Anne Koch: eat (installation) and Ellen Jong, The Invisible Line at Allegra LaViola Gallery
179 East Broadway
Through July 6th
Will: I’m really confused about why Ellen Jong needed Amani Olu to curate her super-personal pictures of her husband’s dick, which already exist in a book. There are now officially too many curators.
Corinna: This is a love story, and like many of them, there’s some dick involved. Overall, the show is too sweet for me. In the back of the gallery, on the right-hand side from the entrance, there’s a triptych of photos that sum up Jong’s perverse sweetness: there’s a hand job, then two lovebirds, and then the platitude “‘Til death do us part.” What is this, other than another way of saying people hook up, fall in love, and then get married? Boring.
As for Anne Koch’s installation, anything involving Sharpie marker gets points off in my book.
Will: The love story starts out with them being in love, and ends with them… still being in love. Along the way, they do some totally normal things people do when in love. The closest we come to narrative tension is seeing a box of Triscuits, and I think Triscuits might only be a trigger for me. Even in the handjob photograph, the guy’s already cumming. Where’s the interest in that?
Also, the surrounding materials all mention this being about Jong breaking down her barriers between public and private, self and couple, etc. Can I just say it’s awfully strange to liberate yourself by showing someone else’s dick? I mean, I get it—it’s your dick now, too, because love and marriage and togetherness—but, uh, it’s still someone else’s dick.
Michael Bauer at Lisa Cooley
34 Orchard Street
May 11 – June 17
Paddy: This show was so overhung. There could (and should) have been about five fewer paintings. They would have still looked alike, but you’d at least be able to see them. There’s a little too much ambition in this room.
The smaller paintings in the back room were a lot stronger IMO. The strategy is the same: repeating shape close to the edges of the canvas, but the size is a little more inviting. The lines at the tops and/or bottoms look like tube sock patterning. That’s a good thing, I guess?
Corinna: Bauer sure can use a paintbrush, and he proves it with these canvases that are full of dots and squiggles. It’d be nice to see those techniques put to some use, but there’s no real composition here. The canvas needs something, some type of composition, to connect all of Bauer’s painterly dalliances.
Will: Yeah. Occasionally he’ll do something really nice, but then he’ll bury it under twenty strokes that aren’t so brilliant. For instance, I don’t think any of the marks applied straight from the tube succeed, and they’re all over the place, squatting on juicier brushstrokes like a remora on a shark. There’s nothing wrong with the raw materials, though—I’m interested to see Bauer’s next show.
Amy Feldman: Dark Selects at Blackston
29C Ludlow Street
Through July 27th
Will: “Okay, so painting is dead, but did anybody try painting simple black-and-white shapes on big canvases?”
Corinna: Street art meets Motherwell.
Will: I wanna change my comment to that.
Paddy: I think you guys are being too quick to dismiss the work. Yeah, they’re simple and probably take about 30 minutes to dash off, but I think it takes some courage to put work out there with so little alteration. She made them all this drab grey too—in the context of this work, that’s gotta be intentional. These paintings literally make me laugh when I think about them in contrast to the work of someone like David Altmejd, which is actively fussy.
I feel like there has to be a little give on Pressure Points, which to my mind is the best painting in the show. It has the rectangle shape in the middle of the painting which is smushed in by triangular areas she’s painted around the boards. All of these shapes are unusual and I found that kept me interested for some time. I think that’s a success and it reminds me a little of Katherine Bernhardt’s work, who similarly applies paint quickly (but tends to focus more on the figure).
One thing I will say, is that the gallery feels a little small for this work. I don’t know that we would have had the same reaction if it had the space it needed.
Will: I think you’re being way too generous. Yes, there’s intention in all of this; Feldman went to Skowhegan and has an MFA, so she knows what she’s doing, and what we’re seeing is (if this isn’t too obvious) largely a reduction of shapes she’s painted before. I’m sure there are very good reasons why she thinks these shapes need to be put onto a canvas. Whatever that reason is, though, it’s hiding behind a wall of inert abstraction that looks for all the world like the work of any number of other painters.
Corinna: I don’t think her shapes are unusual; they’re variations on things I see all the time. Owed is a donut cloud, Pressure Points is a set of lips, and The Fact of a Door Frame is, well, a door frame. For me, her shapes, like her paintings, are inert.
Will: Hold up. The Fact of a Door Frame is clearly Stonehenge.
Paddy: These paintings aren’t really my cup of tea either, but again, I don’t think deserve the wholesale dismissal that I’m seeing here. Those shapes are slightly unusual in that they seem to have a sense of movement to them, and if you look at the paint there are areas where its dried thick while mid-drip. You can see the gesture in this work, you can see how the paint is working, and that’s not an accident.
Twisted Sisters at DODGE gallery
15 Rivington Street
Through June 24th
Corinna: Ughhhhh. Where to begin dissing? Who thought “an exhibition of works that are made by women artists and depict women as the subjects” would be a good idea? There’s 30 artists in this show and a whole lot of it deals with the commercialized female figure, plastic flowers, and barbie dolls. I think I thought that’s what feminism was about when I was, I dunno, 14? I’m sure there’s some OK work in the show, but I have such bad memories of being subjected to a show that’s about such a crappy topic that I don’t want to revisit that short tour around DODGE.
Cosmo at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery
54 Ludlow Street
Through July 21st
Corinna: This group show is heavy on Polly Apfelbaum; Klaus could’ve put on a sparse show of Apfelbaum if they’d taken down a few nails and carried an armful of works off the walls. Apfelbaum’s works show off her appetite for feverish colors, but after the initial candy-colored glow, I’m left empty. Apfelbaum knows how to find interesting colors, but not how to control them. Once she figures out how to wrangle something meaningful or emotional from her fuzzy stains and funky ceramics, maybe then, I’ll be interested. The closest she comes to that is with Big Family, two pillowcases covered with circles of fabric shaped like blood cells or gumdrops. You decide.
Props to Zachary Leener’s invention of a standing dildo for tall people and Anya Kieler’s creepy sculpture-in-a-box. I liked Kielar’s sculpture enough to keep her on my radar. Will, was that dildo description yours?
Will: I’m very sensitive to the needs of tall people.
I didn’t like the works by Apfelbaum or Kieler, but I want more of those great Graham Anderson paintings. One’s of parallelograms piercing basketballs, and the other’s a sort of Pompeiian John Wesley of dick. Both have a great deadpan humor to them, and both have some fun play between hard edges and dot constellations. Reminds me of how atoms are mostly empty space.
Corinna: I ducked into Pacific Aquarium because I needed an art break. The art was sucking and the heat was getting to me.
Will: The day-glo jellyfish anchoring the installation was the highlight for me. Some really fantastic color work, a not-quite-cliche distressed look, and sublime beauty. Some of the other stuff on show was way too derivative of Pierre Huyghe and Bill Viola, though.
Paddy: You guys are going to the wrong aquarium! 38 Aquarium Inc is where it’s at. Fancy, fancy fish, some bred so they look like they have Chinese characters on their scales. Shop guys give you a dirty look if you stay too long though.
Its Endless Undoing at Thierry Goldberg Gallery
103 Norfolk Street
Through July 15th
Corinna: And now, the winner! Hands down, Its Endless Undoing was the best show I saw in the LES this weekend (even though that’s not saying much). I’m still confused by the curatorial premise about “the idea of representing absence,” but that’s totally excusable for a summer group show. What the show’s really about is the strangeness of objects with a focus on detail and process. These works are full of wonder, requiring a lot of eye-scrunching looks to figure them out. There’s Larry Bamburg’s Bone Stacks, which looks like a Lego towers made from a Noah’s ark of animal bones (one’s a rabbit in mink in opossum in a game hen in a chicken in a turkey in a deer in a horse in a cow); Lauren Seiden’s gorgeous graphite drawings with barely visible scratch marks; and Martin Oppel’s Sand Rug (Ikea 2), one of the most dysfunctional rugs I’ve ever seen.
Sure, some of the works are stronger than others—I wasn’t a fan of Dominic Nurre’s works Asta (connector) and Model to elicit action—but that’s the nature of the summer group show crapshoot.
Will, you didn’t really like the bone stacks, did you?
Will: Eh. The components have a lot of potential, but the final piece you can shrug off. The artist’s taking the insides of bones, where the marrow should be—that nauseating tube where instead of pain receptors, you have primal fears—and he’s jamming things in there, over and over again. When I say it like that, it gives me chills. When I see it on a shelf, looking like a sort of squarely tapered antler, it’s powerless. Maybe, at best, it’s a little funny. Seems like a waste, is all.
Paddy: Wow, I really did not come out of that show thinking it was great. I thought the whole show looked like a corporate lobby put together by an out-of-touch art advisor. So much of what was in that show looked like art trying to be art. There’s that weird Dominic Nurre scaffold on the side of the wall, for example, that’s only apparent purpose to support a tea towel. It’s probably the most unnecessary clothesline contemporary art has ever produced. There were the bones Will talked about, which barely registered, and that horrible wimpy pole, again by Nurre. That piece is the artistic equivalent to a dead fish handshake.
Sreshta Rit Premnath displayed what could have been a statue wrapped in a blue tarp and leaned on a pillar and that I thought was good. Still, it’s also a bit derivative. Christo and Jean-Claude are relevant again?
Corinna: I’m going to quote myself: Its Endless Undoing was the best show I saw in the LES this weekend (even though that’s not saying much).
Miguel Abreu, “Surface Affect”
Paddy: This was the best show I’ve seen at Miguel Abreu in a while, and for a commercial gallery they’re fairly consistent to begin with. Florian Hecker pointed a speaker with blippy noises at a tiled area of the wall, and that was a little disorienting in a good way. The sound kept bouncing off the walls. Paul Pagk’s Minuit Fugue, a pink abstract painting is pretty much the definition of painterly surface effect; I really love the contrast between the large areas of thick glossy paint, and the crustiness that occurred as the paint approached the whiteish lines. My favorite piece though was Antoine Catala’s HDDH, which positioned a mirrored metal tube perfectly between two TV screens. Stand in front of the piece and you feel like you ate all of last months TV programming. It’s genius.
David Malek at Golden
Through July 8th
Paddy: Did we ever really have anything to say about the monochrome? If the answer to that question is no—and I don’t think it is—this David Malek show gives us another entry point. Enter Golden’s space and you won’t be sure if your eyes are being hurt or pleasured. These four neon orange paintings literally vibrate. In the back room there’s a couple of sponges similarly colored, but it doesn’t hurt to look at them. That’s because the light is slightly different, and Malek matches his colors to the light in the room. Apparently collectors can custom order a set. The dealer told me the work “asked interesting questions about the monochrome…what does it mean for a painting to be responsive?” That’s not really a question, but I like the frame regardless because it implies investment. I want that from art.