Sunday, October 02, 2011

Junction/Cycle

GH and I wanted to see Richard Serra's new works at the Gagosian Gallery, and so took in other galleries on a pleasant, if drizzly, Saturday afternoon. At the Magnanmetz Gallery, Colombian artist Miler Lagos built an igloo out of books from a defunct US Navy base library. The old index cards papered a nearby corner. On the other end of the gallery, his video Water House (2011) showed a water tank floating on water. It keeps water out instead of water in, and so becomes a kind of ark.

At George Billis, American artist Adam Normandin showed photorealistic paintings of freight trains. I like the idea of reproducing spray-painted graffiti on uneven metal sidings with oil paint on a flat canvas. Affirmation was particularly compelling an image. Another artist, British Paul Winstanley, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, painted from photographs, mostly his own. Showing people alone in public spaces, the soft-focused works seemed to meditate on people meditating in a moment snatched from the rush of life. Interesting to me how contemporary painting appears to be grappling still with photography. The question of their relationship, which is also a question of the status of painting, is still unsettled.

Cultural displacement was expressed with unexpected violence in Do Ho Suh's show at Lehmann Maupin. In Fallen Star 1/5, the artist created a replica of his childhood home in Korea and crashed it like a tornado into the side of a replica of his adopted home in Providence, Rhode Island. The meticulous care with which he made the replicas, down to the tiny color pencils in the basement artist studio, spoke of his feeling for both places. The feeling for the material environment increased the violation of the crash.

There were too many people at Gagosian to enjoy Richard Serra's Junction and Cycle peacefully. The gallery ceiling with its florescent lighting and skylights also sat awkwardly atop of the gigantic steel sculptures. It rejected the sculptural ambition to shape, carve, space. Cycle reminded me of earlier works visited at MoMa. Junction felt new, less directing, more questioning, a labyrinth simplified to its most basic element. It was odd, but stimulating, to go from these serenely accomplished works to Matthew Barney's "DJED" show at Gladstone Gallery.

The three large sculptures from his "Ancient Evenings" project were made from traditional sculptural and industrial metals too--iron, bronze, lead and copper--but they were ironized by unusual accents. On top of a cast iron sculpture of a Chrysler Imperial undercarriage perched a pickaxe made of gold. In another work, a big tablet of wax changed irregularly into a thick metal sheet, accompanied on the side by the same transformation of a rope. Such ironic juxtapositions might strike a viewer as cheap visual shots, but they could also niggle at the Olympian grandeur of work like Serra's. Barney is agitated, self-contradicting and incomplete. The decay of things is not attractive, but it can be fascinating.

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