Took another epic trip to New York this past Tuesday through Thursday! I was accompanied by some art history buddies, so things were on a pretty even keel, considering our mutual tendencies to devour and absorb any and all art.
We got in Tuesday afternoon and wandered over to Chelsea, where we visited a friend at James Cohan until the gallery closed. The show that's up right now, "Catch the Moon in the Water: Young Chinese Artists" was a pretty satisfyingly diverse survey of contemporary Chinese artists. My favorite piece was probably Hu Xiangqian's video/performance Xiangqian's Art Museum, which was hilarious and excellent and made me feel in good company conversationally. The piece consists of Hu Xiangqian standing in front of a microphone in a grassy patch in front of a brick wall, describing various works of art that he may or may not have seen, and which may or may not actually exist (some are well-known works that the audience could recognize, others he fabricates to sound real). It's pretty brilliant. I also couldn't take my eyes off of Chen Wei's photographs Records Hypnosis and House of Recovery. Really gorgeous. They kind of reminded me of Gregory Crewdson in a weird way.
The following day we finished up in Chelsea. The standout was Matthew Ronay's Between the Worlds at Andrea Rosen. OK, we walked into the gallery and encountered this box of black curtain. We had to circle the periphery to find the entrance, and when we did, it was like floating into an underwater cave/ forest/ dreamscape. Absolutely incredible--there were so many details to take in (screens of tiny carved wooden mushrooms; partially obscured light sources that added an undercurrent of magical/ holy energy to the space; owls that would suddenly appear on the periphery), but the thing I loved most was the simplicity of the materials. Everything was papier-mâché, fabric, carved wood, and simply applied paint. But simple choices in composition, color pallet and craftsmanship created this atmosphere that was completely engrossing. I wanted to live there.
Shows we also saw in Chelsea:
Against the Way Things Go at Gasser/Grunert (I really liked Joe Winter's piece, which investigated light and color by having viewers place pieces of colored construction paper under slightly varied light sources--2 variations of white light, 2 variations of yellow light. So, the color of the blue construction paper would look vastly different under the white light bulb than it did under the yellow light bulb, and slightly different under each type of white or yellow light. And each color had its own unique reaction. It was very simple and straightforward in its presentation, but still retained the phenomenological quality); Phoebe Washburn at Zach Feuer (she came and gave a talk at Brandeis this past semester, and I loved her/ her work. I didn't have the guts to talk to her then, and I didn't have the guts to talk to her when she was sitting in the office of Zach Feuer...); and Eraser at Magnanmetz Gallery (Shanti Grumbine's erased/ xacto-knifed newspaper pages were mesmerizing).
Later, we hit up MoMA and stayed until it closed (German Expressionists again, plus the Francis Alÿs, which was fantastic. It made me feel how I felt when I saw the Michelangelo Pistoletto show at the Philly museum, which is a feeling I still can't really describe).
Thursday was Lower East Side/ Chinatown day (because we were taking the Fung Wah back). The standout was Barbara DeGenevieve's Panhandler Project, which included a series of photos and an accompanying video. Essentially, the project consisted of her finding homeless black men and giving them food and a hotel room in exchange for their posing nude. The things involved in this piece!! I mean, race, class, gender, sexuality, exploitation discourse, the art historical history of the nude and objectification/ the gaze, on and on forever. But the beauty of the piece is the subtle suggestion of these things you need to think about in order to fully engage with it. It doesn't hit you over the head with an opinion or incite a blatant reaction outright--its ambiguity is what makes you think and feel the most.
"Lost" at Invisible-Exports (some interesting propositions, but nothing that really grabbed me); and Miriam Böhm, Rosy Keyser, and Erin Shirreff at Lisa Cooley (my favorites were Miriam Böhm's pictures of paintings, or pictures of pictures of paintings, which made me laugh while thinking about distance and remove)
The New Museum was under construction, so we got in for half price. The galleries that were open contained great things: "Charles Atlas: Joint's Array", which was gorgeous--an array of televisions all playing loops of video of Merce Cunningham's flexing and rotating joints, with a soundtrack of John Cage's ambient city sounds (touching/ poetic). There were moments when the images on a group of monitors would sync up for a brief interlude, and those moments took my breath away. Upstairs was "Ostalgia", a sweeping and eclectic survey of more than 30 artists from more than 20 countries across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. My favorite piece was Mladen Stilinović's Dictionary--Pain, which spanned the perimeter walls of a room--each panel contained a list of words with the original definitions scratched out, replaced by the word 'pain'). There was also a video piece about Marxist educational practices in East Berlin before the wall fell--there was propaganda-style footage of a class debating the exploitative nature of capitalism, as well as an interview with a former student/ party member who moved to Hungary before the wall fell. I would have liked to have stayed to watch the whole thing, and I wish I could remember the name of the artist! We also went up to the roof balcony and reflected for a bit (actually, my fear of heights and love of sweeping views mauled each other internally, but that's kind of like reflection...), and then I agonized over which books I could actually afford to buy out of the 12 or 15 I would have liked to horde. I chose 2: Inside the Painter's Studio (which has been on my Amazon wish list forever) and Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century (which was just too apt to pass up).
And then I took the weekend to recuperate/ re-organize my studio