The first Thursday of September marks the opening of the fall season for many art galleries. It’s a celebration not of the art, per se, but of the community that supports it and this year’s mood was vivacious. The night was cool with a light breeze drifting in off the Hudson, and through some coincidence of scheduling Fashion’s Night Out, a very similar sort of celebratory fete in the name of fashion rather than art, was also going on in Chelsea. The crowds mixed and overflowed from gallery to sidewalk to street in a splurge of merrymaking that was itself an aesthetic experience.
I couldn’t help thinking about it all as a kind of quasi-performance, a great ritual reenacted with a touch of bacchanalian bliss. Right from the start the spectacle was consuming. A skinny young blonde in a diaphanous pink outfit strutted along one sidewalk in the last light of the day while a team of photographers shot her from every well-lit angle. Then she went back to her original spot and repeated her hipshot walk. Meanwhile, right across the street, Kris Perry and a team of musicians were squeezed into Maurizio Cattelan’s hole-in-the-wall outpost, Family Business, banging and plucking mightily on Perry’s cleverly fabricated industrial instruments. Think gongs, drums, and something like a stand up bass made out of discarded I-beams and propane tanks. A crowd was quick to gather and with snappy old Leicas and iPhone cameras, it looked like a pop-up paparazzi photographing the street’s music makers.
While the tendency for many galleries is to come out with a big name show to kick off the season, others took an opposite tack and mounted exhibitions of artists who are yet emergent. Of these, one of the more delightful is Janelle Iglesias’s “Cartwheel Galaxy” at Larissa Goldstein Gallery. Working in the familiar vein of sculptural assemblage born out of found objects, Iglesias’s work is simultaneously infused with the delicacy of form that makes one think of Sarah Sze’s installations and a quality of movement that evokes the Stool sculptures of Ai Wei Wei. Her’s is perhaps the finest use of ladders that I’ve seen in any artwork in ages.
Mark Flood, "Endless Column," 2012, Acrylic and paper on canvas; Courtesy Zach Feuer Gallery.
If there were a prize for pulchritude and cheekiness, I’d want to give it to Mark Flood for his ostentatiously titled exhibition, “Artstar,” at Zach Feuer’s gallery. Here Flood’s bread and butter product, big sumptuous oil paintings that look like fraying lace, were paired with snarky, namedropping, word art. To see Flood’s Endless Column (2012), adorned with the phrases “Whore Museums,” “Gutless Collectors,” “Blind Dealers,” and “Alleged Artists,” thronged by hipsters and the silver haired set alike, is to see it perfectly. I’m not sure where critics would fit in Flood’s derogatory pantheon, so I asked around and the best guess used “flatulent” as the leading adjective.
Truly nostalgic and classically classy, the Matthew Marks team installed a monumental sculpture, Source (1967), by Tony Smith on the centennial of the artist’s birth. Tables were laid out with glasses full of white wine and champagne flutes waiting to be filled with bubbly. A lively little debate sprang up when an older gentleman raised the question as to whether Source, which was meant to be an outdoor sculpture, was diminished in some way because it was being shown indoors.
There was much speculation and hypothesizing, but the fact was most of us were seeing it for the first time. We agreed it looked good inside.
As I walked away from Chelsea, brain buzzing from the over stimulation, I thought about how the evening might have been a reflection of the art world’s current state of pluralism. Like my dinner plate on Thanksgiving, there seemed to be a little bit of everything out there to be consumed. In hindsight, what was absent was the postures of cynicism that these sorts of self-celebratory affairs can sometimes inspire. Even amidst Flood’s angst and name-calling, the atmosphere was jubilant. Air kisses proliferated. People were excited. Someone suggested that if a space which is occupied by art is then filled with a bunch of happy people, perhaps it’s possible that some of those positive vibrations might work their way into the objects? Maybe one of these days an artist will come up with a tool to measure an artwork’s energy absorbing capabilities. Maybe such lines of thought, sprouted in the festive atmosphere of an opening night, only ever grow in those playful moments.
(Image on top: Janelle Iglesias, "Cartwheel Galaxy," 2012,
ladders, sawhorses, wood, mirror, photography with stag horn ferns
; Courtesy Larissa Goldstein Gallery)