Published: July 2 - 8, 2010, Page 24
‘Look Ahead’ with Stephanie Buhmann
Noteworthy July Exhibitions Not to be Missed
For New York's art world, summer begins in mid-June. More precisely, after Art Basel, the world's most prestigious art fair that is annually held in Switzerland. In addition to the New York galleries that exhibit either at the main fair or at one of the nearby satellites, such as Scope or Volta, countless art professionals travel overseas to network and bath in the international art buzz. Upon everyone's return, summer has officially begun and though nowadays, fewer galleries close for the whole month of August, most switch to lenient hours. During this period of renewal and lull, which usually ends after Labor Day, galleries like to open their space to group shows organized by gallery personnel, artists, or professional curators. The quality of these exhibitions can differ profoundly, ranging from something as elaborate as Lush Life, an upcoming multi-destination Lower East Side extravaganza to be discussed below, to the unsound The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts Exhibit at the East Village's Theater for the New City, a random and disappointing scramble of styles and questionable artistic abilities. In the meantime, many of the city's art museums use the summer for the opposite, namely to launch shows that are dedicated to a sole artist's oeuvre.
Rivane Neuenschwander, I Wish Your Wish, 2003 [detail]. Silkscreen on fabric ribbons, dimensions variable.
Rivane Neuenschwander's recently opened major mid-career survey at the New Museum is further testament to this institution's unwavering mission to showcase artists, who are either somewhat overlooked or little known internationally (235 Bowery, Through Sep. 19th). In fact, A Day Like Any Other reflects the spirit of the once Broadway-based New Museum, when it was a much smaller venue, but which repeatedly put together fantastic surveys for Adrian Piper (2000-2001) or the then lesser known William Kentridge (2001) and hardly hyped Marlene Dumas (2002). It has been a while since the New Museum offered up its galleries to a show devoid of glitz and easy surface appeal. Following in the tradition of Brazilian Conceptualism, Neuenschwander creates narratives by engaging in a large variety of practices. She does not restrict herself technically or emotionally and uses painting, photography, film, sculpture, installation, collaborative actions, and performances with innovative sophistication. Several of her works involve audience participation, providing them with an element of unpredictability. Her work changes and morphs with each new setting or, in the context of this particular show, with each day it is on display. This consideration of time and space marks the core of Neuenschwander's oeuvre. In Walking in Circles (2000), Neuenschwander applied small halos of adhesive to the gallery floor, which day-by-day, visitor-by-visitor, pick up dirt from shoes. As the exhibition progresses, the work will come to life, increasingly revealing the traffic patterns of the audience.
Maya Bloch, Untitled, 2010. acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
In her first New York solo exhibition entitled Waiting Room, Maya Bloch presented seven paintings (Thierry Goldberg Projects, 5 Rivington St., Through July 18th). Stylistically, they evoke the language of Edvard Munch and at times James Ensor and Bloch certainly aims to establish an ominous mood. Her fractured figures, which project anxiety and solemnity, are veiled an emotional hovering fog that seems hard to penetrate. Though Bloch is working with an aesthetic that reminds of Luc Tuymans or the younger Magnus Plessen for example, her focus differs. Interested in the themes of estrangement and memory, her paintings manifest as melancholic contemplations of human detachments. Her characters are lost in a contemporary nowhere land that has left them alienated from their surroundings and each other.
Yoram Wolberger, Indian #1 (Chief), 3-D digital scanning, CNC digital sculpting, Reinforced fi berglass composites, Urethane, 2005, Edition of 3 plus 2 Artist Proofs, Size: 80 x 70 x 22 inches
Yoram Wolberger's sculptures of plastic toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians that are blown up to larger-than-life size, are hard to dislike (Benrimon Contemporary, 514 W. 24th St., Through July 3rd). Though the concept is simple and the subjects are pre-fabricated, the sheer scale of Wolberger's work inspires awe. Following in the footsteps of Claes Oldenburg and Warhol, among others, Wolberger aims to re-introduce something familiar by establishing a new context and focusing on form. Obviously, the manipulation of size alone does not do the trick. The inherent sense of unfinished elegance in Wolberger's sculptures, as well as their brilliant color and composition are equally responsible for making this body of work successful. By employing subjects that evoke childhood nostalgia, Wolberger adds another twist. He simply makes sure while contemplating the objects before us, we are also confronted with our personal memories of times past.
Louise Kruger, Man on Couch, late 60s - early 70s, embroidered fabric, 52 x 78 inches
Louise Kruger's current exhibition should not be missed (Lori Bookstein, 138 Tenth Avenue, Through July 9th). For many of those who are encountering her oeuvre for the first time, it will seem baffling that she is not better known, or at least displayed at the Whitney, where she participated in a group show in 1960. But then, neither is Marisol. What makes Kruger's work immediately intriguing is a unique mélange of playfulness and sincerity, humor and depth. Her sculptures are sponges that have absorbed a wide range of influences, such as African sculpture, Outsider and Pop Art. Kruger is elaborating on the concept of the icon, bestowing her figures with a authoritative presence, but also with a sense of charm. Kruger seems a modernist at heart, but her maturity as an artist fell into the late 1950s and 1960s, an era when the reflection and/or opposition to mass-culture could not be avoided. Kruger stresses individuality. She preserves and collects, establishing a true “Sammelsorium,” a save haven for the mysterious oddities and oddballs of this world.
David Kramer, (Bar) Unfinished Business, 2010, mixed media, 14 x 8 x 7 ft
One of this summer's most ambitious curatorial endeavors comes in the form of Lush Life, a multiple-part exhibition curated by New York based curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud and the artist Franklin Evans. Its concept was inspired by Richard Price’s 2008 novel of the same title, which tells of a murder investigation set in the contemporary Lower East Side. The book exposes the dynamically changing community of the neighborhood and the curators approached their show like a collaborative community project. In its extensiveness and inclusive diversity Lush Life stresses that art galleries are indeed community members of Today's Lower East Side and it raises questions regarding their relationships with other members of this community, as well as with each other. Under the umbrella of Lush Life, nine participating galleries will host concurrent exhibitions and each will reflect one of the nine chapters in the book. On July 8, from 6 - 8 PM Sue Scott Gallery will host the opening for all venues and kick off the first chapter with appropriate title "Whistle" (Rivington St. at Bowery). Until August 1, Lush Life will then take place at Eleven Rivington (Chapter Nine: She'll Be Apples), On Stellar Rays (Chapter Two: Liar), Invisible-Exports (Chapter Three: First Bird (A Few Butterflies)), Lehmann Maupin (Chapter Four: Let It Die), Y Gallery (Chapter Five: Want Cards), Collette Blanchard Gallery (Chapter Six: The Devil You Know), Salon 94 (Chapter Seven: Wolf Tickets), and Scaramouche (Chapter Eight: 17 Plus 25 Is 32). For these venues, Lopez-Chahoud and Evans selected one artist from each gallery, but also solicited an additional artist recommendation from each of them. The curators then supplemented this base group of eighteen artists. Each chapter will showcase works by three to twelve artists, including Chakaia Booker, Dana Frankfort, Elisabeth Subrin, Joanne Greenbaum, Paul Pagk, Paul Pfeiffer, Pedro Barbeito, Rashid Johnson, Scott Hug, Tim Davis, Jon Rappleye, and Xaviera Simmons. By offering a complex survey of artists working and showing in the Lower East Side Today, Lush Life will certainly generate some attention for this neighborhood's special gallery community.
Swell: Art 1950 - 2010, Installation view, 2010, Metro Pictures, New York
Just in time for the heat wave, Swell promises to take our minds off the urban landscape and make our imagination travel to California's shores. Curated by Tim Nye and Jacqueline Miro, this exhibition also marks a significant collaboration and will be simultaneously hosted in three venues between July 1st and August 6 (Metro Pictures, 519 W. 24th St.; Friedrich Petzel, 357 W. 22nd St.; Nyehaus, 358 W. 20th St.). Including works by various California artists, such as Ed Kienholz, Billy Al Bengston, Tony Berlant, Ed Ruscha, John McCracken, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, and Helen Pashgian, Swell was conceived as a survey of art inspired by surf and beach culture. It will historically contextualize beach culture and aim to illuminate the poetic and freeing nature it had on various movements, involving the Beat Generation, Assemblage, Light and Space, Finish Fetish, and early Pop Art. In a time when our oceans are more threatened than ever before and its destruction remains a much-covered topic, Swell offers escapism: the meditation on how the proximity of large bodies of water can free our minds and imagination