Thursday, March 06, 2008

7th Grade, All Over Again

(Foto of Mark Bradford pilfered from the art: 21 blog.)

Yesterday I got my butt off the couch and saw some art in the New Bowery district. Man, a lot of established galleries have jumped the Chelsea ship to open up shop there, and a few Williamsburg galleries have gone upscale to join that neighborhood, too.

I went to a few galleries, all of which will be discussed, but first I want to say that the "Unmonumental" show at the new New Museum space kicks some serious ass. Three floors of a lot of pretty damned cool shit. Usually, when I'm talking about a show, it's easiest to talk about the things I like, since there are only a few of them; however, in this show, there were only a few things I didn't like. And I only like to talk about things I don't like when I can get all snippy about them, so I'm not going to bother. Oh, okay, you've twisted my arm, I will bother: Sam Durant's work is, in general, pretty stupid. Not worth the cliched thought put into those stupid things.

And although I'm not normally nutty about the kind of sculptures that artists like Rachel Harrison make--it's all subjective here, folks: just looking at all of that goopy clay shit drives me bats--sculptures like the one they showed here really made sense. This show's just so well put together. I don't know whether it's the space--good feng shui--or the placement, or what. It looked good.

And the 2D stuff was pretty great, too. A particular winner here is Mark Bradford's gi-normous collage/painting (he's working on it in the picture above). There were also some great collages by Martha Rosler . I'm telling ya, that woman's old enough to be my mother and she's still cranking out kickass, relevant art. Even her stuff from the '60's still seems fresh. Which is more than I can say for Nancy Spero's work, which was also in the show. Spero's one of those artists that always make me feel guilty for not liking. I mean, shouldn't I be more respectful for a pioneer of feminist art? But if I think like that, I'll have to be thinking that I should also be respectful of Judy Chicago and her revolting triangle of twats known as "The Dinner Party". Bad art knows no gender.

Christian Holstad's work also made me a tad tired. I used to follow it with some interest, but now I often find myself thinking, whilst looking at one of his masturbatory man collages, "Ok, you're here, you're queer, we're used to it, now please turn the page."

I really liked John Stezaker's work: subtle, almost seamless and surreal photo collages. Looking at each one was a pleasant surprise.

But now, dear blog-reader, if you have gotten this far, you are probably wondering, Well, what's up with the 7th grader bit in the title, you WhinyBaby? Well, here is is: do you notice, in the picture of Bradford, that, amidst the silvery papers and the drawings, he has drawn a skull? Well, in my wanderings yesterday, I found that, above all else, the motherfucking skull was the predominantly recurring image.

I have no idea what that's about. I really don't. Are people hearkening back to Van Gogh?

Somehow, I doubt it. Is it that I mostly saw art by 20-somethings, who are enamored with tattoo imagery and a Romantic yearning for Death? Who knows. It is weird, though. I think skulls are kinda stupid as subject matter. But that's just me.

But do you not believe me? Check it out:

LISTENING FOR YOU, O, CUMBRE VIEJA” (a dorpy, self-important title if I've ever read one)

Kind of Robyn O'Neil, minus the bizarre subject matter and quirky sensibility. Like, "Hi, here's my boyfriend Zak in some Williamsburg vacant lot!"

Or her paintings: same Frida Kahlo lack of facility, paired with slacker subject matter:

Somebody's mommy shouldn't have let her stay up so late to watch those scary movies.

I did like this small piece, tucked away in the back:

Somehow Hell n' the Hurricane seemed a little less forced here.

And then "Off the Grid" at Eleven Rivington, a group show with Caetano de Almeida, John Hodany, and Michael Lazarus. Paul Hodany's work, which included a machine that really didn't work (thank God I didn't lose my quarter) seemed like something that ought to be picked up by Mattel toys:

I'm not saying that art shouldn't be colorful and fun, but does it have to be so fucking stupid?

And finally, at the gallery show I liked the best, was British painter Paul Housley at Sunday. I just think this guy can paint.

It's so uncool, it's cool.
But still, I round the corner, and there's a painting of a goddamned skull. Am I denying my mortality with my skull-displeasure? Am I simply unwilling to acknowledge that I have one of my own rattling around underneath my hair? I doubt it, and I don't even feel like analyzing it. Enough with the skulls already! Move on to the radial ulna.