RIAD ART TOUR: MAY 2015

RIAD ART TOUR: MAY 2015

What’s hot in Chelsea now?  Without a doubt, sculpture and installation are enjoying a moment; on last Saturday’s Chelsea Gallery Tour, we got a first hand look at – literally – some of the biggest shows in town.

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We started with Japanese art icon Yayoi Kusama’s latest exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, which included stainless steel pumpkins, folk-ish paintings and the North American debut of her ‘Obliteration Room,’ a mini-suburban house installed inside the gallery.  Once-white, the interior walls, floor, ceiling and furniture are now covered with colorful dot stickers, supplied to visitors by the gallery.   For decades, Kusama has spread dots over people, objects and entire spaces as a way of manifesting the way she sees the world – through a hallucinatory veil of circles.   Far from being disturbing, bright, saturated colors lend the show a carnival feel, though that could also have been due to the droves of visitors!

Kusama makes it easy to consume her work; the inverse is true for New York artist Keith Edmier, whose intriguing, meticulously crafted sculptures at Petzel Gallery involve a complicated backstory.  Inspired by an invitation to show in Rome and a 16th century book of iconology, Edmier brings together the realm of gods and mortals with a photo of a pregnant Cindy Crawford, replicating a classic pose by Aphrodite, Hermes’ classic Kelly bag cast in glass, and a huge reliquary in the form of a towering altar cover inspired by the architecture of Rome and Grand Central Station.

Historical art also gave rise to British artist Andrew Lord’s Gauguin-inspired ceramics at Barbara Gladstone’s 21st Street space, some of which replicate specific sculptures by the Post-Impressionist.  Succinctly and insightfully described by a New York Times critic as, “at once bracingly ugly and sensuously beautiful,” expressionist splashes of glaze approximate the colors of a New Mexico sunset, or the effect of falling snow and starlight.

Just as sensitive to nature, but created on a huge scale, Michael Heizer’s ‘Altar’ sculptures at Gagosian Gallery’s vast 24th Street space involve low steps and large pieces of white or black steel tilted at angles and shaped like a cross between cattle brands or petroglyphs.  Giant pieces of quarried stone – including an 18-ton chunk of granite called ‘Potato Chip’ – dwarf visitors and put us in mind of the massive forces and eons it took to create this and a nearby 12 ton ore rock.

There’s nothing readymade about New York sculptor Tony Matelli’s handmade and unnervingly detailed sculpture at Marlborough Gallery, for which he’s balanced lifelike pieces of fruit and vegetables (crafted in bronze) on sandblasted concrete garden sculptures and fashioned two hyper-realistic male and female nudes, placing them directly on the gallery floor, balanced on their heads.   Described by the artist as a contemporary Adam and Eve, the figures look like everyday people who you might see on the street. Yet nude and inverted, they’re completely arresting, a perfect coda to a tour full of unexpected art and ideas, from dots to Rome to Gauguin to geology to Adam and Eve!