The Greater New York show at P.S.1 opened this past weekend. The show features over 160 artists who have emerged since 2000. Obviously with that many people the opening was a zoo, but the quick impressions I got were not very positive. So much of the work fell into obvious categories such as decoration, ironic jackass-style videos (Do we really need to see two teenagers wrestling again?), hippie redux, and labor-intensive obsessive-ness. The show was surprisingly sexless, emotionless and almost devoid of political ideas. It was supposed to reflect the last five years of art making in New York and this could explain the familiarity of much of it, but it just seemed like there was something missing. After traipsing through room after room, I found it all just began to look like art, losing all relevance to the outside world. With so many artists making work that engages outside of the context of
galleries and museums this was a disappointment. The only thing that really got me was James Turrell’s permanent installation at P.S.1, which is simply a room with no ceiling where you look up. Guess you can’t really compete with the sky.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640): The Drawings is a 100 drawing show, the first ever exhibition of Rubens’s work as a draftsman. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Rubens’s paintings, with their Venetian color and swirling compositions, his drawings demonstrate his freedom of line and expression to great advantage. Rubens lived all over Europe, which afforded him the chance to study his predecessors in depth. A fine example of Rubens’s sinuous Baroque hand is his copy of Michelangelo’s muscular Libyan Sibyl (a study for the latter’s Sistine Chapel painting) which hangs next to Rubens’s more curvilinear and feminine version of the same.
Also at the Met is William Kentridge: Selections on Paper. This small exhibition of drawings and works on paper, chosen from the Metropolitan’s collection, is a strong introduction to this South African artist’s work. Kentridge is well known for his films, which appear to be his drawings in motion. The film on view in the Metropolitan show brings Kentridge’s work to life.
Terri Cohn writes: My final stop at the Whitney was Bill Viola, Five Angels for the Millenium. This overblown five channel video projection, which resembles a creation myth, suggests that Viola has succumbed to the seduction of the big screen. One of the most interesting facets of Viola’s work has always been its sculptural nature, with which he has dispensed here. Why the Whitney and Tate collaborated in the purchase of this work is a mystery.
Although I’ve known Tim Hawkinson’s work for years, he has been more of a “sleeper” than some artists of his stature. This current overview of his work at the Whitney is terrific in the chance it affords to consider the remarkable breadth and distinctive nature of the work. As Lawrence Rinder says in his introduction to the handsome book published in conjunction with the show, “Tim Hawkinson’s art is nothing if not idiosyncratic; the peculiarity and eccentricity of his art is legendary.”
Like most conceptually oriented artists, Hawkinson doesn’t limit himself in terms of medium, but tends to realize most of his work in sculptural form. In Rube Goldberg-like fashion, many of these pieces are mechanized, with their workings displayed as though in a technology exhibit. This automated aspect, sometimes paired with sound, also makes visible Hawkinson’s sense of humor, a quality that is sometimes created via the contradictions between his choice of object or material, and the sculpture’s function. A particularly delightful example of this is Hawkinson’s series of clocks. Among them is one that appears to be a hairbursh with a stray hair emerging which serves as its hand; another is a manila envelope whose brad closure serves to mark the hours and minutes. But it is his numerous works that refer to the body that are most moving here, ranging from his huge suspended Balloon Self-Portrait (1993) and continually morphing Emoter—a motorized inkjet print of his face whose planes constantly shift in placement like a Cubist painting in motion—to his surreal Untitled (Ear/Baby) (1989), an oval framed drawing of an ear, from which a fetus suspended from an umbilical cord appears to grow; and his wall-mounted record drawings, which recall Duchamp’s roto-reliefs. The drawings were made on slowly revolving disks, on which the artist used his right (melody) and left (rhythm) hands to create his responses to “My Favorite Things,” which plays on a music box in the gallery.
This fine exhibition provides an overview of this underrated artist’s works through one of my favorite mediums. Drawings provide a chance to witness an artist’s process of thinking and experimentation, and this certainly is the case with Twombly’s works on paper. Twombly was a cryptographer in the service, and this carries through in the work with his often indecipherable use of language, and the extreme freedom of gesture he demonstrates here. He likes primary forms and the color red; classical philosphers and mythology; and his dynamic combinations of these formal and thematic tendencies throughout his oeuvre are exciting to consider.
Yerba Buena Center announced the list of participating artists for Bay Area Now 4—including Stretcher.org, today. The Visual Arts section of Bay Area Now 4, which will be on view July 16-November 6, 2005 includes 33 entities—individual artists, collaborators, and artist collectives. Co-curators Rene de Guzman and Berin Golonu comment, “Broadly speaking, BAN 4 addresses strands of the local arts ecology that have yet to receive the attention they deserve—the emerging young artists that our great art schools consistently produce, as well as a range of artists who are committed to making art accessible to a wider public outside of the traditional museum crowd. BAN 4 displays a high level of ambition, professionalism and smarts, as well as a vision for how the arts in the future may explicitly articulate its multi-layered value to society at large.”
The List: Chris Ballantyne, Tommy Becker, Libby Black, Liz Cohen, Adriane Colburn, Robert Gutierrez, John Hattori, Marisa Jahn and Steve Shada, Xylor Jane, Jim Jocoy, Helena Keeffe, Frederick Loomis, Michelle Lopez, Ari Marcopoulos, Christian Maychack, Keegan McHargue, Apollonia Morrill, Neck Face, Sasha Petrenko, Kate Pocrass, Emily Prince, Ted Purves, Christine Shields, Josephine Taylor, Margaret Tedesco, Hank Willis Thomas, Ede Tsong, Anna Von Mertens, Anne Walsh and Chris Kubick, Gestalt Collective, Hamburger Eyes, Mail Order Brides/M.O.B., Stretcher.org.
The new Museum of Modern Art, housed in its spectacular redesigned building, has huge galleries perfect for considering the works on display, regardless of medium. Seeing the three floors of permanent collection was like visiting old friends, especially after their years of displacement in storage or temporary lodgings. However, I was appalled at the generally poor gender demographics of the collection on view. With the exception of the fine works by such icons as Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, and Lee Krasner, there were few other pieces by women artists on display in the museum. Not a good sign for the bastion of modernism in the 21st century.