Storm und Drang

Linda Yablonsky around New York

New York

Left: At The Art Parade. Right: Arthur Danto.

“If your house is underwater, you're not thinking about art,” said Arthur Danto, at apexart last Wednesday. “Unless,” he added, pointing to a large piece of carved cedar propped against one wall, “you have an Ursula von Rydingsvard to use as a raft!” It was one of twelve pieces in “The Art of 9/11,” a group show that Danto volunteered for the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Numbed by the horror of post-Katrina New Orleans and sickened by the government negligence attending it, I had set out for the opening of the fall art season, wondering what I would find and if it would rise to the occasion. In his gallery statement, Danto asked similar questions: What is art for? Who does it serve? (I'm interpreting.)

At Deitch Projects, Jim Isermann's undulating walls of distorted white plastic squares served mostly to induce rubber-room vertigo. What I needed was strength. On Thursday night, the streets of Chelsea resembled nothing so much as an ant colony on Planet Thorazine. Hundreds of underdressed art appreciators of all ages moved along alternating currents of curiosity and calumny, soldiering through nearly one hundred different galleries to see what was up with the new art: “Some good, some bad, some neither good nor bad," as Michel Auder put it, when I saw him at D'Amelio Terras.

Frankly, one of the best pieces I saw was from 1972, a hypnotic slide-projection sculpture by Anthony McCall at Leslie Tonkonow. A precursor to his 1973 Line Describing a Cone (a crowd-pleaser in Chrissie Iles's “Into the Light” show at the Whitney in 2003), it gave material form to quick bursts of light. Perfectly paired with two 1977 Peter Campus close-up videos of a “misanthropic man” and a “sad young woman” that are not as static as they might seem, the show snubbed all those PhDs who think the vogue for pristine ‘70s art has been replaced by nostalgia for the image-laden ‘80s. These human-scale works had none of the touchy-feely, after-school handwork of much on display elsewhere, yet they emanated a physical presence that quietly filled the room.

A new question: Why bother having a dustbin of history if someone is always going to clean it out? Because some art only assumes authority with age? Or because turning ashes to gold is so profitable? As McCall put it, “The good thing about not selling anything in the '70s is that it's all available now!” (In editions of five.)

Left: Rochelle and Jean-Pierre Lehmann. Middle: Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Right: Anthony McCall.

How good it was to see Sue Williams's splat of vomit again! Art for troubled times, indeed. Adam McEwen put it in his group show at Klagsbrun, which included a 1970 video of Joseph Beuys in Ireland by Rory McEwen, Adam's dad. (Those ‘70s again.) At Marianne Boesky, Angelenos Jon Pylypchuk and Frances Stark seemed dazed as they emerged from the crowd of Japanese youths climbing over Yoshitomo Nara's tiresome playhouse.

In fact, most openings were too jammed to see anything, so most of what I know is what I heard. At PaceWildenstein, I heard Philip-Lorca DiCorcia tell Nayland Blake how a Hasidic man appearing in a picture from the photographer's last show of big heads was suing him for $1.6 million. No wonder he's sticking to pole dancers now. I doubt they mind anyone looking.

At Clementine, I heard that gallery owners Abby Messitte and Elizabeth Burke had signed leases with Derek Eller, Oliver Kamm, John Connelly, Wallspace, and Foxy Productions in a building on Twenty-Seventh Street west of Eleventh Avenue, a psychogeographical divide equivalent to the East River. Well, we crossed that to get to Brooklyn. Now we'll do this. Makes you wonder how far off Hoboken can be.

We could see that town's rebuilt waterfront from the model apartment in Richard Meier's new tower at 165 Charles Street, where Lehmann Maupin had its fashionable afterparty. In conversation, Deb Singer displayed an impressive command of New York building codes, the result of a recent tangle with new commercial development around the High Line involving her revamp of the Kitchen and permits for future nonprofits. Her experience made Hoboken look even closer.

Left: Abby Messitte. Right: Jon Pylypchuk, Arlo, and Frances Stark.

Meanwhile, the gallery madness continued Friday night with Yuken Teruya's sellout show of shopping bag trees at Josée Bienvenu and White Columns's return to Gordon Matta-Clark's “Fake Estates” (those ‘70s again!). There, amid a summery crowd with a stubborn nicotine habit, Dennis Oppenheim's giant paintbrush high-rise gave new meaning to artist housing and an assistant encouraged consumers to freeze one of Mierle Laderman Ukeles's three-dollar baklava because, “It'll be worth a million dollars in just a few years!” Only a few were buying—so much for the future of nonprofits.

By Saturday, one pooped trouper, I circled back to Zwirner, struck by how accurately Marcel Dzama's drawings of a nightmare society reflected the chaos bedeviling New Orleans. Perhaps it has been this way all along? Or does it just seem so given this Republican White House? At Petzel, Pylypchuk created his own tragicomic family of furry Godots in a universe of hapless underdogs. (Democrats all, no doubt.) The costumed sculptures in both shows set me up perfectly for the Art Parade in SoHo, where young, Wigstock-worthy artists made up as clowns, pirates, and lap dancers tootled happily behind brass marching bands to the Deitch garage on Wooster Street. There, a blue-painted, prodigiously outfitted Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black took the stage to lead us in a rousing, welcome to, well, Fashion Week.

Left: Jim Isermann. Middle: Ross Bleckner and Eric Freeman. Right: Bill Owens.

Scenes from The Art Parade.

Scenes from The Art Parade.