Monday, March 27, 2006

Ain't broke; why Fisk it?

Lars Fisk's new show at Taxter & Spengemann includes a marble sculpture called "Trashcan." The piece looks like a trashcan, slightly smaller in scale than a real trashcan, and contains marble rubble.

One can imagine that the rubble pieces are the excess cut-aways - remnants of the process - now reincorporated into the piece. The piece could also be called "Recycle bin." It's much like Brancusi's sculptures, in which the rugged pedestal is part of the polished sculpture - physically inseparable.

There's also a Duchampian humor to the piece. Just as Duchamp selected a mundane object for his "Fountain," Fisk similarly chooses a banal item, which we usually ignore or deny, except when we need it. But to use the marble to present the trash can AND the trash is a kind of transfiguration - changing water into wine.

"Trashcan" has a dent in the side, so it leans to one side. This connects it to Renaissance marble figurative sculptures, in which the subject stands contrapposto. "Trashcan" also leans, shifting its weight, putting its best foot forward.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Plastic cups

Tara Donovan's plastic cup installation, "Untitled (Plastic Cups)," looks like a topographic map or better, a snow-covered glacier.

We thought of Friedrich's "The Polar Sea," a landscape with plates and chunks of ice compounded atop each other, generating blues and yellows as the light filters through. Similar color variation occurs in "Untitled," despite the uniform cup selection. The translucent cups brew blues in the thin areas and yellows in the denser areas. It's like Ryman, painting in white, but enabling other colors via the bare canvas. Where the towers of stacked cups reach up to chest height, they bow and lean, radiating out, as if to bloom from the mass.

Three million cups make up the sculpture. Assembly took three days, completed by nine assistants. We bet that the cups will be used for drinking wine at the closing reception.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rowing in Eden

Youngsters at Judith Linhares' new show shared the same conversation: "Wow, these look just like Dana You-know-who..."

Both painters share relentlessly intense palettes; bold brushstrokes, and spontaneous drawing. Their figures are blocky, grotesque, and freakish. Both embark on flights of pastoral fantasy too ambiguous to be utopic. Mother nature and human nature can be refreshing, but also menacing.

Judith Linhares, in her 60s, has a fruitful career behind her - including 26 years in New York. Her work is in several museum collections. It's unlikely that she would opportunistically join Dana Schutz. On the other hand, this show's figurative work marks a departure from her previous oeuvre of still life paintings. Dana Schutz uses the figure almost exclusively. And with Schutz' vast press attention, surely Linhares is familiar with her work.

To avoid digressive speculation, let's just assume that Linhares and Schutz share similar influences, so similarity between them is inevitable. It may be more interesting to distinguish the differences between them.

Compare Linhares' "Starlight" and Schutz' "Reclining Nude." Both paintings feature a nude reclining under a vast sky. "Starlight" stars a pink, nude female leaning back on a Mexican blanket, admiring the night sky. She is flanked by two squatting figures. In "Nude," Schutz' hero, Frank, also pink from sunburn, relaxes in the sand, before an ochre ocean. Schutz emphasizes the monumentality of Frank by stretching him beyond the borders of the canvas. Linhares' pink figure is more contained, which establishes the cast scale of the sky, and the massive moon hovering overhead. Linhares also considers light - her figure glows under the moonlight, while Frank seems to evade any light source. Both figures respond to gravity: the pink pixie's head dangles preternaturally; Frank's flaccid penis drapes over his extended thigh, as relaxed as Frank himself.

Their use of light distinguishes one painter from the other. Aside from dappled light filtering through trees to reach the figures, Schutz' figures generate their own light. They beam hot pinks and bright yellows, although some peer out from the darkness. Linhares' figures, on the other hand, bathe in powerful light sources, like the threatening bonfire in "Wild Nights." The inferno in the paintings seems to rage outside the boundaries of the logs meant to contain it. And the fire itself is a bold abstraction, with giant brushstrokes zipping across the surface, like a Karin Davie abstraction. The marshmallow-roasting campers join the viewer in pausing to admire this painterly bravura.

"Fools for Love" is the strongest painting in the show, with a mysterious narrative. Linhares fan Larry Lockridge described "Fools" as being "post-Edenic." Four females occupy a large tree. An innocent naif sits at the base of the tree, gazing dreamily towards the sky. Two brave women stand precariously at ends of the branches, climbing upwards, but risking a broken branch. And at the top of this hierarchy is a vixen glaring down at the viewer. Her menacing face lurks against the dark tree trunk, lit from below in a hot orange color. The tree is a metaphorical upward climb, and suggests that a climber's progress depends on aggression, shrewdness, and intimidation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bring 'Em Home Now

The TD posse visited Hammerstein Ballroom for this benefit concert. Performers included Steve Earl, Margaret Cho, Fischerspooner, Peaches, Devendra Banhart, Moby, Rufus Wainwright, Bright Eyes, and Michael Stipe (whose band included Joseph Arthur, James Iha, and more).

M. Cho described how right-wing hate-mailers have called her a "fat dyke." "I just don't see how that is an insult," she wonders aloud. "That means I would get to eat fried chicken AND pussy." ha ha

Fischerspooner seems more like a big rock show than the kooky electrotheatre we remember. Still, the wardrobe designs and choreography were awesome. Peaches waved a toy magic wand while chanting "Fuck the pain away" and then "Fuck the war away." Devendra B. wins the body language award, with his awkward gesticulations and childlike dancing.

Bright Eyes had the strongest set, totally incendiary with "When the President Talks to God." What a fox, that one.

Speakers included Cindy Sheehan, Air America's Laura Flanders, a pharmacist and translator from Iraq, and a young veteran of the current war, who contended with hecklers in the audience demanding to know why he enlisted in the first place.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Triple Diesel crew shudderd before the intimidating long line for the Biennial opening last night, but it moved more quickly than we expected. Inside felt was energetic and enthusiastic, but crowded and overstimulating. We frequently nodded our heads, making mental bookmarks about what to examine more deeply on a return trip, when we could actually focus on the work.

Painting seems thin; Peter Doig is crammed into a corner upstairs. But 2D work is everywhere. Carter covers a big wall with his drawings and Yuri Masnyj presents a sculpture based on his geometric drawings, like an El Lissitsky kind of thing. Daniel Johnston also has some funny, diminuitive drawings.

Time-based media offers the most spectacle. Urs Fischer's installation of candles dripping wax to make a venn diagram is eerie yet brainy. Paul Chan's projection of objects and people in silhouette refers to 9/11. And the Caligula video is a blockbuster (literally). With Karen Black and Benicio Del Toro, how could you be uninterested?

Many alumni from Neville Wakefield's summer show, "Bridge Freezes Before Road," resurface here. Adam McEwen contributes fake obituaries, which appeared at the Armory Show last year. Dan Colen is here, too, as are GNY artists Aaron Young and Matthew Day Jackson. DC was also in the show Adam McEwen curated at Nicole Klagsbrun, which included Dan Colen and Center for Land Use Interpretation, also in this Biennial. Speaking of Venn Diagrams! Anyway, we wondered about Adam Helms; he would have fit in.

The Wrong Gallery's project, "Down By Law," is dense, provocative, and political. Few women appear. Does an otherwise politically critical show make up for that oversight? Weegee, whose work we just saw at Mary Boone has several photos of dystopic urban life. A Cadmus drawing depicts a violent struggle between lynchers and a victim, the latter bleeding from lacerations and punches. The composition is dynamic and bursting out, and reminded us of Michelangelo's "Crucifixion of St. Peter." Across the room is a Marcel Dzama drawing of some violent ritual. The late Mark Lombardi's last drawing is in a corner, next to Jules DeBalincourt, and under a Leon Golub print. Above them is a surveillance camera and framed passport photos of 9/11 suspects. Below is a pipe bomb sculpture. "Piss Christ" is in the center of the room, opposite of David Wojnarowicz' incendiary "This Kid" poster, which is one of our favorite works ever, causing chills on each viewing.

After some return visits, we'll post something more detailed.

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