Friday, March 07, 2008

ArtTrek 2: Mission of The Damned

It's not all that bad. I just like dramatic titles.

"Nina in Position" at Artists Space is a great show. Employing Benjamin's assertion that "to live is to leave traces", curator Jeffrey Uslip put together a diverse and impressive lineup, from Haim Steinbach to Jack Pierson to Roni Horn. My favorite piece in the show, by Mary Kelly, is three black and white transparencies in light boxes, "Flashing Nipple Remix #1". The series begins with a photo of 5 clothed women with their breast and groin areas highlighted like weird jack o' lanterns, while in the remaining shots the figures are removed, but the highlighted areas take over, becoming glowing, static drawings. Beautiful.

Unfortunately, the only image I could grab off the web of Martin Wohrl's (there's an umlaut in there somewhere) work at Spencer Brownstone was of one of his "Gloriole" (is that supposed to mean "Glory Hole", or have I just got my mind in the gutter?) wall pieces. And they're good, don't get me wrong--the sunbursts of various found, hand-cut laminates are nice looking. But the rest of the work, fashioned from antique doors, doorknobs, etc., some cut into goth-looking letters and shapes and mounted on what look to be rickety jungle-gym equipment, were even better.

I really prefer providing my own Krappy Kamera pictures, but I must've gotten a bad batch o' batteries.

Jen DeNike's single channel video at Smith-Stewart was far less annoying than I thought it would be when I first walked in. Young women draped in the original 13 star flag, humming the National Anthem, ceremoniously dropping their flags one by one and exiting the stage. It actually struck me as rather humble, and I was liking it until I read the press release, which said something about how the women in the video were dropping their cloths in a symbolic gesture to show how women are now busting out of the shackles of male oppression.

I suppose it's there. But as soon as I read that, I walked out. Note to self: Never, Ever read the press release

The group show at D'Amelio Terras was a sure-fire snooze, but a video by Sanford Biggers, in which mostly white guys but a couple of black guys clamber up whatever tree that happens to be handy, and in whatever weather. The video was ok, but what made it better was that every so often, the whole room was bathed in a couple of flashes of warm red light.

Note to self: Flashing warm red light makes things better, much like a shot of Jameson's. Next art project, add flashing warm red light.

OK! Heads up! I just want to mention that I absolutely hate George Condo's work, so I normally wouldn't go out of my way to mention it. But, um, sputter! His Christ: The Subjective Nature of Objective Representation at Luhring Augustine is so stupid it's almost thrilling.

But so many of my friends love ol' George! What's my problem? Well, I finally figured it out today. Forgive me if this is too obvious and the rest of you have known this for years, but if you look at Condo's paintings and then think back to those cartoons Don Martin did for Mad magazine in the '70's, you'll see such a strong parallel, you'll never look at Condo's work again without thinking, "Why, Don Martin should be suing this smartass!" or "Martin's so sublime and original! What's this obnoxious 80's painter think he's up to?

Attention: I should tell you that, of the images above, the first is Don Martin, while the second is Condo...

OK, here's where I'm pissed. I had written about all of the stuff below, and my internet connection crashed and I lost all of this. And I'm not writing it again, so I'll just breeze through.

Jean-Michel Othoniel at Sikkema Jenkins: appealing for those of us who love glitz and glam and still wanna drag out our Barbies (Math is hard!) Othoniel's just a Michael Petry without the content, but boy, do those big blown-glass strings of beads look good!
Othoniel fails miserably, however, when he tries to introduce content, as he does with his centerpiece in Secret Americana. That big old-timey covered wagon, interspersed with a few panels of transparent, painted glass and the occasional shiny glass orb made me wanna track down this guy, grab him by the shoulders and shout, "We don't hate you because you're beautiful, but we do hate you when you try to think!"

Oooooh, I had so many good things to say about the Drawing Center! Namely, that whomever it was that deemed drawing a Big Important Thing needs this newsflash: TIME TO FOCUS ON NEW TREND. Christ, does the world really need another a) drawing that looks like a meticulously rendered map of the Congo; or b) another "installation" strewn with colored threads and Post-It notes, where some rube from Iowa can stroll up and say, "Look, Ethel! It's a drawing!" ?

I think not.

I hereby pronounce this fascination with drawing tired. Let's all put down our #2 Ticonderogas and go outside for some fresh air and sunshine.

This being said, however, I did like Andrea Sulzer's 101" x 101" drawing, detailed below, which somehow managed to escape all of the cliche.

Sterling Ruby's show, in the Drawing Room across the street, was a hodgepodge of collage, drawings scratched onto refrigerator-sized blocks of laminated particle board, and a few gestural pieces, like the one seen below.
With the exception of the gestural stuff, Ruby's work made me think one thing: Aw, the poor guy didn't make the cut for the Unmonumental show at the New Museum. His collages, compared to the artists' at the New Museum, were trite, juvenile, topically snooze-inducing, poorly crafted, and his scratched-out refrigerator boxes were neither thought-provoking or visually compelling.

To make matters worse, Metro Pictures has a show of his crappy-looking-but-not-crappy-looking-enough kiln works in its upstairs gallery. One wonders how this kind of shit becomes marketable, let alone fashionable. Go figure. But, hey, Sterling Ruby? What a name! I wish my name was Sterling Ruby. I could be an artstar or a pornstar. The world would be my oyster.

At Goff + Rosenthal Chiharu Shiota's installations were so very Japanese but yet not Japanese. Despite all the visual noise and the feeling that one got of being a fly caught in a web, this work somehow imparted a certain quiet. I'm still trying to figure out why.

And here's a mini-rant for ya: I want to say that I've never, ever seen anything at Leo Koenig worth a good god-damn. Somehow, this Big Daddy of the Bad Boy Club seems to corral the most godawful shit I've ever seen. Still, I mention it because I would like to point out yet another example of the Pre-Teen Skull Fetish Club, here demonstrated in the work of Aidas Bareikas.

Also, I bring this up because I just think it's a shame that Houston's very own beloved/detested Paul Horn never made it to New York. Here he would be a superstar! Christ, just sing the following lines to the tune of the Pet Shop Boys' Let's Make Lots of Money: You've got the trash, I've got the glue gun, let's see Leo Koenig...

Finally, and this is the biggest shame for me, since I'd written 4 pararaphs about this show, and I'd saved it for last, since it was my favorite, but Catherine Sullivan's Triangle of Need was really the best thing I've seen in a long time.

Each of the videos shown in the three rooms at Metro Pictures was thought-provoking, visually stunning, and smart as hell. Like I said, I wrote a lot on it, but now I'm tired, pissed, and hungry, and I'm not going to do it again.

Butchered recap: Woe of Poe meets Nigerian email scams meets Cro-Magnun man dressed up like 19th century dandy. Unbelievable how she made that thing work.

It's funny though. It's been a while since I've really thought that the girls got it goin' on more than the boys, but between Sullivan, Martha Rosler, and Mary Kelly, I'm thinking it might be time to dust off that old Helen Reddy 45" vinyl and start jammin'.