Corinna Kirsch: We saw Robin Rhode’s work in our last “We Went to” installment, at Lehmann Maupin’s Lower East Side location. That show included a bevy of larger-than-life crayons that school-age children then used to draw on the walls. Continuing in that vein, Lehmann Maupin’s Chelsea location is showing two large-scale drafting compasses and a series of “street-based photographs”. At least the compasses look good as intimidating steel instruments, like they’re used by giants in some Modernist nightmare.
While leafing through an exhibition catalog of Rhode’s work at the front desk, I glanced at descriptions of Rhode’s work as “performing drawing,” which I guess is what putting a gigantic hair comb up to a graffiti hairball is like. Of course, you know what else is like “performing drawing”? Drawing.
Paddy Johnson: This show is what stupidity looks like. Robin Rhode draws a series of batons on a wall, places himself in the center, and takes a photo every time he adds a couple of batons. It looks like he’s throwing them. Now imagine this conceit applied to a comb and hair ball (thanks Corinna), a giant feather, fanned, and a moving car.
I gotta say, I’m not so interested in the large-scale compasses either. There are two of them hanging in the gallery and they are arranged so they look as though they’ve been dancing. I get mad even looking at them. I think we all know that drawing has a life, but that’s not a concept, it’s simply a characteristic of the medium. You literally have nothing to say if all you can think to make is an artwork that literalizes said characteristic.
James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street
(Through 2/9) Wang Xieda/Sol LeWitt
Paddy: Google the words “modernist, bronze, sculpture” and the first page of results will bring back results made a hundred years ago or so, and many resemble Xieda’s current work. Most of the wire frame sculptures cast in bronze were made in 2006 or later.
I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you wonder why people suddenly find this aesthetic relevant.
The press release tells us Xieda’s work is based on Chinese characters, which made no difference at all to me while I was at the gallery, as I hadn’t read it yet. Certainly, it didn’t explain the exhibition design choice that had all these sculptures on one enormous mount in the shape of a square horseshoe. The exhibition looks good from one angle, and that’s it. They should have designed vertical columns with shelves for these pieces to give viewers a hint at the Chinese calligraphy reference!
Did anyone have much to say on the Sol LeWitt show in the back gallery? I don’t.
Will Brand: The LeWitt show was a bunch of, as the name implies, “Cut Torn Folded Ripped” works on paper. It felt like the B-team, really; a bunch of works LeWitt designated “$100 Drawings,” a few works seemingly made to set up other, absent pieces, some works made as gifts. They were all the sort of thing an artist makes, but not great artworks.
Galerie Lelong, 528 West 26th Street
(Through 2/16) Nancy Spero: From Victimage to Liberation: Works from the 1980s & 1990s
Paddy: According to the press release, in 1976 Nancy Spero decided to make women the sole focus of her work. I did a bit more interneting after reading the release and got the sense that decision came out of the belief that the art world would need to come to women, not the other way around. Whatever the case, that’s why this exhibition is filled with the female figures.
These paintings appear to depict female Egyptian leaders along with a few hawks and women with hawk wings. There’s not a huge amount going on here formally though, so the exhibition hasn’t done much to illustrate why she’s important.
Lelong’s space doesn’t help the show. Many of the works are vertical serials and Lelong’s pillars seem to interfere in sight lines at exactly the wrong place.
Corinna: I’ll grant Spero this: she found a style, and she kept to it for years. That’s certainly one part to longevity.
Having said that, Spero’s takes on “history’s happiest goddesses” aren’t that great. Compositionally, they’re not that interesting. In this one, it looks like the goddesses were plopped on the paper with only the slightest regard for form (yes, Paddy), and then they only very casually radiate from the central dancing nymph.
I do like her Picasso and Fredericks of Hollywood collages; I’d never seen those until this week. They’re more complex than her goddess pictures, showing what look like space aliens (they’re Picassos), with gross, penis-arms lurching toward a nearly naked model. They’re just like seeing Jabba the Hutt next to his slave of choice, Princess Leia, and they’re just as creepy.