Saturday, December 13, 2008

Al Held at Paul Kasmin

A must see, for anyone with an interest in abstract painting, is the Al Held exhibition at the Paul Kasmin Gallery from November 10, 2008 thru January 10, 2009.

The most recent painting in the Paul Kasmin exhibition was painted in 1985 well before the computer was a tool available to most artists. The paintings were drawn by hand using the same methods developed in the Renaissance. For example see the Paolo Uccello drawing at the bottom of the page, it was widely viewed in the late sixties.

Over the course of his career Held transformed the space for his paintings. Moving from a two dimensional plane, the locus of letter forms and plane geometry, into a deep three dimensional space where his geometric images reside in a flux of multiple vanishing points. In todays world of computer animation, it is almost to easy to forget Al Held's vision of an Euclidian world of forms was one which never existed to this extent and clarity as his paintings developed over the years.

In the post Abstract Expressionist era of the late 1960's Held made several large, minimal canvases loosely based upon letter forms, similar to "Yellow" from 1965 below but tougher. Held took a very tough stance towards his paintings at that time, the work was evolving towards a deep three dimensional space which went against the grain of the plane, against Greenberg's "flatness". I have a memory (but no jpegs) of several of these paintings, they were bluntly moving into three dimensions. The painting "Volta V" from 1977 is a more refined of the earlier black and white paintings I'm thinking about.

By the 1970's painting was in a disarray, the hidden restrictions of the old formalist dialog had collapsed and Held opened up his palette becoming one of the best colorists of the period.

The images are ordered chronologically.

Al Held
Roberta's Trip, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 x 144 inches (243,8 x 365,8 cm)

Al Held
Roberta's Trip F, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 31.5 x 29 inches (97,8 x 73,7 cm)

Al Held
The First Circle, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 60 x 198 inches (152,4 x 502,9 cm)

Al Held
Vorcex IV, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 108 x 108 inches (274,3 x 274,3 cm)

Al Held
Vorcex II, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

Al Held
Trajans Edge II, 1982
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

Al Held
S-E, 1979
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

The following earlier works are not in the exhibition.

Al Held
Volta V, 1977
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 X 143 7/8 in. (243.6 X 365.4 cm)
Collection: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Al Held
Yellow, 1965
Acrylic on paper on canvas
Dimension: 22.64 X 30.5 in. (57.5 x 77.5 cm)
Collection: Kunstmuseum Basel, Legat Anne-Marie und Ernst Vischer-Wadler

Al Held
Taxi cab II, 1959
Synthetic polymer paint on paper laid on canvas
Dimension: 107 X 169 in. (272.0 x 429.0 cm)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia

Paolo Uccello (Italian, 1397-1475),
Perspective Study of a Chalice,
Pen and ink on paper
Dimension: 11.4 x 9.65 in. (29 x 24.5 cm)
Gabinetto dei Disegni, Uffizi, Florence.

All images Copyright © Estate of Al Held/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York or their respective owners.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dan Colen - Miracle on 34th Street

Stellan Holm Gallery has a group show titled "The Unforgiven" which is on exhibition from November 8 through December 6.

In the back of the gallery there is a very large, almost white painting by Dan Colen, "Miracle on 34th Street". It is a miracle.

It is one of the best paintings by a young artist I have ever seen. The grayish white Olitski I recently saw at Paul Kasmin pales by comparison. It is in a class with Monet.

Forget about drawing a conclusion from the jpeg below, "Miracle on 34th Street" does not reproduce at all.

It must be seen in person.

Just go look at it, forget about "what it's about" and just look. This is what painting, in it's purest form, is all about, it is a transforming visual experience.

Dan Colen
Miracle on 34th Street
2008, Oil on canvas
93x184 inches, 236.2 x 467.3 cm

The Unforgiven features new works by Jason Brooks, Dan Colen, Till Gerhard, Nate Lowman, Anselm Reyle and Aaron Young, with works by Dan Attoe, William S. Burroughs, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool. (Note, the new works are only from living artists, it's a technicality)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Picasso at 20



It is because she looks like my grandmother.
Or whatever, it's over a century ago,
Or it is now, fogged in short memory,



Pablo Ruiz Picasso   —  "Portrait de Lola Ruiz Picasso"
[4/15~5/15]/1901  —  Oil on wood
14 x 8.75in. - 35.3 x 22.2 cm

Picasso in 1901 at the age of 20.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's Next?

Biff Elrod, "Met Steps 2006", 2006
oil on canvas, 48 X 48 in, (122 x 122 cm)
Everybody saw it coming, nobody saw it coming. Really, in truth, it is unlikely that most artists and gallerists would have been able to foresee conditions becoming as bad as they are today. High ranking officials within the government were blind-sided by economic events because they chose to ignore the warnings which preceded them.

Many younger artists and gallerists have only experienced buoyant art markets like we have had for the past decade. For them to assume "that's how it is" is reasonable even though it is incorrect. So I can sympathize with their surprise and dismay as they experience the current unravelling in the art markets.

We only saw the seven fat cows in Pharaoh's dream.

But for those of us who are older, perhaps a bit wiser, there had been signs, voiced concerns over frothy prices reaching into the stratosphere. Never the less, the cheerleaders for the major auction houses, wined and dined the affluent, assuring them the trend would continue. "There is value there"

Prices continued to rise, and rise, and rise. All the while, the insiders of Sotheby's were unloading their stock, month after month, share after share, there was value there? In the face of their manipulative hubris, the house of cards has collapsed, Sotheby's, and the others as well, I suppose, are under financial pressure.

We now see the seven ugly cows in Pharaoh's dream.

Where do we go from here? What's next?

Forget about, the talk coming out of the bankrupt auctioneer's mouth. Yes we will continue to see "record prices" for great works of art but the truth lies in the second tier sales, the afternoons, where prices and dollar volumes have collapsed. There is no solace there, when the leaders of the art-commodity market, Hirst and Warhol fail to make the bid. Shame?

Forget about, the dwindling ranks of the billionaires, the Russians or the Chinese. Forget about, the rash speculators driving up prices of the young innocents, profiting from the flawless skin of youths ambition.

Forget about the money game, the social jukes between billionaires pitching pennies. Prices are falling and it is not, as Eli said, a "half off sale" it's a market with no bottom in sight. Prices will continue to fall.

Biff Elrod, "Puppet Show Crowd", 2005
oil on linen, 56 X 36 in.
Where do we go from here? What's next?

In the face of fleeting moments of fame, fashion or fortune we may forget the source of this wealth, the fount of Solomon's song, the creators of that which we love and desire.

It is the artists who are the sources, the artist who is a source. The artists who sacrifice everything to give us a unique insight into the very reality of our existence, into a moment of quiet pleasure, or just make us smile for no reason at all (Miro).

In the frantic quest for career, for fame and fortune, for social status, we forget. We forget that art stands as one of the highest, if not the highest achievement of humankind. That while we may consign it momentarily as flotsam in the world of commerce, it ultimately comes to rest, giving expression to the soul of our fleeting historical era.

What's next? That is always the question. The moneyed collectors, grayed at their temples, are making their play. Casting their chips at the high stakes table they reaffirm what we, as artists, already know. What was.

Biff Elrod, "Life by the Tracks ", 2008
oil on canvas, 72 X 72 in.
What's next? It's what is being done now, in the studios or on the streets, whatever or wherever, time and life allows. This is the new art, the art the moneyed collectors of the future will lust after, but for now lies sprouting in the furrows below their horizon line.

What's next? While the millionaires fret over their lost billionaire status, artists continue working despite circumstance. They work, as always, with their generation's hope for the future. The artist is the source, the fount of creativity.

In this new era, with markets now tempered by past follies, the collector will gain new status through insight not fashion. The critical community must again rise to the occasion by providing insightful guidance. They must stake their reputations, and give a personal opinion of what they believe in, despite the pressures of the marketplace.

A flood has washed over the land. What lies sprouting forth in the fields, are the hundred million dollar artworks of the future. They are not being sold by Sotheby's or Christie’s, but by gallerists and artists across the land.

I'm not impressed by the rich collector's "eight million dollar bargains". It is an expression of aging impotency, and the fear of death which distances them from "wasting" the money on 200 works by "less established" artists. The money is squandered on a monument to their death, the venture capitalist has finally become the vulture capitalist.

I am aware that in past downturns, the high end of the art market has held up best and the less validated parts of the markets have fared the worst. While there is little reason to expect that this distinction will change, it might. In this economic cycle, prices at the high end of the market went hyperbolic and will fall much farther than anyone is now willing to admit.

It may well be that, until the high end auction markets stabilize, the best investments might be among artists who are less established. Discerning collectors may find that the best "values" are also more affordable and have less downside risk.

It is a rare moment for new collectors, for collectors who are inquisitive and daring enough to acquire and enjoy artworks which haven't been diluted and branded into mediocrity.

Genesis 41:26
Biff Elrod, a NYC painter and friend.
Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927–1937 at MOMA (recommended)
Edward Winkleman's blog post which inspired this commentary.
What Is Art For? NY Times, Daniel B. Smith writing about Lewis Hyde.
In Faltering Economy, Auction Houses Crash Back to Earth by Carol Vogel for the NY Times

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The November Art Anti-Auctions

Claes Oldenburg, "Fried egg in pan", 1961
Painted plaster and aluminum frying pan - 2 x 15.7 x 8 in.
Lot #189 - Est. $40-60k - Sold For $52,500

Saturday update: After taking a closer look at the results on and Chelsea Art it's clear that the fall auctions have been a disaster.Carol Vogel writes in the NY Times,
"The Warhol market has been disappointing all week, and Phillips was selling three undistinguished paintings. The first, “$,” a 1981 version of the artist’s dollar-sign image, was estimated at $350,000 to $450,000. (At Sotheby’s on Tuesday, “Dollar Sign,” from 1981, was put on the block at $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Three bottom feeders bid on it, and the designer Valentino bought it for $2 million.) On Thursday, not a hand went up, and “$” remained unsold, as did another Warhol, “Portrait of R. C. Gorman” from the 1980s, depicting an American Indian artist in profile. It was estimated at $400,000 to $600,000."
Three bottom feeders?? For this to be the case, we need to have established a bottom in the art market. We are nowhere close. The economic conditions are far worse that the 1990 period. Prices have at least another 25% of downside risk before one can expect any sort of stabilization.

This is not idle conjecture on my part, the art auction markets are intimately tied to the economy, and world economies are in a freefall. The US stock market has another 20% further to decline before there is even a chance of a recovery. See my other blog "FutureModern Finance" which tracks the US stockmarket for my ongoing commentary on the daily fluctuations.

Yes individual artworks, especially exceptional pieces, will potentially sell for good prices, but everyone in this business knows that the aggregate art prices were in the stratosphere and now they are going to come down. For a more exhaustive look at pricing trends, see my previous post State of the Art Market-Analysis where I examined the un-sustainability of certain price trends and what one might expect as a reasonable return over time.

There is no bottom in sight.

Sotheby's (NYSE:BID) is under pressure financially and its stock probably has an additional downside risk of about 50% (From $8.85 on 11/14 to the $4.30-$5.00 range, FYI, the 2007 high was $61.40)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Matt Mendelsohn at the Lincoln Memorial

Matt Mendelsohn, November 4, 2008
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

The poignant photograph above by Matt Mendelsohn accompanied his brief commentary, Memorial Day in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times.
I used to be a photojournalist. And so Tuesday night, as some 200,000 Chicagoans gathered around a brightly lighted stage under the gaze of the world’s news media, I headed to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, expecting to find a crowd and some news.

Instead, I found 25 or so people who had made their way in the dark to the marble steps of the memorial and stood silently around a lone transistor radio. On the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, they listened, some crying in the drizzle, as Barack Obama began his address before the Grant Park multitude.
After the debacle of the last eight years in Washington, it is no surprise there were fewer gathered here, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, then there were at St. Marks and 1st. Avenue in the East Village. Much will be said about this election as time passes. Matt Mendelsohn has recorded a moment which should not be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Let us begin

Barack Hussein Obama has been elected as the 44th president of the United States. He won!

Barack Obama won 52% of the popular vote nationally, and 62% of the vote in New York state.  Here in New York City he won an astounding 86% of the vote. As you might guess, the city came alive last night, people were partying in the streets from the Lower East Side to Harlem.

The crowds partying in the streets at St. Marks and 1st Avenue.

Coffee and the New York Times this morning.

I believe Barack Obama won this election because he is a righteous human being. He won, because the people of this nation want more than hope, we want to believe again in America, an America that truly is the land of the free and home of the brave. The land of opportunity, justice and equality. Tuesday's election was an historic step in that direction. There is much to be done. Let us begin.

Monday, November 03, 2008

John McCracken at David Zwirner

Visual Music.

This was a beautiful exhibition of new works by the Minimalist sculptor John McCracken. Of all the sculptors who found their start in the 1960's John McCracken has consistently made the most enigmatically beautiful objects. Objects which exist almost solely as a container for color. Each work in this exhibition is composed of a number of elements, executed in his characteristic style, and grouped together to comprise a whole.

Taken individually each part is a rectangular bar of solid color, polished to a glasslike finish allowing the surfaces to disappear and setting the color free as a solid experience. The color of each part is contained within the surface layer of resin, this allows the ambient light to penetrate the surface somewhat before being reflected back to the viewer, as a result the color is very deep and intense feeling.

In these new works composed of several parts, the viewer experiences the individual elements and the overall whole. The experience I have is somewhat between a rhythm and a chord, each element sounding a clear chromatic tone and then harmonically resonating with it's neighbors.

In spite of the physicality of all these elements, the works have an ethereal quality, singing in the space at a glance, then falling silent. This was a deceptively simple and extraordinary exhibition by a visionary artist.

John McCracken, 2008 Installation View
David Zwirner Gallery

John McCracken "Flare" 2008
Polyester resin, fiberglass and plywood
Overall dimensions: 96 x 72 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches
5 parts, each: 96 x 4 1/2 x 3 inches

John McCracken "Rhythm" 2008
Polyester resin, fiberglass and plywood
Image Size: Overall dimensions: 96 x 106 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches
7 parts, each: 96 x 4 1/2 x 3 inches

Installation View at the David Zwirner Gallery

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain on the mat.

Why is he smiling?

As election day draws near, it becomes increasingly clear, the opposition warriors are desperate with answers eluding their grasp. Sarah's winking on her knees, her plea is quite dramatic, trying anything to please, how far will this desperation grow? Despite frenzied visions of racial fistfights, the robocalls fomenting fear, percentages slip away, far greater fears are holding sway. The nations votes turning blue in an historic and significant way.

The battle is lost, why is he smiling?

People say John McCain is an honorable man, his opponents say this is so. I won't argue, being human, we are allowed our mistakes and disagreements. Yet I have been perplexed, with the apparent changes in McCain I have seen. It's not a question of his personality but of his positions. Drifting to the right, towards an unsettling alliance with the political extremes voiced by those in his own party responsible for their reprehensible behavior in opposition to his previous attempt for a presidential nomination. I question why? Why is this happening? Is it raw ambition raising its ugly head for a win at any cost?

If we consider for a moment, the recent history of the Republican party and the forces it has brought to bear on McCain's political career. More specifically we must consider Karl Rove and his influence on the Republican party.

Ron Suskind, in an article in the January 2003 issue of Esquire wrote,
"It’s an amazing moment," said one senior White House official early on the morning after. "Karl just went from prime minister to king. Amazing . . . and a little scary. Now no one will speak candidly about him or take him on or contradict him. Pure power, no real accountability. It’s just ‘listen to Karl and everything will work out.’. . . That may go for the president, too." [Ron Suskind] via Frank Rich of the NY Times
Karl Rove has a fascist vision for America, yes, fascist look it up, it fits just fine.
For Karl Rove, it’s all and only about winning. The rest — vision, ideology, good government, ideas to bind a nation, reasonable dissent, collegiality, mutual respect—is for later. [Ron Suskind]
Ron Suskind goes on to describes how he eventually met Carl Rove, squeezed into a chair... his back against the doorframe to Roves office.
Inside, Rove was talking to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him. I paid it no mind and reviewed a jotted list of questions I hoped to ask. But after a moment, it was like ignoring a tornado flinging parked cars. "We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!" As a reporter, you get around—curse words, anger, passionate intensity are not notable events—but the ferocity, the bellicosity, the violent imputations were, well, shocking. This went on without a break for a minute or two. Then the aide slipped out looking a bit ashen, and Rove, his face ruddy from the exertions of the past few moments, looked at me and smiled a gentle, Clarence-the-Angel smile. "Come on in." And I did. [Ron Suskind]
At this moment in history it should be evident that Karl Rove wielded unprecedented power within the Republican party and George W. Bush was his boy. When McCain had the gall to challenge Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, it did not set well with Karl Rove and his minions went took action to destroy John McCain.
As for the Waterloo of South Carolina, most of the facts are well-known, and among this group of Republicans, what happened has taken on the air of an unsolved crime, a cold case, with Karl Rove being the prime suspect. Bush loyalists, maybe working for the campaign, maybe just representing its interests, claimed in parking-lot handouts and telephone "push polls" and whisper campaigns that McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict, that McCain might be mentally unstable from his captivity in Vietnam, and that the senator had fathered a black child with a prostitute. Callers push-polled members of a South Carolina right-to-life organization and other groups, asking if the black baby might influence their vote. Now here’s the twist, the part that drives McCain admirers insane to this very day: That last rumor took seed because the McCains had done an especially admirable thing. Years back they’d adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander. The attacks were of a level and vitriol that even McCain, who was regularly beaten in captivity, could not ignore. [Ron Suskind]
If we delve into the Machiavellian machinations behind McCain's loss of the 2000 Republication nomination, who were his advisors at that time and how do they fit into the picture today?

Again Ron Suskind provides us with an interesting answer
And someone points to a guy in the room—yeah, him over there near the curtains, tall, friendly-looking guy named John Weaver. He was the other genius wunderkind in Texas in the 1980s, along with Rove. They won campaigns left and right, those two.[Ron Suskind]
John Weaver was McCain’s political director in his bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. Adding to the complexity of the story, one might say melodrama, John and Karl had a falling out in 1998 and had become adversaries.
Weaver gets asked about Rove quite often; people know about their history. He always demurs. "Not worth getting into," he says. People around him, though, will talk. "John will never work in the Republican party again, thanks to Karl," says Salter. Weaver now works for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It’s commonly held that Rove ran him out of the party. The word went out: Any Republican who hired Weaver would be held in disfavor by the president. "What can I say?" Weaver says quietly. "Like me, all the moderate Republicans have been run out of the party by the Right. I’m doing what I’ve always done politically; these guys just call themselves Democrats now."[Ron Suskind]
At this point the power and viciousness demonstrated by Karl Rove in his attempt to guide the Republican party towards a position of absolute power should be apparent. Further, I took notice of how Karl Rove used this power without the pretense of any morality, through the use of unquestionably despicable lies about John McCain's family in order to shade the vote in South Carolina enough to give George W. Bush the edge leading to his nomination.

It was Karl Rove committing character assassination with words in place of a bullet, John McCain must have been both deeply hurt and furious. Revenge was in order.

If we pause to consider John McCain's background a bit we will recall that he was a POW. Forty years ago in the midst of the Vietnam War, he was shot down over North Vietnam and spent the next five and a half years in captivity. I cannot begin to understand what these years must have been like for McCain. There is a very long reprint of his story which originally appeared in the May 14, 1973, issue of U.S.News & World Report. I haven't yet finished reading this, it's quite long. I would like to speculate that over five years in captivity gives one a different sense of time, and time to reflect on what is really important in ones life. One of these is family, including comrades in combat and it is clear that Karl Rove violated something which was personally dear to John McCain, something which sustained him through those five years of captivity.

John McCain set out to even the score with Karl Rove faction of the Republican party. Those five and a half years in a Vietnamese prison must have given John McCain resolve and patience, he was a survivor. With forethought, he ignored the 2004 election and was written off as a future candidate. None the less, he started to ally himself closer to the Rove Republican party and succeeded in winning the Republican nomination. Truly the comeback kid, but a kid with an agenda.

When it was time to choose the vice-presidential candidate, John McCain wanted Joe Lieberman who was obviously unacceptable to the conservatives and a pariah to the Democrats. Karl wanted Mitt Romney who was rejected by McCain. To the enduring surprise of all the two finally settled on Sarah Palin the Alaska governor who is an expert on the oil industry and Russian politics.

Now anybody who has ever paid much attention to US politics will have noticed that being President of the United States takes it's toll on the man. John McCain must be aware of this, he is 71 and selecting a younger running mate makes considerable sense, Sarah Palin fits the bill, she's young, she's pretty, and she's totally unqualified to be President of the United States. John must have been secretly smiling when Karl took the bait.

With an eminently unsuitable, inexperienced and unqualified running mate, John McCain electrified the Karl Rove party for a few weeks. Politically Sarah was so far to the right she had to telephone her left hand to wipe her ass. I guess the Christian conservatives were encouraged until they heard about her in a bit more detail. Never the less, for awhile there, the Republicans had a few days of "feel good" but it failed to last as the horror of a world wide financial collapse threw the Republican election chances into complete disarray.

And, John McCain blinks at us from the mat, smiling and victorious.

Patience is often its own reward and I believe that John McCain patience is about to be rewarded. His goal was to beat the most powerful Republican insider at his own game, and to help elect the first black president in the history of the United States.

The magnitude of this defeat will go down in political history along with the failure of the George W. Bush administration.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mad As Hell Campaign

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."

Do current financial events leave you feeling powerless?

Email the "I'm mad as hell" message to your senator.
You can find your senator here.

Select your state from the left pop-up menu.

There will be a link to contact information for each senator, go there and find the email form.
Fill out the form and put the following line into the message box.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.

Do it. Then, pass this message on to a friend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rita Ackerman at Andrea Rosen

RITA ACKERMANN "Don't Give Me Salad (Nurses)" at Andrea Rosen Gallery Sep. 13 - Oct. 18, 2008. I've followed her work for awhile, it's worth a look.

Rita Ackerman - Installation View

Joanna Pousette-Dart at Moti Hasson

Joanna Pousette-Dart Sep. 9 - Nov. 1, 2008. at Moti Hasson
I was out on the nice post-apocalypse Saturday with another painter and as we were working our way back towards 23rd street to catch the 6 train we made "one last stop" and went in to see Joanna Pousette-Dart's exhibition exhibition. After a long day in Chelsea, we were tired and a little burned out. It turned out to be a fine way to end the afternoon.

Joanna Pousette-Dart's paintings, abstract shaped canvases hark back to another era, at the same time they appeared fresh and new. Calm. The paintings have an uncanny feeling of 'rightness' about them. The color, the shapes, the line are resolved with a relaxed acuity, nothing feels forced yet there is an internal tension present which keeps the eye in fluid motion. It is a rare achievement.

Joanna Pousette-Dart - Installation View

Joanna Pousette-Dart - Untitled (Cañones #4)
acrylic on canvas over panel - 69.5 x 106 inches | 2007-2008

Joanna Pousette-Dart - Untitled (Cañones #3)
acrylic on canvas over panel - 79 x 92 inches | 2007-2008

Joanna Pousette-Dart - Untitled (Cañones #6)
acrylic on canvas over panel - 34.5 x 37 inches | 2007-2008

Matthew Day Jackson at Peter Blum

Matthew Day Jackson exhibition Terranaut Sculptures and Paintings
Peter Blum Chelsea - 526 West 29th Street - Sep. 12 to Nov. 1, 2008

Keith Tyson - Fractal Dice

Keith Tyson, Fractal Dice: at the Pace Gallery
545 West 22nd Street. - Sep. 5 to Oct. 4, 2008

This is an interesting exhibition both visually and conceptually. The basic idea as described by the Pace PR people.
In his newest body of work, Fractal Dice, conceptual artist Keith Tyson explores how decision-making in the creative process can be surrendered to and achieved by chance. The work on view in Fractal Dice is literally the result of an equation Tyson sent to the gallery in 2007. Using this algorithm, the gallery’s production team followed a sequence of instructions to calculate and determine the size, shape, and color of each sculpture, and fabricate the outcome.
Keith Tyson Fractal Dice: PaceWildenstein, 545 West 22nd Street, NYC - Sep. 5 to Oct. 4, 2008.
The works as finally executed according to Keith Tysons instructions refer back to Russian Constructivist works by artists like Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko as well as Mondrian. Regardless of the artist's intent the works successfully continue the form in a way which seems so obvious it is surprising no one has done it before.

The works come off as cool, and crisp with a distanced but modern feeling. It's a very nice exhibition.

In the post financial meltdown era, this type of expensivly highly produced work will be out of the reach of younger and less-established artists. I am writing about the shows I saw on Saturday September 21 and the whole time I couldn't help but feel the most innovative new art will move in a different direction.

Keith Tyson Fractal Die 2005-2008

To make good art you just need a good algorithm and skilled assistants.

Apocalypse Now

This is a stub to mark the financial meltdown that occurred last week.

In a previous post The Party's Over I suggested the art market was going to contract over the next few years. According to Crain"s New York Business, the Spreading pain will cost 90,000 jobs

Retailers will be hit hard, particularly those in the luxury sector, as out-of-work Wall Streeters trade down to mid-tier stores from upscale ones. And brokers are steeling themselves for a slowdown in leasing by luxury retail tenants. They are preparing to lower rents in order to lure tenants into their expanding portfolio of empty spaces.

“Consumers react to news,” says Matthew Katz, managing director of AlixPartners, an advisory and consulting firm. “Certainly the events of [last week] were enough to provide some shock.

It is possible, even likely that money will continue to flow into the very high end of the market in an attempt to redeploy assets. This has happened in the past and I believe it was partly the reason for the success of the Damian Hirst auction recently. Regardless how this plays out, it seems fairly clear that the other sectors of the market will feel the pressure.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nodal Time

This entire post is a speculation on what might possibly be happening now, it's an open topic, subject to debate.

For a few years now I have been mulling over what the novelist William Gibson described as a "nodal point in history." The idea of a new century, not to mention a new millennium, piqued my interest as a focal point for some kind of change.

Alas, this simple numerical transition to a solid number, just counting from one year to the next, became mired in the prospective consequences of a bit glitch. It seemed that early computer programmers never thought the millennium would change. The incipient uncertainty of wrong dates and garbage trucks filled with sand as defense against some amorphous threat put a psychological damper on the millennial transition.

Still, I had initially expected there would be an optimistic energized feeling as we entered the new millennium. I was wrong, as it turned out the transition was a source of anxiety which was further heightened by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Clearly 911 became a nodal point in time, there is "before 911" and "after 911". That clear morning the course of world events ricocheted, taking a new oblique path and future history. Looking back form this point seven years later it is hard to imagine what might have been.

Cyclic Pulse

The culture, society, moves forward with cyclical rhythms. Attitudes and anxieties ebb and flow as opinions change slowly over time. Events like 911 become spikes, emotional semaphores in time. Others smear time, slightly blurring the transition between 'then' and 'now'. This is the nodal time, the window for the slow cycle, one close to two generations in length, and what I am interested in here.

This change appears to be happening now, we are in the middle of nodal time. So what is happening? Everything is changing from 'before' to 'after', from "worn out" to "new", new information produces new ideas and in retrospect we can describe the distinctions. Of course everything is always changing, but it is occurring at a primary level where it is visible as incremental evolution over time. Every once and awhile things change in a way which seems sudden after the fact.

Observations . . . . .

This type of cultural change does not seem to be precipitated by a single event, rather it is a conflux of multiple events and discoveries that are viewed with a new generational perspective. It is not my intention to make predictions here only to examine points of inquiry, points which can be expected change.

Rhythm and Blues
Music is the pulse of this change within the culture. Musical forms have long life-spans within the culture and evolve from simple to complex presentation forms over time. Changes revert to the simple form, the trio, quartet or quintet...

"For playing electric violin on desolation row." [1]

Twenties American jazz riffs flow through to big bands that end a culture's show. The transition meander crosses real life's culture, songs the blues singers know. Then came rock and roll. The sixties were nodal.

It takes two generations to wear music into the exquisite esoterica of a classical form. It is a nodal time again now.

Popular music must change, to find its own intimacy within youth's history. It is time for a whole new generation, separate from past generations, that break once every fifty years. The world is theirs. This change is happening now, as always produced by Disney, sponsored by Wrigley's and sung by Katy Perry to their dismay.

The whole bet is on a change in popular music, the identity of the beat, the iPod, and Pandora Radio.

Cultural Homogeneity
This is the century when China becomes an equal player in the world and its culture. It is doubtful the coming out party at the 2008 Olympics in China will be surpassed in this century. Whatever you think, China is an equal player on the world stage at all levels.

In the past century, economic changes, transformations from the agricultural, to the industrial, to the information ages, all strongly influenced nodal changes in culture. These economic events evolved from the local, the farm, to the non local global influences we see today. Non-local, it's vector aims towards the achievement of homogeneity, with the acceptance of cultural identity. It is one world.

Global Warming
It is one world. What you do there, affects me here. What I do here, affects you there. It is one world, it doesn't matter if global warming is true, what matters is, what I do here, affects you there. An attitude changing concept.

Barack Obama
Race is an issue to put behind us. Obama has the ability to energize the idealism of youth in a moment of national despair. It is the idealism to seek change towards a greater good. Recalls, JFK. Keyword, destiny.

Higgs Boson
And whatever other exotic particles they might find at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. A big beautiful instrument which cost significantly less than the Opening of the Olympics is now online as a tool for pure physics. Brian Greene has a nice piece on the physics of CERN in todays NY Times, see: "The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course" Transdimensional space is another interesting concept under investigation. Parallels: Einstein's theory of relativity.

Architecture lags because it is complex and financially intensive. However, the last shall be first, as the new architecture born in the last century and built in this, leads the visible display of structure into the 21st century. The buildings created for the 2008 Olympics and Dubai represent paradigm shifts in form and construction. Architure: leading the way.

The transition in the fashion industry is already underway, new designers, fresh looks.
Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga.
Kate and Laura Mulleavy for Rodarte.

Museum directors
Part of the reason for these changes is simply demographic, the baby boomers who have held these top posts, are now retiring. Recent changes here in NYC:

Thomas P. Campbell will replace Philippe de Montebello who is retiring after 31 years as director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Richard Armstrong is slated to be the new director for Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. (Still to be announced, source Crains)

Kathy Halbreich as Associate Director in charge of contemporary art at MOMA.

The housing bust starting in 2007 has expanded into a full fledged economic crisis so complex that its resolution will have significant changes on how we view Capitalism in the next century.

Visual Art
Back to basics, but new basics. I am looking for an art to serve the new millennium, to re-define its culture, to question its philosophy, to re-examine its images. What we thought of as art is about to be reconfigured by a new generation born after 1985, raised in a world of electronic exotica, instant access to information, and avatars.

I cannot emphasize how strongly I sense this generational change, this nodal point in time. It has some of the characteristics of the early 1960's but of course will be expressed differently.

Welcome to the new millennium.

[1] Bob Dylan, from "Desolation Row", "Highway 61 Revisited", 1965

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Party's Over

Contrary to the naysayers, over the past couple of years I have continued to be optimistic about the art market, always realizing that eventually the party had to end.

Well, the party is over and I expect that the art market, both the auction markets and the retail markets are entering a period of severe contraction similar to the one experienced in the early part of the 1990's.

Housing starts overlaid with recessionary periods, since 1959.

The art market tends to follow the trend of the US economy often with a time lag of roughly one year. As I write this, the US economy has been contracting since about the start of the year and should remain weak into mid 2009. The world economic situation is severely compromised and vast amounts of wealth have gone to money heaven. This is not the kind of environment which fosters a vibrant art market.

Short and sweet, but I'll answer questions.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Neo Rauch at David Zwirner

This is an absolutely breathtaking exhibition of paintings. As we enter the new millennium, Neo Rauch is the most important painter working today.

Neo Rauch
Oil on canvas
19.69 x 15.75 inches, 50 x 40 cm
Neo Rauch and Peter Doig are two of only a few serious painters who began their careers during the wasteland years of painting at the end of the last century and managed to escape the perils of the prevailing taste and critical discourse. Sitting with another painter at the waterside bar, having a beer, after seeing the Neo Rauch exhibition at Zwirner, I asked "so, who do you think are the most important painters working today?" Neo Rauch along with Peter Doig are at the top the list but then we fell silent, the truth is we could not think of any, painting had succumbed to a deadly virus which killed off the heroic painters.

Neo Rauch
Oil on canvas
118.11 x 98.43 inches, 300 x 250 cm
Neo Rauch's paintings revive the heroic, a quest to restore painting's link to its own history, a history which has been rejected and perverted by lesser painters resorting to the 'ironic' because they lack the conviction to carry on and extend a tradition.

Neo Rauch's paintings accept paintings history at it fullest value, without qualms or the pretense that it is not important. This is in your face painting, if you are a serious painter you have to deal with Neo Rauch, not copy or emulate him, but realize what the experience of truly great paintings feels like.

Make a trip of it, go see the de Kooning's and the Pollock's at the Jewish Museum, then zip down to 19th street and see Neo Rauch. They hold up. This is a very serious statement, they hold up, there are possibly no other living painters, aside from Jasper Johns who I would even consider making such a statement about. (In all fairness to Peter Doig, I haven't seen enough of his work in person.)

Neo Rauch
Die Aufnahme
Oil on canvas
118.11 x 98.43 inches, 300 x 250 cm
The lineage of Neo Rauch's paintings cuts a furrow through through Surrealism to the present, a dreamscape of the imagination utilizing the full range of paintings pictorial devices to manifest a vision as a painting. As a painting, not just as an 'image' or a picture, these are paintings in the grandest sense of the word. They are incredibly inventive, in all aspects.

Some past reviewers of his work have gotten lost in the idea of "East German," or Soviet realism. These influences were intimately bound in his early life experiences and one would expect them to be as visible, as are the life experiences of any painter. I would say the same is true for the other peripheral contemporary influences in his paintings, what matters most, is what I see as a deeply rooted love of painting, which links these contemporary influences with paintings history, in an effort to transcend both.

Neo Rauch
Die Stickerin
Oil on canvas
118.11 x 165.35 inches, 300 x 420 cm
In order to plausibly contain his colliding and wildly disparate imagery Neo Rauch as revived a pictorial space which is an extension of the cubist box. More expansive than the shallow cubist approach, the pictorial space in Neo Rauch's paintings is closer to a stage set than anything else I can think of. I've built a few stage sets, and while a stage set allows for a simple 3D mapped space, as a pictorial space it can also logically contain seeming unrelated disparate pictorial events, without loosing a sense of the pictorial logic of the painting.

Neo Rauch
Der Garten des Bildhauers
Oil on canvas
118.11 x 165.35 inches 300 x 420 cm
This ability to make the viewer accept the paintings logic, to view the paintings pictorial space as a stage where the larger drama of contents dream can play, out is a major contribution to the history of painting. Just glancing at the small reproductions in the gallery overview, one sees an incredible juxtaposition of pictorial spaces, interior to exterior, walking the viewer into the space, or holding tightly to the surface, often all within the same painting, it is breathtaking.

Great painters have a way of making a painting look effortless and Neo Rauch's paintings feel effortless. He is a good draftsman, the paintings look like they are executed freehand, from the the imagination, but with a knowledge of what things in the world look like, convincingness. I'm not quite sure how to explain this, but these new paintings feel better painted than his earlier efforts, the paint handling is more focused, direct and more confident feeling.

If one was to imagine what a 'radical' painting would look like today, I don't suspect one would think of paintings like those of Neo Rauch. It's a surprise that these, vaguely Surrealist, somewhat traditional, representational, classically composed paintings can lay claim to being the most advanced painting of an era, but they are. Their radicalness lies in their ambition for painting itself, an ambition to restore paintings link to its historical past. Their radicalness lies in the way they expose that much of contemporary painting as nothing more than a product in search of a customer. Their radicalness lies in an expression of a way the painter can realize a dream pictorially by utilizing paintings entire language as a source of illumination.

Neo Rauch sets a standard that few painters can approach, these are paintings for the new millennium.

All images are from the David Zwirner Gallery.

Kerry James Marshall

At the Jack Shainman Gallery May 22 - Jul 3, 2008.

Thirty or so years ago, when I was an emerging artist, a young man came up to me and after a brief conversation, asked if he could come by for a studio visit, to which I agreed. That young man, just starting art school, was Kerry James Marshall. For some ineluctable reason I remembered our meeting across the years of lost and faded recollections. As time passed, I lost track of him, so I have been pleasantly surprised to finally see his paintings over the last few years.

The subjects of Kerry Marshall's paintings reflect a meditation on his own cultural experience, expressed using a foil of recognizable art genres to establish the settings for commonly shared life experiences. His paintings exhibit a wry sense of humor along with a poke in the ribs of the art establishment which I personally responded favorably to. It's a nice exhibition.

Kerry James Marshall
Untitled, 2008

Kerry James Marshall
Untitled, 2008
Acrylic on fiberglass
79 x 115.25 x 3 inches

Kerry James Marshall
Untitled, 2008
Acrylic on fiberglass
79 x 115.25 x 3 inches

Bottom two photos from the Jack Shainman Gallery.