Thursday, May 29, 2014

Storme DeLarverie. 1920-2014

A memory so long ago, as a little boy looking through the souvenir program my parents brought back after seeing The Jewel Box Revue, an early drag revue show and seeing this photo of Storme, and probably thinking what is going on?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nancy Grossman. The Edge Of Always. Constructions From The 1960s. Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

For my 30th birthday the artist Nancy Grossman gave me a nice 9-¼” x12 ¼” sketchbook of good thick paper that I used to make nine paintings which I sometimes refer to as my “Nancy Paintings.” I mention this because I thought of them the other day as I viewed her fierce and beautiful show of some forty large assemblages and constructions from the 1960’s. These are superb pieces, large, abstract, dense  & aggressive (but not hostile) that are intricate and intimate but large in their scope and vision. Made from all sorts of discarded materials including scrap metal, saddles and harnesses (a fitting gift from David Smith) leather and other parts of clothing that Grossman then put together to make these amazing textured works that look like remnants of an industrial age plowed under.  Collaged, sewed, hammered and glued, bulging off their supports and sometimes extending out into real space. They also bring to mind the earth, death, sci-fi and destruction and are definitely of their Art World time and period, but are still relevant, brilliant and inspiring. The colors of the pieces are mostly dark browns with some reds, tans and an occasional touch of color (a bright blue might appear) and one can even see figurative shadows lurking in these ruins. They also prefigure her most famous works of sexually charged heads and bodies made of wood and wrapped in leather that she would do in the late 60’s and 70’s and for which she is most known for, but its these early mysterious works that interest me the most. This terrific show will be up until July 3rd.

The great designer Massimo Vignelli 1931-2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner.

Gee free lousy candy can be yours for the taking at this, (I don't even know what it was) but I'll call it an event since its hardly an exhibition by the Art World Candy Boy of the moment Oscar Murillo who instead of showing some of his paintings has reproduced a candy making factory from his home town in Colombia right in the gallery. How far out is that!  What was Zwirner thinking? Maybe he ate too many of these gooey disgusting marshmallows covered in chocolate, (yes I tried one) and all that sugar made him loose  all sense of judgment. This is without a doubt the worst show I've seen so far this year and this guy makes someone like Dan Colen seem like a genius. When I went to the gallery the happy workers were no where to be seen,  the chocolate candy machines were quiet, no videos were running  and the gallery was empty except for myself and one other person  who made the poor gallerista turn blue with all the questions he was asking her about this stuff.  I also had questions: like why was I even here giving this junk my time.  It did raise all sorts of political and economic issues for me, like how much were these "workers" getting paid and does Murillo really think that this crap is going to start conversations about migration? At the David Zwirner Gallery no less? How about a conversation about the Colombian drug cartels while we're at it. To be fair there were a few small ghastly sculptures consisting of Dom Perignon bottles from the Jeff Koons limited edition that Murillo has altered with bad drawings and some hideous sculptures made from chocolate that has been melted and mixed with tennis balls and plastic bottles. The candy packages have been designed by him and have smiley faces on them and the slogan "Have A Nice Day" and  I was not amused, this is sad depressing work.  I would have loved it if the gallery had a video running of Lucy and Ethel from their candy making episode, now that would have been fun. Again to be fair I haven't seen any of his "hot hyped"  paintings but after this mess I'm certainly not looking forward to seeing them. Unclean unclean.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Crooked Way 1949

I came across this little chipped rhinestone of a noir that was directed by Robert Florey the other night on YouTube and although far from great I can recommend it because it has a good cast and superb noir cinematography by the great John Alton. The story line is familiar but still has legs even though they're somewhat arthritic.  A war vet played by John Payne has a wound to his head, which has given him amnesia. The doctors tell him to go back home to Los Angeles there’s nothing more they can do and maybe he will run into someone who will jar his memory back. No sooner does he arrive at Union Station then he is indeed recognized by two cops and it turns out that in a previous life Payne was a no good gangster who snitched on his partner in crime that sent him to the big house while Payne high tailed it into the army leaving behind a wife. Convoluted to say the least and most of the cast including Payne, who was a pretty boy in all those Betty Grable-Alice Faye Technicolor 40’s musicals were on the way down the ladder. Ouch, but like Dick Powell another soft male lead of the 30’s and early 40’s he landed in some good hard-boiled pictures. Playing villain bad guy supreme is Sonny Tufts (yes that Sonny Tufts), and Ellen Drew as the left over wife who has since joined ranks with Tufts to help run his gambling casino. Standout in the supporting cast is the great Percy Helton as a stoolie and Rhys Williams as a cop. There are also many recognizable character actors scattered all over the film like bits of dandruff including the wonderful Esther Howard. The ending is soft and gooey, I would have preferred a more downbeat close but the transfer is surprisingly good which pleased me to no end and if you are a collector of lost L.A. the on location footage will make you purr like Helton’s cat. 

may collage. 2014. collage, paint, ink and wax on 11" x 14" paper

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Transcendence Magazine

Ira Joel Haber. Transcendence Magazine has just published one of my photos in their inaugural issue. Its on pg. 69, and you can view the entire issue at this link.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Art Till I Drop




Of course the great exhibition now on view in Chelsea is the Chaim Soutine show at the Paul Kasmin Gallery. Comprised of only 16 paintings (but oh what paintings) it’s still a museum quality show and includes his twisted distorted and gnarled landscapes, a few portraits and his famous paintings of carcasses of fowl and rabbits, all beautiful, vibrant and haunting. I grew up looking at his work along with the work of his pal Modigliani both of whom led sad poor lives, both dying young and both of them Jews. Maybe I was attracted to them because they were Jewish, and showed me that Jews could be artists and there was more to art than just Picasso. Yes I know there was an other Jewish painter, Chagall and I knew his work but he was too nice and pretty for me, I didn’t want fiddlers on roofs, I wanted rough and out of control because that’s how my own childhood was, and these two Jews gave this very lapsed Jew (I wasn’t even bar mitzfaed) what I needed in my early teens. I also think my love and sadness for them had to do with their unique visions and the pictures that they made. Soutine’s work is the more difficult of the two not only for his subject matter but also for his fierce and violent use of the paint and how he applied, slapped and punched it on to the canvas. I know this can appear ugly and disturbing to some but not to me, to me this is great, haunting and beautiful work. His power and influence on art and artists especially the abstract expressionists is well known and is also felt for many young and not so young contemporary painters.

Other good shows seen include the quite spectacular and terrific large sculptures by Tara Donovan that take up the two large spaces at the Pace Gallery that are imaginative, strange, theatrical and very beautiful. One of the pieces consists of millions and millions of 3 x 5” white styrene index cards that were put together with glue to form 8 large odd monolithic sculptures that have a primordial look to them, that play around with the light almost making them look like rock formations with line drawings on them. The other large piece is made from thousands of acrylic rods into sphere like shapes that at first look appear to be soft and tactile and not hard and pointy. This is the first show of Donovan’s work that I’ve seen, and for once the attention and recognition paid to her is well deserved.

Philip Pearlstein recent work at Betty Cunningham. Nothing surprising here, just strong beautifully painted nudes set in rooms with unusual objects and his trademark cropping. Amazingly Pearlstein just turned 90 and his paintings continue to be sharp and youthful.

Joan Mitchell & her trees at Cheim & Read. Startling and lush large scale abstract paintings that might bring to mind forests of trees even without the title of the show cluing us in. One always goes to Mitchell’s work for her brilliant use of color and her robust and aggressive handling of paint. Much loved by Painters, and a larger than life force in art world lore and myth, this is a life of an artist that would make a great movie.

Dona Nelson at Thomas Erben Gallery. More theatricality. Large freestanding bold abstract paintings that are viewed from the front and back, making them sculptural. There are many pleasures here when you discover the backs of some of them are brazenly not what you expected. Some might complain about the impression that they are just very good room dividers and they’re just right for some chic interior decorator to plop down in a rich client’s living room but hey offer more than this. Rich in textures and surprises (is that sewing that I see) Nelson has a fine flair for incorporating strings and fabrics into her paint drenched canvases.

Jay DeFeo. Mitchell-Innes & Nash. I wasn’t so crazy about the large retrospective of hers last year at the Whitney, it seemed all over the place to me, and the focus on her “The Rose” left me high and dry, maybe there was just too much expectation hanging around this show for me. That said the current exhibition of her work is very wonderful and pretty much changed my opinion I had of her work. I like when this happens. The show includes fifty works of small photographs, drawings a few paintings and photocopy works. Its all black white and gray, intimate and moving.

Fred Tomaselli James Cohan Gallery. One has to be impressed with Tomaselli’s skill. His works with collage and large scale painting and combines mixed media into very compelling and ornate works with a concern for political issues especially ecological. This can become overwrought and obvious at times but happily these stunning works are impressive even without the political baggage. It’s harder to avoid the social and political aspects of his work in his large but small continuing series of collaged and painted images that cleverly find their way on the front pages of The New York Times. In these news of the day photos Tomaselli crops most of the front page away but keeps some of the headlines and stories along with the photo which is front and center as he makes satirical and editorial comments via his mixture of painting and collage that are by and large entertaining but sometimes obvious and jokey, kinda like a visual SNL skit. Still his skills with intimacy, patterns and design are impressive.

Ron Nagle/George Ohr. Look Closer, Look Again. George Adams Gallery

I love the ceramics of George Ohr and Like Ron Nagle’s ceramics so I thought that this duo show would be great. It isn’t and the main problem is the pairing of these two very different ceramists and the installation. Ohr who liked to call himself “the mad potter of Biloxi” (check out his portraits to see why) worked from the late 19th century into the early part of the 20th century and whose wonderful pieces were way ahead of their time. Nagle is a popular California ceramist who makes small loopy sometimes marvelous eccentric pieces that usually are brightly colored and textured, (you want to reach out and pet them) and are sometimes figurative. Ohr’s colors and glazes are usually muted and somber. The pieces are organic and alive with movement in the way the clay was handled which is sometimes folded, twisted, dented and poked and are very unique. In the exhibition the work of the two are placed on shelves lining the gallery sometimes in pairs and sometimes solo and Nagle suffers in the pairing, maybe its the choices of the pieces shown by him, but at times I felt like the premise of the show was a contest between the two, sort of a dancing with the ceramists, and for me “the Mad Potter’ won hands down. I think both artists would have been better served with individual exhibitions than this skimpy showing of only 15 pieces.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

E.T.A. Estimated Time of Arrival

Just got the first issue of E.T.A. that comes out of  Illinois Wesleyan University with a nice full color repro. of one of my collages from 2007.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I had no idea that this magazine was using some of my photographs including one on the cover. Maybe I forgot, but I found this by accident. Should I be pleased or angry?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oddball Magazine

 Oddball Magazine has just posted one of my collages on their website

Monday, May 19, 2014

Untitled New Sculpture May 2014. Mix

Gordon Willis. 1931-2014.

The great cinematographer known for filming The Godfather Trilogy and many of Woody Allen's films. Never won a compensative Oscar (morons) but was awarded an Honorary Oscar a few years back. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Notebook drawing May 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Relics of New York

Its still possible to find wonderful shabby relics of new york city's past right in the heart of midtown. These rows are between 5th and 6th ave in the mid 40's and are surrounded by many ghastly large buildings without any personality, and I don't doubt that these shabby but interesting structures will soon be turned into the same faceless tombs that now surround them.

Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1988. The Museum Of Modern Art.

This large enticing but uneven retrospective of the late Brazilian artist Lygia Clark now at The Museum Of Modern Art has a lot to offer and its good to see the Moma displaying the work of a little known (in this country anyway) artist. I actually met her in the early 70’s but can’t recall much about it this meeting, except for her lovely smile that she threw at me from time to time, and I could easily apply that lovely smile to a large amount of the work in this sometimes thrilling sometimes annoying exhibition. Spread out in a graceful and welcoming installation that takes up 4 large galleries on the 6th floor the show opens with lots of her small tight abstract geometric paintings from the early 1950’s that are beautifully painted in subtle colors and are influenced by the Construtivists (her few very early representational paintings also in the beginning of the show are not very good). The paintings move on and change but are still small and abstract but more minimal and are mostly in black, white and gray and some might find these works too designed and corporate logo looking. In the next gallery are her many small abstract metal hinged sculptures that she called “Bichos” which means critters and are laid out on low plain plywood tables and were originally meant to be played with and changed into different shapes and arrangements by viewers, the Moma offers up a few of these for viewer participation which I didn’t partake in. This brings me to my aversion to participation art. Once in the early 70’s a long gone curator and very rich collector of photographs and photographers took it upon himself to pick up one of my boxes that was being shown in a gallery in Soho and thinking that just because it had loose particles in it, it was alright for him to pick it up and shake it. Needless to say he cause damaged and needless to say he heard from me. Even if this “accident” didn’t take place I would still not be a participator and usually flee from any works of art or performances that I have to be an active, unwilling and embarrassed participant. That said its in the final gallery that I had the most trouble but it does bring to light the misleading and unnecessary title of the show “Lygia Clark: The Abandonment Of Art 1948-1988. Here we are presented with her work that she did after she stopped making art (for a period of time) and started to devote her time and energy to art therapy and sensory perception pieces that she used in her treatment of psychotic patients. In this part of the show viewers can cut up long narrow rolls of white paper or put on her scary “sensorial masks” and body suits that look like something from a slasher movie or play with soft small fetishistic balls, rubber gloves and other weird things that look like objects you might find in a sex shop. This is a complex and demanding show, and easily one of the best exhibitions of the year, flaws and all.
Site Meter