Ugo Rondinone, No. 249 Einundzwanzigster-Septemberzweitausenundeins, 2001, ink on paper, 6 feet 7 1/2 inches x 9 feet 10 inches, work featured in Moma’s Drawing Now, via artnet.
Art Fag City put together a feature for The L Magazine’s fall art preview, now available across the city. If you happen to be around Williamsburg or the Lower East in particular, you’ll be sure to find it, but in lieu of this, the magazine has also made the section available in full on their website. I’ve posted my feature below since the text is available only in scan form on their site, but you should visit it non the less, as there is a not to be missed feature on the Brooklyn Musuem’s director Arnold Lehman.
If the first week of September's 100 plus contemporary gallery openings doesn't signal the commencement of the fall art season I don't know what does. Save February's New York art fairs, no other time in the year will the city see more activity in the field of contemporary art. Such enterprise can be really exciting, but at this point it's also too overwhelming to keep track of; even if you wanted to you couldn't attend all the receptions scheduled for Chelsea's opening week.
One of the nicer aspects of the fall season however, is that it gives art professionals such as myself an excuse to reflect upon the art they've seen over the last year, make a few predictions, and select shows to look forward to. Speaking to the former, I hope to see even a small disruption to the current obsession over representation and narrative, though if this month's shows are any indication, we won't be experiencing that any time soon. Of course, probably the most visible sign that artists were losing interest in abstraction occurred well over five years ago. MoMA's hugely successful exhibition Drawing Now featured only one marginally abstract painter [Julie Mehretu] of 26 participating artists, and if any one in the press noticed, they certainly didn't remark upon it. Today you can almost count the number of abstract painters making relevant work on your hands; Tom Nozkowski, Jonathan Lasker, and Mark Grotjahn immediately come to mind.
Matt Keegan, Work From Home 2007, collaged c-print, 8.5 x 9 inches, Image via D’Amelio Terras
Given the importance of narrative and representation to emerging and mid-career artists, we can expect to see text continue to play a more dominant role in art. For example, growing art star Matt Keegan's Any Day Now at D'Amelio Terras this month (through September 29th) includes a number of intellectually rigorous text based works inserted into gallery walls. Known for pairing words and images as method of investigating the experiential, the artists manipulates personal snapshots voiding the subject's identity, while creating drawings that employ nouns and pronouns as a point of figurative reference. Saul Chernick similarly investigates identity in his exhibition Protosapia at Max Protetch (through November 3). The treat in this work lies in part, in his virtuosity with line, evoking masters such as Albrecht Durer, Goya, and Rembrant, but his exploration of creation myths, masculine identity, and pictorial narrative give the work weight and depth. Titled after the artist's name for a breeding ground of a new human species, Protosapia, examines sexual politics while asking the basic questions about our existence.
Without a doubt these two shows represent an incredibly rigorous intellectual studio practice, setting Chernick and Keegan apart from many of their contemporaries. While most artists need not be held to the kind of intellectual standards these two artists maintain, irony permeates the art world in such a way that it seems to keep artists from taking a stand on anything. Try naming even a few emerging artists who make overtly political work. Even professionals will have a hard time calling out those names. Feminist artists such as A.L Steiner, The Brainstormers, and Nicole Eisenman for example, are a rare breed in the contemporary art world, and suffer scrutiny for it. I know it sounds horribly unfashionable, but I'd really like to see a little more didacticism in art, particularly since a climate where this kind of expression is discouraged can be very harmful.
Deborah Kass, Big Funk, 2007, enamel and acrylic on canvas, 78 x 102 inches, Image via: Paul Kasmin Gallery
As a result, one of the shows I am most looking forward to this fall comes from the generative conceptual artist Deborah Kass at Paul Kasmin (through October ). Amongst the dearth of political work this year, Kass represents what might be the most astute critique of the contemporary culture this fall. “These are feel good paintings for feel bad times.” says Kass, introducing her paintings in the gallery press release “Redolent, nostalgic, longing for post war high times, when anything was possible. Hollywood, Broadway, even art was democratic.” She's right naturally; the press image for this show uses a yellow bulls-eye as its centerpiece and the text Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner, a mildly obscure quote from the entertaining 1987 movie by Emile Ardolin, Dirty Dancing. Underneath Ardolino's thinly constructed gloss veneer, the movie makes reference to the darker issues of Judeo and Christian traditions including religious exclusivity and class conscious society, a kind of social critique Kass misses today.