Chelsea is Down

by Art Fag City on August 10, 2006 Events

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It has to be said, that the giant reconstruction effort that is currently taking place in Chelsea is putting a bit of a crimp on our art viewing activities. A surprise to no one I'm sure, there isn't much art to be seen in August, but this year seems to be particularly bad. I am convinced that if you have to seek art out this month, Chelsea should be relegated to your “long shots” list. Among the more high profile galleries closed for August are CRG Gallery, which is sadly under construction (UPDATE: Bloggy informs me that even though they are closed for the month, they may simply be taking down the Klaus von Nichtssagend fake front from last months show) , Luhring Augustine and Andrea Rosen* are also under construction, and literally look as though a bomb hit them as they don't even have a store front remaining, and Gagosian Gallery, which technically ISN'T closed for renovations, might as well be since that piece of shit Serra show is still up, and will continue through September. (Nobody here is saying he's a bad artist, but you'll have to excuse me for not finding cubes of steel all that moving.)

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Editorial note: This image looks way better than the piece

Image via Bloggy: CRG fake store front

In addition to all this, rather than exploiting the range of talent that exists amongst unrepresented New York emerging artists, most Chelsea galleries seem to be tapping the talent of those who have a decent exhibition history, but are clearly without representation for a reason. The result is scads of group shows exhibiting artists all working with the same slacker aesthetic. Probably the worst offender cited yesterday is Two Friends and So On at Andrew Kreps Gallery, which works with the concept of artist networks. A “chain” of artists is created when one artist invites another to be in the show and that other person invites another, and so on. It is a simple but lame concept. Nobody needs the mechanisms of the gallery world “revealed” for us: we all know how these things work. If we didn't, there would be no explanation for the representation of substandard artists. Thankfully the good people at Andrew Kreps have cleared that up for viewers, by creating an exhibition that actually demonstrates the failures of the art world, and distilling them all into one show. Virtually none of work in that exhibition demonstrates enough investment or thought to even warrant discussion.

That said, there is some work in chelsea worthy viewing and comment, even if it is a little more scant than usual. Art Fag City recommends below.

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James Wagner wrote a brief post about this show at the beginning of the month so I encourage you to visit his site, particularly because his photographs document the work better than the gallery has. Green Desert is almost minimal. At first glance, the sculpture is only dry wall, wooden studs and a few mirrors and paint, but within this sparse framework are nooks and crannies filled with beautiful detailing. Molding, wallpaper and small amounts of fake fur are sweet, even sentimental surprises that the artist has left for the viewer to discover. The only point of confusion is introduced by an odd press release, which bizarely connects the work to office spaces and even guillotines. According to the gallery the piece was written independent of the artist, which may explain why it appears to have nothing to do with the work.
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The Soutine painting Carcass of Beef on the above right is so well known I was unsure that the gallery was even displaying the work when I first saw it on their website, much less making it available for purchase. It's a great painting, but for all its notoriety, it's not the best in the show. There is a brilliant William DeKooning to the right, which is so accomplished in its paint handling that it puts to rest any thought that painting could ever be finished with pure formalism and abstraction. In addition to this, a wonderfully curated small room in the back of Cheim and Read features a beautiful Soutine flower still life obviously inspired by Van Gogh, a number of upside down works by various artists, and one of many deftly handled Soutine paintings featuring dead birds. The best surprise of the show is the non sequitur sock still life, which was painted in 1998 by Avigdor Arikha and is also in exhibition space at the back of the gallery. It isn't the most awesomely executed painting in the world, but it doesn't matter. The wry humor brought to the painting through its juxtaposition with other more traditional works, is one of those small joys a viewer takes home after a day of gallery hopping.

Art VS Real Life: Canadian Stories at Morgan Lehman Gallery
A summer group show curated by Katharine Mulherin of Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects in Toronto

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This exhibition opens tonight, and I am certain it will be great. And it’s not just because the artists share Canadian citizenship with the editor of this blog (though it is probably worth mentioning there is some bias here as at least one of the artists included in The Golden Egg project I was part of, has also been curated into this show). The premise of Art VS Real Life, is that by creating fictional narratives and locations the artist provides the viewer with opportunities to hold onto a sublime experience we may experience in the every day. Challenging the idea that the sublime comes from something comforting or warm artist Eliza Griffiths makes dark paintings of depicting the changing psychology of adults and adolescents, where as Seth Scriver uses humor as means of defusing anxiety about death. It is unclear what this may have to do with the sublime, outside the fact that all great art is capable of evoking it.

*Andrea Rosen actually has a temporary space on 26 street which is open to the public, and have posted a notice on their website, but Luhring Augustine, doesn't even mention the construction on their site, and their phones are barely functioning as it took a good fifteen minutes before some staff member finally got off the phone, so I could get through to ask them if they had an alternative gallery space open to the public (which they don't).

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