Artists Who Are NOT Jeff Koons

Despite my Jeff Koons hyperbole, there are a lot of other good artists to see in the Chelsea galleries.  On a recent trip I caught Richard Serra’s early work at David Zwirner (537 West 20th,  With 60,000 square feet in three buildings, and a new space in London, I believe that Zwirner is now the Pac-Man of New York galleries.  If I had a small gallery, especially a rented one, I would be worried about that chomping I heard behind me.

Strike: To Roberta and Rudy 97 x 288 x 1.5 inches

Strike: To Roberta and Rudy
97 x 288 x 1.5 inches


We’re used to the monumentality of Serra’s work – the way he uses size and height to block and reveal vistas, and especially how he directs foot traffic with his enormous sculptures.  In this Zwirner show, featuring art from 1966 to 1971, we can see the origins of that work in smaller pieces.  His hot-rolled steel plate, Strike: To Roberta and Rudy (1969-1971) is clearly an early step on his path to Tilted Arc, the 120-foot-long wall that he installed in Federal Plaza, NY and eventually had to destroy because the local workers got tired of walking around it.

Tilted Arc

Tilted Arc

I was attracted to his two neon pieces and especially his four-foot-square lead-plate boxes.  Just a little bigger than human scale, and obviously (and literally) weighing a ton, I kept a safe distance but couldn’t help walking around and around to marvel at how they were made by leaning the plates on one another instead of attaching them.  It is the fragility of the pieces contrasting with their ability to kill you if you knock into them that resonates with me.  Isn’t that an apt metaphor for life?

Installation View, Richard Serra, including One Ton Prop (House of Cards) 1969

Richard Serra Installation View at David Zwirner,
including One Ton Prop (House of Cards) 1969

I also recommend stopping at Ricco/Maresca Gallery (529 West 20th, to see the current show: Marcos Bontempo’s Dancing in the Void.  His abstract figures look effortless, as if he threw a little paint over his shoulder as he was walking away and accidentally created dynamic work that sits on the edge between abstraction and figuration.  I would love to know what his process is, and I bet you my recent lottery winnings that it includes struggle and doubt.  But you can’t see that in the paintings.

Marcos Bontempo Untitled, at Ricco/Maresca

Marcos Bontempo
Untitled, at Ricco/Maresca

And finally, don’t miss the odd and engaging Paolo Ventura’s The Infinite City at Hasted Kraeutler (537 West 24th,  He draws and paints and builds small structures that hold tiny lives and miniature conflicts, and ugliness and pain and beauty.  His repetition of the forms makes them grow in our brains until a 4″ painting (one of hundreds?) contains the universe.  The Lilliputian village of crafted buildings is no more than two feet tall.  Sitting on the floor as it does makes us gross and Brobdingnagian.  Like Alice after she ate one side of the mushroom, we are too big to bend over and look through the doors.  What is happening inside?  Is it meant to be about us, or is it part of another world where we don’t belong?  I got the definite and slightly creepy sense that I was just a crass voyeur in Ventura’s universe.

Paolo Ventura Installation View at Hasted Kraeutler

Paolo Ventura Installation View at Hasted Kraeutler




The Amazing and Wonderful Rain Room

We stood in line for three hours yesterday to see MoMA’s new installation: Random International’s Rain Room.  (  It was worth every minute.  I would stand in line again today for three hours to see it again.

Random International's Rain Room (photo by the artist)

Random International’s
Rain Room
(photo by the artist)

At the time, I kept wondering why the line moved so slowly.   The attendants were letting in ten people at a time, but we were only moving about 20 feet each hour.  What was going on in there?

And then, after my five friends and I had laughed, learned lots of new American Sign Language from our deaf friend Mava, gossiped about our personal lives, AND eaten lunch standing up, it was our turn.

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I have not experienced such wonder since Ann Hamilton’s the event of a thread (see post of January 9, 2013).  If you haven’t read about the Rain Room yet (, it is the simplest of installations: inside a large dark room it is raining.  As you walk through the rain, you remain dry.  The machine senses you and moves the rain away.

I began to realize why the line was moving like a fat turtle.  We couldn’t leave because we were playing.  I ran.  I stopped suddenly.  I stuck one arm out.  I moved toward the light and then away from it.  I took lots of pictures (encouraged by the museum).  Everyone else in the Rain Room was experimenting, too.  We had gained power over the elements.  We were children, believing in magic and watching it at work around us.

It was the simplest of installations, but it changed our world, making us believe that anything was possible.  It has been a long time since I felt that kind of joy, and it was wonderful. Three hours, four hours, it doesn’t matter.  Go stand in line.  The exhibit closes on July 28th.


Sikkema Jenkins & Co. – Go Now!

The headline show at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery ( – 530 West 22nd Street) is Elizabeth Neel, whose work falls into several genres, each of which affected me differently.

one, 2012 Elizabeth Neel

One, 2012
Elizabeth Neel

First you find the small works on paper: acrylics and collages.  They are remarkable for so completely straddling the figurative/abstract line that I stood and looked a long time at all of them, trying to decide what I was looking at.  I always know that the longer I am compelled to look at a painting, the more successful it is.

Two Mules, 2012 Elizabeth Neel

Two Mules, 2012
Elizabeth Neel

In the second gallery are larger pieces.  There is a very big sculpture dominating the center of the space, which is surrounded by oversized oil paintings on the walls.  In the two-dimensional pictures, Neel has clearly used tape and overlays to make voids in her paint, creating a real sense of something missing: something for which we long, something that used to be there that we want to see.  Again, the mystery kept me looking.

The press release for the show referenced scientific principles as the inspiration for Neel’s work, but I have to say I didn’t understand the explanation.  Of course, it didn’t matter to me, because I was mesmerized anyway.

THEN, I wandered into the rear galleries to find a Kara Walker installation from 2010 that is being shown in New York for the first time, along with a new work from this year, Wall Sampler 1.  Long a fan, I have never seen Kara Walker’s work in person, and it was wonderful.

Kara Walker, 2010

Kara Walker, 2010

The larger work is The Nigger Huck Finn Pursues Happness Beyond the Narrow Constraints of your Overdetermined Thesis on Freedom – Drawn and Quartered by Mister Kara Walkerberry, with Condolences to The Authors.  It covers two walls and also includes small gouaches.  Ms. Walker’s work has always been controversial, with its brilliant use of the old-fashioned paper cameo to show us the ugliness of the American slave-owning past.  The cut-outs are human-sized and tell multiple stories about the imbalance of power and the frequent cruelty and rare kindness of that era.  They can be hard to look at, but even harder to look away from.

Knowing how difficult it is to access personal pain and then display it in one’s art, I admire Ms. Walker deeply for her bravery and talent.  Enough gushing?  I’ll stop now.

The two women showing at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. are making art on the razor’s edge.  Don’t miss your chance to see it all.  Both shows close on May 22nd.

The Paperwork Will Have to Wait

Saturday is paperwork day, just like Sunday is laundry day.  Inviolable.  I am OCD enough to know that if I break the schedule, the world will begin to spin backwards.  It’s a great motivator.

But today was SO beautiful outside that I carefully hid my pile of paperwork, AND the list of paperwork I had to complete, AND the research I needed to complete the paperwork on the list, and I headed out to look at art.  It was just me, about two million New Yorkers plus their out-of-town guests and their dogs.

Thanks to Andrew Ginzel who publishes a weekly log of gallery shows to see, I was armed with a list of five stops to make in Chelsea.  And beyond being delighted by the art, I experienced a couple of great surprises in the galleries.

Joan Linder

Joan Linder

First, I went to Mixed Greens Gallery at 531 W. 26th Street (  I hadn’t checked the exhibition ahead of time, I just like the people there and the space.  And it turned out to be a wonderful show of drawings by Joan Linder, whose meticulous and yet quirky mark-making brought the many views of her kitchen sink to life.  I turned to the woman at the front table and asked for a press release, and she turned out to BE Joan Linder!  So I got to talk to the artist and exchange business cards and express my real enthusiasm for her work.  She’s making hyperrealistic drawings as well as time-lapse drawings, and giving us a look at the endless constant mess of our kitchens and the frenzy that makes the mess over time.  They are beautiful and unique, but completely relatable.

Joan Linder

Joan Linder

Then I stopped at Field Projects (526 W. 26th Street, #807) because Jacob Rhodes, one of the founders of the gallery, had been kind enough to visit my studio last week during Open Studios, and we had a good conversation about art and he left his card and suggested I submit to the gallery.  Notwithstanding the fact that he probably does that all day long, I was flattered.  So I went to his gallery today and enjoyed the group show that is up now, Show #13: Desaturated Rainbow.

Feodor Voronov, Verse, and Adverse, at Field Projects

Feodor Voronov,
Verse, and Adverse,
at Field Projects

While there, I chatted with the other gallery founder, Keri Oldham and asked about a masking tape wall-installation by Heeseop Yoon that I found very reminiscent of work by my school-mate Minseop Yoon, who will graduate with her MFA this month.  Keri told me that the two artists are sisters, which is just cool.  I showed Minseop’s work in my post about the Affordable Art Fair, and her sister’s work is below.  Desaturated Rainbow is only at Field Projects until May 18, and you should make the time to go.

Heeseop Yoon

Heeseop Yoon

And because I couldn’t resist, I made a quick trip into Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl (535 West 24th St., 3rd floor) to see the John Baldessari show.  I am a fan of most of his work, but had never seen the series called Eight Soups that was on display.  With a nod and a wink to Matisse and Picasso, his bright colors are completely captivating, and the titles are very funny.  Definitely worth another look.

John Baldessari

John Baldessari

It was a great afternoon of good and unexpected art finds in the middle of all of New York City taking a walk.  Happy Spring!


The Drawing Center

On Wednesday I was lucky enough to receive a studio visit from curator Joanna Kleinberg Romanow of The Drawing Center (35 Wooster Street in Soho –

Giosetta Fioroni, Liberty, 1965

Giosetta Fioroni

During our visit, Mrs. Romanow was insistent that I come to The Drawing Center to see their new show: L’Argento (Silver) by Italian artist Giosetta Fioroni.  So this morning I headed out and arrived as the doors opened at noon.  It is an exciting, exquisite exhibition that made me appreciate the mastery that hides behind the appearance of simplicity.  Compared to these drawings, mine feel overworked and over thought.  Compared to these drawings, EVERYONE’s feel overworked and over thought.  They are sublime.

This is a focused survey of works made in the 1960s, but some of Ms. Fioroni’s childhood work is on display, as well as some of the more abstract work that she began to make in the 1970s.  It is interesting to note that both of her parents were artists, thus providing her with a very precocious start, plus nature AND nurture.  Her gift was evident early on.

The show is open through June 2nd and The Drawing Center is very easy to reach by subway.  Do yourself a favor and go savor it.

I have spent most of this semester drawing rather than painting, and experimenting with left-handed self-portraits and silk-screening, so  Mrs. Romanow’s thoughtful and positive critique of my work boosted my confidence as I head into the last week of the semester.  If you’re in the city, come visit the SVA MFA Program’s Open Studios at 133-141 West 21st Street, floors 8-9.  We open Thursday at 5:00 and Friday and Saturday at noon.

Affordable Art Fair

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Affordable Art Fair.  Was it going to resemble the “Starving Artists” shows that pop up at Marriott Hotels?  Would everything be sofa-sized? I read that prices at the show would range from $100 to $10,000.  Compared to  Sotheby’s auctions, these are indeed affordable prices, but $10,000 for a piece of art is still beyond most people’s budgets.

I did the math (2/3 of my art given away, 1/3 sold for a few hundred dollars each) and decided that this was a venue that might work for me in the future, if the qualifying process is not too onerous and does not depend on knowing the right people.  I not only don’t know the right people, I don’t even know who they are.

Overall, definitely worth a trip.  Also, only three blocks from where I live.  Win-win!

Student discount ticket and I was inside.  It definitely had that generic art show/coffee fest vibe, with movable walls and gallery signs, but I appreciated that the show’s color scheme was hot pink and white.  It said young and fresh!

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst at Manifold Editions/Paragon Press

I was only three or four booths in when several paintings grabbed my attention.  Polka-dots in bright colors.  I could not possibly resist.  And who did they turn out to be by?  Damien Hirst.  I kid you not.  Practically the last man I expected to find at an Affordable Art Fair.  Okay, so they were woodcut prints in editions of 55 each, but they were signed by the artist and depending on the size could be had for a mere $2570 to $5040 apiece.  Including the frame.  I wanted one.  I wanted all of them.

Completely out of the question, of course.  If I had the cash, that isn’t how I’d spend it.  If I want to, I can paint my own polka-dots.  But how are ordinary “affordable” artists supposed to compete with big guns like that?

Minseop Yoon

Minseop Yoon

There were several artists from my own grad school program represented (more hope for me for next year), and I was especially pleased to see that Minseop Yoon’s art had migrated from the Emerging Artists area into Established Artists and was showing (and selling) in both spaces.  Good for her!


James Hawke at Bicha Gallery

James Hawke at Bicha Gallery

I was also interested to notice that most of the galleries represented were international, and therefore their artists were unknown to me.  But as usual, I was attracted to brightly colored paintings and resolved to make more brightly colored work, even though the group crit I endured right before rushing off to the Affordable Art Fair seemed to end in a concensus that my work wasn’t depressing enough.

Wouldn’t it be just dreadful if my work weren’t depressing at all?

Back to the Galleries

Between Spring Break, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and really cold winds blowing off the Hudson, it had been a little too long since I toured the Chelsea Galleries.  Yesterday I set off with my friend and classmate Rachel to see a few shows.

Rachel was especially interested in the Dieter and Bjorn Roth show at Hauser & Wirth ( which I discussed on February 5th, so we headed first to 511 West 18th Street.  I was happy to have a second look at the exhibition, and this time I was most impressed with the long wall of screens displaying Dieter Roth’s last work: the video documentation of his final year.  Plenty of artists live compartmentalized lives, in which the art is just one box.  Other boxes are filled with family, and outside jobs, and bills and pets, but Roth’s whole life was his art.  His whole life was art.

Dieter RothSolo Scenes, 1997-1998

Dieter Roth
Solo Scenes, 1997-1998

We next stopped in at David Zwirner ( to see what was new since the Francis Alys show came down.  A large installation by Michael Riedel was eye-catching, pleasing, and yet puzzling.  The exhibition is called PowerPoint and is based on repetitive images from digital processes.  Large canvases are hung on top of wallpaper with similar designs, and the huge graphic quality, plus the layers of information, attracted me aesthetically and intellectually, but left me emotionally cold.  It took me quite a while to figure out that perhaps this was the point.  That the computer age is powerful in repetition and reproduction, but not in personal connection.  I was reminded of how many of my Facebook friends are actually bare acquaintances.  Ultimately I was glad I had seen the show and felt its conflicting open space and claustrophobia.

Michael RiedelPowerPoint

Michael Riedel

Finally we made it to Edward Thorp Gallery at 210 Eleventh Avenue ( to see the group show Painting Advanced.  I was especially interested in seeing Gary Stephan’s work (full disclosure: Gary Stephan teaches in the SVA MFA Fine Arts program, although I will not be in his class until next Fall).

Gary StephanRickety Fields

Gary Stephan
Rickety Fields

I could analyze his paintings, and I did, but truthfully, they jumped off the wall and grabbed me.  The colors and shapes, the textures, the abstract/figurative dance all captivated me.  Some paintings don’t need dissection – good paintings.

Gary StephanUntitled

Gary Stephan

In the same show I also enjoyed Rachel Malin’s work (, which reminded me a little of Cy Twombly’s scribbles, but are more colorful and restrained.

Rachel MalinTitled 40

Rachel Malin
Titled 40

Then it was time for a quick stop at Whole Foods (Chelsea being rich not only in art galleries, but also grocery stores) and back to our own work.

Matisse at the Met

Still Life with Compote and Fruit, 1899

Still Life with Compote and Fruit, 1899

For years I have considered myself a Matisse-ophile, a mega-fan, an acolyte. So I’m a little surprised at myself that it took so long for me to get to the big Matisse show In Search of True Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Once there I was surprised again to find that there were plenty of Matisses that I didn’t like.  Apostasy!

Still Life with Purro, 1904

Still Life with Purro, 1904

The show is cleverly organized by Rebecca Rabinow, Curator in the Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, to show the viewer not just the amazing paintings, but the art-making struggle that Matisse undertook to make his masterpieces.  Two of the great revelations of the show (at least to me) are Matisse’s creation of multiple versions of the same painting at the same time, and his use of photography to evaluate the progress of the paintings he was making.

Notre-Dame, 1914

Notre-Dame, 1914

This is where I would like to make a cogent case for MY working process as similar to Matisse’s, with (of course) similar results.  But I can’t be so ridiculous.  The only comparison I’m comfortable making is that we both occasionally use photography, and I’m pretty sure my camera is better.

Notre-Dame, 1900

Notre-Dame, 1900

It is my personal preference that favors his still-lives and his interiors over his figure paintings, which seem to fall somewhere between Van Gogh and Picasso, but without the vibrancy that Matisse would achieve later with his cut-outs.  Plenty of people prefer the figures to the apples, but they are wrong (again I am kidding).

Goldfish and Palette, 1914

Goldfish and Palette, 1914

The show runs through March 17th, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. It takes up eight galleries on the ground floor of the museum.  Turn left when you enter the great hall, stop and pay, then walk forward through ancient sculptures and turn right when you dead-end.  I only give you directions because I think the Met moves walls in the dead of night just to confuse me on my next visit.  And you might want to drop bread crumbs so that you can find your way out later.  Just a suggestion.

Interior with Goldfish, 1914

Interior with Goldfish, 1914

The museum website on the exhibition is, and Roberta Smith’s exuberant review can be read at

What is the Opposite of Angry Art?

I was attending a Critical Theory discussion group moderated by art critic Charles Marshall Schultz when we got on the subject of angry art.  Or more specifically, the opposite of angry art.

Tricia ClineThe Search for Mouse, 2012
Tricia Cline
The Search for Mouse, 2012

Is there hopeful art?  Grateful art?  Has any iconography taken over this position since Madonna and Child, in all its variations, fell out of favor after the Renaissance?  Is there hopeful or grateful art that is not religiously based?

Tricia Cline and Toc Fetch
Installation View
Ricco/Maresca Gallery

Angry art is easy to make and recognize.  So is serene or peaceful art.  Even joyous art.  But hopeful and grateful imply more complexity.  A history of pain that has been eased, perhaps.  A life that has been improved.  A change of attitude toward the future.

Toc FetchThe Exile Returns When Needed
Toc Fetch
The Exile Returns When Needed, 2012

I have maintained for years that I could not picture grateful art, and then I walked into Ricco/Maresca Gallery (529 W 20th) on Saturday and found it surrounding me. The show is called Mythology, in which sculptor Tricia Cline and painter Toc Fetch have created a world of pilgrimage and self-realization that leads to self-awareness.  The viewer taking the pilgrimage may not feel gratitude himself, but surely he sees it in the sculpted and painted protagonists of the artwork.

Tricia ClineUrsula and Her Kid
Tricia Cline
Ursula and Her Kid, 2011

The small porcelain sculptures by Tricia Cline are beautifully realized, but odd enough that they never invoke the kitsch that your grandmother collected.  Almost subversively, the shadows cast by the sculptures give them the grandeur of life size.  And Toc Fetch’s paintings, especially The Exile Returns When Needed, deal with light masterfully.  That otherworldly glow helps create the feeling of hope, at the same time that it points to the possibility of hope within all of us.

My special thanks to the Gallery, which is warm and welcoming to visitors and has surprised me twice now (last month: Henry Darger!) with quiet, meaningful, emotionally rewarding exhibitions.  This one runs through March 16th.

Good Artists Borrow

David Hilliard at Yancey Richardson Gallery

David Hilliard at Yancey Richardson Gallery

I am an old-fashioned artist.  Or at least I always thought I was, toiling in obscurity, using archival materials, drawing and painting figuratively.  I disdained factory artists with their fabricators and color-matchers, endlessly hiring art-school graduates and stealing their souls to make soulless art.

Then I took a real look around my studio: digital camera for making camera lucida drawings; my paintings turned into fabrics (by fabricators!) and wallpapers; the new tripod I bought for my iPhone so that I can make video documentation of some of my works in process.  (Planning a big dish-breaking party this week – need shards for a new idea.)  Sometimes I use Sharpies and acrylic paint.  The horror!

Okay, so I’m not as pure as I’d liked to think.  And just like other artists, I don’t just use modern materials and methods, I also use modern ideas.  Especially ones gleaned from other artists.

Yes, apparently Picasso really did say, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”  That was hardly reassuring to Braque, I suppose, but it is the way of the art world.

So here are two artists, whose work I recently saw, and whose ideas I am borrowing.  Today.

David Hilliard’s amazing show The Tale is True is on display at Yancey Richardson Gallery through February 16th (535 W 22nd).  I’m not usually much of a photography fan until I see photographs so beautiful, evocative and masterful that they stop me dead.  Go see the Hilliard show, and you’ll know what I mean.  Often presented in triptychs, you think at first that you’re just looking at pictures.  But look longer and you’ll see the overlap that implies time passing.  Then you’ll notice what is in focus and what is out of focus and you’ll know that yes, that’s how we all think, but Hilliard has actually managed to show it to us.  These are large photographs that you can get lost in, and you will.

What am I going to steal from him?  If I’m lucky, the subtlety of his distortion, and his sense of loneliness and family.

Enrico Riley at Giampietro Gallery

Enrico Riley at Giampietro Gallery





At the Metro Show Art Fair (which was terrific and sadly ran only from the 24th to the 27th) I came across a wonderful painter, Enrico Riley, at the booth of Giampietro Gallery of New Haven.  Riley’s paintings are reminiscent of Willem de Kooning’s figures and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s wild-child paintings.  They are simpler than both, sometimes more abstract, but sometimes less, with amazing color and line. They were just the reminder I needed that it was time for me to return to oil paint and oil crayons.

We all learn from each other, and I want to thank these two artists for pushing me into my studio this morning with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm.