Written by Merrily Kerr of New York Art Tours.
New York galleries are gearing up for the big Armory Show art fair this weekend,
and have already opened with some of the best shows of the season. We beat back
the winter blahs last Saturday with a colorful sampling of the standout exhibitions in
Chelsea, including two immersive installations, vibrant paintings and a twisted
update on street photography.
Art-critic-turned-painter Julia Dault’s sizzling colors greeted us at Marianne Boesky
gallery, where her pattern-based abstractions literally jumped off the canvas and
onto the walls, which were hand-painted with a textured roller. Known for putting
down layers of pure color, then cutting through the surfaces to selectively blend the
paint, Dault also throws pleather and spandex into the mix, combining ready-made
pattern with her own inventions.
At our next stop, video and filmmaking icon Charles Atlas wowed us with giant
projections of gorgeous sunsets shot on a residency in Florida in one gallery and a
size XXL video of legendary drag performer Lady Bunny gently decrying U.S. politics
in the back room. Titled ‘The Waning of Justice,’ Atlas creates an end-of-an-era
metaphor as a count-down clock at the center of one room notes the final 18
minutes before the sun finally dips below the horizon and Lady Bunny pounds out a
disco number before the gallery goes dark.
Israeli artist Ori Gersht also offers beauty with a hint of political anxiety in
photographs at CRG Gallery that feature photos of flowers as reflected in mirrors
that are breaking. Inspired by Jan Breughel the Elder’s early 17th century flower
paintings – themselves impossibly perfect renditions of flowers at the peak of their
beauty – Gersht’s camera arrests the moment that serenity and perfection ends.
Saya Woolfalk’s continued meditation on what a utopian world would look like
came as an uplifting interlude across the street at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks &
Projects. Building on work she’s presented in the past, Woolfalk shows supposed
artifacts from an empathetic civilization that has hybridized itself, blending
characteristics from different races and ethnicities and mixing human and plant life.
Tongue-in-cheek products like the ‘Avatar Download System’ offer ways to be more
understanding…without having to endure the messy life experiences that build
Next door, the lives of others became cause for wonder, as witnessed by Hungarian
artist Adam Magyar’s enticingly strange, elongated street photos shot in NY and
Hong Kong. His homemade slit-scan camera, a combination of camera and scanner,
records streams of passersby morphed into Weegee-like semi-abstractions.
In the back gallery, mesmerizing videos of commuters standing on platforms in New York,
Berlin, Mumbai and Beijing were shot from a train as it entered a station, then
slowed so that a 12 second clip turns into 12 minutes. Caught in unguarded
moments of private thought, each face on the platform tells a different story.
At our last stop, young Swiss artist Claudia Comte enveloped us in an immersive
installation that playfully quotes from and remixes art history – black walls incised
with a power tool recall Frank Stella’s Black paintings, while carved wood
sculptures riff on Noguchi or Brancusi. Alternating black panels and yellow-striped
walls packed an optical punch in this handsome show that questions how art history
can become subject matter and to what end. Not bad questions to ponder as we
wrapped up another inspiring gallery outing.