Bridge Line

New York

Left: Neville Wakefield and Barbara Gladstone. Right: The scene at the opening.

Even Slater Bradley, who is thirty, was feeling old. For many at the Thursday night opening of Neville Wakefield’s “Bridge Freezes Before Road,” the summer group exhibition at Barbara Gladstone, this was the “young, hip show” of the post-Venice/Basel season, the “cool” place to be. And “cool” was the word for the “Greater New York 2005” generation swarming the gallery in low-cut dirndls and pastel shirts. Actually, the recent-MFA-grad crowd provided a neat counterpoint to the soigné middle-agers filling the Whitney the previous night to greet the arrival of Eugenie Tsai's terrific Robert Smithson retrospective. Smithson is the artist who gave the Wakefield show its raison d'etre, while Wakefield gave the Whitney show a contemporary context that perfectly reflects the growing influence of Smithson's outta-sight non-site sensibilities.

What is most cool about Wakefield's show is his pointed inclusion of our younger conceptualists' antecedents. (“It's either old or derivative,” he observed. “Like the rest of us.”) Plopped or propped among new or recent work by Dike Blair, Steven Shearer, and Adam McEwen are an actual Smithson (a 1968 “Double Non-site” set of photos), old and “new” works by a back-from-beyond John Dogg and—a big winner—a 1967 aluminum dartboard by Clive “Hellraiser” Barker that recalls Jasper Johns’s sculp-metal of the same period. Nearby, Wakefield had installed a 1974 bowling-ball-finish plank by John McCracken and a 1982 Jack Goldstein painting with a new Banks Violette-does-Smithson work (accomplished with Stephen O'Malley) that made good use of the salt left over from Violette's Whitney installation. Man-for-all-seasons Kelley Walker was especially grateful to find his politic chocolate-on-silkscreen paintings hanging above a 1996 Kippenberger dwarf and opposite a 1980 Chris Burden video. “It's good to see a show that acknowledges its history,” he said. Frankly, it was good to find a living artist who wasn't born yesterday.

Left: Chloe Sevigny and Slater Bradley. Middle: Kelley Walker. Right: Ricky Clifton with a painting by Erik Schmidt.

But the opening was notable for other reasons, like the number of women artists in the show (only three out of nearly two dozen total) and the many rival dealers present (mostly women: Nicole Klagsbrun dropped by, as did Janice Guy and Elyse Goldberg of James Cohan Gallery). For a few minutes, a genuine dust-up seemed possible as Jessica Craig-Martin tried to edge Gladstone and Paula Cooper closer to Mary Boone, who was openly ogling Matthew Day Jackson's charred-wood-and-vulture sculpture before moving in on Dan Colen's two pieces. (This was prior to the arrival of Colen’s dealer, Mirabelle Marden, from an opening at her own gallery, Rivington Arms.) Colen is hot this week, apparently. His upside-down “Holy Shit” spray painting was a crowd favorite, as was a German fokloric fantasy by Erik Schmidt.

At the Gavin Brown-style barbecue on Gladstone's year-old bamboo- and tomato-plant-hedged roof, everyone was as pleasant and well-behaved as the delicious evening air. (Brown arrived just as dinner was served.) No one got sloppy drunk, acted lewd, or agreed to disagree with anyone else. Everyone simply seemed glad to be noticed. Has all the money pouring into the art world made its denizens too comfortable to be as ticked off, playful, and daring as, say, Smithson? To be fair, I always try to consider work I see in galleries on its own terms. Why, then, do I keep walking away from perfectly intelligent shows feeling disappointed? Perhaps I want too badly to be impressed, or expect more than a nonpaying customer deserves. Maybe I love drama too much. I still love art. But with the inevitable and continual collapse of all boundaries, even nontraditional ones, maybe I just don't know art even when I trip over it, as I did the floor-bound documentation of Aaron Young's destruction of a $700 video camera on the steps of Versailles. On second thought, new art rarely looks the way it used to. Just like the rest of us.

Linda Yablonsky