While, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve found it nearly impossible for the past several weeks to make myself sit down and think and write (thanks to some big challenges in my non-professional life), I have found art to be a very welcome diversion. I’ve seen a good bit of it recently, too — last week in London, and this week back home in New York. And, coincidentally, much of the art that I’ve chosen to see has made reference to mark-up or inscription. So that’s my loose theme for this quick run-down of the shows I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks (apologies if it doesn’t “hang together” conceptually; I seem to be having a hard time making anything hang together these days).
I had just a short stay-over in London, and I crammed in a lot of art. I started off at the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, then made my way to the Tate Modern, where I caught the wonderful Ellen Gallagher show. I had an interesting experience at the Tate: photographs were permitted in most galleries throughout the museum, and I, in my perpetual fog, apparently missed the “no photography” sign upon entering the Gallagher galleries. I stood back to snap a shot of one of Gallagher’s lovely works on lined paper (à la Agnes Martin, whom I honor in my Twitter avatar!), when I heard, “Put the camera down!!” booming from across the room. I imagine this is how cops talk to people in hold-ups. Everyone turned and looked. I, too, turned around and saw a guard shuffling toward me, and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry; I must’ve missed the ‘no photography’ sign!” I slipped my iPhone into my bag. “Turn it off!” He yells at me, in a way that I imagine one might say “Put the gun down!” I reply, “Sir, I already put the phone away. I’m very sorry I missed the sign.” He says, “No, turn it off. Turn it off!” Still, everyone’s staring. So I warily reach into my bag, “power-down” my phone, and hope I’ve satisfied him. “Is that good?” I ask. “No, turn the bag around. Turn it around! I don’t want you reaching in there,” he again booms. My bag was hanging at the front of my body, where, apparently, I could easily reach into it, retrieve the phone, and surreptitiously snap a photo if the guard wasn’t looking. As if I’d have the balls to do such a thing after he’d made such a ridiculous scene. So I swing my bag around to the back, say “Ok?”, then start inching away from him, backward. Over the next 20 minutes or so, as I made my way through the gallery’s several rooms, he looped past me a few times — probably to make sure I wasn’t stuffing paintings or installations into my 16 x 10″ sailor-stripe bag.
I have to admit, he kind of ruined it for me. I recall tremendously enjoying Gallagher’s work, but seeing it only through the blur of tear-filled eyes. Like I said, I’m a little fragile these days.
The next day I visited Rivington Place, where I was challenged by Sonia Boyce, Mikhail Karikis & Alamire’s For You, Only You; wandered around Shoreditch; saw the fabulous John Soane Museum; then caught Bill Viola’s fantastic “Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures” at Blain | Southern, which resides in a rather lovely building on Hanover Square.
The next day, before heading to the airport in the afternoon, I saw the excellent (if all-over-the-place) Paper show at the Saatchi Gallery, then enjoyed Julie Mehretu, Lucas Blalock, Matthew Booth, and Erin Shirreff at White Cube.
Then, back in New York this past weekend, we saw a lot: Laurel Nakadate‘s eerily lit photos at Leslie Tonkonow (on the way in, we happened upon Hito Steyerl’s intriguing In Free Fall video in a “satellite” Kreps gallery), Christian Holdstad’s super weird Book of Hours at Kreps, Paolo Ventura’s lovely little “The Infinite City” at Hasted Kraeutler, and Tim Hawkinson‘s slightly underwhelming show at Pace (I know an artist is bound to evolve — but I miss all his fanciful room-scaled machines).
We also saw Maintenance Required, the Whitney ISP Curatorial Program’s show at The Kitchen. It was conceptually dense, but I found it very satisfying — in large part because I’m fascinated by the ideas of error, failure, breakage, fixing, maintenance, etc. Some of the individual works in the show — like Pilvi Takala’s The Trainee and Sam Lewitt’s Test Subject A2 Fine — were captivating. I also appreciated catching a glimpse of the Salvage Art Institute’s work, which I read about in Jeffrey Weiss’s wonderful “Things Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed as Art” article in Artforum back in March.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also caught the Claes Oldenburg and Le Corbusier shows at MoMA (the latter was curated by one of my dissertation advisors). Then we stopped at Southfirst in Williamsburg to see a lovely little show about poetry: “Language Objects: Letters in Space” featured the “sculptural” literary work of Robert Grenier. I love this stuff.
I’ll probably be seeing a lot more art on my own (or in different company) from now on, so I was tremendously grateful to have my trusty sidekick with me, on such a beautiful weekend, to take advantage of one of New York’s greatest gifts: its wealth of art, representing the best artists from around the world, and (nearly) all freely accessible. When you see something intriguing or exciting, it’s so nice to be standing beside someone of like mind — someone to whom you can lean in close and say, “Did you see that?!” Doesn’t that remind you of…?” Oh, how I’ll miss that.