Bard College ART HISTORY PROGRAM

Posts from the 'Around Town with Tom Wolf' Category

Around Town with Tom Wolf

Tom’s Picks

MAN ABOUT TOWN

February 20, 2011

The art season in NYC is going full swing, and there are plenty of interesting shows to see in Chelsea.

Koh and his white salt cone

Walk into the Mary Boone Gallery, and if you are already familiar with it you notice that the anteroom has been stripped down—no Corbusier easy chairs for the moment—and a white curtain separates you from the main space.  White is one of the themes of Terrence Koh’s show in the central gallery (541 W. 24th, through March 19).  The expansive room is dominated by a huge cone made up of thousands of chunks of salt.  The artist, gaunt faced, short haired, dressed all in white, shuffles around the cone on his knees with an expressionless face.  His progression must be painful to his knees, and exhausting.  While I was there he once stopped and lay face down on the floor, before raising himself up and resuming his slow progress.  Spectators are silent watching this rituali, which follows the practice of physically punishing performances by Vito Acconci, Chris Burton, Marina Abramovic among others.   Self-abuse in the name of art was once shocking but now has become a tradition; with his white color scheme and his meditative progress around the cone, Koh turns it into an exercise of renunciation with spiritual overtones.  I returned two weeks later and it looked like Koh had kneepads under his white pants, and he had shaved his head, making him seem even more Zen monk-like. Although he has cultivated an image in the art world as a scenester, here he makes an analogy between art and worship, and it is impressive to watch his determined round.

For sheer extravagance, check out Francesco Vezzoli’s Christian-kitsch

Crying Portrait of Kim Alexis as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child, 2010

extravaganza, Sacrilegio, at Gagosian Gallery’s 21st Street space (522 W. 21st, through March 12).  The main gallery is laid out like the aisle of a church with images of the Virgin and Child in the side apses.  The icons are photos of paintings by Italian Renaissance masters like Giovanni Bellini, with the Madonna’s face replaced by those of fashion models like Claudia Schiffer and Stephanie Seymour.  Tears, embroidered out of thread, emanate stiffly from the eyes of mother and child.  These confections are surrounded by gold gilt frames that droop and ooze like Dali’s watches.  The whole ensemble culminates with a stained glass window featuring Vezzoli as Saint John the Baptist, but carrying a big embroidering needle and thread in place of the Saint’s long cross; a side aisle contains a film of the artist’s mother as the Madonna singing a pop song, “Domenica” by the Singing Nun.  Where does this guy get his budget!?

Around Town with Tom Wolf

Tom’s Picks

Stephen G. Rhodes, Untitled, 2010

You could have a rewarding contemporary art viewing trip to New York city this month and just see shows by artists affiliated with Bard.  One of the hottest rising art stars on the scene at the moment is Stephen G. Rhodes (BFA 1999) whose current show at Metro Pictures (519 West 24th, through March 5) is an exhilarating mixture of chaos and control, ostensibly inspired by the philosophy and biography of Emmanuel Kant.  You enter through a ramshackle hallway festooned with crudely nailed and propped up pieces of wood, hanging vitrines with graffitied clown posters, assorted books, and shelves supporting found objects.  They lead to and from the central gallery that houses four projectors.  Fast cut sequences are projected on each wall, featuring, among other things, two guys in long blonde wigs engaged in various acts of creation and destruction:  typing on an old fashioned electric typewriter with porn images attached, dragging mugs noisily along rocky paths, setting strips of substance on fire on the floor, walking angrily on the side of a road, etc., etc.  The anarchic randomness and destruction has a wild sort of humor, and is accompanied by a loud sound track that amplifies the chaotic action on the screens.  The show is accompanied by a translation of a passage from Kant “by” Rhodes which reads as if he ran the passage through a shoddy internet translation program and printed the results:  “Doctors and logicians have for some time the opinion of the human head table is simply a drum sound that’s like nothing there.”

On the Lower East Side another Bard alum rising art star, Zak Kitnik, (Studio Art ’07), has 3 pieces in the front of a 3-artist show at Rachel Uffner Gallery (Orchard Street, through Feb. 20).  Cooler and more ironic than Rhodes, Kitnik loves to rephrase modernist geometric abstraction in post-modern ways.  The dominant work here is a construction hanging from the ceiling almost to the floor.  It’s made of thick rectangular pieces of transparent plastic suspended horizontally in tension by a complex set of wires and anchors; the support mechanism is more visually present than the material it supports.  Two other Kitnik pieces, a collage and another 3D work, are significantly different from this one, but share its purist geometry.

Across the street at the Lesley Heller Gallery (54 Orchard Street, through Feb. 20) is a 4 person show, Fractured Earth, that features Bard’s two graphic arts instructors:  Nicola Lopez exhibits dynamic printed constructions of angular modernist architecture, and Lothar Osterburg shows spooky scenes of imaginary architecture rendered in gorgeous photogravure.  While at Lesley Heller don’t miss the back gallery, which usually features a stunning, coloristically vibrant painting by Ken Buhler.

Not angry enough for you?  Walk down a couple of blocks and see/read the Readykeulous show of art and text pieces by the lesbian collective at Invisible-Exports (14A Orchard Street, through Feb. 13), including works by Bard painting prof Nicole Eisenmann and former Bard prof Louise Fishman.