Sunday, July 31, 2011

Three Chelsea Galleries and the High Line

Remember when I went to New York? Well, I barely do. It seems so long ago, but I insist on dredging my cluttered memory bank to bring you the remnants of my experiences. Thank goodness for photos or my mind would be a complete blank (well, nearly).

Three works by Ruth Hiller. The gallery website gives the dimensions of the
far right piece, called "oe", as 34 x 14 x 2 inches.

NOTE: Click on any of these images and they will open larger.

Ruth Hiller at Winston Wachter
So there we were in Chelsea - hot, tired but determined. We wanted to see Ruth Hiller's show at Winston Wachter on West 25th Street. (Note: there is an umlaut over the "a" in Wachter but I don't know how to add it.) Ruth is an encaustic homie and her work looked great in the gallery. I have to admit right up front, however, that I failed to get the titles and sizes for individual pieces.

Greg acting as the human scale again with large pieces by Hiller

Ruth's statement says that she is exploring "the parallels between microscopic and macroscopic elements....I find the visual similarities astounding." These are parallels that Greg has also explored in his work. Ruth works with very smooth surfaces on panels or slabs of wood with rounded corners. Each piece has one or more dimensional protuberances that are sliced open to show layers of color within. She calls this work "3D encaustic."

Side view of one of the works

One small room in the gallery was lit with blacklight to illuminate Hiller's use of fluorescent pigments.

Four large works
Hiller's saturated colors, rounded forms and colorful three-dimensional elements made for an unusually minimalist exhibition of work in encaustic that was striking in its simplicity and clarity of concept.

Binnie with one of Hiller's large pieces

Along with Ruth Hiller (her website here), the gallery was showing poured enamel paintings by Leah Durner and glass sculpture by Eric Woll. The resonance between the works of the three artists made for a unified show with a pared back but vibrantly colorful look.

Four large poured latex enamel works by Leah Durner

Closeup of two Durner works

Installation of glass beetles by Eric Woll entitled "The New Normal",
60 x 47 x 7 inches

Glass squirrels by Eric Woll

This is Winston Wachter's summer show and it will run until some time in September (date not given), so there is still time to see it in person.

Li SongSong at Pace Gallery
We happened to be walking by Pace on West 25th Street and stopped in because the building looked so attractive.

Exterior of Pace Gallery, West 25th Street, Chelsea

When we went inside the massive space, I was overwhelmed by the heavy impasto on the gigantic paintings by Li SongSong. I was so fascinated with trying to capture the dimensional effect of the two or three inch thick painted surfaces, that I barely scanned the overall images presented in the work.

The gallery's website says this is the first solo U.S. exhibit by 38-year-old Chinese artist Li SongSong, and the show consisted of 11 giant works, up to 17 feet wide.

First big gallery in the nterior of Pace

This is a detail of the painting in the photo above that's behind
the two viewers. I didn't see the image of the painted figure until
I later looked at this photo. All I could see in person was texture.

I was hoping to include some better photos of the work from the gallery's website, but apparently they are not allowing the photos to be grabbed. And they don't have info about the size of each work or the subject. So all I can say is that the paintings were constructed from slabs of canvas or aluminum overlapping one another and they were very big.

Here's a side view of one of the biggest paintings that was constructed from
slabs of painted aluminum.

Another view of the same piece

And still another view

You can see that I went right into construction mode when I saw this work.

And here's a closeup of the impasto that looks like cake frosting

The website says that Li works from photographs and film stills, some of which record world history and some of which are more personal. He blows up and grids the images into panels and then grids again with pastel colors and graphic patterns that distort the images, sometimes digging through the impasto to hidden colors layered underneath. This technique makes the original images "become[s] abstract and expressionistic, both obscuring and neutralizing the original content as it explores the imperfection of memory."

Two paintings in the show that certainly look like they commented on Chinese society -
and not in a good way.

Tamar Zinn at The Painting Center
When our plans for New York had firmed up a bit, I arranged to meet my Facebook friend, Tamar Zinn on Friday afternoon. We seem to agree so frequently on political comments as well as art in Facebook, that I thought it would be fun to meet each other in person. Coincidentally, Lynette Haggard had just posted an interview with Tamar in her blog and Tamar had two paintings in the show "Grey Matter" at The Painting Center.

Two works by Tamar Zinn in "Grey Matter"

Tamar's wall in the show - we thought it was the best  of the exhibition

Before meeting Tamar, we first went to The Painting Center on 27th Street to see the show. This is a great space, a non-profit, that shows about 20 exhibits a year and posts images of artists' work in a online database, the Art File, and in an artists' registry. For details see the Center's website. (And by the way, they are closed for the summer.) Tamar's work looked great in person. You can see more of it on her website.

Overhead view of the High Line
(all images, unless otherwise noted, from the High Line website)

The High Line
Next we headed over to the High Line, an elevated public park. I have heard so much about it and was really looking forward to seeing it in person. (Don't forget to click pix to enlarge.)

The abandoned High Line

A brief history taken from the website: The elevated railbed was originally built in the 1930s to remove dangerous freight traffic from the city streets as part of the West Side Improvement Project. (There were so many accidents between trains and street traffic before the High Line was built, that 10th Avenue was known as "Death Avenue.") The last trains ran in 1980 and the railbed was abandoned until demolition was threatened and Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, was formed to save it in 1999.  After a lot of hard work by the group and its supporters, the property was handed over to the city, a design process began and the selected team of James Corner Field Operations, landscape architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm ("experts in horticulture, engineering, security, Maintenance, public art and other disciplines") began design and construction. (Check out those websites for some fabulous project info on the High Line and others - worldwide.)

Here's a great computer-generated video that shows the design process in flyover mode - really cool.

The High Line was scheduled to open in three phases: Phase One June 2009, Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, and Phase Two June 2011,West 20th Street to West 30th Street. (I don't know what happened to Phase Three but apparently CSX Railroad still owns the section between West 30th and West 34th Streets.)

Overhead view of High Line park

People walking on the High Line with traffic below

Plantings - now really huge

People relaxing on wooden loungers

New Yorkers needing a lawn to lounge on

Watertowers visible from the High Line - note how pathway contains rail-like
impressions in the concrete

My skyline view with plantings foreground

Viewing windows to the street below

High Line at dusk looking out toward the piers

This park is really spectacular. The photos here don't show how varied the plantings are and that some are really large scale. They are like prairies or meadows of native plants, most now in flower or with seedheads from flowers that have passed. I was sorry that my Iphone had run out of gas by the time I got to the High Line, but these photos from the website are probably way better than I could ever have done anyway.

So we had a great time sitting at a little table and chairs, enjoying the people watching in a cool breeze and waiting for Tamar to join us. It was a real pleasure to meet her in person and learn about her life in the city. After chatting for a while, we walked along the High Line and then left it to pass through the now-totally gentrified Meatpacking District and up to 7th Avenue. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant recommended by Tamar, where we were joined by Winston Lee Mascarenhas, another encaustic homie, who was in New York for a residency at the School of Visual Arts.

By the time we trained it back to Binnie's in Connecticut, it had been a very full day. But on Saturday, we were getting up bright and early to make it to the Met for the Alexander McQueen exhibit. More about that in the next post - if I can remember that far back.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Update on Brian Dickerson

A couple of weeks ago in New York, I, along with friends Binnie Birstein and Greg Wright, visited Kouros Gallery at 23 East 73rd Street to see an exhibition by Brian Dickerson. I had only seen his work online, but it was magnificent in person and I was so glad that I had the opportunity to see it. In an earlier post, I gave details about the show.

Brian Dickerson, Autumn's End, 2010, oil, wax, mixed media on wood,
31 x 21 x 5  inches

Brian and I had corresponded a little by email prior to my visit to the gallery, and afterwards he sent me a video by John Thornton, called "Excavation," that includes gallery shots and an interview with him about his work. He gave me permission to repost the video here, so I hope you enjoy it. It's about 12 minutes long.

The show at Kouros is up until next Friday, August 5th.

Meanwhile, I've been very busy both in the studio and at home online. I hope to fit in my continuing posts on the New York visit soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Latest NY Art Trip: Chelsea Galleries

This feels so long ago that I can barely remember - but it was only a bit over a week ago. In between have been long sessions of oil painting, work, writing and lots of heat - you know,  the usual. My intention for this post was to finish up Friday since I only posted the morning session the other day. However, I have just finished looking through, adjusting and resizing the photos I took - and now I have carpel tunnel in my right hand because there were so many just from the galleries. So I'm going to include what I can in this post and save some for next time. Here goes...

Mark Wagner at Pavel Zouboc Gallery

Pavel Zouboc on W. 23rd Street was the first stop on the tour after lunch. This gallery specializes in collage and is currently showing "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" by Mark Wagner (through August 12th). This show was nothing short of totally AMAZING (even though I hate that overused word). Mark Wagner must have no life because it is all spent making this work. I took a lot of closeups, but the work has so many tiny details that I don't know if you can see them. (Be sure to click on these images because they will enlarge.)

Greg beside the huge, 14-panel  "Liberty" with a part of the
viewing platform in the right foreground

Wagner calls this work "currency collage" because it is all made from actual one dollar bills. The biggest piece in the show, "Liberty," is 16 feet x 4 feet and is composed of 14 panels that I figure must about 38" x 16". Within each panel, the detail is incredible and the overall composition is ingenious - very humorous and inventive. He cuts the tiniest little slivers of the bills - really incredible.

Liberty torch - note George Washington and the cartoon character at the apex

The press release from an earlier exhibition at Pavel Zouboc Gallery states that Mark Wagner, "creates collages that speak to the cultural, social, political and symbolic roles that money plays in our society....[He] transforms this icon of American capitalism into representational images whose symbolic force asks us to question our understanding of money, its cultural significance and relationship to art." See the gallery's website for many more photos of the work.

Worker Bees, 2011, currency collage, 16 x 37 inches

Closeup of Worker Bees

Trafficking, 2011, 37 x 16 inches

Closeup of the green light in Trafficking

In case you forgot, here's a dollar bill with the green seal to the right of George.
How many of these were used in the green light above?

I really loved these pieces - so clever, so obsessive - all made with currency

Closeup of Pretty Please, 12x16 inches

*&?@#!, 12 x 16 inches

This trunk contained a stop-time video of Wagner and an assistant
at work making the collages plus snippets of currency and
assorted objects. It was fascinating to watch the video. 

Of course I also liked this unique piece (image from the gallery's website) called
Plumbing the Depths, with collage by Mark Wagner and paint by Joey Parlett, 2011,
24 x 24 inches. Great surface.

Cheim & Read on W. 25th Street was the next stop. They are showing "The Women In Our Life: A Fifteen Year Anniversary Exhibition," up through September 17th. This was a more pared-down show with single examples from ten women artists who have worked with the gallery. The exhibition announcement notes about the artists, "their selection, impressive in its scope, evolved in response to the artists' individual work." I take that to mean that they weren't chosen just because they were women. (Remember to click to see bigger images of the works.)

Joan Mitchell, Minnesota, 1980, oil on canvas in four parts,
102 1/2 x 243 inches

Closeup of Minnesota

Lynda Benglis, untitled, 1972, "beeswax, damar resin and pigment" on wood,
36 x 5 7/8 x 3 1/4 inches

Greg showing the scale of the Benglish piece

Louise Bourgeois, Nature Study No. 5, 1995, pink marble and steel,
20 x 36 1/2 x 23 inches

Also included in the show was work by Ghada Amer, Diane Arbus, Louise Fishman, Jenny Holzer, Chantal Joffe, Alice Neel and Pat Steir - all first rank artists. Check out the gallery website for a checklist of the works in the show.

Next was Stephen Haller Gallery on W. 26th Street. There was a group show of gallery artists, including my favorite Lloyd Martin, and an exhibition of "Collage Paintings from the 1960s" by Larry Zox. These pieces were quite interesting because they were just assembled roughly with staples and looked very contemporary.

Banner, 1962, collage, oil, staples on board, 72 x 72 inches

Another piece by Zox, this one much smaller and mounted in a sort of shadow box

Another Zox piece, about the same size as the one above. This one was my favorite.

The group show and the Zox show are up until August 5th.

Well, I think three shows are about it for this post. Still to come: Ruth Hiller's show at Winston Wachter, Li SongSong at Pace and Tamar Zinn at The Painting Center - plus the fabulous High Line.

P.S. Many thanks to Greg Wright for serving as the human scale for some of this work.