Tag Archives: art

SCOPE : THE ART RUSH

 

At this time of year, New York is all about art. With exhibitions and fairs all over town, it’s impossible to see it all. It’s not even recommendable to try. Moderation is the only gravy that makes anything digestible.

SCOPE can be considered one of the smaller art fairs. But even on opening night, where it’s press and vips only, the place was packed. Add the fact that many participating galleries tend to overload their booth with as much art work as possible, it is still a very over-sensory experience.

The fair is held in a part of the otherwise empty old post office. There must be reasons, unknown to me, why they don’t use more of the empty space available in that huge building. And when all of the visitors are queuing at the same time to get a drink, it becomes impossible to circulate and do what you came here for: see some art.

Anyway, pushing my way through thirsty crowds, I have tried to pick out some works that I found to stand out for the simple reason that they almost disappeared between overly loud pieces that were screaming for attention.

 

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THE ICE AGE IN TECHNICOLOR

Like meteorites fallen from the sky, in a random fashion, amongst the trees, with nobody harmed, luckily. Whatever their origin, they come from a very colorful constellation.

Katharina Grosse, German artist, is transforming the MetroTech Commons Plaza in Brooklyn in a quite dramatic way. A cluster of fiberglass sculptures seems to have appeared from somewhere…or nowhere. Their positioning between the rigid rows of trees on the plaza, makes one wonder how on earth they got there. They seem to embrace the little forest. Or is it vice versa? Is it the trees that are springing up amidst the sculptures?

Rigid in material, they are organic and floating in form. Like huge chunks that have broken off from the glacier, drifting, slowly melting. But then again, from a very color rich planet.

JUST TWO OF US, MetroTech Commons, Brooklyn, through September 14

 

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IN ONE STROKE

For its opening on Thursday the Friedman Benda Gallery has been turned into a place of worship. Or so it seems.

Korean artist Byung Hoon Choi shows his most monumental work till date. His basalt sculptures look like signs or symbols, rather than…benches. The already thin line between practical design and pure art of his earlier work (art furniture) seems to have been erased completely, in one stroke.

Choi achieves a delicate balance between opposites. The rough and the polished melt together. The sculptures’ sinuous forms could definitely refer to the basalt’s liquid form as lava thousands and thousands of years ago.

The benches are graphical, as if written by hand, in one brushstroke. It is not clear if the accompanying brush paintings are preliminary studies for the sculptures, but they clearly show the (calli)graphic intention of the sculptor.

Some sculptures are dark and primitive, while others are light and modern. The way the exhibition is lit up only enhances this duality: one room is a white box with overall bright light, two other rooms are kept darker and focus more on the sculptures with spotlights.

Throughout the rooms there’s a feeling of tension between minimal lightness and a more dramatic sense of boldness.

Already because of their unconventional shape, it must be fun to sit on these benches. But I think I’d rather sit on the grass and watch how these sculptures write their presence against the landscape.

 

IN ONE STROKE / Byung Hoon Choi – Friedman Benda Gallery, Chelsea New York City

OPENING Thursday February 27 – through March 29, 2014

 

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LET’S PAINT THIS CITY

If you want to see graffiti, you’d normally go and roam the streets. This time you’d better go to the Museum of the City of New York. It brings the exceptional collection of Martin Wong.

Wong was an American artist who lived in San Francisco and New York. His visionary realism renders the legendary street scene of the Lower East Side in the seventies and eighties. But his interests went beyond his own artistic activity. He had a degree in ceramics and was an expert in Asian art and antiques.

But what the art world is particularly grateful for is Martin Wong’s outstanding collection of graffiti. Legendary graffiti artists, like Lady Pink and Keith Haring, were his friends. He received their work as gifts or he sometimes traded with his own paintings. The result is an extraordinary document of graffiti. But also a time document of New York.

Per definition graffiti is the ephemeral art that pops up overnight on urban walls. It’s not associated, not at all back in those days, with art that can be collected. Because of its temporary character for one. But also because of the fact that it’s simply not very practical to collect walls of public buildings or subway stations. We should neither forget the illegal aspect of graffiti!

Hence, Martin Wong’s collection consists of work on paper and canvas and photo (or any other support that is not a wall, for example a fridge door). And maybe this is why this collection is such an important document. Most of the sketches in the scrap books are preparatory studies for larger “on the wall” pieces. Very often we think (or thought) that spray painters were just a bunch of kids hanging out on the streets and who happened to have a can or two on them and inevitably started spraying the walls.

The exhibition shows how graffiti shifted from vandalism to the socially accepted art form that has earned its place in galleries and museums. Where one day it was frowned upon as offensive ventilating of adolescent frustration, it has now become an art form in its own right.

Still, even today, some find graffiti unacceptable and an eyesore. They should see how it was back then in those decades in New York City! The streets of (mostly Lower) Manhattan were literally covered in spray paint. There was hardly any inch left uncovered in the subway, that is in the stations, but also inside the trains. It almost made the word gritty synonymous to NYC. Compared to those times, New York has become a ‘clean and safe’ place. And some would say a ‘gray, dull and boring’ place.

 

CITY AS CANVAS – Museum of the City of New York – through August 24, 2014

 

 

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“WHEN IRREALITY GETS YOU”

 

Immerse yourself in a world of black and white madness. Enter an almost psychedelic world where reality, absurdity and estrangement baffle the senses.

On entering the recently renewed Queens Museum, visitors are struck by the enormous mural in the atrium. Although gigantic in its proportion, it’s only an introduction of what’s to come. In two more secluded rooms, the artist is creating an all enveloping experience of strong, sometimes harsh imagery.

Peter Schumann, creator of the Bread and Puppet Theatre, is bringing old and new work together. Some of his sculptures have been used in anti-war demonstrations in different places all over.

The first room brings an overwhelming quantity of information and messages. Surrounded by large scale papier-mâché heads and painted wall coverings, it’s like walking through a forest of impending doom.

The second room is conceived as a chapel in a medieval monastery. It contains idols-dolls-puppets and saints with absurd names in bread cradles. Walls and floors are covered with repeated symbols of ladders, chairs, shoes, houses,…

At the same time it’s a library. Large volumes of hand-made books are on display and visitors are welcome to browse through them. It’s a scriptorium, where monks are bending over large parchment books, painstakingly copying texts, reading the bible or writing down history.

If this “irreality” already gets to you, we would strongly recommend that you DO NOT read the two explanatory pages that accompany the exhibition.

 

Peter Schumann – SHATTERER HOUSE AND CHAPEL WITH LIBRARY – QUEENS MUSEUM, NYC, till March 30, 2014

 

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MEANDERING THROUGH RICHARD SERRA

 

At its 21st Street location, the Gagosian Gallery is filled up completely by this single new piece by Richard Serra.

It shows the artist’s familiar style of undulating steel plates, like the permanent collection at the Guggenheim in Bilbao and Dia:Beacon in New York.

The curves of the plates allow them to stand freely. The first approach is to walk around it. The impact is of massive substance.

Like in all his monumental work, Serra is inviting the visitor to enter his sculptures. Two narrow corridors between two plates lead to three circular inner chambers. The changing angles of the walls seem to play tricks with one’s balance. The passageways alternately open up towards the sky or narrow down to a cavernous trap.

Walking around and through this sculpture, it feels like a never-ending journey, a loop of light and shadow. The continuum of Richard Serra’s exploration of space.

 

 

INSIDE OUT – Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery

522 West 21st Street, New York City, through January 25, 2014

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WALKING THROUGH RICHARD SERRA

 

The Gagosian Gallery is not known for low-scale exhibitions. And seeing Richard Serra’s work inside a gallery makes you think how in the world they have managed to bring his huge sculptural works into the galleries.

These new works occupy the whole space and transform it into labyrinths. They are all centrally staged and define the space in different ways.

INTERVALS is composed of slabs of steel of different sizes, forming corridors to walk through. The variable height ensures an infinity of views and approaches.

GRIEF AND REASON stand in the middle of a room and are imposing masses. You walk around them like a grave, like a monument, like a rite.

7 PLATES, 6 ANGLES is a zigzagging line of again weatherproof steel. It dictates the way you walk through the hall. Every angle seems to hold a promise, around the corner.

The tall plates form sharp angles that draw the eye to an infinite point. They are inviting as a road that leads forward. But instead of leading somewhere, after a few steps, one finds himself trapped in a sharp corner. As enveloping the sculpture can be, at some point you have to turn back and take the road in the opposite direction, the only road that leads somewhere.

Richard Serra’s monumental work takes on a whole different perspective on the scale of the human body and the environment. Serra likes to engage the viewer/visitor and make him move and interact with the sculptures. As minimal his work can be, as deep the impression it makes.

 

Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery

555 west 24th street, New York City, through January 25, 2014

 

 

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