New York

Jane Kaplowitz/Dave Muller

Curt Marcus Gallery

An intercoastal conversation, Jane Kaplowitz’s and Dave Muller’s recent shows brought together one New York and one Los Angeles artist, both working in installation of a similar kind: painting directly on the wall, supplemented by works on paper. Furthermore, the New Yorker was looking at Hollywood (even if Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver, source of most of Kaplowitz’s images, is a New York movie in extremis) while the Los Angeleno often cited people and events in New York. This transcontinental back-and-forth must have seemed promising, particularly given the reputation of both artists for working with art-world ephemera. The artists, however, were idiosyncratic enough—and, despite their surface similarities, different enough—to create a dialogue more by default than by design.

Muller is known in Los Angeles for a twofold practice, part organizational, part pictorial. In the former role he arranges short-term group shows, frequently in his own studio, of work by artists he likes. Many of the shows coincide with the span of a public holiday, and he calls those exhibitions “three-day weekends.” Wearing his second hat, as an artist in his own right, Muller produces handmade ads for these events and, sometimes, for shows by other artists. These engaging drawings, along with the exhibitions themselves, have the effect of implying a certain camaraderie in Muller’s peer group—a network of social connection.

Muller did not stage a three-day weekend in this space (one followed at another site in early September), but he did address other artists, and the relation between artist and audience. There were hand-drawn ads running back into history—most obviously in revisions of the poster for the New York Armory Show of 1913, but also in, say, an ad for a Michael Asher show at New York’s Clocktower in 1976. Other whimsical pieces included a drawing of a New York Times clipping—a pan of an artist’s show—and a ransom-note-style shuffling of the review’s words into a love letter. But the heart of the installation was a mural, a narrow band of painted words running all the way around one room of the gallery and into the reception area, in which Muller used a quotation from the New York painter Alex Katz, listing what he had seen in his life that-was new and exciting (“Godard’s Breathless . . . Roy Lichtenstein, early 1960s . . . Miles Davis . . . Color TV . . .”).

If Muller playfully posited a community linked through artmaking and art tastes, Kaplowitz seemed to move in the opposite direction: having sometimes depicted her art-world social circle, or appropriated scenes from movies that one could see as relevant to that world in one wav or another, she now looked hard at an archetypal film loner, Travis Bickle, the character played by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. De Niro’s face filled two walls of the gallery, copied from scenes in that film’s bloody climax. Creating a compendium of display choices, Kaplowitz showed both framed drawings and an installation of unframed works on paper thumbtacked, overlapping and higgledy-piggledy, around a comer of the gallery. Almost all these images were taken from Taxi Driver, with occasional exceptions, including one from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)—still a case of guys with guns.

Kaplowitz’s work interestingly combines post-Pop, post-appropriationist, and decorative interests. A technically striking aspect of the show was that she often used only one color, conveying light and dark by variations in intensity; the two large De Niro murals, for example, were painted in red and black, respectively, and in a washy acrylic that bled here and there and let the white of the wall show through. These images were as powerful as any Kaplowitz has produced, but the jumble of unframed drawings, in their obsessional quantity, was just as disturbing. In fact the question this show asked us to pursue was precisely all those things it might mean for a woman artist in her middle years to re-create, in the privacy of her studio and in a variety of drawing media, Scorsese’s iconic images of American violence.

David Frankel