The holidays are upon us and before all the gifted Godiva and homemade rosemary shortbread are consumed, I needed to go see all of these shows that will be taken down and scattered to the wind (e.g., dealers, collectors and storage). There is much great art to see.
One of my don’t miss shows this fall was Keltie Ferris at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, who is someone I know a bit so I won’t kvell at length, I will just say it is a beautiful show. There are a some nice reviews, but I will default to the always thoughtful John Yau on Ferris and art criticism at large: “Frankly, I am tired of hearing about artists who are the true heirs to Hannah Hoch, Philip Guston, or Frank Stella. You wonder if there will ever be a day when lineages aren’t mentioned, signifying that these artists have finally become themselves.…Have we really bottomed out, as some theorists would like us to believe, stuck in a minefield of proper citations and hipster cross-references?”
On this point I will make my mea culpa and beat my chest in repentance. I use other artists names as a cheerleaders pyramid of references to rest my idea of an artist upon. To use artists last names as adjectives or signposts generally does no good for anyone involved, save for providing me with shorthand. So as an early New Year’s resolution in this final post of 2012, I promise to do less name checking and more actual describing.
Ed Ruscha at Gagosian was a surprise favorite of mine. I love Ruscha. If I could go get myself something crazy blue chip expensive for my wall, Ruscha is way up the list. The images I had seen seemed dull and sad. And there is a lot of sad in the show, and also some anger. The entire show is books. Some are painted 10 times scale with their blank endpages recreated in empty expanses of foxing and oil stained overuse. This kind of overuse seems it could only be a bible or similarly important text, carried and handled all waking hours. These white or brown spaces are framed by the richly bound or ornately decorated covers. We see actual books and their painted projections complete with reinvisioned cover typography in the same frame. Some smaller works are covers with redacted titles (placed beside them as wall text so you know what you are missing, but essentially something you would hear two guys say to each other in an interview room in a Law & Order episode). There are several books that have been painted on and in one case, the gold leaf on page ends have been scratched off to create signature “Oh No” or “The End”.
Barnaby Furnas at Marianne Boesky is captivating and frustrating and powerful and worth experiencing. The Whalers, a 12 x 16 foot painting, is monumental in all respects. It is a monument to the mammoth story telling of Melville’s White Whale. It is a monument to the gruesome work done by the whalers, real or imagined. It is a monument to painting, to what is possible in storytelling in contemporary art. If Furnas has a signature, it is the red bloody spew of violence, and he has captured that forceful life altering event here as few painters have. There is no need to name check here, Furnas stands alone.
Mark Bradford at Sikkema Jenkins doesn’t defy any expectations but doesn’t need to. He creates endless vistas in his expansive canvases that are scars and smooth shiny oases. They are pretty and much less socially charged than any other pieces I have seen in the past. This is not bad, they just seem to exist without history.
Finally, a non-painting show to mention is Mickalene Thomas’s “How to Organize a Room Around a Striking Piece of Art” at Lehman Maupin. It is a heart-melting photo/installation/documentary film exhibition that serves as a tribute to the artist’s mother. You can sit in the installation and watch a 20 odd minute tribute and interview which is lovely and sad.
Thank you and Happy Holidays and my best wishes for a Happy, Healthy 2013!