There are three very good, very strong and yes very beautiful large exhibitions of sculptures by Lynda Benglis, Leonardo Drew and Richard Serra now on in Chelsea. All three of the shows are boundless in their imagination and impressive in their talent.
The Benglis show is full of her twisty paper wall hangings that are colorful, tactile ( I really wanted to touch them, pat them and maybe give them a soft hug) and recognizable as her work. They are a secure part of her life's work that I have known since the early 70's. She uses paper as wonderfully as she has used all of her materials, and for a startling glimpse there is also a very large aluminum piece that hovers over us like some prehistoric creature, a monster escaped from some ice age.
The paper ones are my favorites though, they look like body parts or plaster casts to encase broken body parts, an arm or maybe a leg. Also wonderful is the latest work from the terrific artist Leonardo Drew who works with a wide range of found materials to make up his large unruly sculptures that intrude from the walls, and sometimes land at our feet. The first thing I thought of was Louise Nelvelson's work because of the prominent use of black wood that Drew uses, but these are their own, his own. The work almost defies definition and really have to be seen to be believed.
And finally there is a strong display by Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery of large steel sculptures that are rich and foreboding as is usual with this great minimal sculptor. I have looked at his work for such a long time, and never tire of his tactile skill at taking steel and making it bloom with touches of texture and scale. This show has large monolithic architectural slabs looming up in one gallery, that might bring to mind tombstones or a future city on some distant planet. There are certainly other shows around but none in the area come close to these three brilliant displays of why art matters.
One of the things I like about Chelsea galleries are the ones that are on the ground floor with their large windows, so I can peek in and see what's going on, and in most cases avoid the show inside. Where do these galleries find all this drecky stuff? In garbage dumps, in New Jersey, at art fairs? who knows, but its very easy to avoid. Just cup your eyes against the light look in the windows, and keep walking Mary, just keep walking.
The Benglis show is at Cheim & Read until Oct 22, the Serra show has been extended until Oct 22 at Gagosian and Leonardo Drew is at Sillema Jenkins until Oct. 8th.