Sunday, October 30, 2011

Art News

By Charles Kessler

I wasn’t going to write about Gagosian’s Bob Dylan exhibition because I think it got more attention than it deserves, but people I know who care about art, and think about it, have asked what I think, so….
By presenting Dylan's art in the same gallery and at the same time as Jenny Saville's, Gagosian is suggesting they're in the same league. They're not. Of course it isn't Dylan’s fault that Gagosian showed his work, but every time Dylan had to deal with something a bit challenging, like hands or kneecaps, he sloughed over it -- the guy didn’t even try. And even compared to some other musicians, like John Lennon or Captain Beefheart, Dylan’s art isn’t very good. I mean let’s keep things in perspective — this is the work of a dedicated hobbyist; he's somewhat better than Eisenhower but not as good as Churchill.  

Another thing people keep asking me about is this new “Occupy Museums” movement. I think Hrag Vartanian nails it on the blog Hyperallergic when he writes: "Leave it to the art world to make everything about them…." And in another post he presents his objections in more detail:
If we’re going to change the way museums do things then we have to find them an alternate mode of funding. If rich patrons aren’t going to fund them then they’ll need a more grassroots approach (Kickstarter?) or maybe public money, but neither of those seem likely at the moment. ...Who gets to decide what goes into a museum of the 99%? That’s a bigger question I’d love to know the answer to.
There’s a lot going on in New York right now, but don’t miss David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy at the Whitney - it’s pure joy. The show originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,  In the catalog, the curator, Carol S. Eliel, makes somewhat of a phony argument. She tries to refute the claim that David Smith only worked with cubes later in his career -- but who ever said that in the first place?
David Smith, Cubi I, 1963, Stainless steel, 124 x 34 x 33 ½ inches, (Detroit Institute of the Arts)
In any case, the work is glorious: inventive, sensual, playful -- note the little sphere on the bottom of Cubi I (above) propping up the precariously stacked stainless steel boxes. (BTW, despite its name, it's not the first Cubi sculpture.)
I’ve seen a lot of David Smith's work over the years, but the thing that got to me this time was the compelling illusion of the stainless steel dematerializing into ephemeral light. Maybe it was the way the work was lit that made the difference, but the calligraphic burnishing on the stainless steel created squiggles of light that floated in space in front of and behind the steel surface, transforming the steel into what looked like transparent gray scrim. You can see a little of this illusion in the photo below, but you really need to see the work in person and move around it to truly experience the illusion. 
David Smith, Untitled (Candida), 1965. Stainless steel, 103 × 120 × 31 in. The Estate of David Smith/VAGA, New York. Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson; courtesy the Estate of David Smith, NY.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art upgraded their website making it a lot easier to use. It now contains good reproductions of most of their collection, including many high-resolution images.
I'm working on an update of the Lower East Side galleries -- there are 15 new ones, about 75 all together. Incredible! And I'm also working on a map of Bushwick galleries. Stay tuned. 

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