New York Galleries

Through the New Year

By: - Dec 24, 2014


It was a miserable, wet December Saturday when I toured the Chelsea Galleries. In the holiday season, these shows are up through or after the New Year, it is the norm that A list artists are on view.

We have already commented on Picasso curated by John Richardson at Gagosian Gallery. As well as  Kara Walker at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery. What follows are capsules of other highlights.

Frank Stella Sculpture
Marianne Boesky Gallery

Simply put the Frank Stella Sculpture exhibition was dreadful.

The works were varied some with clumped together junk metal, a cliche of Abstract Expressionism, while other had color accents closer to his strength as a painter. Yet another was a large mirrored snow crystal.

Based primarily on the early decades of his career the place of Stella in the canon of contemporary art is secure.

It is commendable that rather than repeat himself the artist continues to experiment with challenging new ideas.

Stretching ever father from a secure base entails risk.

In this case an utter failure to create works of significance.

Were this an exhibition by an artist without his name recognition it is doubtful that we would give it more than a passing glance.

The issue here is how it relates as an extension of ideas and concerns consistent with  well established oeuvre. Critics more in tune with the artist may view this as an extension of efforts of the artist to extend his paintings into three dimensional reliefs. Here however this is no real connection with painting and we are challenged to regard him as a sculptor.

From that vantage point this work is at best mediocre. There was no pleasure in viewing these sculptures. Other than the somewhat pleasing large format mirrored crystal the primary aesthetic was brutalist.

In the vocabulary of Stella who often seems dour and grim this passes as toughness. But with no love.

Cameron Gray, Gymnasty
Mike Weiss Gallery

From the front reception area we enter the back gallery through a corridor passage way.

Left and right we are bombarded by a clutter of flat screen monitors. They flicker and flash with collages of thumbnails derived from popular cultural iconography.

There is a busy melange of imagery that does not allow us to settle on any dominant narrative.

It recalls the pioneering multi television installations of Nam June Paik now ramped up on speed. It presents art/ science/ technology as a neo Dada club drug.

Not that Gray is really doing anything new or different.

With a fresh and brash gusto he is using the latest technologies as a signifier of over the top nowness. This is work that a young gallery audience may well embrace and relate to. It is the gallery equivalent of a summer rental in the Hamptons where the beautiful hook up.

This is their kind of art. So for me it was an amusing and voyeuristic experience. It was cool and energized but nicely vacant.

Indeed what are those brightly colored female mannequins with robotic faces all about? They imply some transgressive sexual fetish. For me, however, this show was strictly a spectator sport.

Garry Simmons Fight Night
Metro Pictures

My Dad was a boxing fan. We watched the Gilette Friday Night Fights on TV and now and then attended live bouts at the old Boston Garden.

In a lively and provocative show at Metro Pictures combining his signature, drippy black and white paintings with collages of fight posters Gary Simmons evokes memories of the era of Sonny Liston and Muhammud Ali.

It was fun to find specific references to some of the great matches of the 1960s and 1970s.

Here Simmons succeeds in creating a sublime confluence between primal, brutal sport and high art.

It implies that culture has not really evolved from the Roman Empire when gladiators pummeled each other to death to the contemporary spectacle of the boxing ring.

If one is not a fight fan, or opposed to the sport, that takes the punch out of this exhibition. For me it was a pure delight and guilty pleasure. Yet again Simmons proves to be an interesting and provocative artist.

France Clemente Two Tents

Entering the gallery for the current work of the Italian artist Francesco Clemente we were surprised to view two large tents.

You can't easily drive spikes into the cement floor so the ropes were attached to large weights. The exteriors consisted of colorful printed fabric. This was hand crafted and hardly standard issue L. L. Beam camping gear.

Entering the tents we found all of their surfaces including the peaked tops covered by the artist's signature neo expressionist imagery.

Thematically there was an emphasis on decadence and class in a circus like context. There were a number of cavorting renderings of a billionaire in tuxedo and tall silk hat with a signifying monocle. He appears to be repressing servants or sex slaves stripped and crawling like animals on leashes.

There are other gambits of imagery and motifs.

One wonders about the destination for the work. Where exactly would a private collector or museum install such a piece? In that sense it is both funky and demanding. Might one say a tad gimmicky but definitely unique and interesting.