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