Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chelsea Galleries, December 2007

Again hardly a comprehensive tour, just a few highlights.

Yan Lei, Color Wheel, 2006, acrylic on canvas.
Robert Miller Gallery

Yan Lei is a Chinese artist, and since Chinese art is all the rage, I guess every gallery now needs to feature some. The show as a whole is strange and disconnected to me, but I enjoy these color wheel paintings, which are truly hallucinogenic, the next images will make that more evident:

Here is another one of the color wheel paintings. As you approach the paintings, because they are quite large, nearly ten feet square, your eyes do strange things, and I felt like I was looking through a fog, my eyes felt as if they lost their focus. In fact, the paintings are sort of blurred, the boundaries between the different color rings are not distinct, and blend into each other. The effect was a little alarming, and my friend Charlene took a few minutes to get over it. Whether this clever manipulative trick deserves credit as great art is a question, but at least it is something I have not seen or encountered before.

Pat Steir, Sunspots II, 2007
Oil on canvas, 127 x 109 inches.

Probably my favorite show this past tour was that of Pat Steir at Cheim and Reid Gallery. I have known her work since I worked at Robert Miller in the 1980's, and still like her work. The latest group belongs to her waterfall and drip series which she started then, and has been perfecting over the years. Many of the paintings in the exhibition are black, grey and white, but my two favorite were the tarnished bronze, above, and the orange fall painting.

Installation view taken from the gallery website showing Pat Steir's, PINK, 2007
oil on canvas, again 127 x 109 inches.

This painting is impressive as well, but only as you approach closer do you see the real depth of Steir's technique, the surface sort of dissolves into fractal elements, that seem almost infinite in depth. Somehow she got the paint to run down the canvas but like oil and water, not mix but form complicated drips. I know it sounds simple, but the effect is really beautiful and so controlled over such a large surface that it is a profound effect. It appears like a view of a landscape from a great distance above.

This detail taken from about four feet, gives some idea of the complex patterns formed by the drip.

There are other good shows but nothing that really stood out for me this past trip, other than the pit and chocolate Santa in the former post. Below this tableau did strike me:

view of exhibition of Charles Ray: New Works at Matthew Marks, showing Father Figure (the truck), New Beetle (the white boy), and Chicken (on pedestal)

This shot is of Matthew Marks Gallery space on W. 22nd Street, one of the City's most beautiful gallery spaces, in whose immense white void a mere three sculptures are placed, a huge tonka toy farm truck and driver, a sappy cute boy in white playing with a toy car, and on the pedestal a egg hatching. When I went into the gallery all I could think was what a waste of space, and dismissed the exhibition as so much self pretentious dreck. What does it all mean? I hate the exaltation of the banal, although the hatching egg did have a certain fascination for me I have to admit. Only on reading the review did I realize that these works are tours de force, the truck is eighteen-and-a-half tons of stainless steel, painted. It is eight feet tall and ten feet long. That is allot of expensive material for such a meaningless object. So I have new found respect for the sheer extravagance of the materials the skill exhibited in the exquisitely detailed hatching chicken egg commands my respect. However, I do not think the work is consistent, I don't know what one has to do with the other, nor do I think this work will age well; it will be meaningless in decades hence, as incomprehensible in the future as it is to me now.

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