Except for older art, and new art by older artists, I wasn't impressed with anything I saw in Chelsea last week. This is not a reflection on contemporary art in general, or Chelsea in particular, because these are the art and artists that have lasted and are of interest today. As I remember, there was a lot of bad art in the sixties and seventies too.
My favorite show was Edith Schloss, Still Life, Myths and Mountains, A Retrospective at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 547 W. 27th Street (through March 28th).
|Edith Schloss, Mont Amiata, 1965, watercolor on paper, 15 x 19 inches framed.|
|Edith Schloss, Isola del Tino, 1966, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 23 2/3 inches.|
|Edith Schloss, Agon, 2000, oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 23 2/3 inches.|
Schloss was under-recognized even though she was married to the photographer Rudy Burckhardt and was friends with many artists who played an important role in the post-war art world, including Will Barnet, Willem de Kooning, Rackstraw Downes, Alberto Giacometti, Mimi Gross, Robert Moskowitz, Philip Pearlstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers and Cy Twombly.
Which brings me to another reason why this is such a good show: art by these artists and others from her circle is on display with her work, placing Schloss's paintings in the context of her milieu. Moreover it's humble work by Schloss's friends, the kind given as gifts, traded or bought from the artist – work she might have been surrounded by. And for even further context, there's a glass case of letters, photographs, diaries and other memorabilia. (You can see a selection of Schloss's correspondence with many artists here.)
So why, in spite of doing good work and having important friends in the art world, was she not discovered? I can speculate on several possibilities. She was active at a time women's art was scorned; she made relatively small, delicate paintings when only large, macho paintings were prized; and in 1962 she separated from her husband and moved to Rome, so her work wasn't seen in the United States.
Here are the other OBGs:
Tony Smith at Matthew Marks Gallery, 523 W. 24th Street (until April 18th).
|Installation view of three 1960s Tony Smith steel sculptures painted black.|
Duane Michals The Portraitist at D. C. Moore Gallery, 535 W. 22nd Street (through March 21st).
|Installation view: Duane Michals, The Portraitist at D. C. Moore Gallery.|
|Duane Michals, Johnny Cash, c. 1960s/2015, gelatin silver print with hand-applied text, 8 x 12 inches, edition 1/5. The two dates are when they were originally taken (in the 1960s), and when they were first printed (2014 and 2015).|
Michals tries to make each photograph unique to the person he's photographing, and that stimulates a great deal of invention in his photography. He also hand-writes his impressions of the person on the photograph (in the photo above he wrote: "Johnny Cash was hotter than a pepper sprout"). That can sometimes get cute, but it can also be profound.
Isamu Noguchi, Variations at PACE Gallery 508-510 W. 25th (through March 21st).
The PACE Gallery's typically poor website (easier to navigate now, but still bad) has only one reproduction, but fortunately I took a couple of decent installation photographs.
|Installation view: Isamu Noguchi, left to right, sculpture made in 1958, 1970 and 1968|
|Installation view: Isamu Noguchi, a selection of his paper lamps.|
PACE produced this exhibition in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Long Island City. It's a big exhibition which, in the case of Noguchi, is a good thing since his work looks better in the context of his other works. Seen separately, his sculpture can seem over-refined and empty, but seen in quantity you get an idea of how playful the work is, and how inventive.
Noguchi's sculptures work best in small rooms (like the one pictured above) where the work can play off of clean white walls. Unfortunately the work in this exhibition is mostly installed in large rooms and tend to get lost.
|Nam June Paik, M200/Video Wall, 1991, 118 x 378 x 19 ½ inches (Cha Zoo Yong Photography Copyright POMA / fazi, inc.)|
The center monitors often combine to form single images, while the outside monitors play other images. I tried to figure out what was happening on the smaller TV monitors along the outside but finally decided they acted like a decorative frame to the main images with no particular content as far as I could tell. The shear quantity of visual information seems like a chaotic visual attack, which I guess is the point.
|Installation view: Nam June Paik, Beuys Voice, 1990 two channel color video on laser discs, antique television cabinets, felt, mixed media sculpture, 104 x 74 x 37 inches.|
I saw two other oldies in Chelsea, but I'm not a fan of either of them.
Louise Nevelson is at PACE Gallery, 534 W. 25th, (ended February 28th).
|Louise Nevelson, Untitled , 1964. wood painted black, 100 x 132 x 19 inches.|
If you're interested in Nevelson, read Roberta Smith's review in the Times.
Sean Scully at Cheim & Read, 547 W. 25th Street (through April 4th).
|Sean Scully, Landline Blue Brown, 2015, oil on aluminum, 98 ⅜ x 78 ¾ inches.|