Hats Off

Linda Yablonsky around openings in New York

Left: Artist Peter McGough. Right: Artists Richard Hell and Charline von Heyl. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

EVERY ART SEASON in New York gets off to a slow start. We know this. But the new year’s openings last weekend were more subdued than usual. Perhaps it was the arctic chill in the air, the icy slush underfoot, the heavy boots that slowed movement, and the ear-muffling hats that made people seem distant. Numbers turned out, but even the cool and the quick disappeared under layers of quilting and fake fur. The streets of Chelsea seemed barren. “Even though it’s cold, I’m surprised there aren’t more people out,” said White Columns director Matthew Higgs. Perhaps the new guard was hibernating. Which made this a good time for gathering wool and news, like the item about Clarissa Dalrymple’s appearance in the current French Vogue posing for Tom Ford in the buff.

At Luhring Augustine on Thursday night, I also learned that the man who gave a name to the blank Generation spent the Christmas break rediscovering the printed word. “Like other people, I’ve been reading newspapers online,” said a rosy-cheeked Richard Hell. “But then I bought the Sunday Times,” he said, “and reading it off the page was a revelation.”

Hell was there with Christopher Wool, who was in the group show “Untitled (Painting),” as was Wool’s wife, Charline von Heyl. Their friend Larry Clark was screening Tulsa, a silent black-and-white film he had made in 1968 of the gang in his seminal photo book of the same name and had never before made public in America. A housecleaning turned it up and curiosity made him look at it. “It’s all there, he said. “My whole thing, come to life.”

Left: Artist Jon Kessler and collector Ann Tenenbaum. Right: Michelle Landers and artist Sean Landers.

Friday night brought a new snow flurry and a new crowd of refugees from the cold to openings at David Zwirner for Christopher Williams and the early years (1970–74) of 112 Greene Street, the pioneering, grab-bag art space in SoHo where anyone could bring an artwork at almost any time. (The gallery later moved and became White Columns.) One of the original artists was Gordon Matta-Clark, and most of the show at Zwirner features (barely) surviving examples of work he put there. It also has token sculptures, films, and drawings by a few others, such as Jene Highstein, Tina Girouard, and Richard Nonas, whose diagonal stretch of wooded blocks many present took for a Carl Andre. The one that tripped everyone (literally), though, was a bundle of fresh carrots on the floor by Larry Miller.

In attendance was Ned Smyth, who has organized another 112 Greene show opening this week at Salomon Contemporary featuring artists who didn’t make the cut at Zwirner, such as George Trakas, Jackie Winsor, and, well, Smyth. Nowhere in evidence was there anything by Jeffrey Lew, who started and oversaw operations at 112 Greene. One veteran of the period, but also not in the show, called it “the Google version of art history” for its abbreviated outline of the story, while the gallery itself, with its spotless white walls and pristine floor, sanitized what was left of it.

More history was waiting at Friedrich Petzel, where John Stezaker was on hand with beautiful silk screens (in color) and collages of found publicity photos, dating from 1979–83 and 1992, all made during residencies in New York. Leave it to a new year to resuscitate old work! Stezaker, who is roughly the same age as those in the 112 Greene show, is on a roll. “Thanks to this man,” he said, indicating Jake Miller, his dealer in London. Since the appearance of his collages in New York—at White Columns—four years ago, Stezaker’s work has been in demand here too. Later this month, he’ll get his first major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, and he was clearly relishing the prospect.

Left: Artist Joe Zucker. Right: White Columns's Matthew Higgs with dealer Toby Webster.

Next door, Seth Price was showing a number of videos on small monitors mounted to the walls between partitions. It was pretty dark in there, though I did make out Jordan Wolfson, Sean and Michelle Landers, and Sylvia Kouvali and Alex Logsdail, the last two vacationing in our frigid town. The natty Peter McGough was holding court, meanwhile, at Cheim & Read, where he and David McDermott were showing fresh carbon-print photographs, still lifes, and portraits of ’40s-style models. Who does carbon printing anymore? It’s painstaking and expensive. “There’s only one guy, in California,” McGough said. “But we got him!”

Among the guests who came for dinner at John Cheim’s art-appointed loft were Louise Fishman, curator Philip Larratt-Smith (who is organizing the first Louise Bourgeois retrospective to detail her involvement in psychoanalysis), and Jean-Louis Bourgeois, the artist’s son, who wore a large hat and made a conversation-halting entrance when he was carried in on the arms of two handlers, a bright red corded telephone receiver, sans phone, pressed to his ear as he talked to the air. An expert in African architecture who lives in Mali, he turned out to be quite a jokester. “Call for you!” he said to McGough, pointing to the handset. “Better answer it.”

But it was the call of art, from Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, that brought intrepid Manhattanites such as Philippe Vergne, Anne Pasternak, Ann Tenenbaum, RoseLee Goldberg, and Glenn O’Brien, as well as Brooklynite Paul Auster, to Long Island City on Saturday afternoon, where Jon Kessler, whom Salon 94 represents now that Jeffrey Deitch has flown the coop, was showing his wacky kinetic sculptures from the ’80s and ’90s at the Fisher Landau Center. “John was really one of the first to use computers to generate art,” Rohatyn said, though Kessler put together most of the works in this show by hand. “There’s an awful lot of fabrication here,” Walter Robinson commented. “I know!” Kessler replied. “That’s what I do, man!”

Left: Artists Christopher Wool and Larry Clark. Right: Artist Nate Lowman.

Saturday night the doings heated up, with openings for Martin Boyce (Tanya Bonakdar); Christian Philipp Müller and Fia Backström (Murray Guy); Michelle Stuart (Tonkonow and Salomon); Sam Samore (D’Amelio Terras); Joe Zucker (Mary Boone); Ann Craven (Maccarone); and both Joe Bradley and, working together, Nate Lowman and Rob Pruitt (at Gavin Brown), among others. Stuart’s show, highlighting work from the ’70s, is a quiet standout. Samore, who somehow lives simultaneously in New York, Paris, and Bangkok (“the most fascinating city I’ve ever seen,” he said), talked about his first job, writing news for a San Francisco television program called Happy Talk. “It’s from T. S. Eliot,” he said, which was news to me. I thought it was from Oscar Hammerstein.

Zucker’s subtle new paintings of ships and volcanoes on scored Sheetrock divided into quarter-inch squares look like pastel mosaics, tapestries, and geometric abstractions all at once. Each required thirty-two thousand methodical strokes of the brush and six months’ labor. “I was an inch shorter after I painted them,” Zucker said, stretching, though he appeared none the worse for wear. Most of the energy of the evening was, as usual, at Maccarone and Brown, which drew the largest crowd. But of course it has the biggest space. Bradley’s expressionist new paintings are a world away from his previous hard-edged architectural abstractions, while “Bedbugs,” the Pruitt/Lowman collaborations, seemed to come out of nowhere. “So many people have been obsessed with bedbugs, we thought we’d, you know, address them,” Lowman said. They did so with paintings of the ugly things, jerry-built constructions, and a white shag rug they found on the street.

Not long ago Pruitt had an enormous show that took up all of the Brown gallery and Maccarone as well. In a few months, Lowman will be doing the same. “So there’s that link too,” he said, though at about the same time Pruitt, who pulled off his annual art awards extravaganza only last month, will erect a ten-foot-tall monument to Andy Warhol in Union Square, commissioned by the Public Art Fund. “I don’t know,” he said when fund director Nicholas Baume commented on the breadth of his recent production. “Do you think I’m overexposed?”

Left: Artist Rob Pruitt. Right: MoMA curator Christian Rattemeyer and MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey.

Left: Artists Ann Craven and Peter Saul. Right: Sophie Auster and novelist Paul Auster.

Left: Artists Nick Mauss and Ken Okiishi. Right: Dealer Jake Miller and artist John Stezaker.

Left: Designer Britta Le Va with artist Chuck Close. Right: Dia Foundation director Philippe Vergne.

Left: Kitchen director Debra Singer. Right: Curator Jay Sanders.

Left: Dealer Silvia Kouvali and artist Jordan Wolfson. Right: Artist Hanna Liden and entrepreneur Aaron Bondaroff.

Left: Artists Mary Heilmann and Tina Girouard. Right: Artist Martin Boyce.

Left: Collector Amy Guttman with Performa director RoseLee Goldberg. Right: Artist Louise Fishman.