Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Power Art vs. Powerful Art (cont.d)

To pick up where I left off yesterday. Big art is not necessarily powerful. Power spaces can diminish even the largest works. By the same token, big art is not necessarily empty. Nor is small art necessarily less powerful for being small.

This is all a bit convoluted, I admit, but at least I know what I mean. I hope you caught the gist of it too.

There were other things that caught my eye--and my imagination--as we made the gallery rounds. Take George Condo, at Nicholas Robinson Gallery:

Here's an artist who has deliberately eschewed the mainstream throughout his career, and whose work has been widely admired for its idiosyncracy and its refusal to be categorized. An odd mix of the surreal, the futuristic, the socially engaged and the satirical cartoon, Condo's work is confrontational in its unabashed grotesquerie, even as it allows itself to be wildly funny--a characteristic studiously avoided by all "serious" artists. It is at once fearless and derisive of "good art." I like it. A lot.

Which reminds me to say that you don't have to be in the vast spaces of a Mary Boone or a Gagosian to find the best and most interesting work. If you talk to him, you'll find that the Nicholas Robinson of the Nicholas Robinson Gallery is charming, perceptive, and informed. He clearly loves what he's doing, and is passionate about the art he represents. (He's also a fellow Brit. But does that prejudice me? Nah!) And if you leave the main gallery and venture down the back stairs, you'll find the work of several other artists he represents, including that of another I personally responded to, Steven Gregory. Gregory constructs things out of human bones--or artifacts in the shape of bones:

This big wheel is a powerful memento mori, very Buddhist, I thought, in its circular form and its demand that we look at death head on. No blinking.

I can't end my report on Saturday without at least a mention of our visit with an old friend, Judith Miller, an artist whom Ellie used to showcase, back in the early 1970s when the Ellie Blankfort Gallery was in full bloom, back in the early 1970s. Judith is living in New York these days, and fortuitously had a show at the Cheryl Pelavin Gallery down in Tribecca. Lovely paintings, featuring mostly what we tend not to look at, down below our feet, the potholes and puddles with all their glorious reflections. Those made from photographs taken in Times Square, after rain, are spectacularly rich in shimmering, quasi-liquid color:

What a delight to see Judith again, and to find her still engaged in her art.

It's no good. I can't write about everything we saw in the New York galleries. I have to stop somewhere, so let it be here, on an encouraging note. There are many galleries like Nicholas Robinson in Chelsea and Cheryl Pelavin in Tribecca, some of them seeded in amongst the powerhouses, and they provide ample evidence that the creative spirit is alive and well--even in New York, where, as we West-Coasters see it, the Establishment reigns supreme. We like to think that all the best, most creative stuff happens here. Well, much of it does. We can be grateful for the energy of our own art community. And even so, as we shall see when I finally get around to recounting our Sunday adventures, New York is, well... There's the Met, the Modern, the Whitney. And the Met... Incredible! More later!

No comments: