Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Visit to PS1

On March 9th, I went to PS1 Contemporary Art Center in Long island City. The subway makes it a quick and easy trip from Manhattan, and you can grab lunch in the museum cafĂ©. There was plenty to see. I caught the last day of the abstract painting exhibit called “The Painted World,” curated by Bob Nickas. Some NY critics gave the show carping reviews, for reasons that seemed obscure, but I had a good time. Every piece seemed to merit some attention. The birth dates of the artists, from almost every decade of the 20th Century up to the Seventies, argue for a continuity that is worth celebrating. Standouts were Myron Stout, Paul Feeley, Chris Martin, Dan Walsh, and the young artist Chuck Webster (photo above of a 12" x 12" work). There were also good works by Mary Heilmann, Yayoi Kusama, Michael Scott, and Cannon Hudson. A round, quasi-sculptural work by the late Steven Parrino lent a subversive note. The paintings by Alan Uglow made me want to see Jo Baer instead. The works by Wayne Gonzalez seemed out of place.

Another large exhibit features the work of German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. He has a restless, try-everything personality. In this show, exquisite abstractions are in the same room as a photo of a man’s hairy balls. There are small photos and huge photos. There are plenty of misses along with the hits. I was most attracted to the “Silver” series of monochromes (especially numbers 5, 7, 8, and 41, all delicious). I also liked a shot titled “Inner Sense,” which showed the corner of a room where his shiny monochromes hung and reflected each other. I am not a fan of the “Freischwimmer” series, but I was interested to note that a smaller one (#18) works better than the vacuous larger ones.

Elsewhere in the museum, there were smaller shows of interest. The 26-minute video by Clemens von Wedemeyer is not to be missed. It’s called “Big Business,” and it updates the Laurel & Hardy film of the same name. Portraits of mutual self destruction are always relevant. Elsewhere, a selection of Kon Trubkovich’s graphite drawings depicts the cemetery at Little Big Horn, Montana (see image above). They are based on paused video images that include video noise. There is a mini-boom in young artists making graphite renderings from degraded photographic sources. Jacob Dyrenforth and Molly Springfield are among the best, and Trubkovich joins the list. Filtered reality of another sort is apparent in Yaron Leshem’s large, high-definition, lightboxed photo of a fake village erected for Israeli military training. It’s a movie set for a real war. Australian Ricky Swallow offers some of his carved wood sculptures. They are technically amazing but thematically a bit heavy handed. The bike helmet infested with snakes is the one that will stay with me.

Also on view was an installation by Jessica Stockholder—not her best, but it’s always interesting to see what she’s up to. And there was a sizable group of works on paper by young artist William Cordova. These have personality, but cute little drawings are everywhere nowadays.

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