Diary

Second Coming

Left: Artist Rob Pruitt and publisher Brendan Dugan. Right: Artist Kembra Pfahler.

PEOPLE IN THE ART WORLD say that the reason openings in Chelsea have become so overcrowded is because people who are not in the art world have heard that they can get free booze there. Whatever the explanation, walking between receptions—and sometimes within a single gallery—now means stepping to the rhythm of a traffic signal: Walk/Don’t Walk, Walk/Don’t Walk. Look/Don’t Look. Walk.

That’s how it went during the fall season’s second week in action, starting with Tuesday, September 9, when the David Zwirner and Greene Naftali galleries held openings a few blocks and a thousand conceptual miles apart.

Marcel Dzama, who can cop to being either a filmmaker or a choreographer at this point, was nearly swallowed up by the crowds in Zwirner’s two central spaces on West Nineteenth Street. Onlookers jammed the passage between them to watch videos playing Death Disco Dance on a bank of monitors. Others sat in darkened rooms to watch Une danse des bouffons (or A jester’s dance), the more compelling of two wordless films with music making their U.S. debuts. Attended by the ghosts of Picabia, Schlemmer, Goya, and Beuys—and the cow’s-head costume that some may remember from Dzama’s turn in Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” video—they feature Kim Gordon as Maria Martins, the model for Marcel Duchamp’s rape victim in Étant donnés. Here, she rescues “Duchamp” from death by chess.

Left: Artist Rebecca Warren. Right: Artist Agnieszka Kurant with dealer Tanya Bonakdar.

Up on West Twenty-Sixth Street, a courtyard tucked under the High Line led into a Dan Graham show inaugurating the ground-level addition to Greene Naftali’s eighth-floor flagship. Inside, Graham’s new, reflective glass pavilion attracted a smattering of visitors—there was no bar—who lay about on pillows watching post-punk and hardcore music videos from the 1970s and ’80s. Absent from the proceedings was Harun Farocki, whose sudden death last summer made the video-game mash-ups projected on four double-sided screens in the upstairs space his last complete works.

Cao Fei’s stop-motion, feature-length animation, La Town, was on tap the next evening at Lombard Freid. Setting her disaster story in a museum after dark, the artist had her own fun with real/surreal ambiguities, carving her characters (miniscule in the real world) and placing them on even tinier, commercially produced furnishings that loom large on screen.

After all the screens and monitors, it was almost a shock to go-stop-go across the street—to Zwirner again—and see paintings. By comparison, Tomma Abts’s modestly sized geometric abstractions looked almost revolutionary. Back on West Twenty-Sixth Street, the elusive Richard Nonas turned on the juice for his show at Fergus McCaffrey, where his post-Minimalist sculpture staked its claim as a critical link between early Richard Serra and Joel Shapiro. James Nares picked up the pace at Paul Kasmin Gallery with his new “high-speed” drawings. “How fast are they?” asked Glenn O’Brien. “About thirty miles an hour,” Nares replied.

Thursday night brought, as Thursday nights will, the swarm of onlookers seeking beer and wine but finding only art. For the third time in as many days, they trooped once more to Zwirner—this time on West Twentieth Street—for the dealer’s three-part installation of PeaRoeFoam, named for the fish roe/green pea beads invented by the late Jason Rhoades as sculptural material in 2002. Realized from the late artist’s instructions, the show looked like a factory frozen in time, though one section felt a little like the enormous supply room at Ikea where customers pick up their goods.

Left: Artist Cao Fei. Right: Dealer Carol Greene with artist Craig Kalpakjian.

Those out on the trail who happened on Agniezska Kurant’s debut at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery discovered the work of a Conceptualist who exercises her fantasies with science. An installation of peaked mounds drenched in saturated color was created at her instigation by—who could ever fathom it?—colonies of termites set to work in a Florida laboratory. “It’s about the idea of collective intelligence,” she said, adding that she was only getting with the global economy by “outsourcing” the work to the termite labor pool. “What they’re missing,” she said, “is culture. So,” she added, nodding to the other, more kinetic works in her show, as well as to the Charles Longs downstairs and the people swirling around her, “here is culture.”

Go, culture! Next door, at Casey Kaplan, Jonathan Monk’s art about art suggested a group show organized by a comic. For the culturally deprived, there were found-textbook doodles by Mike Kelley, circa 1989, at Skarstedt, drawings of interiors by Do Hoh Suh at Lehmann Maupin, and paintings of sharply different sorts by Fredrik Værslev and Tamara Henderson at Andrew Kreps. At Pace, Fred Wilson went whole-hog with superimposed, black-and-white “flag” paintings, and both glass chandelier and bronze Egyptian-god sculptures. Leaving no stone of art unturned, Matthew Ritchie came on strong at Andrea Rosen with painterly paintings of information systems on wall and canvas, sculpture, and a large video projection to boot. Clearly, making art takes a village. During dinner at China Blue, he thanked his many assistants and concluded by saying, “If you’re not a collaborator of mine yet, you will be soon.”

Friday, absent yet another opening at Zwirner, Matthew Marks took up the slack with openings of shows by Paul Sietsema in two galleries on West Twenty-Second Street and of fetching, painted bronze totems bearing single big boobs by Rebecca Warren in the one on Twenty-Fourth. “I moved a wall,” she said, “so the installation would be less symmetrical.” Clearly, she had thought of everything, from the practical to the absurd, putting a couple of heavier works on wheels and placing blue or white pompons on others. Next door at Metro Pictures, Jim Shaw was signing books of source materials for his surreal comic book–derived paintings. The books looked just like small Bibles and, frankly, are just the kind some of us would welcome in any hotel room.

Left: Artist Marcel Dzama. Right: Artist Guillermo Calzadilla with boy choristers.

At White Columns, there were two discoveries in shows by previously unseen artists, brought to light by Verne Dawson and Peter Doig. The late Bill Lynch was a friend of Dawson’s from his Cooper Union student days. If Lynch’s increasing schizophrenia took him far from the art world, he stayed close to his studio. His paintings on found wood of animals and botanicals turned every head in the jam-packed room, making his mother, Gerry Lynch, very proud. “This is wonderful,” she said. (Evidently, she had signed and titled the paintings for her son, who died in 2013 without ever having had an exhibition.) Dawson was fighting back tears. “I can’t speak,” he said. “I’m too sad.” Doig chose paintings by the self-taught Mike Tierney, previously known to the world only as an extreme skier from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His first paintings were on his skis. His subject here: snowy ski slopes in Wyoming.

Saturday brought Allora & Calzadilla back to Gladstone Gallery in geological performance mode. Singing a cappella as they moved to ten marble platforms placed around the gallery’s four rooms and functioning as choral risers, two boy sopranos let loose with insults that the artists culled from literary and political sources and that composer Guarionex Morales-Matos set to music. Joan Jonas, Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg, Bass Museum director Silvia Karman-Cubina, Sharjah Biennial curator Eungie Joo, Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume, and dealer Alex Logsdail obediently followed, straining (and failing) to make out words lost to the echoing acoustics of the gallery. It was all about radical breaks and displacements, Calzadilla said between rotations of singers. The stones, formed millions of years ago, conform to fault lines in the earth. The boys, aged ten to fourteen, were all born after the rupturing terrorist attacks of 9/11 and are facing the inevitable break in their voices. Insults generate breaks in social relations—apparently an outgrowth of the artists’ own daily dialogues in the studio.

I broke for Rob Pruitt’s exuberant (and therapeutic) “Multiple Personalities” exhibition at Gavin Brown, which took up the entire block-long gallery. There were love seat/psychiatrist couches covered by Pruitt’s studio assistants with cartoony, stream-of-consciousness images and thought bubbles commenting on various neuroses; celestial monochromes from Pruitt’s series of “Suicide Paintings,” which were hanging above a spread of sand on the floor; wood screens painted with automatic writings; and a stainless steel, truck tire-coffee table. (Pruitt is industrious as well as introspective.) “This almost looks spare by comparison with Rob’s last show here,” collector Andy Stillpass noted. “What’s the sand for?” another collector asked Pruitt. “Think Dalí,” he replied.

Left: Artist Tomma Abts. Right: Artist Jim Shaw.

“Every time I go to Rob’s studio, I wonder what it would be like to be his assistant,” Brown said during his toast at the multiple-personality dinner, held under a tent on the gallery’s roof and served with food from Pruitt’s favorite takeout establishments (Russ & Daughters, Pho Pasteur, El Parador, Joe’s Pizza, Souen, and more). “He’s such an inspiration.” Others wondered what the art world will be like after April, when Brown has to vacate the building so developers can knock it down to make room for yet another “luxury” high-rise. There isn’t another gallery remotely like it.

But the Hole is trying mightily to realize its own brand of iconoclasm. Usually, exhibitions at this Bowery gallery are as chaotic as Pruitt’s installations. This exhibition of marble tondos, each inscribed with one of the “13 Tenets of Future Feminism,” is elegant and subdued. The principles set forth came of meetings between Antony, Kembra Pfahler, Johanna Constantine, Bianca Casady, and Sierra Casady. To flesh them out, the group organized twelve nights of performances. I caught the third, “The Future is Female,” with Lucy Sexton as the Factress, Clark Render as Margaret Thatcher, and Laurie Anderson as herself.

An assistant in a rubber mask doused Sexton with Wite-Out and black ink, the better to counter the invisibility of many women in a man’s world. Render, as Thatcher, sat for an interview with a talk-show host. And Anderson, moving from Moby-Dick, which has no female characters, to Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle to Buddhist texts, spoke with bemusement to spiritual principles charted on a blackboard. She concluded by playing her violin so sweetly that when the lights came up it was impossible to imagine a world without galleries or feminists. Fortunately, we don’t have to. Yet.

Left: White Columns director Matthew Higgs and Gerry Lynch. Right: Artist Laurie Anderson.

Left: Artist Jennifer Allora. Right: Dealer Andrew Kreps with collector Robert Soros.

Left: Artist Paul Sietsema and curator Russell Ferguson. Right: Photographer Stephen Shore.

Left: Artists Georgie Hopton and Martin Puryear. Right: Artist Jonathan Monk.

Left: Artist James Nares. Right: Artist Olympia Scarry with curators Neville Wakefield and Piper Marshall.

Left: Dealer Lisa Overduin. Right: Artist Jonathan Horowitz with collector Andy Stillpass.

Left: Dealer Alex Zachary and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmar. Right: Artist Matt Keegan.

Left: Antje Ehmann. Right: Artists Angelo Plessas and Andreas Angelidakis.

Left: Dealer Casey Kaplan. Right: Artist Hope Atherton and curator Pati Hertling.

Left: Artist Cyril Duval with dealer Johannes Vogt. Right: Dealer Gió Marconi.

Left: Musician Keyth Hart. Right: Artists Julien Lethbridge and Phillip Taaffe.

Left: Collector Raymond Learsy. Right: Artists Matthew Ritchie and Matthew Weinstein.

Left: Architect Alessandro Bava with dealer Cornelia Grassi. Right: Artists Whitfield Lovell and Fred Wilson.

Left: Artists Nicola Tyson, Stephen Prina, and Emily Sundblad. Right: Artist Lucky DeBellevue.

Left: Artist Eduardo Sarabia. Right: Dealer Corinna Durland with artist Anne Collier.

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