The Daily Pic: In "Bag Lady in Flight", one of L.A.'s great artists brought the street inside.
Old shopping bags, grease stains and drifts of kinky black hair are assembled into this 1970s work by David Hammons, titled “Bag Lady in Flight” and on view in the show called “Now Dig This!” at PS1 in New York. Assemblage was a crucial form for many of the artists in the show, which looks at African American creation in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1980. Hammons gets the genre more right than almost anyone else, black or white. He achieves a perfect balance between the original energies of his found objects and the considered artifice of artistic composition. (“Bag Lady” echoes the protractors of Stella and Duchamp’s descending “Nude”, but also the stagings of Kienholz.) Hammons transforms his materials while preserving the meanings they had on the street.
The Daily Pic: In a show called "Cell Block", the New York artist builds us a dungeon.
Alice Aycock must be one of the most neglected almost-famous artists of recent times. This is a 1975 drawing called “Project for Five Wells Descending a Hillside: Oblique Section”, from a group show called “Cell Block II” that’s been curated by Robert Hobbs for the new Andrea Rosen project space in New York. I’d never thought of incarceration as a notable theme in Aycock’s work, which can often seem more expansive than constricting, but Hobbs’s show seems to make that shoe fit. Of course, almost any architectural enclosure – a specialty of Aycock’s – can speak about incarceration. Our buildings inherently lock us away.
The Daily Pic: Glenn Ligon's neon refuses to shed light.
A lovely, subtle new piece called “Double America”, from Glenn Ligon’s show of neon at Luhring Augustine in New York. The work’s complexities – bright neon almost obscured with black paint; America as a near, but flawed, reflection of itself – make it a nice metaphor for the complex balance of success and failure that marks the nation’s polity and culture, including in the field of race. What seems legible, isn’t.
The Daily Pic: Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt transubstantiates sequins.
This is a typical piece by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, whose show at PS1 in New York, called “Tender Love Among The Junk”, seems to be getting surprisingly little attention. Lanigan-Schmidt first had success in the 1970s and 80s, filling a few galleries (but mostly his apartment) with fay accumulations of sparkly odds and ends that also had a significant edge. His art collides gay culture, outsider art, religious camp and sophisticated assemblage and installation. It has a poignant side that makes the cultural margins seem a tough place to be.
The Daily Pic: Andrew Smenos tests how pictures represent.
A sculpture and a painting by Brooklyner Andrew Smenos, shown together in a tight group show at Freight + Volume gallery in Chelsea in New York. Neither object alone much interests me (too cute) but the combination brings up all sorts of issues about how representation and realism work. Here we have a real animal, turned into an imaginary creature, which is then realized as a very small toy in wood, which is in turn reproduced as a fairly faithful and very large oil painting – which feels stylized, despite its strong roots in the world. The “toy” starts feeling like an experimental prop from a psych lab.
The Daily Pic: Michael Rosenfeld's new gallery reopens our eyes.
Michael Rosenfeld, the dealer in (mostly) American modern art, recently moved to a big Chelsea space. Among the unusual gems on display at the gallery’s opening were this gorgeous 1950s textile abstraction by Anne Ryan (an artist I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know) and this sophisticated 1920s collage by Joseph Stella (an artist I’d always found a touch naive). Note that the artist Anne Ryan's name was given incorrectly in the original version of this post.
The Daily Pic: Ed Ruscha makes threats disappear.
Ed Ruscha’s “Stick Up Don’t Move Smile” (2001) and “Say Yes to Our Demands or Else” (1999), two small, older pictures from the big Ruscha show now at Gagosian Gallery in New York. Ruscha made them by bleaching-out the patches of fabric where we expect the words in the title to be, for a kind of reverse ransom-note effect. I like the way a cancelling that usually happens through scribbling on top of a word is here effected by the word’s removal. These pictures also trigger a lovely process of seeking, as you try to read words back into their blank patches. Threatening language gets reduced to the space its texts take up, as though form rather than meaning were the foundation of written expression – as though the visual always trumped the verbal.
The Daily Pic: Bjarne Melgaard makes paintings with bite.
These are two of the “tiger” paintings by the Norwegian Bjarne Melgaard, from his solo show at Luxembourg & Dayan gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. The paintings are immersed in a wild-and-woolygesamtkunstwerk that includes stacks of a surreal, wildly violent, porn-filthy novel by Melgaard, as well as sculptural installations straight out of the mind of a disturbed teen. But I find these paintings more profoundly peculiar than any of Melgaard’s more explicitly (and conventionally) outlandish gestures. I’ve never seen anything quite like Melgaard’s tigers; they have a fearful asymmetry worthy of William Blake.
The Daily Pic: Gary Simmons shows us our teachings on race.
This is “The King”, from 1993, one of the classic “chalkboard” drawings by the African American artist Gary Simmons, now on view in a little retrospective at Metro Pictures in New York. It manages to fix our memory of the race-tinged imagery that once was everywhere in American culture, while its blurrings also suggest that imagery’s evanescence. What’s always kept cryptic is whether Simmons’s school chalkboards are about teaching us, now, to remember and regret, or about how we were once taught to treat race. I also love the notion that Simmons own art might be subject to erasure – although, as art-world commodities, his chalk drawings always get treated for permanence.
The Daily Pic: Jack Goldstein made violent pictures that were under strict control.
This huge painting was conceived by Jack Goldstein in 1982, and is now in a show of his works at Venus Over Manhattan gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. Goldstein is famous for being a classic mad artist, but what I find most striking about this image is how it relates to rigorous “systems” art by his contemporaries such as Sol LeWitt. It so happens, of course, that the “instruction set” that determines the lines in Goldstein’s picture has to do with the trajectories of bombers attacking a city, and the arcs described by projectiles meant to take them down.
The Daily Pic: Phyllida Barlow crafts a monumental speck.
I don’t know any work of art better balanced between sculpture and painting than Phyllida Barlow’s “Untitled: Lattice (Large)”, in her solo show at Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York. That makes it more interesting than her other works, which sit too safely within the traditions of sculptural installation. “Lattice” comes close to being a massive, 3D enlargement of a tiny paint chip from a Rothko or a Reinhardt: The fractured grid reads as the threads of a canvas, and the specks of color read as underpainted pigment buried deep in the pictorial matrix. This creates a wonderful tension between the diminutive and the monumental, as has sometimes been achieved by Old Master painters working on the surface of the canvas alone. One cranky question: In what sense is “Lattice” untitled? And if it isn’t without a title, why include the word “untitled” in its name? I’d be willing to take it as a clever comment on titling, if it weren’t that this kind of un-titling is now the norm among artists.
The Daily Pic: Anne Collier borrows images, and their contexts.
This is Anne Collier’s “Veterans Day (Nudes, 1972 Appointment Calendar, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Edward Weston)”, from the “New Photography 2012” show now at MoMA. The image gives a new take on Sherrie Levine-ish appropriation, getting at it through full-blown still life. All appropriation has its roots in still life – on the copy-stand, at least – but normally the context is cropped out. Here, the original use-context, narrowed to a particular day in MoMA’s 1972 “Nudes” calendar, is kept in view. You can imagine some museum member flipping the page on that Veterans Day and seeing Weston’s torso. To what effect, back then? And will there someday be a MoMA calendar with Collier's calendar image in it, waiting to be borrowed yet again by some future artist?
The Daily Pic: John Singer Sargent paints his Parisian friend.
“Of course Delafosse is a decadent in the matter of neck-ties – but he is a very intelligent little Frenchman,” wrote John Singer Sargent about Léon Delafosse, the French pianist who sat for this portrait in around 1896. I saw it on a visit to the Seattle Art Museum earlier this autumn. It’s a lovely thing (Delafosse was so pretty he was known as “The Angel”) but I wonder why I like slick crowd-pleasers in older art, but can’t stand them in the art of our times? How can I enjoy Sargent so much, when I hold Cezanne up as the model artist of his era?
The Daily Pic: In Miami, Laura Aldridge recuts painting's cloth.
I seem to suffer from a new syndrome called “fair blindness”. I find it almost impossible to take anything in at art fairs, or distinguish meaningfully between all the merchandise on view. One exception, at this past weekend’s NADA art fair in Miami, were these giant “paintings” by the English Glaswegian Laura Aldridge, at the booth of Kendall Coppe gallery of Glasgow. Aldridge’s pieces represent, I guess, a new kind of superrealism, since they are hand-made, hand-painted enlargements of real pockets that Aldridge has sourced from secondhand clothes. I like the way they relate to the scale and shape of traditional heroic paintings, and how they re-root a painter’s “canvas” in the textiles of everyday life.
The Daily Pic: Canada gallery flogs rugs and fine art – and wit – at the NADA fair.
I’ve said it more than once: The world’s art fairs have far more in common with souks than with museums. That’s why I shot this photo of the booth of a New York gallery called Canada, at the NADA fair in Miami, which happily set out to prove me right. Owner Phil Grauer invited Yousef Idia, the Moroccan-born husband of one of the gallery’s artists, to sell Berber rugs from the floor of the booth. “Come peddle your rugs, and I will peddle my pictures,” Grauer remembers saying. The dealer feels that “the structure of the rugs matches the structure of many of the paintings I’m interested in.” And, he says, given the pain everyone suffers at art fairs, having rugs on the floor “kind of softens the blow”.