I was looking down the Douglas Kelley Show List to see if there was anything this Super Thursday that was really going to be interesting when I saw the name Gerald Slota. Gerald was one of the very first artists I met when I started going to openings. It was a few years back and I went to see Eric White, because at one of my rare moments of having money I'd bought a lithograph from him and I loved his work. At Eric's -- I can't remember the gallery, although I guess I could find it in my e-mail archives -- I was bad-mouthing New Jersey and Gerald jumped into the conversation saying, "Are you saying bad things about New Jersey? I'm from New Jersey! And so is he!" He being Cory Marc. And that's how we met and how I ended up putting Cory's Website together with him for free. I've only seen Gerald a few times since then, here and there, usually at Cory's studio or apartment, but he's been entertaining in one way or another every time, so I knew, at least, where I was starting Super Thursday.
I met up with Gerald at Hasted Hunt, which turned out to be lucky, because, while Gerald's show was hung, the opening was not, in fact, on September 6 as reported. But Gerald had come in anyway and a bunch of people were wandering around since the door was open. This was the first time I'd gotten a chance to see Gerald's actual work, along with photos from Lisette Model and Aaron Siskind. And they're photos. I've said before, more than once, that I'm not really fond of photos, and I haven't gotten any fonder. Gerald, at least, does more than just straight photography -- I guess you'd say his work is photo-based, not photography. He takes negatives and scratches them, and abuses them, then exposes them onto paper with objects on top; then I think he sometimes abuses the paper, too. The result is like the ravings of some psychotic: Out of focus, indeterminate photos with vaguely ominous scribbling out, doodling, and circling. These photos are framed -- within the photo -- by scalloped edges which reminded me of nothing so much as the frame around a screen door. I mentioned this to Gerald and he said, "They're supposed to be scrapbook edges, you know." Then, as if he had just received a revelation: "You live in the suburbs, don't you?" Of course -- an apartment dweller wouldn't know about screen doors, but I've had one all my life. Altogether Gerald's work is very 1990s, very grunge, very deliberately sloppy -- like Gerald himself.
Gerald told me Cory would be coming in, also, so while I waited I walked through the rest of the show. Aaron Siskind's photos were of boys -- young men or teens, I guess -- isolated while in midair. They're meant to evoke, I imagine, flying or falling, but they really look to me like nothing so much as kids jumping on a trampoline. Very exciting to do, not very exciting to look at. Lisette Model's photos, meanwhile, were Weegee Lite: Here's a dwarf in a suit! Here's a fat lady at the beach! Here's a gallery visitor wishing he was elsewhere!
Which I was shortly, because I had to go to the bathroom. Which illustrates the amazing way that happenstance and great art go together. Both bathrooms on that floor were occupied, so I went downstairs. Both bathrooms on that floor were also occupied, so while I was waiting I wandered past the open gallery nearby. Even then I would have walked right by except I saw someone inside waving his arms around at something, so I went in, and was rewarded by the absolute best art I was to see in Chelsea that night, and possibly the best I'd seen in many months, which was the work of Daniel Rozin.
The wide door of the gallery was open but there was a translucent white scrim set up between the door and the larger artwork. As I came around the scrim and looked at the piece -- titled, it turns out, Weave Mirror -- I immediately thought that someone had woven together wide aluminum venetian blind strips into a large, basically flat curtain and hung it up near one wall. The noise -- a sibilant shuffling sound -- I thought was the sound of the blinds rustling in the breeze of the air conditioning. Off to one side of the scrim, the guy who'd been waving his arms was standing, leaning in, and then leaning back out, over and over.
My first impression turned out to be dead wrong. My next impression was...well, I'm not even sure what it was. Basically that I had been wholly wrong about the piece. As I watched the other guy move in front of the thing, back and forth, at a distance of about eight feet from it, it was clear that, in some way, the piece was responding to him. It was getting darker and lighter in patches, moving across its surface. I looked up; I looked over; I looked at the scrim. I couldn't figure out what was going on.
Now I come to difficult spot. I want to tell you what I figured out about it, but what I'd really rather have happen is that you go over to bitforms gallery for the opening on September 8, 2007, or that you show up for the artist's talk at 4:00 on Saturday, September 29, and see it for yourself. I'll say this: Outside of a science museum, I've never seen anyone actually play in a sustained way with a work like this. It's just absolutely enchanting.
Over to one side is a room with a digital setup, which is not as successful; and then what I believe is my favorite of the three, Peg Mirror, where a circular wooden sculpture hangs on the wall and also responds to the viewer's presence in a way I won't explain except to quote Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Daniel's work is magic all right.
After my tour through and around Daniel's art the bathroom had cleared out and then I was able to go back upstairs and catch up with Cory and his girlfriend, whose name I think is Angelica -- I feel bad not quite remembering because the two of them came out to SVA to see my work and I was introduced to her there, but my mind is terrible with names -- anyway, she is fantastically beautiful, I mean truly, deeply gorgeous, and way too good for Cory -- and Gerald and his girlfriend, to whom I wasn't introduced, because of course this is Gerald, and she is also beyond beautiful and too good for him, and Sarah Hasted from the gallery, to whom I also wasn't introduced and furthermore didn't even get a chance to talk to because we all left right around then to head to the Aperture Gallery.
Outside we picked up Joe Sabatino, a sculptor like Cory and the bearer of an absolutely fantastic Italian nose, one of the really great ones, and headed uptown. At Aperture's door we were stopped because it was a private party, but Gerald's status as one of Sarah's artists got us in. This was therefore my first taste of being privileged.
The only trouble was I don't give a crap about photography. I really wished I did, and I said so to Cory, and he whispered back, "Shh! Not so loud in here!" Because, he's right, I could've been lynched. And then photographed. The gallery -- which is vast and maze-like -- was filled with black & white photos from what I assume are some of photography's greats, like Larry Fink, Peter Hujar, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, and -- well, go see the Website. As far as I was concerned, almost none of the photos contained near enough nudity, and that's pretty much all I want out of a photo. I tried to care, I really did, but it just didn't work. I liked the image of the steam bath in Budapest because of the big fat sweaty women in it. Big fat sweaty women make everything okay, even photography.
Soon I saw I was running out of time and there were other things I wanted to see. So I said my good-byes -- I'll be seeing most of them again at Gerald's actual opening on September 20 -- and hustled across 27th Street to Ed Winkleman's to finally see Thomas Lendvai's Between Pain and Boredom.
Once in the gallery I ducked into the exhibit before meeting anyone I knew; I didn't want anyone's reaction to ruin my fresh impressions. I had barely even glanced at the images on Ed's blog, in fact; despite our long conversation under Ed's press release, I had avoided knowing anything about this particular work and tried not to say anything about it, too, because I really just wanted to experience it without preconceptions.
So I experienced it without preconceptions and...and I want to be able to say more about it. I want to hate it or love it and I just can't bring myself to do either. Like all "good" conceptual art it makes me think "That's neat." That seems to be the best conceptual art can do for me: That's neat. How'd they do that? Oh, is that how? Neat.
What is it? It's pretty much just what it looks like from the photos: A room (the fourth wall of which was built across the open gallery) with wooden planks cutting across it at varying heights. I had to duck down to get under them, and then duck more and more, and then I stood up, finding myself bisected by the planks. Off in one corner a disembodied head -- the visible part of another gallery visitor -- was laughing and joking with everyone, having a great time watching people moving around; at the far end, under the highest beams, a couple of guys were drinking beer. I found I couldn't turn around between the beams, being too wide across the shoulders, so I ducked down to turn around and go back out.
Outside the beams continue in a trompe l'oeil effect as if they're going through the walls (they're not); in the hall outside a few stray beam ends "poke through" the wall there, too. As I said, neat. Groovy. Kinda cool. Not, like, wow, dude, awesome! But okay. I mean, I could write about how the space is recontextualized, about how beams usually don't obstruct movements but these do, about how viewing people from the neck or boobs up (or down, if you duck) is a new way of seeing, and so on and so forth. If I were feeling really ambitious and creative, I could probably write quite a bit. But ultimately the work comes down to the experience of the work, and the experience is, you know, neat. And that's about it.
After going through I met up with Stephanie and her beau Moby Dick, otherwise known as Joe. Stephanie is feeling confident and brave this year so she says she's going to attempt to interact more with the Chelsea gallery scene -- get out to openings and such -- and so was eager to visit some more shows. It was getting really late, after eight o'clock, which is typically closing time for openings, but since it was, after all, Super Thursday, a lot of galleries were staying open anyway, and we sashayed down 27th to see what was happening.
27th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth has really picked up; I remember going to openings at Ed's where the block would be deserted despite other openings along the way. But I've seen openings there getting bigger and bigger and attracting more and more people, most of whom are younger and wackier than the rest of the Chelsea crowd; there's music sometimes, and people all over the sidewalk and cobbled street, smoking and drinking and waving their tattoos and piercings around and falling out of their trendily torn clothing. The night's winner, in my book, was a leggy blonde in denim hotpants and gold high heels. Stephanie, meanwhile, was happy to see she was by no means the most outlandishly dressed person in Chelsea.
Arm in arm in arm we strolled to Derek Eller which was showing Parents' Day by D-L Alvarez; apparently D-L didn't get the memo that pixelation is old, old, old hat, to the extent that you can now get pre-pixelated clothes for reality TV shows. I found his carefully rendered pencil drawings of highly pixelated photos intensely boring and unimaginative. In the back room was a large sculpture by Jesse Bercowetz which looked really, really ugly until you got close to it, whereupon -- both Joe and I had the same reaction separately -- you discovered the base was made up of broken beer bottles set pointy-side up, making the sculpture not just ugly but actively dangerous. The materials list for the piece is a more entertaining work of art than the sculpture itself: "wood, glass, plaster, fiberglass, plexiglass, foamcore, polystyrene, shish-ka-bob skewers, resin, acrylic paint, ink, graphite". What, no dogshit?
We also stopped in Wallspace where we found Brad Phillips' Day By Day, which was so slight and pointless it barely made an impression; there was a room off to one side with a handful of doodles on typing paper tacked to the wall ("I [heart] OBVIOUS") with so much empty wall around it I figured it was titled "WE EXPECTED MORE FROM YOU." The drawings were so purposely awful and stupid they had to be intentional, which leaves me with that age-old conundrum: If you pretend to be an asshole, at what point are you no longer pretending?
Next door to that Clementine was showing Reel to Reel by Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher; the show would be totally opaque without the gallery verbiage. Several machines hang on the walls, murky in the gallery's darkness; a video is projected; and some of that typically aimless music -- the kind you always get with video installations ("Ping! Wong-wong-wong-wong...BONK! WheeooooonkPING!") -- emanates from speakers. The machines mostly weren't moving -- one had four records with styluses one them, but the records weren't turning -- but some seemed to move, a little, and many of them had wooden boxes which seemed to be obscuring something.
The gallery verbiage explained: Some of the machines contained miniature "sets" which were being beamed live to the video screen; some of the machines contained noise-making apparatus (one seemed to have a zither inside it and sticking out on each end). All the machines, possibly randomly or in some pre-determined but pointless sequence, would do stuff, and all of it would come together in, well, the verbiage had some nice term for it. It seemed to me like purposeless noise and movement, about as exciting as sitting in your kitchen and every so often dropping silverware.
After that we went next door into a gallery where the lights were so bright -- especially in contrast to the semi-darkness next door -- I thought maybe the artist was trying to kill us. Then I saw the art and, yes, he was trying to kill us.
We made a stop in to another event, this one a fundraiser, apparently, for the Pat Hearn and Colin de Land Cancer Foundation. Some messy graffitti works hung near these fantastic trompe l'oeil paintings of really cool objects with lots of stainless steel, all of which were by Steve Ellis. I love this kind of thing without shame or reason; it's just my thing. I wanted to paint like this once. Steve's handling of the paint is flawlessly smooth, perfectly realistic, and enjoyably suffused with that chrome effect airbrush artists everywhere love (even though Steve doesn't use one). Giant lighters, huge meat slicers with the Chrysler Building reflected in the metal, race cars, butterfly knives -- all the things guys of my age would dig. And my favorite: A beautiful, loving rendering, six feet tall, of one of those pens where, when you turn it over, the lady's swimsuit disappears, leaving her gloriously naked. This lady was a little pneumatic for my taste -- I prefer the older, more classic models, I guess -- but the attention lavished on such an object of obsession -- obsession on top of obsession -- I admire that. It makes me smile.
Stephanie said there's at least one guy in every freshman art class who paints like this, and I guess that guy could've been me; I still fall for it every time. Sad but true.
We set out again, south from 27th Street, in search of other things to see. We stopped in here and there, seeing some extremely mediocre stuff I didn't even get information about. Nothing exciting. In the midst of one fairly lame show of goopy, drippy sculpture things involving resin- and latex-coated clothing and stuff I was struck by the profile of one of the other visitors. I followed her deeper into the gallery and finally walked up to her.
It was Madeline! Madeline von Foerster, who I had reviewed about a year and a half ago! I was so thrilled to see her, because she's one of the best, nicest people I've ever met, beautiful both inside and out. When I met her for the first time at her show she greeted me like an old friend and when I went up to her this time she did so again, smiling so warmly and happily you'd think I was her favorite person in the whole world. Although I suspect she likes her handsome boyfriend, who I got to meet, more.
Madeline and I caught up; she hasn't had a show because, fortunately and unfortunately, she's selling her work as fast as she can paint it, so there's never enough for a show. She told me she's part of a group show coming up in London, and then a little while after that a solo show, also in London; but nothing near New York right now.
I love bumping into people I know.