Last weekend I attended a pop-up group show from Public Art Projects on a quiet industrial block of Juarez just south of the Material Art Fair on its last day. The group launched a pop-up exhibition that mischievously embraced site-specificity in a venue that is by nature the most mutable of non-places: a television studio.
With a snow storm threatening the weekend gallery goer routines of most New Yorkers, perhaps only the most intrepid will make out tomorrow and Sunday. But for those who haven’t yet seen today’s recommended shows—Katherine Bradford at CANADA and Drawing for Sculpture at Tiger Strikes Astroid (Bushwick) I have good news: both run through February 15th. You’ve got time.
And that’s a good thing, because pretty much any serious art lover in the city needs to see CANADA’s Katherine Bradford show, “Fear of Waves”.
Once a year “American Realness” takes over the Abrons Art Center to present two weeks of new and experimental dance-cum-performance. Last year, the pervasive theme running through the festival told a story of survival. It’s hard out there for an artist. This year, curator Ben Pryor assembled a group of performances focused on identity and institutional critique with a bit of self-reflexive formalism thrown in.
I saw too many performances to review, so what follows is a brief recap of my viewing, along with a few thoughts and reflections.
There are times when the apocalypse may be warranted. That’s a statement I never thought I’d even consider making, but after seeing M. Lamar’s stunning operatic masterpiece, “Destruction” at Abrons Art Center, I’ve come around on it. (The show runs tomorrow at 10 pm and is part of the American Realness Festival.) The libretto (co-written by Lamar and Tucker Culbertson) tells a retribution story from the perspective of a black descendent of slaves. Distraught over the loss of life that occurred during times of slavery, segregation and neo-segregation, he calls the dead back to life. When they wake, they are very, very unhappy.
Before entering Culture Administration & Trembling at the Abrons Arts Center last Thursday night I had to take off my shoes. Reverence for Dominique Pétrin’s handcrafted stage, and pretty much everything else that took place that night, was part of the social contract performers Jennifer Lacey, Antonija Livingstone, Dominique Pétrin and Stephen Thompson put forth.
I’ve always been wary of blonde children. Maybe this stems from having grown up in a mostly white Canadian small town, where civic pride swelled for the farmer boys with hair the yellow of corn who became NHL players, or the figure skating girls able to lutz and flip jump in their sparkling spandex.
In Liz Magic Laser’s Kiss and Cry at Mercer Union, the chilling universalism of the sacred, blonde prodigy is affirmed. Commissioned by the artist-run center, the video follows figure skating coach Marie Jonsson MacKenzie conditioning her blonde blue-eyed children, seven year old Anna and eleven year old Axel, from training practice to spot-lit performance. It’s a straight-forward and minimal video work install: a blacked-out gallery, a large-scale projection, and not much else. Their dialogue with each other is stiff and unsettling—at one point after a performance in a darkened, empty North Toronto arena, young Axel says in a robotic-sounding voice-over “fuck the child … fuck the future”.
My Art Basel experience will sound familiar to almost everyone following the fair. After a day at Art Basel Miami, most dealers I spoke to still had work available. That’s not to say that sales were slow— just slower than the usual mad rush we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years. According to art consultant Josh Baer, that’s not because the art was bad, but because collectors have become more thoughtful.
Yeah right. Collectors have not suddenly transformed into more curious and discerning people. They’re just not oblivious to the obvious: most of the art on view looked like B-rate work we’d seen a hundred times already. Even people who have nothing to do all day but buy things will eventually get bored of that.