Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chelsea Lives!

I take back all the bad things I said about Chelsea art galleries: that the dealers are unfriendly and sometimes rude, and the art they show is boring and irrelevant. It sure wasn't true yesterday. The glorious weather may have accounted for them being nicer -- that and a desperate economic situation. But for the first time in years I had some really interesting conversations with some of the gallery people -- even with that dour guy who's been at Sonnabend forever.

Starting from 21st Street and working up, here are some of my favorite shows:

Picasso's Mosqueteros - first and foremost. (What, you're not surprised? Humph.) I've seen it FIVE times already. I can only look at about a dozen works at a time before I get overwhelmed (Stendhal syndrome -- I'm not kidding). Gagosian, 522 W. 21st, until June 6.

Sophie Calle, Paula Cooper Gallery next door at 534 W. 21st, until May 22. I saw it when it first opened and was the only man among about 30 women of all ages. (Yesterday there were a few more men.) No wonder -- it's embarrassing being of the same sex as the weasel who sent her the Dear Sophie letter. Be sure to see the parrot video.

Also on 21st (it's becoming the new 24th Street!) at Barbara Gladstone, 530 W. 21st, is Huang Yong Ping's room-sized Tower Snake. These huge sculptures/installations by Chinese art stars are a cliche by now, but still impressive.

Sonnabend, 536 W. 22nd. Beate Gutschow employs digital montage to construct large somewhat creepy photos of what looks like Brutalist architecture but isn't quite. It reminded me of the hauntingly still, end-of-the-world feeling evoked by Louis Kahn's Salk Institute.

Sorry to say the Alex Katz show at Pace on 22nd left me kind of cold. But it's right across the street so see for yourself.

Gagosian scored again with a knock-out show of Yayoi Kusama's paintings and installations, 555 W. 24th, until June 27th. Kusama has been doing these paintings for a long time now, but they're still incredibly intense and mesmerizing.

Betty Cunningham, 541 W. 25th, has a two-person drawing show of Jersey City's own Gordon Moore and my old friend John Lees. Both works are quiet and intimate and yet strangely edgy. John spends years working a drawing, erasing it, re-working it, patching it, until it has a palpable physical presence of its own. John is one of my favorite artists -- and I don't say that about all my friends.

Across the street at Pace is a Chuck Close show that sadly didn't do much for me. The guy has done so much great art, and he's such a mensch, I wanted to like the show -- but I just didn't.

There are seven or eight galleries on 27th WEST of Eleventh Avenue that are small, more like Lower East Side galleries. They are usually more interesting, provocative and experimental than the more established galleries on the other side of Eleventh -- and yesterday was no exception. John Connelly has a relatively tame (for them) show by Michael Wetzel of gorgeously painted food like spaghetti and meatballs. The reliably good Winkleman Gallery was closed for installation, but next door at Schroeder-Romero, 637 W. 27th, there's a must-see show by William Powhida. His work would take me too long to describe, but you can read about it in the Times (where you'll also find an excellent review
by Roberta Smith of the Sophie Calle show). It closes May 16th, but they told me they're working on putting some of it into book form.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Charles, this post is uncanny! It would appear that I followed in your footsteps approximately one week later. But you didn't go to the Empire Diner...

Please see my blog posting:

Charles Kessler said...

As a matter of fact, I was at the Empire Diner at 4 PM a week later. I probably missed you by a few hours.