Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mann & mankind

My bullshit detector has fresh batteries.
My tolerance for crappy art has reached an all-time low.
So it gives me great pleasure to recommend the Sally Mann show at Gagosian uptown. She's photographing her husband, Larry, who has MS. He retains his dignity, as is her way. The wet collodion process, ancient and fallable, lets her use it as a metaphor for his aging body. {Maybe.} The results are awesome, in the sense of inspiring awe.
I could say Larry still has a fantastic ass, and I could say bring a hankie. Viewer's call.

Sally Mann, "Proud Flesh" at Gagosian
980 Madison Ave. / 76 st.
through Oct.31

images, from top:

"Semaphore", 2003
Gelatin silver print
15 x 13 1/2 inches (38.1 x 31.3 cm)
Edition of 5

"Hephaestus", 2008
Gelatin Silver print
15 x 13 1/2 inches (38.1 x 31.3 cm)
Edition of 5

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of Time and Place

The natural world, alive, turbulent; calm, roasting, and dead. Jason Frank Rothenberg shoots what he finds, mostly landscapes. This is a mini-retrospective, five years worth of color work. The most powerful images depict nature's inviolable power up close: a glacier, erratically coated with dirt, smothers a stream, which resembles a road. Where the two meet there's a maw, like the mouth of a cave. More brutal than majestic (and a terrific backdrop for the last act of Hamlet). In "Ocean", the heaviest print in the show, the waves heave and crash, black storm clouds hover overhead, and a squall disrupts the background. One doesn't talk back to the elements.
The vistas of trees and open spaces are tranquil, affectionate and a little odd, given their neighbors. Vegetation in Texas comes off better, if for the juxtaposition of the dead, broken branches, shed, golden leaves and living, unlandscaped grasses. A subtle tumult.
Rothenberg is a (primarily) commercial photographer in the Art + Commerce vein. He should get out more.

Jason Frank Rothenberg, "Fossils", at Werkstätte
55 Great Jones St.
through Jan. 24

images, from top:

"Glacier II", 2006
42 1/2 x 36 1/2 inches, framed
edition of 5

"Ocean", 2003
26 x 26 inches, framed
Edition of 5

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Fifteen bucks to see a drawing. Okay, it's one of Michelangelo's finest, of the kind of beauty that can only be described as paradaisical. Also "etherial," "supernatural," "eternal," and " I want that."* At first gaze, it's female. The text declares it's male, from one of Michelangelo's models. I don't care. It's a face that remains on the cranium through wind, cold, and extenuating circumstances. It's with me, still. This "Study For the Head of Leda" would have make even Zeus turn into, oh I don't know, maybe something white, long-necked and feathery.
The rest of this sparse (borderline stingy) show reveals the painter as also sculptor, poet and architect. This is nothing new. Yes, there are several more drawings (two handsful) depicting work in progress; they are suitably magnificent. They're from the Casa Buonarotti, in Florence. And although the works are mesmerizing, depicting the body in motion and architectural renderings, one wants more. The bulk of paper (poems, notes) written by the artist is from charming to whatever; reproduction would have sufficed. Subtitling the show "The Man and the Myth" sounds sensational; this discomfort is exacerbated by the lobby shop, where all manner of Michelangelo paraphernalia is hawked, including an insulated coffee mug. The tote bag has the venue and dates prominently displayed; it was suitably on sale.

Michelangelo, the Man and the Myth, at the Palitz Gallery
11 E. 61 st.
212-754-5121 (no, you don't need an advance ticket)
through Jan. 4

*I've been really good this year and discarded my cradle-robbing ways. But now all I want for Christmas is a catamite.

Michelangelo, Studies for the Head of Leda, c1530
red graphite, 354 x 269 mm

Friday, October 31, 2008

The good, the bad, and the amazing

On earth as it damn well should be in heaven. One wants to ask for a prie-dieu, such is the majesty of the Clyfford Still upon entering this new gallery. With its jagged mesas of blue and the topmost talons (red creeping into maroon), this is prime Still. Need more?* It lies in the interior: not as immediate, but there's no dross with this artist.
Trying to elucidate why Still is great is like trying to explain why you're with your lover. Sui generis, his work is as ineffable (and as indelible) as his/her scent.
This most uncompromising of artists "once wrote that painting was a way to find revelation and to 'exalt the spirit of man.'Ӡ The other standout is a large work by Lee Krasner, so stunning one wonders what the fuss was with that guy she was married to. "Another Storm" must be viewed up close: paint is splashed (hurled?), dripped, brushed, smooshed. White and red and everything between. The violence is palpable; the viewer cowers. If this is your first exposure to a mural-size Krasner, read the first sentence of this paragraph. "Storm" is flanked on the left by a mushy/twitchy de Kooning, all Ornette Coleman, and on the right, a bodacious David Smith painted-steel woman. Love the segue.
Ah yes, David Smith. His six sculptures are scattered throughout the show, like saffron. My favorite is "Forging XI", that totem pole of raw power.
Don't miss the whispery room of photographs. Small and unexpected (Minor White an Abstract Expressionist?), these additions stretch the movement. There's also a considered attempt to resurrect a few also-ran painters, but unfortunately, in this company -- especially here -- their failings are all too obvious (aka no frisson whatsoever).
A museum-calibre show in the heart of tourist-country. Twenty stories above them and sublimely quiet. Just you, the masterpieces (many from private collections), and security.

Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere, at Haunch Of Venison
1230 Avenue of the Americas
through Nov. 12

*Satisfy the urge at the Met. Satiate it in Denver in


images, from top:

Clyfford Still
1955 M No 2, 1955
oil on canvas
96 x 114 in. (289.5 x 244 cm.)
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive / The Clyfford Still Estate

Lee Krasner
Another Storm, 1963
oil on canvas
94 × 176 in (239 × 447 cm)
Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York/ 2008 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Monday, October 13, 2008

toot toot...

An announcement, not a review. I'm in a huge group show in Williamsburg.

Metropolis Apocalypse, at Supreme Trading
213 N. 8 st.
through Oct. 31
visiting hours: 5pm-9pm daily

Saturday, July 12, 2008

War pigs

Etchings by Goya, that master of the human condition. "Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War)" is a searing, haunting testament. From the opening image of a supplicant to the 80th page, "Will She Live Again?", all is harrowing. Brutality is the everyday. Attempted rape, dismemberment, corpses being stripped. A woman engaging in battle, baby under one arm. Violence: relentless and macabre. The despondency of those left. The final works are allegories: carnivorous giant bats and orating barnyard animals. It's be comical if it weren't so horrifyingly timeless.

This series was Goya's reaction to Spain's War of Independence against the French (aka Napoleon). No doubt Eddie Adams and Robert Capa were familiar with it.

Enough has been written about war, and plenty has been written about Goya. The work speaks for itself. Go.

Francisco de Goya, Los Desastres de la Guerra (The disasters of War), at Peter Blum
99 Wooster St.
through Aug. 1

Images courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery, New York.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer trio

Arcimboldo's progeny goes to the countryside. Landscapes made out of food: in "Salmon Sea", slices of the preserved fish evoke waves coming gently to shore; pumpernickel rocks provide perspective. A delicate pea pod -- swanlike bean sprout emerging from between perfect globes -- is too gorgeous to eat.* Other images are equally tasty: "Broccoli Forest," "Cabbage Sea," "Fruit Balloons" (which surely belongs on Sir Richard Branson's wall). These color prints (not digital, although the produce is preternaturally vivid) had me howling. My fave was "Fruit Balloons", with rolling fields of prone asparagus, cucumber, and ears of corn. Berries float through the sky attached to the aforementioned contraptions. Curly parsley as a framing device. Carl Warner, what are you smoking and can I have some, please?
Cool and elegant and redolent of forbidden pleasures: Donald Sultan records smoke rings on a black ground. Pearly and crisp, wafting ephemeral/eternal. Formal in their gelatin silver and sorrowfully beautiful.
One wants to sniff (fucking brat) at Mark Gonzalez, who shows pics from his Sidekick. For sure, they're immediate. He's on his skateboard. Snap & split. The photos are laser prints, fer chrissake, with all the low-res (odd colors, highlights blown out) you'd expect from a camera phone. But what colors! A marvelous composition of pink bald pate, straw-yellow hair, persimmon ear and cobalt upholstery had me riveted. Alas, a good chunk of the 158 images is navel-gazingly diaristic.
Oh well. We all know reality is what you make of it.

Topsy Turvy, at Janet Borden
560 Broadway
through July 31

*Good thing the gallery is above Dean & DeLuca.