It’s getting rowdy out there on the art world’s airwaves! Scott King, the British graphic designer and artist who shows at Bortolami, just dropped a poppy dance track that features a woman slamming a number of contemporary and modern artists, and declaring, “You’re my favorite artist!”
Last fall, right after Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York, observant Manhattanites may have noticed that odd posters had appeared along some of their city’s streets. Pieces of striped paper, with the stripes precisely spaced, had been posted to walls and billboards around downtown without any explanation. There was no brand name—no text of any kind. Just stripes. One with bright aquamarine and white stripes popped up about a block from this writer’s apartment, on Avenue A near East 14th Street. About a week later, they were gone.
Earlier this week, the striped posters began popping up again. They are the work of 74-year-old French artist Daniel Buren—he calls them affichages sauvages (savage postings)—and he’s been installing them around various cities for nearly five decades. The stripes are always the same size, exactly 8.7 centimeters across. The posters in November were timed to coincide with a two-gallery show at Bortolami and Petzel in Chelsea, which was scuttled by Sandy. Two months later, that show is finally coming to fruition.
“The Perfect Show”
Through Dec. 21
Visiting Chelsea is hard work in winter. Frigid gusts whip off the Hudson and turn the former industrial neighborhood’s wide streets into punishing wind tunnels. But a month after the river overflowed, flooding galleries and destroying art, a complaint like that feels inconsequential. Galleries have made repairs and reopened, and a few are offering shows informed in intriguing ways by recent events. Call them the After Sandys.
Alice Neel paid attention. Of course, she also worked hard and was prodigiously talented, but the main thing is, she paid attention—such close, lucid, existentially present and profoundly generous but completely unsentimental attention to the friends, lovers, relatives and acquaintances whom she painted that her work dissolves theological mysteries more thoroughly than four years in a seminary. You can see, in her portraits, exactly how each of her models felt—not in general but in the very moments in which they were doing it—about sitting still and posing. And you can see in her still lifes the demurely exhibitionist pride that her mind’s eye attributed—and that her hand then highlighted with a subtle fisheye distortion—to a potted plant. How can something have its own complete personality while simultaneously expressing no personality other than its creator’s? And how is it possible for something to be absolutely changeless but distinctly alive?
The artist Tom Burr is tall, eloquent, pronounces the year 1996 “nineteen hundred and ninety six” and displays a whole host of other qualities befitting the confident man he is. This is just one reason why his habit of bringing his fingertips together while discussing his work, as though he’s slightly embarrassed by how personal it all is, might seem a little odd. The other reason is that the exhibit he showed us last week, “deep wood drive,” at Bortolami gallery, consists of blankets nailed to boards, a large metal cage and piles of painted shutters—none of it obviously very personal at all.
Zig Zag Cubism #2 is a good place to begin a tour of Richard Aldrich’s new show, so it’s lucky that the gallery hung it by the entrance. Two long, square pieces of wood are affixed to a white canvas. The one on the left, painted in a red and white peppermint-stick pattern, is in the upper half, and the one on the right, an extremely dark green, is in the lower half, but they both cross through a small black rectangle painted in the middle. Arranged in three separate squares around the sticks, like smiley-face vers libre, is a scrawled black text reading, “It is a text, but what is most important is/ understanding it as a text written on a painting hanging in a gallery/ next to two other paintings that have the same motif.” It hangs next to no other paintings.