I have a few obligations to attend to today, so this segment will have to arrive piecemeal. I’d love to do better on this, but such is the life of a blogger.
If you haven’t been to Chelsea in a while, Saturday will be a good day to make the rounds since there are a lot of shows that will be closing and are worth seeing. Actually, today would be a better day, since the weather is nice enough to actually make a person gleeful, but not all of us have the luxury of taking the afternoon off.
530 West 22nd Street
Turn the Beat Around and Kara Walker
Through April 1
The photo comparison above is meant to illustrate that while there is a lot of great talent in Turn the Beat Around, the exhibition doesn’t do a very good job in proving it. Participating artist Todd Knopke, is an excellent example of this as his piece “Everything is Beautiful”, lies distinctly in the realm of average, though this is anything but typical of his work. In light of Knopke’s solo exhibition The Legend Continues, at I-20 gallery in 2004, which was utterly brilliant, the work at Sikkema Jenkins can only be viewed as an under achievement for this artist. So much so, in fact, that it makes you wonder why this piece was selected in the first place. I’m not going to provide a full review of the Knopke 2004 show, since it happened a year and a half ago and no one is going to be able to see it, but it does make sense to at least provide a jpg. Among the works at I-20, This is How it Is, is all that Everything is Beautiful wants to be, but isn’t. The sculpture displays the word Heaven beautifully against the city skyline of the city visually demonstrating it’s meaning. What’s more Heaven is constructed using mirrors, which means it situates you within the word from virtually any angle.
Unlike This Is How It IS, Knopke’s latest piece Everything is Beautiful provides little support material to make it’s claim. The wall sculpture is pretty, but it doesn’t represent everything, nor is it an accurate statement about the rest of the show. One of the great myths of art is that beauty is not specific, and this work buys into that idea. Beauty can be ethereal, but make no mistake it is specific, and there is a distinction between the two.
In addition to Knopke, I was also looking forward to seeing the work of Ryan Johnson and Marc Handelman in this show, and though both of their works are quite good, they do not appear to be as significant as they should. This, to my mind, is an indication of poor curation, because shows that are selected and hung well do not suffer from this problem. Johnson’s jousting shopping cart is hilarious, but appears gimicky and about mass consumption in front of a Handelman’s box/star painting which is obviously about propaganda and power. Given Johnson’s previous work, I doubt this subject matter is meant to play such dominant role in the work. Problems like this seem to dominate this show, and so if there is one message that Turn the Beat Around drives home, it’s that it isn’t enough to simply put a bunch of work by talented artists in a room together. You have to actually think about how it will function once it’s there.