Sunday, October 28, 2012

The ART of Modeling



My very good friend Andrew Howdle, who works from Leeds, UK, has a beautiful portfolio of photographs and drawings out at Dimension Magazine. Titled cannily "The ART of Modeling," the work is as much about seeing the model Arnold Aziza as showing him off. "Arrival," a professional-looking fashion shot, reminds us of the various meanings of the key word in the title: "Model (N) a new system of seeing (1593); an exemplar (1693); a person drawn by an artist (1873); (V) to wear clothes for a fashion display (1904).

The work looks better than much of what GH and I saw in Chelsea during our gallery hop yesterday. Alexander and Bonin showed the "Airmail Paintings" of Eugenio Dittborn, a Chilean artist. According to the press release, the collages on lightweight fabrics that could be folded and mailed to friends circumvented the constraints of working under Pinochet's dictatorship. The format was formally and politically resonant but the collages themselves lacked visual interest. Another politically-engaged artist was Ahmed Alsoudani showing eight new paintings at Haunch of Venison. Alsoudani grew up in Baghdad, escaped to Syria during the Persian Gulf War and then obtained asylum in the United States. His surrealistic paintings of monsters, amputated limbs and machine parts were very much in the Western tradition. The interest of his work, to my mind, seemed to lie more in his personal history than in his artistic achievement.

At Andrew Edlin Gallery, the curators brought together an eclectic assemblage of art associated with the empyrean. The title of the show "Collectors of Skies" came from a short story by French art critic Champfleury (1820–1889). Of the 18 artists, I liked best the two works there by Henry Darger. He is very odd. A true outsider's art.

Matthew Marks Gallery displayed the work of Tony Smith in two separate shows. The first, "Jackson Pollock & Tony Smith: Sculpture: An Exhibition on the Centennial of Their Births," comprised works created by both artists over a single weekend in Smith's backyard, just a few weeks before Pollock's death in a car crash. I thought the sculptures, mostly of discarded concrete pieces, were slight. In contrast, the second show highlighted a monumental piece by Smith called "Source." Made of steel painted black, the massive form had faceted sides, with a limb projected out like a fashion runway. The wonder was the sheer weight of the work; little else held the attention.

Andreas Slominski's show "Sperm," at Metro Pictures, started well and then lost its way. The first work  "Sperm of a Black Man and a White Man" displayed two drip-dried stains on the wall, one yellower than the other. Which is which? In the same room, bales of hay were stacked in such a way as to create steps. "Sperm of the Pilots," seen on the wall above the hay-steps, played with the ideas of take-off and a roll in the hay. The other rooms, splashed with the sperm of other animals, were far less interesting. They were still more provocative than the new paintings and collages of Richard Hawkins at Greene Naftali. The latter were poorly painted and, like some of the other shows, traded on literary references and name-dropping.

More paintings this year than last, but none of them very good. GH remarked on the lack of ideas in American art right now.

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