now I was faced with an admittedly privileged but awkward and recurring art world dilemma: Choosing between dinner parties. Should I run uptown to Steve McQueen's opening at Marian Goodman or just walk down the street to “Post Modern,” Carol Greene’s MoMA-nose-thumbing painting show? Morbid curiosity got the best of me and I went uptown, partly to see what kind of art Goodman chose to keep at home. The gallery itself was so dark, the light from McQueen's projections too low to be much help, that it was difficult to identify faces or even know if you were standing next to someone. I did find myself squatting on the floor with Cecily Brown at one point, both of us mesmerized by McQueen's video of Tricky in the recording studio—the most alarming of the four pieces on view. The others—all, in McQueen's words, “a slower burn”—were a film of Charlotte Rampling's eyeball; a show of the slides NASA sent up on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 for the benefit of alien explorers; and an installation in which a man with a frightening lateral scar on his head (heard in voiceover and seen in a single projected slide) recalls the day he accidentally and fatally shot his own brother. People seemed either admiring or fed up with the pretension of it all.

At Goodman's beef-stew dinner at home, curators, including Rob Storr, Donna de Salvo, Chrissie Iles, Thelma Golden, and Christine Kim, outnumbered artists. Dan Graham, the most prominent of these, spoke at length with Bloomberg LP's Lex Fenwick. The Central Park West duplex, which Goodman described as “my walk-up” (it's on the thirty-second floor, but the elevator stops at the floor below), is a kind of railroad flat—minus the dividing walls, with amazing views north, east, and west. The architect who lived there until Goodman bought it in the '70s carved the space from rooftop storage. To my surprise, the walls were completely bare. No art at all, unless you count the dining room chandelier, which Storr assured me was Murano glass. Turns out that the apartment was recently renovated, and Goodman hadn't quite moved back in yet.

On Saturday, I stole back to Greene Naftali to see what I had missed by passing up Greene's take-out Indian dinner from Queens, an affair Clarissa Dalrymple had described that morning as “very pleasant.” P.S.1/MoMA's Klaus Biesenbach insisted, when I bumped into him, that the show had been given the wrong title. It's an interesting show, he said, but “it's not postmodern.” With paintings by Dana Schutz, Mary Heilmann, Josh Smith, Amy Sillman, and Michael Krebber, it is, to my mind, a perfect reflection of the conservatism rampant in the market at this moment, which I must admit didn’t keep me from liking it. From there, Nancy Rubins's new airplane-part “palm trees” at Paul Kasmin were great feats of engineering and form that, apparently, took three solid weeks to assemble. Like Lurie, Rubins spent the early part of her opening in a back room, perhaps so as not to distract anyone from the art—though openings are clearly not about art but about providing a roof for extended families who only come together weekly between six and eight pm.

Linda Yablonsky