Saturday, June 28, 2008

details, details.....

Here are some details, all taken from the Met museum this week. The Turner show which just opened has some thrilling work, especially ( of course ) the late paintings in oil and ( of course ) watercolor. No way to get a good shot of any, though. You will just have to go see for yourself. One of my all-time favorite Cezanne still life paintings. One where the bunching folds of the linen tablecloth come really close to resembling the mountains he loved so much. I think it was subliminal for him, but there are so many instances where you can see it. The only other explanation is that it is my own imagination. A gorgeously painted chinese tea set from a Mary Cassatt painting. Don't know why she spent so much time painting ladies with babies when she could do this. ( btw, I will count this tea-set towards "relevance to pottery in this blog", something I resolve to adhere to a bit more ). Finally, the hands of Gertrude Stein. The great early Picasso portrait. I just love looking at that painting.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zhang Huan @ PaceWildenstein

People who know me know that I LOVE woodcuts. Love making them, love looking at them. So, it turns out to be a good thing that this section of the multi-part show encompassing all three of Pace's chelsea galleries was photo-friendly. Their other two spaces featured a strict no-photo policy and the kind of disdainfully weary welcome that could pose a real threat to Gagosian uptown's domination of this particular aspect of gallerism. Actually, it is the other 2 shows, together called "Blessings" that form a single, two-venue show, and this show of large, monotype woodcuts at Pace Prints Gallery on west 26th street is running concurrently to help us grasp how super-duper important their artist is right NOW. On w.25th st. a single, enormous sculpture," Giant No. 3" dominates most of the space, and is said to relate to some of Huan's past performance work. It is a 15' tall cowhide and foam figure which looks like a gauchely taxidermied doll and has another smaller doll-like figure climbing up it ('nuff said). In another part of this gallery are some of his Memory Door pieces that combine photography and wodcarving and are an interesting combination of graphic image and finely worked three-dimensionality, and for my money, these would have made a better focus for the show, might have worked nicely in tandem with the woodcut prints.
At the 22nd street space is" Canal Building" - a huge block of compressed ash (obtained from burned temple incense - a favorite material of the artist) which takes up nearly all of the interior of the gallery and whose upper face can be seen only after climbing the steps of a specially-built viewing platform. It is on this upper edge of the semi-solid ash block that a studio assistant paints, using additional mixed ash, an image culled from a vintage photo of Chinese laborers digging a canal. The ongoing process of creating this image has taken up most of the time during which the show runs, although the assistants are not working constantly, and I don't know if there are several of them involved here, or just one. I have to say that, for me, this reworking of historical imagery into grandiosely complex presentation modes ends up being unavoidably anti-climactic. The press release here reminds us again of the relationship to Huan's past incarnation as a performance artist, and the time-taking unfolding of the work would tend to make folks consider a revisit to chart the progress of the evolving image, as well as to see if the gallery workers have come up with newer, better ways to dis them. One thing I couldn't help noticing while up on the viewing platform was the layer of fine ash dust sitting on every surface (pottery girl knows a health hazard when she sees one). Do the painters spending their days aloft creating this work wear masks? (no). For me, this was the resonant, unintended parallel between the imagery and its current reworking as cultural artifact for today. No photos, please!
So, in anticipation of further disappointment, I went almost reluctantly to see this show of woodcuts. They are beautiful, and wonderfully printed. Again, I have done my best to get a decent photo, without too much success, and what doesn't come across at all in these pics is the places where uninked areas of wood have embossed their texture. I think one reason (besides my affection for the medium) that these are more fun to look at than the other work is that they seem unpretentious. Yes, we learn that the wood panels used here are castoffs from actual doors, as those he uses in other works. That's fine, but it starts to feel like superfluous information. And the iconograpy looks like it may be combining traditional Chinsese motifs and some personal ones, but the sources are not over-explained.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yes, I know I have posted a lot of photos lately of things that have caught my eye whilst rambling around the city, but I can't resist sharing this one. I suspect it is the work of the well-known but secretive artist Swoon, who has had work shown at the MoMA, and at other established spaces. This appears to be a linoleum or woodblock print, quite large, on the signature fragile paper that she adheres to public spaces, considering the eventual decomposition of the work as part of its meaning. Of course, I can't be completely sure that this is her work, but it is masterful, and really does take things to another level. As Tuesday is my usual day for visiting a few galleries, I do have photos of some other observations, but they will have to wait for another posting.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Around The Neighborhood

A good day to just get out and walk around.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Mixed feelings about the results of this last firing, but I did finally manage to get it done, so I thought I'd better put up something.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Walton Ford @ Paul Kasmin Gallery

Impossible to get a decent photo of these enormous paintings because of the glass in front of them and the loads of natural light bouncing around the space, but in real life they are dazzling. The scale of these watercolor/gouache paintings is closer to what we expect for, say, a Jackson Pollock. Where does the paper come from that he's using? Everything I've read about this artist makes him seem like a cool guy, and a kind of insider/outsider vis-a-vis the NY art scene. The contours of the drawing of these animals are taut, assertively controlled and somehow help convey the energy of what is "happening" in the images. Species names scripted in Audubon style, and snippets of added notation heighten the degree of storytelling going on in these, tending to draw the viewer into some complicity with the subjects, and the effect can be ominous, poignant, or hilarious. The cassowary and emu battle shows a dinosauresque struggle between two 'biguns which simultaneously evokes the color and blase sensuality of the two gal pals recently seen lounging at the Met Museum in Courbet's "Demoiselles au Bord de la Seine". Bravura technique, perhaps to an extent some could find off-putting, even down to painting in the mushrooming points of mold usually found on ancient maps, prints, or illustrations. Gorgeous color. I could look at these a long time, but the show ends soon. Go.

Chelsea in Chains

Still plenty of grunge amid the glut of galleries and new construction, if you look for it - and I always do look. I was pleased to find this stop-work order posted along eleventh avenue, too. I didn't take the time to really read it, so I can't tell you what specific infraction caused the entire worksite to be shut down, but with the recent spate of crane-related accidents, and other negligences abounding, I'll take this as a step in the right direction. These two shots of chains are from different parts of the neighborhood. It was a good day for chain-spotting!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tom Sachs @ Sperone Westwater Gallery

The title of this show is "Animals", and I almost skipped seeing it, because of a negative review I read and because I have been predisposed to think of the artist as somewhat overhyped. It has lots of very disparate work, much of it interesting and fabulously put together, and although his terrific bricolage sensibility finally does win me over, the intersections of stuff and ideas here seem crowded and chaotic. Branding, packaging, and luxe/status have been themes in a lot of his past work, and here he is exploring pyrography, a literal branding technique that sometimes has gorgeous results. He seems to be going in a lot of different directions with it at once, though: obsessively labeling the explosion of tool-stuff in an enormous, altarpiece-like chest in a way that catalogues a decade's worth of obscure and classic band references; then elsewhere using it as a mock-classical drawing technique that can resemble engraving or drypoint in large, overwrought parables populated by animals behaving badly - as in flirting lasciviously across species (would they call that bestiality?); finally in a piece called Connecticut, a laboriously burned background leaves a spirograph-like filigree around the exterior of a simple silhouette of the state on a ground formed by several cobbled together roadblock barriers. To me, there were some cool possibilities suggested in this piece, but no real room for expanding on that idea with so many others competing in this show. I could go on and on, and I did take quite a lot of pics. There were some great things, some duds, and just lots of it all, in a warren-like arrangement of small spaces. So, a kind of challenging show for the viewer. Glad I went, though.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

No Pennies From Heaven

When is inclement weather more than just an inconvenience? When you are glazing and getting ready to do a kiln firing, and persistent power outages force you to postpone again and again, which has been the story here at the dojo for the past week. Massive winds and heavy rains have uprooted trees all through the area. Damage to homes and other structures is pretty significant, so I'll try to temper this little pout and take a moment to think of others. Okay, back to clay issues. I seem to have fixed on one of the most fussy and labor intensive glazing schemes possible for this batch of mugs, and so I am less inclined than ever to fire until I'm sure the power won't quit on me midway. Trouble is, I tend to fire overnight, and that seems to be when a lot of these mini-interruptions occur. Maybe the power company is doing this from their end while working on all the many downed lines. Here's a shot of glazed ware ready to be fired, and some trees that will be missed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Christopher Adams @ Ricco Maresca Gallery

I first came across this artist's work about 2 years ago at the Scope Art Fair, and I remember it as a glorious hodge-podge of wildness. He is now showing this slightly more sedate wall installation as part of a group show. This work is composed of porcelain pieces that range from about 3 inches across to about 8 or so inches length for the larger ones, and the palette of bone white, black and brownish-bronze glaze color unifies things and somehow lends a posh feeling to it all. Reminds me of undersea forms, sea anemones and the like. Maybe the kind of thing you would step on in the ocean whilst vacationing and get poisoned by. Lots of nice variety. The extreme delicacy of some of the undulating tendril forms has the potter in me, inescapably, wondering what kind of attrition rate he has on these babies and what kind of scheme he has come up with to support some of the extended parts through the firing. I am afraid the glossiness of the glazes has made my photos lose a lot of the detail, unfortunately.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Scenes From Chelsea

Out & about, looking at art and surroundings. Here are a few shots. Though these I-beams share similarities with some of the sculpture I've been seeing lately, these ones are actually shoring up a building on 11th ave. I am intrigued by entrance ramps to parking garages lately, don't ask me why. This one has a screen door that would seem more at home out in the suburbs. Some peripheral messages in & out of galleries.