Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chelsea from 21st Street through 25th Street

By Charles Kessler

Maybe it’s to take advantage of all the collectors who came into New York for the art fairs, but there’s an exceptional amount of good shows to be seen in these five blocks. Foremost among them is
Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 - 1959, Gagosian Gallery, 522 West 21st Street (until April 13th).
Helen Frankenthaler, Untitled, 1951, oil on canvas, 56 ⅓ x 84 ½ inches.
This is the first time the work of this period has been shown as a group since my co-blogger and mentor Carl Belz’s 1981 exhibition at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis. (Belz’s catalog essay for that exhibition has been reprinted in the catalog for this exhibition.) The show is a revelation and should establish once and for all that Frankenthaler, despite being a generation younger, belongs along side Pollock, De Kooning, Still and the other great first-generation Abstract Expressionists of the 1950’s.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, Luhring Augustine (until March 23rd).
Installation view, Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, Luhring Augustine Gallery.
This 64-minute installation is composed of nine large videos of friends of the artist singing The Visitors, an old ABBA song. Each of Kjartansson's friends is shown on a separate screen, alone in one of the rooms of a beautiful old Hudson Valley farmhouse, each equipped to hear the others. At first they are setting up equipment or just waiting, but eventually one or two at a time start to sing or play an instrument. As they do so, people in the gallery walk around to watch the screens.

Eventually all of the friends sing and play both by themselves and improvising with the others. Toward the end, one screen after another goes dark, until the audience, gathering around the last screen, watches as all the friends leave the farmhouse singing together as they go for a frolicsome walk on a long field, their singing fading out as they walk farther and farther away. The work is sweet and surprisingly touching, perhaps made more so by the association of us as an audience/group with the group of friends in the video.
Installation view, Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, Luhring Augustine Gallery.
This show was packed when I went, even though Chelsea was pretty empty, so I guess word got out.
Update: Ben Davis has a good review here.

Andrea Rosen, Gallery 2, 544 West 24th Street (until March 23rd).
Like many of the big galleries in Chelsea, Andrea Rosen has expanded, opening a small but beautifully lit and proportioned space across the street from the main gallery. The show, what they’re calling a “shared installation,” is kind of lame though. Basically Olivier Mosset got approval from Lawrence Weiner and Jacob Kassay to hang a work by each on a wall Mosset painted yellow. Nice space though.

Two Feature Inc. artists are showing on 25th Street with other galleries: B. Wurtz at Metro Pictures (opens March 21st until April 27th) and Andrew Masullo at Mary Boone (until April 27th). Masullo looked better in the more intimate and less formal Feature Inc. space in the Lower East Side; the work gets lost in this vast space, and ganging them together makes no difference.
Installation view, Andrew Masullo at Mary Boone Gallery.
When are collectors going to wise up and buy the art of Feature Inc. gallery artists before they leave for Chelsea?

Al Held: Alphabet Paintings, Cheim & Read, 547 West 25th Street (until April 20th).
Installation view, Al Held, Alphabet Paintings, 1961–67, Cheim & Read Gallery.
I have a theory that, big as these paintings are, they’re felt to be even bigger because of their association with letters. I mean, that’s really big for a “D.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat at Gagosian, 555 West 24th Street (until April 6th).
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1981, acrylic, oil stick and pencil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches
(© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris, ARS, New York 2013).
Gagosian’s huge space is filled with this work, most of it quite large. (I would have shown an installation view, but Gagosian doesn't allow photography, and their website has become stingy about providing images.) The work is bursting with ideas and energy, but at the same time it started to look all the same. Weird.

Thomas Nozkowski, Recent Work, PACE,  508 West 25th Street (until March 23rd). I'm happy to report that the PACE website has vastly improved.
Installation view, Thomas Nozkowski, Recent Work, PACE Gallery.
I’ve written before about Nozkowski’s work — here most recently. Typically, my initial reaction to one of his shows is the opposite of what I had with the Basquiat exhibition. Because the paintings are all the same size, and they’re usually regularly lined up like soldiers (I wish he’d stop installing them like that), the work seems all alike. But I always end up being blown away by how much is going on — how many quirky surprises and beautiful riffs there are.
Thomas Nozkowski, untitled (9-9), 2012, oil on canvas on panel, 22 x 28 inches. 
Note, for example, how a vertical rectangle is formed on the right side of this painting (above) by cutting off the circles and by making the green slightly lighter; then look how the rectangle continues down turning blue and dissolving into the darker blue shape (which itself has some of the adjacent pink showing through, as if the pink continues under it). Here's a close-up detail:
Riffs and tricks in themselves mean nothing, of course, but Nozkowski uses them to set up delightful, intimate, self-contained worlds that are a joy to behold.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Wow, I was searching (unsuccessfully) for video of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Cunningham Events, and found your great blog, and found this artist whose work I'd never seen. Thank you! I'll be checking in regularly.