There is enough brilliant and exciting art in New York to fill every gallery from floor to ceiling. Which is not the same thing as saying that all New York galleries are full of brilliant and exciting art. They are not.
Saturday was a beautiful day, and several friends and I went gallery hopping in Chelsea. We visited five or six galleries and saw bad paintings, bad videos, and bad sculpture.
But we also saw Mike Womack’s exhibition Observer Effect at Ziehersmith (516 West 20th Street), which was truly stunning. Mr. Womack has cast concrete around his own drawings so that only the edges of the paper remain to be seen by the viewer. This is very provoking in the best possible way. What might the drawings be about? Why are they hidden? Do they relate to the shapes in which they are encased? Why would an artist make work and then make sure no one can see it?
The concrete and wood forms remain wholly visible, and are interesting enough on their own to hold our attention. One never forgets, however, that each one is also an art tomb. That makes the crucifix-shaped installation even more poignant. What vision died here?
The press release for the show (read it on the way out, NOT the way in) gives a very specific description of the process through which Mr. Womack made his pieces, and why. It’s quite compelling (and you can see it on the gallery website www.ziehersmith.com) but I think I prefer making up my own stories. Go to this show and then let me know what you think.
The other exhibition that grabbed me on Saturday was Sol LeWitt. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite dead artists. Perhaps it’s because he’s ubiquitous, although that could work equally against him. Right now there’s a huge LeWitt installation at Paula Cooper Gallery at 534 West 21st, and it’s very worth the walk to see LeWitt’s preliminary gouaches and the final enormous work to which they led (originally completed for the 1988 Venice Biennale). You can admire his mastery of color, as I did, and then wish you lived in an apartment big enough to install his work, as I also did.
That would cost you $1.2 million, and rumor has it that’s just for the plans, not including the actual painting.
If the art in the galleries was always bad, I would stop going. It is not. There is always at least one magical piece, or one independently creative new artist who is worth seeing. Just when I think I am out, they pull me back in.