Galleries Visited

HG Contemporary, ‘Mixed Show
Debuck Gallery, ‘Colored Light
Gagosian, ‘Carsten Höller:Reason
Cheim & Read, ‘The Horizontal
Hollis Taggart, ‘Color Harmonies
Pace Gallery, ‘Border Cantos

HG Contemporary, Mixed Show

Doppelganger, by Stickymonger

As you enter, a mural by Stickymonger (Joohee Park) dominates the first wall. It’s vinyl; the medallion-like items are actually separate works. Polka dots – it’s Yayoi Kusama’s world this year; we’re just eating hot dogs and taking walks in it.

I sat with Franz Kleinsek’s ‘True to Self’ for about a half an hour.

True to Self, Franz Kleinsek

The gold leaf at the top gives the impression of a disorderly Klimt. Things are painted over, scratched, rubbed out; in the lower left quadrant, he writes ‘Be Real,’ and then paints over it. Maps or circuit boards seem to peek out from a lower layer of the painting; in the upper left corner there is a tree with flat, pink circles for leaves.

'True to Self,' Franz Kleinsek, detail

‘True to Self,’ detail

Eyes peer at us from the upper right. The entire work is bifurcated by a green line. Before and after? Mixed feelings? We live in a time where we’re ambivalent about authenticity again. How much should we post on Facebook? Should we delete it? Can we delete it? Whether we do or not, there’s golden skies and pink trees who don’t have our human problems.

Gagosian, ‘Carsten Höller:Reason’

Ah, Gagosian. Come for the frigid air conditioning, stay for the monumental whimsical sculpture/machine/mobile where colorful mushrooms as tall as an NBA player whirl through the air. Again, dots, this time on the caps of the mushrooms; Yayoi Kusama’s influence seems to be everywhere. Leave the gallery and your glasses will fog over in the August fug; consider going back in, to appreciate the art further, and to appreciate the air conditioning even further than that.

Cheim & Read, ‘The Horizontal’

Some galleries are simply not prepared for a collector like me. The gallery assistants looked bewildered when I asked for a chair or a stool to sit with one of the works in this show for awhile. I was compelled enough by this painting, ‘Soñe que revelabas (Missouri)’ that I sat on the concrete floor in front of it for a full thirty minutes, even though the air conditioning wasn’t as good as Gagosian’s.

Soñe que revelabas, Juan Uslé

Soñe que revelabas(Missouri), Juan Uslé

Cheim & Read bills the show as “a group exhibition exploring the poetics of the horizon in abstract art.” All the paintings have a horizon in them somewhere; Uslé’s painting gives us a few; crisp colored bars two thirds up; then a stripe of tape, not pulled away and swabbed with paint, as if the tape was intended to make a firm line, but was then forgotten. To me the most interesting part of this piece is the upper third. I love works that make me wonder how they are made. The art description lists ‘dispersion’ as one of the techniques, which makes me think the vertical bars at the top are actually a result of folding and soaking the canvas in dye or ink, a kind of tie-dye with a martial, standing-at-attention, all-alike feel with its deep green and black tones. This is a massive work, 108 by 80 inches; at nine feet tall, most of us don’t have a wall in our home that we could even hang this work on.

Debuck Gallery, ‘Colored Light’

'My India,' Martin Kline

‘My India,’ Martin Kline. Encaustic on wood panel.

My favorite of all the shows I saw in New York. I was drawn there by a photo of Martin Kline’s ‘My India.’ It did not disappoint. Kline’s painting has so many of the elements I look for in an abstract work – rigor and technique; this is not a painting that anyone could say ‘my kid could have done that!” It looks different at different scales; it’s a very different painting up close than it is far away.

'My India,' Martin Kline, detail

‘My India,’ detail

If you wonder how this was done, this painting uses a technique called encaustic. Encaustic mixes pigments with beeswax, and then heat is applied to create mixing and texture. So in the detail above, Kline is not specifically making the top of a ridge red, and another blue; he’s starting a reaction of materials and heat and seeing what develops. (To see an encaustic artist at work and see how these are made, see this short video).

Like Soñe que revelabas, this is a large work, though not quite as large; it’s about seven feet by four feet. It rewards a long look; you can keep looking at this painting for a long time (and I did, with a chair supplied by a helpful gallery assistant) and still be seeing something new every few minutes. Certainly not a restful painting; in fact, the eye almost refuses to settle and relax on a region of it; the combination of texture and vivid, ecstatic color keep moving your eye along, skipping, gliding.