Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gut of the Quantifier @ Lisa Cooley Gallery

Many of you might remember Lisa Cooley from Houston as the director of the ill-fated (I don't know if it was's not like it got into a car wreck or anything) Mixture Gallery. However, Lisa's recently opened her own place on Orchard, Lisa Cooley Gallery, on the lower East side, and she's really got it goin' on. Her second show Gut of the Quantifier (apparently this title comes from lyrics by The Fall: I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this/Life can be an onward, downward/ Chip-chit-chip-chit-chip--and noooooooo I'm not hip enough to know something like that. I learned that bit of lore from Scott Calhoun) is elegant, subtle, and well put together. Gut, at first glance, seems nearly monochromatic; there are no screaming yellow zonkers anywhere in sight. Use of color in these pieces is quiet, almost sly. I can honestly say that there's not a bad piece in the show, by artists Tauba Auerbach (cool website), Barb Choit, experimental filmmaker and visual artist Paul Sharits, Scottish visual and performance artist Sue Tompkins , Matt Sheridan Smith, Lisa Oppenheim, Dan Estabrook, painter, poet, novelist, and all-round genius Brion Gysin, Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez, and, last but not least, Fred Sandback. That lineup in itself is like a who's who of cool in the hipster pages. Like I said, all of it was good. However, there are a few in there that really blew me away.

I particularly liked works by Matt Sheridan Smith (crappy photo above). Using figures found on various nations' currencies, Smith (and I'm winging it here, I didn't take notes when I was told about the process) silkscreens the images, coats them with a layer of the silver scratch-off stuff used on lottery tickets, and proceeds to scratch the image off onto the paper. The other images looked more like people you'd actually see on currency: royalty, historic figures. I couldn't figure out where this guy came from until it was pointed out that it was probably a soccer player.

Hey! How come other countries get cute soccer players on their money? Now that David and Victoria Posh-Spice- Beckham live here, couldn't we have them on some money? Photographed by Juergen Teller? By the way, I liked that show at Lehmann Maupin. There's something to be said for shameless commercialism.

But anyway, Smith's work was cool.

My favorite drawings were Sue Tompkins'. They were really simple, but elegant--lightweight paper (newsprint) with clean creases, and unassuming text tucked near the folds. You look like China, one of them reads. I also like the way they're installed, which allows the paper to flutter and float from the wall a bit. These pieces, I think, are emblematic of the subtle beauty that pervades this show.

Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez' collages, from the series Weights Measures and Prices are also remarkable. Collage is a medium that can so often go bad if not done properly, but these are exquisite. She plays with notions of decor and design in an unsettling but effective manner. It's too bad that I can't take a decent photograph...sigh.

Like I said, this exhibition has nary a stinker. The arrangement is thoughtful, and the line-up itself is thorough, well-researched, and nicely put together. Cooley's is a small space,

and only about the width of a couple of bowling lanes, but she uses it well. And I have a lot of faith in Lisa Cooley's ability to maneuver through the New York art scene. Her first show, a two-person with Andy Coolquitt and Frank Haines, was a success, and Gut has been listed as an Artforum critic's pick.

I keep trying to get Lisa to run out in the middle of Orchard St. and, a la Mary Tyler Moore, toss her hat in the air.

Check it out--it even looks like her.