Friends and Family Plan

New York

Left: UCLA Department of Art chair Russell Ferguson with artist Mari Eastman. Right: Dealer Joan Washburn with collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

Despite recent threats to its cachet from the proliferation of MFA exhibitions organized by professional curators, the summer group show remains a gallery’s chief R&D operation. At least there was a lot of healthy market testing going down last Thursday, when several Chelsea stalwarts—and one West Village newbie—welcomed the “slow” season with multiple-artist displays, each slouching toward the zeitgeist with varying degrees of novelty and chaos.

Anton Kern chose to flaunt the art world’s vaunted incestuousness with “Friends and Family,” a disarming play on the traditional invitational. Here, instead of a senior artist picking a work by a younger one, gallery artists and staff submitted pieces by their children, spouses, and siblings, as well as the odd friend. That left Kern free to include a $550,000 “Remix” canvas by his father, Georg Baselitz, as well as a $150 refrigerator-style oil by his son, Linus. Ellen Berkenblit came up with a 1965 photograph by her father, Melvin, and Marcel Odenbach showed a watercolor beside a rather nice floral one by his mother, Miriam Anita-Nöcker. The whole thing felt like a family picnic. All that was missing were the hot dogs and the three-legged race, though a kind of fabric sandwich board on a wooden tripod by married artists Matthew Monahan and Lara Schnitger looked as if it could have competed. It read ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Those words certainly never occurred to collector Beth Rudin DeWoody and artist Donald Baechler, whose voracious appetite for art attracted quite a mob to “I Won’t Grow Up,” the group show they put together for Cheim & Read. At first glance, their presentation resembled a sixty-part visual essay on the miniature golf course, featuring a dizzying array of players, from Louise Bourgeois and the Chapman brothers to George Stoll and Kembra Pfahler.

Left: Artist George Shaw. Right: Artist Donald Baechler and Carlton DeWoody.

DeWoody is no stranger to the friends-and-family entourage. It was her son, Carlton, she said, who introduced her to many in the younger set contributing to the show, which involves the things of childhood that artists, channeling Peter Pan, refuse to set aside. DeWoody installed much of it herself, though you could tell which half catered to her taste and which to Baechler's. (Paintings—by Brendan Cass, Scott Reeder, Djordje Ozbolt—seemed to fit his aesthetic; whacked-out assemblages by the likes of Beka Goedde and Brian Belott were more characteristic of hers.) “We worked well together,” she said. “It’s all good.”

It was really too crowded to tell. Thankfully, at least one dealer has a corner on the serene. That would be Barbara Gladstone, who also had news of a townhouse gallery she will open this fall in Brussels. (“No, not Berlin.”) Meanwhile, she hired Russell Ferguson to bring on this summer’s home show, “Idle Youth.” The UCLA Department of Art chair has cherry-picked work from six different decades (including the 1930s) and the studios of artists represented by over a dozen other galleries. And he did it without the help of any of his relatives, as far as I could tell.

The title, of course, derives from the famously dissolute nineteenth-century poet Rimbaud, and the show includes modestly scaled works that, to borrow a phrase from his catalogue essay, relish the miserable. Yet the mood at Gladstone was awfully accepting and pleasant. I saw so much respectable art and engaged in such polite conversation that I now believe it is possible for anyone to attend a party with an open bar and hear no one say anything either sordid or stupid.

During dinner, which took place in the gallery’s upstairs library and on the rooftop terrace, I found artist Amy Sillman locked in a serious conversation with Ferguson on the literary value of art. What happened to small talk? If it’s still true that artists lead the culture to its next well, then say good-bye to the heady cocktail of New York real estate and art-world money. Thinking may soon be back in vogue.

Left: Dealer Sarah Gavlak with artist Jack Pierson and hairdresser Jimmy Paul. Right: Anton Kern director Christoph Gerozissis.

Comic relief came from out-of-towner Mari Eastman, whom I first came across in a show at the Hammer Museum, when Ferguson was a curator there. Eastman clearly relished the chance to be in New York but was bewildered by the difficulty of finding a free bathroom in Manhattan. Another charmer was Marc Bijl, a Dutchman who drifted over from “Crop Rotation,” the summer show Clarissa Dalrymple organized for Marianne Boesky next door.

In fact, the guests represented an international mix of newcomers and old-timers. They included Roy Arden (who contributed a great video of a hockey-fan riot), Thomas Eggerer, Frank Benson, and Elizabeth Peyton, as well as dealers Michael Lieberman and Friedrich Petzel and curators Francesco Bonami, Richard Flood, and Laura Hoptman. George Shaw, visiting from London, was most amusing as he described his antidote to the current nightmare of international air travel. “If you share a name with a very famous person,” he said, “they’ll breeze you right through.”

If only I could have donned the mask of dewy youth when I dove into the bright college crowd hanging out at 7eleven, a temporary gallery at 711 Washington Street, where dozens of paintings by the outsider artist Ionel Talpazan tell the story of his kidnapping by saucer-flying aliens. This cheerfully nepotistic enterprise was established for the summer by three twenty-something-year-old women whose parents are either writers, artists, gallery directors, or, in one case, the developer who plans to tear down the building to make way for a small (ha!) hotel.

The founders, Genevieve Hudson-Price, Caroline Copley, and Sabrina Blaichman, grew up together and went to either high school or Cooper Union with the other three artists in “Invasions,” their terrific debut show: Theo Rosenblum (inspired environment with a river of fake green lava), Thomas McDonell (oil-on-cotton self-portraits), and Sebastian Black (life-size nude cutouts lounging in a piano bar). None of these youth know the meaning of idle. “I guess I should go home and let them do their thing,” said artist Jane Kaplowitz, Theo’s mother. “Not me,” replied another proud parent, artist Judy Hudson. “I’m having way too much fun.”

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artist Theo Rosenblum, Lena Dunham, and Stella Schnabel. Right: Whitney curators Chrissie Iles and David Kiehl.

Left: Artist Roy Arden. Right: Artists Andrew Lord and Ugo Rondinone.

Left: Artist Frank Benson. Right: Lucy Freeman Sandler and Irving Sandler.

Left: Writer Julie Ault and artist Jennifer Bolande. Right: Art advisor Rob Teeters.

Left: Artist Brian Belott. Right: Artist Ionel Talpazan.

Left: Artists Genevieve Hudson-Price and Judy Hudson. Right: Artist Caroline Copley.