It's Labor Day and that means tomorrow the gallery art season kicks into high gear. Hundreds of openings are on the slate for the coming weeks, and summer-tanned dealers and gallerinas are ready to make their pitches and put their best feet forward.
Slightly rewinding, I've still yet to see the Charles Burchfield and Christian Marclay shows at the Whitney Museum, but they are at the top of my list of things to do this week. New shows I am looking forward to this autumn include Michael Zelehoski's debut solo exhibit at Christina Ray – and I am not just saying that as the proud ARTslant surrogate parent of Mr. Zelehoski, whose work ARTslant curated at Fountain earlier this year as part of the Juried Showcase prize. The artist's collapsed, trompe l'oeil sculptures immediately hook you in with recognizable objects that one has seen a million times - chairs, tables, and police barricades - but not like this. Zelehoski has managed to take the commonplace and make it unusual and captivating all at once. Wooden legs and seats find themselves on the same plane where readymade and maker collaborate, and give off the look of something that could easily be a relic of the 21st century five hundred years from now, a la the cloth of Turin. Objecthood opens September 9th.
Also opening the same day is Rachel Owens' one-person exhibit at Ziehersmith, a new architectural installation that incorporates live theater enacted by Chelsea residents who will use as stage set the artist's rough-yet-so-appealing sculptures that incorporate salvaged materials. Pyramids made from broken shards of glowing colored glass and gold-leafed bleachers critique the hierarchies of power that echo such codependencies as destruction and renewal, oppression and liberation. Another forthcoming gallery highlight is Broadway 1602's second show of Polish-French artist Alina Szapocznikow (1926–1973). In addition to her powerful body casts that tethered to the artist's real-life suffering from breast cancer, My American Dream focuses on the preparatory works and correspondence for an unrealized project of the same name. In 1972, Szapocznikow had proposed for that year's Documenta the creation of a gigantic marble Rolls Royce. In response, director Harald Szeemann regretfully stated the piece could only be realized with sponsoring funding by the artist. The car never made it to the production stage, but its mirror of art as luxury good proved prescient of today's art market. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Meanwhile, at the Met in October, Icelandic artist Katrin Sigurdardottir will create full-scale interpretations of the eighteenth-century French rooms preserved at the museum. Sigurdartottir is known for her traveling cityscape crates and installations that focus on the disproportionate, unbalanced confrontation between man and nature. If memorable works such as High Plane are an indication, in which viewers step up to a ceiling and poke their heads out to view each other and become one with an alien landscape, I can't wait to see what she does with the Rococo rooms as inspiration.
The elation of what lies ahead must always be tempered by a bit of realism (and the recession). So on a single down note, I can't claim that I am looking forward to what comes next at the New Museum, whose consistently uninspired curation over the last two years has left me wondering when they will get their act together. Sure, there have been wonderful shows like Dorothy Iannone and David Goldblatt, but standard fare on this part of the Bowery points to academic, surface-light conceptual art that somehow made it past dimmed intellectual corridors. It's just not that smart, in other words. What is taken for profundity can be debunked faster than the next best new smartphone coming out. I'm referring to present and past shows including Rivane Neuenschwander, Urs Fischer, and that tired-looking Udo Rondinone Hell Yes sign on the facade. That rainbow should read "V-A-C-A-N-C-Y." But then again, maybe Free and Lynda Benglis might change my mind.
Luckily in art, there is always redemption. I look forward to them proving me wrong.
(Images: Michael Zelehoski, Pallet (2010), mixed media, Courtesy the artist and Christina Ray Gallery; Alina Szapocznikow, Tumeur (1969), Polyester, B/W Photograph: Self-portrait of Alina Szapocznikow, Courtesy Broadway 1602; New Museum, New York; Katrin Sigurdardottir, High Plane (2001-2005), polystyrene, wood, steel, site specific installation at The Renaissance Society, Chicago, Courtesy the artist.)