Art Without Austerity

March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

Wandering through the Scope, Pulse, and Armory art fairs this past weekend, in that order, I was reminded of the fashion buzz after Oscar night. The Fashion Police bantered and bickered over the different colors, gowns, styles, and designers on our stunning leading ladies, with Joan Rivers lamenting the lack of flashy, eye-stopping gowns and jewelry. Even Hollywood in its finest hour, however, followed the fashion trends of the past few seasons by scaling back and pairing down. Minimalism, a kind of toned down sobriety, has been the dominant fashion trend since the recession began. Though there must be irony to arriving in a designer gown to walk the red carpet, and being called “austere” for not being covered in diamonds, the Sex in the City fashion of the early aughts has since been deemed inappropriate for our current national mood—unemployment is still above 9 percent. Though at the Armory I overheard a couple disdainfully commenting that artwork masquerading as fashion had no business being shown, I can’t help but compare the art I saw to the recent trends of fashion. While some sense of austerity descended upon the fashion market over a year ago, it seems to have missed the art world completely. With my mouth slightly ajar, I wandered Scope and Pulse feeling as though I were living through the great depression while stuck within a Shirley Temple film of never-ending happiness—which is not to say the art wasn’t fun and entertaining.

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Published—Warhol’s Motion Pictures

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

It was the lovely and overlooked film by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere (2010), that started me thinking differently about a trend I have been seeing in too many art shows over the past few months. The catalyst for my latest review is the shocking realization that Andy Warhol’s Motion Pictures, exhibited now at MoMA, feels fresher, newer, and more thought provoking than anything else I’ve recently seen. That I would want to write about Andy Warhol had never occurred to me, and that I would find some aspect of his work new seemed impossible. All I have been seeing from young artists this year, however, has consisted of clever remakes of older artwork, and it’s been one Cindy Sherman (to use a popular candidate) reference after another. A critic friend of mine said he was going to start writing more “negative reviews” simply because he was finding it impossible to find something he actually liked. I was glad to know other people were having a similar problem, but this doesn’t explain why new art seems determined to reference old work. Perhaps in trying to avoid the term “derivative” artists have started making exact replicas of other artists. Watching Somewhere put a different spin on the idea of remaking in an older tradition. Coppola’s film, so simple and fresh, reminded me of the films I was seeing reshown in galleries, such as Warhol’s Screen Tests and Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Though Coppola seemed to be drawing from older styles of filmmaking, her reasons for doing so were tied directly to filmmaking today. In an NPR interview Coppola talked about the decision to make her film so spare:

I hope it’s refreshing for audiences. I just feel like in movies today we are so bombarded with fast editing and song after song, that I wanted to have more breathing room, to just have a pause. Even modern life, with everyone in contact and on BlackBerrys, I feel like it’s nice to have a break from that, and to be alone with the characters.

Long Island City, a new Williamsburg?

February 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

Several years ago when I was first planning my move to the city after grad school, I asked my new york based professors for neighborhoods to consider moving to. Going through my old notebooks recently I was amused to find the short list I had written down on recommendation from the critic Gregory Volk: Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Williamsburg, Greenpoint. Surprisingly, at the time he stressed Queens over Brooklyn as the up and coming area for artists, a place where rents were still affordable and spaces in general were, and still are, larger. Essentially he touted Queens as the place where the young and unestablished could, or should, congregate. While Queens is still a long way from becoming as trendy or as populated as Williamsburg, it does seem like an art scene is slowing gathering force there, beginning first in Long Island City as galleries cluster around MoMA PS1.

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A Fred Tomaselli Lecture

January 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments

Artists, with a few exceptions, don’t tend to have the type of cult following that various celebrities and rock stars have, outside of a few insular groups comprising mostly of other artists. While we know movie stars by their faces and names and not necessarily by their filmography, the artwork of artists is usually more recognizable than their name, let alone their face. It was therefore surprising to find such a dedicated turnout at the Brooklyn Museum on a cold Saturday night in November, for Fred Tomaselli’s explanatory gallery tour of his mid-career survey exhibited at the museum. Wandering through the show a few weeks prior to Tomaselli’s guided tour, I found as I typically do when looking at his paintings, that while his process is engaging, unique, and visually simulating, his subject matter remains boring, bizarre, and baffling with its birds, flowers, astrological designs, and neo-classical looking nude figures.

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A Bedraggled Angel–Women & Rock

January 10th, 2011 § 1 comment

“It wasn’t pretty, but I was with you all the way,” Patti Smith said as she concluded the first of her annual New Year’s performances at the Bowery Ballroom Wednesday night. In Just Kids, Patti wrote that whatever you’re doing on the new year will be a premonition of what you do that year, which is perhaps why it makes perfect sense for her to play three shows in the final days of December, and to bring in the new year with music. Her opening night is apparently more a “rehearsal” than anything else—“I don’t know why you come tonight”, she said Wednesday, calling us insane—the second performance is Patti Smith’s birthday—she turned sixty four this year—and the closing night is of course New Year’s Eve.

My first time taking part in her tradition, and I unknowingly picked the rehearsal performance. Surrounded by an aging crowd who sees her year after year, listening to Patti tell me about the changes in her work that have transpired between last year’s show and this year’s, (apparently all she had to share of Just Kids last year was the finished cover of the unpublished book), I felt like I had unintentionally picked the worst show for the same reason that the first camera you buy isn’t the best one you will ever own: you have to earn the right to buy a better one. Next year I will see the birthday show, and the year after that perhaps I will brave the crowd and share the new year with Patti Smith. As entertaining and inspiring as I think it would be to spend the last hours of the year listening to Patti ramble and rock, I’m happy that this year I got my feet wet slowly: she seems to require a certain amount of getting used to.

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