‘Look Ahead’ with Stephanie Buhmann
Noteworthy March exhibitions not to be missed
This March, the city will be filled with more art than usual. During the first week of the month, several art fairs will invade Manhattan. On the Upper East Side, at the Park Avenue Armory, the Art Dealers Association of America will host its annual Art Show, while the younger Armory Show will take place across town on Piers 92 and 94. Concurrently, Pulse can be found on 20 West 22nd Street and a new outfit called Independent will take over the former Dia Center on 548 West 22nd Street. Other fairs include Scope, Red Dot, and Fountain NY. For only a handful of days, the city will be home to hundreds of galleries from around the globe, providing a comprehensive sampling of what the international art market considers worth supporting. While many local galleries will also have booths at the different expositions, it is a month, when most of them tend to step up their exhibition program to impress the large number of international art dealers, scholars, and museum curators in town. To take advantage of this hype, some of the exhibitions recommended last months will continue to run through the first week of March.
For those, who have not caught it yet, Bo Joseph’s A Persistent Absence will be on display at Sears-Peyton Gallery (210 11th Ave., Suite 802) through March 20. In particular a group of works on paper, which Joseph completed during a three-months stay in Berlin, offer an interesting mélange of abstract and figurative elements. The longer one observes these works the more one will discover. Here, an obscured silhouette of a candleholder for example can translate into something as alien as a fragment of a U.F.O. engine. Though well established in the fashion world, Wolfgang Joop made his local fine art debut at LUMAS NY (77 Wooster St., Through Mar. 10). Unfortunately, many of the displayed works are serial, meaning prints, forbidding us an impression of the artist’s touch. However, they still convey a sense of Joop’s keen eye for the mythic and exotic. It comes as no surprise that the designer’s main subjects are women and his influences seem rooted in Schiele, Klimt, Grace Jones’s erotica, and in Berlin’s Streets of the 1920s. Joop’s female protagonists are confident, strong, versatile, as well as wild and are occasionally contrasted with undomesticated creatures, such as wolves or birds. Sterling Ruby, whose first show at Pace Wildenstein is nothing but impressive in scale, content and psychological impact, will be up for the nearly the remainder of the month (545 W. 22nd St., Through Mar. 20).
Due to the special attention it receives, March will offer different programmatic choices. Some galleries will keep their fare traditional, presenting their most prominent painters, sculptors and photographers. Others will embrace the concept of a star-studded group show. The most popular American art enfant terrible Jeff Koons will curate a show at the New Museum, for example, while the basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal will curate a gallery show in Chelsea.
Paula Jones, 2007, Fiberglass
Image courtesy of The Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens
As one of the most controversial contemporary artists, Koons of course is well equipped for the task. Skin Fruit is the witty title of his upcoming New Museum exhibition (235 Bowery, Mar. 3 – Jun. 6). As Koons comes with his own corky aesthetic, one can anticipate his selection of works from the acclaimed and racy Athens-based Dakis Joannou Collection. This will be Koons’ first curatorial effort, as well as the first US showcase of Dakis Joannou’s collection, which was established in 1985 and was significantly inspired by Koons’ early work. Skin Fruit will not be an intimate survey however, including over one hundred works by fifty eminent and emerging international artists, such as David Altmejd, Matthew Barney, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Kiki Smith and Kara Walker. Much of the collection’s visual focus is on the figurative and reflects Joannou’s interest in human experiences and emotions. The extremes that define our existence are core concerns here and sexuality, lust, voluptuousness, and the passionate consumption of life in a modern world are vital themes that will be addressed in sculpture, painting, installation, and video.
Fulgent Cadences #8, 2010, Canvas painted with supersaturated latex paint, 24" x 24"
Courtesy of Feature Inc., New York
In contrast, the exhibition at Feature Inc. is a much humbler but not less corky enterprise. The gallery will show Sue Gurnee, who is introduced as an artist and healer (131 Allen St., Mar. 4 – 27, Reception: Mar. 6, 6–8 PM). In fact, Gurnee’s own website informs you that she has the capacity to “mend bones, stop bleeding and diminish pain.” Some might wonder how this context can make for a serious art exhibit, but even cynics will be surprised by the sophisticated elegance of Gurnee’s work. In 1989, as the result of independent research, she identified seven rhythmic brain functions that drive the human decision making process. Simply put, Gurnee aims to create works that stimulate all seven of these so-called fulgent cadences fully. While this scientific approach to something as ethereal and intuitive as art might seem quite mathematical, it nevertheless makes for paintings that are soothing, calm, and balanced. Thankfully, despite a hint of esoteric charm, Gurnee’s works manage to avoid slipping into kitsch.
Courtesy of Swiss Institute, New York
Tobias Madison will make his US solo debut with a newly commissioned project in two parts at the Swiss Institute (495 Broadway 3rd Floor, Mar. 6 – Apr. 24, Reception: Mar. 6, 6-8 PM). The installation Hydrate + Perform will consist of several large acrylic tanks, which will be filled with differently flavored (and colored) Vitamin Water. Some will even encase synthetic plants that are covered with drips of paint. These unusual and rectangular display cases will be contextualized with large color prints of scanned and warped CDs, providing an abstract and deadly sonic backdrop. The second part of the exhibition entitled Yes I Can! The Movie: Preview will pair examples of Madison’s better known flag paintings, which he embezzles from Radisson Hotels, with a short film that he shot in 2009. This road movie begins in Switzerland and ends in Mongolia, tracking various monuments along the way and questioning the socio-historic significance of architecture.
The Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck, Acrylic on wood panel
Courtesy of Collette Blanchard Gallery, New York
In his upcoming exhibition at Collette Blanchard Gallery, the talented Dean Monogenis (26 Clinton St., Mar. 5 – Apr. 18, Reception: Mar. 5, 6–8 PM) will continue his quest to show landscape painting in a new light. In fact much of what he adds to his landscapes does not stem from nature at all, including buildings in construction, antennas, electrical posts, and windmills. Monogenis’ focus is not on the placement of each structure within the landscape, but rather on the notion that monuments articulate transition and purpose. By removing a building from its traditional or historical environment and setting it up in the lush thicket of nature, he elevates the friction between the manmade and the natural to a spotlighted plateau. This conflict is also stylistically enhanced. Working in acrylic on wood panels with a high gloss finish, the paintings reveal a distinction between the bold flat areas used to create the architecture with the tightly rendered areas of rock formations and highly textured depictions of greenery. Monogenis’ work appears as a contemplation of how both nature and man’s architectural creations are fragile and at risk of destruction — be it through natural or manmade disasters.