Sunday, March 27, 2011

Red, White and Blue

I like red and white - quilts, polka dots, seersucker sundresses, flags. You name it. I was excited about going to the Park Avenue Armory today to see the collection of  650 American quilts from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. And I was not disappointed, but I got something different than I expected. Being in the Armory, standing under these astonishing constellations of quilts, I felt like a small Alice through the keyhole and into Wonderland. Lovely! 

But the nostalgia that I had expected was nowhere to be felt.  Under the high vaulted ceiling of the Armory, the numbers of quilts and the numbers of people  made for an experience that was distanced from the remembered coziness of one small me in the "pleasant land of counterpane." I realized that the most magic of quilts are those where the pattern elements and quilting stitches are very, very intimate and where the smell and feel of old cotton are tangible and near. 

From Red and White to Blue and White: post-Armory, I wandered back out onto the street and came upon a Greek celebration and parade-in-the-making. Greek flags everywhere along Fifth Avenue. I love a parade!

And then, just because it's March Madness and this is a nostalgia post, I can't resist-  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bye Bye Kitty!!!

Article - Gopnik Nawa PixCell Deer Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, at the Japan Society, has received outstanding reviews already, so I won't recap them here. (Links are at the bottom of the blog and the catalog's essays are excellent.) This is an exhibition that puts paid to the easy simplifications of Japan's cult of cute (kawaii), of which the Hello Kitty phenomenon is the slickest and cutest. Bye Bye Kitty!!! recognizes Japanese artists born between the mid-1960's and the early 1980's, whose work looks deeply and thoughtfully at the imbalances in society and nature, and at our deepest fears, both real and imagined.  The complex pen and ink drawings by Manabu Ikeda, PixCell Elk #2 by Kohei Nawa, and Makoto Aida's print, Harakiri Schoolgirls, have the strongest hold on me by far, but there is almost nothing in this show that I did not respond to positively. Though the catalog refers to previous earthquakes including Kobe in 1995, the terrible scenarios unleashed by the March earthquake, tsunami, and atomic disaster could not have been predicted to coincide with this exhibition. In fact they happened one week before the show's opening, and surely intensify its impact on viewers.

From the UN Plaza and the Japan Society, I headed west to Chelsea, where by contrast the vacuousness of certain Western artworks was more obvious this time than is usual. Robert Miller has a triple star show - drawings by Andy Warhol, postcard sculptures by Gilbert and George, and an installation by Yayoi Kusama. I generally like stopping in at Miller for looks back at recent art history, but this was a triple flop. Warhol's drawings could have been done by any talented highschooler, the G&G composites had all the appeal of video game screenshots, and  - biggest disappointment - Kusama's installation (titled Heaven and Earth and priced at an astonishing $1,000,000) consisted of 40 fabric covered boxes from which protruded 285 fabric forms reminiscent of tentacles. As a single installation set in its own seagreen space, it was devoid of the disorientation that I look for and like so much in her work.

Hyperallergic's Review
Blake Gopnik's review in The Daily Beast
PixCell Elk #2 via The Daily Beast

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Black and the White

My take-away from the fairs this week: Black and White. I got around to Pulse and Impulse, the Red Dot Fair and the Korean Art Fair (housed together on Mercer) and the Armory. Also managed to squeeze in Esteban Vicente's collages at NYU and Lynda Benglis at the New Museum, but for now I'll just comment on a few of my favorites at the fairs.

Mario M. Muller at Pulse: an elegant installation at Mary Ryan of Mario's quintessential silhouettes. I loved the finish and restraint of the landscape on the right.

 Not sure if these arrows piercing the corner angle intentionally reference Saint Sebastian, but he was certainly part of the mix at the Armory, where (at a different booth) a stack of take-aways asked viewers to comment on 21st century martyrs.

People too come mostly in black.

One of my all-time favorites, Yayoi Kusama at the Armory. It's the disorientation of pattern dots that I love.

And girls love horses.

A beautiful installation. Sorry that I did not make a note of the booth or the artists.

Below: graphite and paper, if memory serves me correctly. This was a stunner.

And to round it out, Yoshitomo Nara. He takes the particularity of German medieval gothic and dissolves it in the contemporary.

All photos courtesy of my iPhone. Such a handy device. For a much more in-depth look at all the fairs where they were and who was there, see Hyperallergic's blogs for the week.