Meg Cranston at Fitzroy Gallery
I walked into Fitzroy Gallery at 195 Chrystie Street and immediately liked the works of Meg Cranston. Most were quite large (around 72 by 56 inches) works of oil, acrylic and silkscreen, but the one above (collage and gouache on paper) was only 14 by 11 inches.
I loved the collage element of the works, the colors, the mix of abstract images and images found in popular culture. I found the works both stimulating and mysterious. Cranston is a Los Angeles artist and is acting chair of the Fine Arts Department at Otis College, where she has been on the faculty for over 20 years. She works in many media–often sculpture, video, and performance. The exhibit is on through June 15th.
Meyer Vaisman at Eleven Rivington
I also enjoyed the Meyer Vaisman exhibit which is in both of Eleven Rivington’s gallery spaces: 11 Rivington Street and at 195 Chrystie Street. These works are abstract images on plywood that have been created with an inkjet printer. Though they have been created without the artist’s hand, they are playful and give the illusion of “action”. Most of the works were signed twice–so the owner must decide which is the top and which is the bottom when hanging the works.
Vaisman is the same age as Meg Cranston (both were born in 1960). Vaisman was born in Venezuela, went to art school and worked for some time in New York, but has been based in Barcelona for 14 years. This is his first solo show in New York since 2000. The show is up until July 3rd, 2014.
Philip Pearlstein at Betty Cuningham Gallery
I was surprised to find the Betty Cuningham Gallery at 15 Rivington Street, the former home of Dodge Gallery. Turns out Dodge closed after 4 years in the space. Betty Cuningham originally opened in Soho in 1972 and spent 10 years in Chelsea. Chased out of Chelsea by high rents, she has moved the gallery and the final exhibit of the Chelsea space has become the inaugural exhibit on Rivington Street. Chelsea has become home to super galleries with exhibits of major artists that rival museum shows in quality and curatorial ingenuity. For the last few years, the lower east side was where you went to see emerging artists with unfamiliar names. Though a couple of established galleries have opened spaces in the Lower East Side area (e.g. Lehmann Maupin opened an auxiliary space on Chrystie, while keeping their Chelsea space and Sperone Westwater built a remarkable building on the Bowery), to me, the arrival of Betty Cuningham who represents well-established artists like 90-year old Philip Pearlstein truly indicates a change in the face of the art scene both in Chelsea and the Lower East Side.
By the way, I’m not a Pearlstein fan, but that’s me. The Philip Pearlstein exhibit is on display at the new space through July 25, 2014.
I spent the afternoon in Chelsea. It is a great place to see art. There are about 350 galleries and they are so concentrated that it is easy to walk from one to another. Many of the exhibits are as good or better as any museum shows and they are all free. Sometimes the doors are barely marked and you can’t tell what is behind the opaque glass. You just have to take a chance and walk right in. On my most recent visit, I only covered the territory between 18th Street and 22nd Street. Here are some highlights:
Hauser & Wirth opened this gallery space in the from Roxy nightclub space less than 2 years ago. But it has been recently announced it is going to be torn down and a high rise condo building will be built here. In the meantime, to enter the gallery, you must walk up an extra wide flight of stairs with striking stripes on the walls. Through July 25th, the large gallery space is housing the works of L.A. artist Sterling Ruby. I’m familiar with him as a sculptor, but the show includes spray paint paintings, fabric collages and cardboard collages. The sculptures are monumental in size. They employ a wide variety of materials, colors and styles.
The most striking is the cup:
It is about 10 feet tall. The sculptures stands out first because of its bright red color. But then one notices that the red looks like bloody viscera that repulses, as if Ruby has just binge-watched the TV show “True Blood”.
I had a similar dual reaction to another work, Big Yellow Mama:
At first, it looks like a large Alice in Wonderland type chair for children to play on, but then I realize it is more like an oversized electric chair.
The Hauser and Wirth show includes a ceramic “Basin” sculpture like the works of Sterling Ruby that are currently included in the Whitney Biennial.
I don’t know anything about Glenn Brown and wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked into the gallery where I have seen amazing museum quality shows of artists like Monet, Picasso, Frankenthaler and Rauschenberg. At first it didn’t look like something I would enjoy, but the more I looked, the more I found myself drawn into these colorful, yet grotesque paintings and scuptures.
A few examples:
The show is on view until June 21st.
Tom Duncan at the Andrew Edlin Gallery, 134 Tenth Avenue
Also on view until June 21st is the Tom Duncan show at the Andrew Edlin Gallery. The show features sculptural assemblages, both large and small, inspired by Duncan’s childhood memories. I liked many of these works, especially the small ones, most of which were sold.
No Problem: Cologne/New York 1984-1989 at David Zwirner Gallery
Another museum quality show is at the David Zwirner galleries on 19th and 20th streets. It features artists who showed in both New York and Cologne between 1984 and 1989 and includes works by Americans Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and Jenny Holzer, and German artists Albert Oelen, Gunther Forg and Walter Dahn. Many artists included in the show have been the subject of recent solo museum shows in New York, such as Cindy Sherman, Christopher Wool, George Condo, Martin Kippenberger, Rosemarie Trockel, and Mike Kelly. The show is on view until June 14, 2014.
I spent an afternoon wandering through Chelsea galleries. One of the stranger art exhibits I came across was in the David Zwirner Gallery space at 519 West 19th Street.
The artist, Oscar Murillo, who lives and works in London, has been called “a 21st century Basquiat”. Best known as a painter, Murillo has somehow installed a fully functional candy-making factory, workers and all, in the gallery space.
Murillo is originally from Colombia. His hometown is home to the factory of candy manufacturer, Colombina, and many people in the town, including Murillo’s parents, worked at the factory.
Now, when you open the doors to the gallery, you first see racks of candy packages.
The desk of the gallery workers has the usual literature on the exhibit and is also half covered in more packages of candy.
When you turn away from these candy wrappers, the first thing you see is a multi-screen video display,
A couple of the screens show a conveyor belt of chocolates.
The room opens up into a warehouse like space, in the middle of which sit containers of unwrapped candies and more wrapped candy
Along a side wall are Jeff Koons limited edition Dom Perignon boxes each with a drawing by Murillo inspired by a Jeff Koons balloon.
On another wall, there is an unexplained framed job application of Belisario Caicedo Florez, dated September 20, 1982.
But all the action is going on behind some shelving units full of boxes. Through the gaps, I see people in white uniforms and head coverings presumably at work making candy.
I am not allowed to go into the back factory area. Visitors are allowed in the factory in back between 1 pm and 3 pm when the workers are not making candy.
The gallery press release says: “by turning the gallery into a fully operational production site, [Murillo] opens up for consideration not merely . . . trade and globalization, but also . . . individual relationships and communities, roots and immigration.” Roberta Smith of the New York Times has a mixed review of the show. She says “there’s little that doesn’t feel obvious and generic in this laborious re-creation of life as art.” And while she finds the show overly “warm and fuzzy”, she says that the effort “deserves some credit for exposing, with unusual directness and resonance, the gaps created by race, class and nationality in an art gallery, one of the world’s more privileged spaces.”
For New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, the show just represents one big disappointment. He points out that 28-year old Murillo is already selling artworks for a few hundred thousand dollars each, yet most people haven’t heard of him and don’t even know what his art looks like. Saltz was hoping to see paintings. He’s “not a chocoholic” and he doesn’t even “really like marshmallows”.
Did I say that viewers are allowed to take as much candy as they want? The candies are chocolate covered marshmallows, the signature candies of Colombina, called Chocmelos. The candy wrapper says “Made in Colombia by Colombina”—but it also says “Produced as part of A Mercantile Novel, 2014 by Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner Gallery”.
It is not the first time that candies have been featured in an artwork. Cuban-born artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres is perhaps best known for his 1991 sculpture which consists of a pile of individually wrapped candies on the floor in a corner of a room. Viewers are invited to take a piece of candy—making the art work something which changes and eventually disappears. The piece was a representation of the artist’s partner who was dying from AIDS.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz makes giant paintings from chocolate syrup or sugar and then photographs them, turning the works into something more permanent and a more manageable and saleable size.
In 1961, the artist Piero Manzoni packed his own excrement into cans, signed them and sold them as art. Supposedly, no one opened the cans to verify the contents. They wanted to ensure that they maintained their value as art objects. In 2014, however, I opened the Oscar Murillo candy wrapper, removed the candies and gobbled them down.