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.

Another Chelsea Afternoon

Frank Owen’s Herald at Nancy Hoffman

I was in the gallery district this afternoon, trying to keep up with new shows, interesting shows, and recommended shows, and even after the sun shone brightly and then disappeared, I had a good afternoon.  I found myself liking things I didn’t expect to, and ignoring things that should have fascinated me.  I love when art is surprising, and I love especially being reminded that ANY genre, approached with wit and intelligence, can be captivating.

Asya Reznikov
My Vanity
at Nancy Hoffman

I started at Nancy Hoffman Gallery to see the show 40 Years, a retrospective and celebration of the gallery which opened in Soho in 1972 and moved to 520 W 27th in 2008.  The show is truly delightful, beginning with a very large Frank Owen painting in the front gallery and continuing with 30 more artists representing painting, sculpture, photography, and video.  I was charmed by Asya Reznikov’s video installation My Vanity (I, who think a video should have a plot and preferably star Ryan Gosling) and watched it for several minutes with a goofy smile on my face.  I could feel it.  It was embarrassing.

McDermott & McGoughJust a Memory

McDermott & McGough
Just a Memory
at Cheim & Read

At Cheim & Read (547 West 25th) I found a large installation by the collaborative pairing of David McDermott and Peter McGough, who present photo-realist paintings of movie stills as well as abstract paintings on photographs.  I shouldn’t have liked them, but I did.

McDermott & McGoughNot Prepared For Eternity

McDermott & McGough
Not Prepared For Eternity
at Cheim & Read





At Marlborough Chelsea (545 W 25th), Robert Lazzarini: (damage) was fun and disorienting in a PeeWee’s Playhouse kind of way.

Robert Lazzarini atMarlborough Chelsea

Robert Lazzarini at
Marlborough Chelsea





David LaChapelleMichael Jackson 02

David LaChapelle
Michael Jackson 02
at Paul Kasmin

At Paul Kasmin Gallery (293 Tenth Avenue and 515 W 27th) I enjoyed the super-creepy David LaChapelle photographs of disembodied wax heads and assorted body parts in various states of decay.  The two versions of Michael Jackson were especially and deliciously gruesome.

Yayoi KusamaNarcissus Garden

Yayoi Kusama
Narcissus Garden
at Robert Miller

Robert Miller Gallery (524 W 26th) is showing several works by Yayoi Kusama, my favorite of which is the 1967 video Self-Obliteration in which Kusama puts glow-in-the-dark polka-dots on her cat.  I love cats.  But it was still funny.

Wang XiedaSages' Sayings 026

Wang Xieda
Sages’ Sayings 026
at James Cohan

There are two excellent shows at James Cohan Gallery (533 W 26th).  First is Wang Xieda: Subject Verb Object in which the Shanghai-based artist makes sculpture based on ancient Chinese calligraphic forms.  These table-top sized works create complicated shadows that further the intellectual considerations of flat text versus space.  The second is works of paper by Sol LeWitt from the 60s and 70s entitled Cut Torn Folded Ripped in which he achieves a very similar dialogue between what is there and what is removed.  Simple, but extremely effective.

Sol LeWittMap of Amsterdam

Sol LeWitt
Map of Amsterdam
at James Cohan

And finally, I truly enjoyed Francis Alys’ film Reel-Unreel at David Zwirner (525 & 533 W 19th) which follows two boys through the streets of Kabul as one unwinds a film reel and the second attempts to wind it back up.  That’s it.  But tension built as the crowds grew and the traffic snarled and I wondered where the boys were heading and I hoped they would arrive safely.  It didn’t hurt that it was the last stop on my gallery tour and I lay back on a comfortable chaise for my viewing pleasure.  And by the way, accomplished and intellectual paintings by the same artist occupy an adjacent gallery.  Really?  He can paint too?  Stop showing off.

Francis AlysReel-Unreel

Francis Alys
at David Zwirner