Monday, November 15, 2010

Mary Boone’s Ceiling

Sometimes I think that there is a great big warehouse somewhere out in Queens that’s full of terrible art and that once a month all the art dealers in Chelsea rent trucks, drive out to Queens and fill the trucks up with all this lousy work. Back in Chelsea they fling the stuff around and fill their big spaces with this crap. That’s what I sometimes think when I make my way through the galleries of Chelsea. I like the galleries that are on the ground floor with big windows so that I can just take a peek and see what’s inside without having to go in. Yuk, yikes and gag., I see more exhibits this way than I like to admit to. But on occasion I actually see some pretty good shows and two exhibits that I liked are now on view in those gargantuan Gagosian spaces. There is a very beautiful retrospective of sorts of Robert Rauschenberg that is as good as anything you might see in a small museum in a small city and I don‘t mean this as a put down. A mixture of combines, assemblages, paintings, and sculptures all colorful inventive and nicely installed. Some might find the work a little too clear and clean, but I’ve always loved his work. Curious and innovative to the very end of his life this is a wonderful show especially if you’ve never seen a large group of his work. The other big show is a monumental jaw dropping exhibition by the world famous German artist Anselm Kiefer. This show is jammed with very large glass vitrines ( I’d like to see the Vogels fit one of these monsters under their bed) that in themselves are pretty amazing. I kept thinking of the immense job it must have been just to just get these things up and who would ever have the room to own one of these works which must weigh a ton. Inside each glass cabinet are large installations using many of Kiefer’s usual themes and images, trees, parts of landscapes, weapons of war, ships, mysterious fragments, relics and ruins. These are exhibits in a nightmarish gallery, or one of my dreams gone bad. They are also cinematic in scale and scope, they look like sets from some big time sci-fi or horror flick, the latest Avant-Garde hot ticket theatrical event, or a shopping mall full of cursed objects. Something has gone terribly wrong and of course I immediately thought of the holocaust, which is a comfortable theme for Kiefer and one which he has used for years. Some might say milked. So we are surrounded by sad bunches of things, of charred and burned books, girl’s white dresses scarred with shards of glass, parts of dead airplanes and more. Kiefer likes to hit us on the head with a big hammer, as if we’re not capable of understanding or feeling horror or sadness. There are also many very large paintings of his around the space that are probably his most familiar works, clumpy grey landscapes heavily covered with paint, leaves and twigs, and did I see teeth hanging on some of the paintings? Kiefer likes big. I don’t see how one cannot be impressed by these epic works, they overwhelm, but they are also chic, cold and comfortable and I can see why some people would be turned off by them. He keeps us at a safe distance and reading some of the reviews for the show I was surprised at the amount of virulence directed at him and his work. The final work that I really liked was Mary Boone’s ceiling. This is Easily the best thing that I’ve seen at her gallery. I guess there was something going on in the gallery, but it looked empty to me, but then again so much of what is shown in these large spaces look empty to me. Maybe more galleries should follow Ms. Boone’s example of emptying their spaces of lousy art and just showing the ceilings, the walls or the staircases.



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