February Preview: Everyone’s a VIP

by Art Fag City on February 3, 2012 · 2 comments Preview

The obvious one.

February: a month of multiple things happening, both here and in other places, often at the same time. Which things should you watch occur, and where and when will they occur? We know. Only we know. Enjoy.

VIP Art Fair

www.vipartfair.com. February 3rd — February 8th.

The VIP Art Fair goes online today, which means that for only the second time ever, there will be art on the internet. Early reports would indicate the fair’s technical problems are largely solved (though today will be a test), so this year we can actually talk about content. In addition to the browsing possibilities, the exhibitors seem to have put a lot of work this year into the content around the works, which means lots of video and interviews and fun stuff like that. Also, inexplicably, you can see a tour of John McEnroe's favorite works.

Joyce Pensato installation from "Batman Returns," 2012. (Photo courtesy Friedrich Petzel).

Joyce Pensato: Batman Returns

Friedrich Petzel Gallery. 537 West 22nd Street. January 12th — February 25th.

This show has been open for a few weeks now, but it looks like it's worth a mention. In “Batman Returns,” Joyce Pensato's drippy enamel paintings and assemblage installations feature multiple iterations of Batman and cartoon characters to get at perennial art questions: the importance of the original and the goal of authenticity.

Stephen Lichty. "Ribbon," (Green). 2012. (Courtesy Foxy Production).


Foxy Production. 623 West 27th Street. January 20th — February 25th.

Amongst art stars, in-your-face, high speed video art, tabloid photography, and historical exhibitions, it's easy for quieter group shows shows like the one at Foxy Production to get lost in the fray. Small, defiantly plain abstract paintings and sculptures use simple objects and forms — ribbon, cables, sticks, and degrees of paint fluidity — to contemplate tension and letting go. It's not shiny or industrial, and it doesn't subvert anything, but it would be a shame if work like this were to disappear entirely. Featured are paintings by Michael Bauer and Joel Croxson and sculpture by Stephen Lichty and Sarah E. Wood.

"Their First Murder," 1941; a group of schoolchildren watch a man get shot and killed. (Screenshot from the New York Times slideshow)

Weegee: Murder is My Business

International Center of Photography,1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street. January 20th — September 2nd.

There's already a lot of praise for this exhibition of the legendary Depression-era tabloid photographer Weegee. Nicknamed after the Ouija board for his preternatural ability to arrive on the crime scene, Weegee extensively documented everything from tenement life, high fashion, and the public thrill in murder and disaster. With the help of a police radio, a flashbulb, and a small darkroom in the trunk of his car, Weegee himself became a phenomenon, earning bit parts in movies and, deservedly, signing his name “Weegee the famous.”

Henry Taylor's 2010 "The Long Jump by Carl Lewis." Acrylic on canvas, 87.5 x 77." (Photo courtesy: PS1)

Henry Taylor

PS1. 22-25 Jackson Ave. at the intersection of 46th Ave. January 29, 2012 — April 9, 2012

If we can learn anything from Henry Taylor's story, it's that sometimes it's best to stay away from formal training. Descriptions of the so-called outsider’s work tend to sound like wish fulfillment: luscious painting, refreshing quirk, poetic turn-of-phrase. It’s the big slice of cake that we crave from art more than most would care to admit. We indulge ourselves in outsider art.

Though the L.A.-based painter spent ten years as a psychiatric technician and earned his BFA around age 36, he is, by now, no outsider. His portraits cover a range of culture, from pop — sports and art world figures — to personal — family members, people from his neighborhood, former patients. They allow us to do what is normally taboo: openly applaud visual sincerity.

"Jim Dine in Front of the House" (year unspecified). (Courtesy Pace Gallery).

Happenings: New York, 1958—1963

Pace Gallery. 534 West 25th Street. February 10th — March 17th.

This is purportedly the first exhibition to document the origins and historical development of Happenings; Pace has over three hundred performance photographs of its main participants. If you still think Jim Dine is conservative, watch him let his bald hair down in clownface.

Juan Downey, Video Trans Americas, 1973, Oil on wood. Via MIT List Center

Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect

Bronx Museum. 1040 Grand Concourse. February 12th — May 20th.

Until recently, Juan Downey, a Chilean-born video artist working in New York in the 1960s and 70s, was almost entirely forgotten from the canon of early video art. Downey deserves more attention for his videos that defy easy categorization, jumbling together National Geographic with an absurdist mentality. The videos are weird, original, and definitely not politically correct. In The Laughing Alligator, Downey traveled to Venezuela with his wife and kids who dressed up for the cameras in tribal garb, including garish face make-up, and gave the local tribe video cameras to try out. Downey's interest in video art was at times utopian-minded—several of his essays have appeared in Radical Software, a leftist, DIY video art publication that ran from 1970 through 1974. Although I'm excited to see a retrospective of Downey's work, my only worry is that the exhibition, organized by MIT's List Visual Arts Center, known for its heady and thorough solo exhibitions of artists engaged with technology, will get rid of the strangeness and humor found in some of Downey's works.

Hassan Khan, Jewel (still), 2010. 35 mm film. (Screenshot from New Museum website).

The Ungovernables: 2012 New Museum Triennial

New Museum. 235 Bowery. February 15th — March 22nd.

Opting for a more conservative title than the Museum's inaugural Younger Than Jesus triennial three years ago, one might still read The Ungovernables as mythbuilding. Artists, particularly these “unruly natives”, are sexy because they don't play by the rules. The show sounds promising. Only two of the 34 artists live in New York, which means New Yorkers will actually be introduced to new work. That's a change for the better.

Charles Atlas, "Views on Video," 2005. (Photo courtesy Frieze).

Charles Atlas: The Illusion of Democracy

Luhring Augustine. 25 Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick. February 18th — May 20th.

The fact that this will be the inaugural show of Luhring Augustine's new Bushwick space is reason enough to come; Charles Atlas, though, seals the deal. We know Atlas best as the longtime documenter of/collaborator with performance art greats from Merce Cunningham to Yvonne Rainer, and for films at once frantic, loud, sensitive, and beautiful. The present show focuses on three video installations, all of which are new to the city. Based on a recent interview in which Atlas discusses his love for the Matrix and it's influence on his work, we'd guess Painting by Numbers reflects his new interest in computer-generated imagery. It should be interesting to compare this to whatever Atlas brings to the Whitney Biennial.

Magnus Plessan

Magnus Plessan

Gladstone Gallery. 515 West 24th Street. February 15th — March 15th.

Plessan's got a similar charm to Henry Taylor, in that the staging of his paintings is a little awkward, to great effect. High-contrast bands of deep-colored paint scrapes become negative space, making the works look like a junkyard assemblage in which each part is absolutely essential. Whereas Taylor indulges, though, Plessen's application is dire and limited. Plessen is also known for his extremely limited output, so odds are it'll be far from frivolous.

Cindy Sherman, "Untitled #466." 2008. (Courtesy MoMA website.)

Cindy Sherman

MoMA. 11 West 53rd Street. February 26th -— June 11th.

It's a MoMA retrospective of Cindy Sherman, the most successful photographer alive. Do we need to explain this one?

Man Ray photo of Gertrude Stein in front of her portrait by Picasso. 1922.

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1000 Fifth Avenue.  February 28th — June 3rd.

Gertrude Stein's literature, life, and salons have recently been the subject of major museum exhibitions, painting shows, marathon readings, and a Hollywood film. Here, two hundred works from Leo and Gertrude's collection will further demonstrate how much they steered the course of contemporary art.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE "Fake Death Picture" (The Death of Chatterton - Henry Wallis) 2011. (Screenshot from James Cohan website.)

Yinka Shonibare, MBE: Addio del Passato

James Cohan Gallery. 533 West 26th Street. February 16th — March 24th.

The glorified costume designer will make his first solo appearance in New York since his 2009 Yinka Shonibare MBE show at the Brooklyn Museum. Expect, as per his usual, lots of Dutch wax-print fabrics and obvious nods to Academic art history. The more interesting work, though, will be anything that doesn't fit that mould: the Brooklyn Museum show prompted even the normally reticent Karen Rosenberg to note that Shonibare “can be embarassingly literal” when leaving his comfort zone, and this will be an opportunity to change that perception. We’re told to expect “the history of death through painting”, Victorian anti-masturbation devices, and a new film based on the closing aria from La Traviata and the biography of Lord Nelson.

Art Fag City Rob Pruitt Awards and Auction

Site 109. 109 Norfolk Street. February 23rd, 6:30 — 10:00 PM.

I know it sounds too good, too absurd, to be true, but believe it. We're actually launching The Art Fag City Rob Pruitt Art Awards and Auction* this February 23rd. We're actually hosting an auction with Simon de Pury, in collaboration with Site 109. Attendees will actually see performances by Nate Hill and Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw. Prizes will actually be decided by a jury of Anton Vidokle, William Powhida, and Jen Dalton.  Most importantly, we’ll provide answers to burning questions, such as:

  • Who used their genitals best this year?
  • Who spent the most time doing nothing?
  • Who is the art world's best Jerry?
  • Who is 2012”²s Most Powerful Person in the Art World, by bench press?
Buying a ticket now is absolutely essential because space is limited!


Michelle February 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Hey check out (and like) an awesome review of Joyce Pensato’s exhibit “Batman Returns” at Friedrich Petzel Gallery by one of the contributors of Culture Catch Mr. Rubenstein at: http://culturecatch.com/art/joyce-pensato

Thomas February 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

These all look awesome, but I live in Rockford, Illinois, so I don’t have to worry about too many great things happening all at once. http://www.zombielogicpress.com

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