I’m not easily intimidated by the art world. But the Chelsea galleries do their damnedest to make you feel unwelcome. The austere spaces with their unfriendly gallerinas and gallery boys seem positively uninviting. But I’ve learned to ignore the pretense and return any glaring looks with complete indifference. It’s an effective strategy.
A few things about visiting the galleries. Avoid taking pictures—that pisses off the gallerinas. (Any pictures you see here were borrowed from gallery Web sites.) Don’t expect to be given any information about the art. No prices, no titles, no descriptions. You have to ask for the book to get that information and who wants to ask the snooty attendants for that.
Now there’s a lot of bad art in Chelsea. But there’s also some amazing stuff. So here is a review of things I found interesting.
Yayoi Kusama at Gagosian Gallery
Gagosian is one of the movers and shakers in the art world with multiple galleries in New York alone. The gallery’s current show features Yayoi Kusama’s intriguing art, much of it covered with dots. The pumpkins in the gallery’s windows were magical. But the showstopper was Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, a darkened shed with a liquid floor, mirrored walls, and hanging lights that blinked and flickered as you stood in the dark. I didn’t want to leave. The gallery attendant startled me when she opened the door and asked us to leave.
Pumpkin: Medium, 2008
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009
John Waters at Marianne Boesky Gallery
Filmmaker John Waters also has a respectable career as a fine artist. And if the stuffiness of the Chelsea galleries has got you down, this is the perfect stop. Waters infuses his art with a wicked sense of humor. Here's an artist who proposes work that reminds us that contemporary art hates you. Here are a few of my favorites.
Hetero Flower Shop, 2009 (10 c-prints)
Ethan Murro at Winston Wachter Fine Art
Ethan Murro’s graphite drawings are stunning. These large works are beautifully rendered and avoid triteness thanks to intriguing content.
Jeff Bark at Charles Cowles Gallery
Jeff Bark’s large still-life and nude photos are beautiful. The title of the show (Flesh) accurately describes the rich nature of the work. While the photos are bizarre, they feel new while offering a nostalgic take on imagery.
It’s Very Difficult Telling a Girl Whom You Like, But Do Not Love, That You Do Not Love Her, 2009 (C-print)
Taner Ceylan at I-20
First, this show is a reminder that you should heed gallery warnings that materials may not be suitable for young or sensitive viewers. But I loved the paintings of Taner Ceylon, even though many of them bordered on the pornographic. These works were obviously paintings but were so photorealistic that they messed with your mind. And the intense subject matter spoke to my emotions. These reminded me of Marilyn Minter. If I could afford it, I’d have one of these in my home.