Saturday, June 01, 2013

Materials for Art


SHIO KUSAKA



I loved the show of Richard Serra's early work at David Zwirner. It is full of feeling for material, volume and balance, the hallmarks of his mature achievements. My favorite work at the show was a lead plate made in the form of a canvas sheet that has been folded into four quarters and then unfolded. On the second floor were Blinky Palermo's works on paper, which he did near the end of his all-too-short life. Many of the drawings were composed in series, a feature that emphasizes his constant experimentation with color, geometric shapes and brushstroke. Even though they allude so familiarly to abstraction, Minimalism and Conceptual art, they retain an irresistible freshness.

Anselm Kiefer's Morgenthau Plan at Gagosian was a very different kind of show. Monumental, serious, intense, the paintings, which cover completely with thick impasto the blown-up photographs of fields of flowers, brood on the-then US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau's plan to transform post-war Germany to a pre-industrial, agricultural nation, in order to defang the country. The paintings showed flowers blooming in a landscape of devastation. Some I found overly literal and bombastic, but there was at least one very powerful work, in which the blasted field holds up a body of black water.

GH liked very much Nancy Lorenz's work at Morgan Lehman. Inspired by the landscape of South West County Kerry, Ireland, during her Cill Rialaig artist residency, she made scratches on metal plates, which she then filled with mother-of-pearl. The effect was shimmering. The plates showed the effect of Japanese aesthetics, with which Lorenz was familiar, having spent her adolescence in Japan. The Japanese sensitivity to beauty was also exhibited at the Anton Kern show of Los Angeles-based ceramicist Shio Kusaka. Her pots were not classically regular or rounded, but often achieved a peculiar autonomy of their own. I especially liked the vase and pot with a hole in their side; they are beautifully useless.

We made the trek from Chelsea to Midtown to see Maya Lin's new work with drawing pins, recycled silver and marble. I was underwhelmed. Beyond their ecological significance, the works themselves seemed rather thin.

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