Hello again and goodbye for now, Art21 blogging community. As a guest blogger for the past couple of weeks, I’ve loved sharing thoughts on contemporary art in New York City and hearing your comments. If you’ve enjoyed my videos, I hope you will visit my website for free downloads or subscribe to my iTunes podcast (as you may have done for Art21’s exclusive videos).
In parting, let me share a few further thoughts on and pictures of a few of the most thought provoking exhibitions Chelsea at the moment.
Tomma Abts’ tiny paintings have the power to stop a speeding art critic. The pressure to see as much art in as little time as possible (a bad approach, I know) usually has me racing in and out of galleries making snap judgments about whether to pause, come back, or move on. Abts’ show at David Zwirner Gallery literally arrested my attention, surprising me not least because the small canvases could have easily been lost on vast white walls. Instead, they zing with energy, particularly Feio, which brings to mind Russian Constructivism, Bridget Riley, and a cheap decoder ring rolled into one jittery vision.
A few years back, I stumbled on Abts still tinkering with the installation of her work at a press preview. As she intensely scrutinized a perfect painting hung perfectly on a perfect wall, it helped me understand why her work looked determined to within an inch of its life. Though they appear so controlled, paintings like Bilte pioneer their own spatial relationship between figure and ground; colors and forms are just beyond familiarity and some electric charge–like the three flashes of orange brightness here–animates each geometric composition.
Anne Chu was dubbed “one of the best figurative sculptors around” by Roberta Smith after her 2003 solo show at 303 Gallery, an accolade the likes of which doesn’t come often or easily. Smith didn’t go into detail about her criteria, but Chu supplies plenty for viewers to ponder, nodding to art history with subject matter taken from canonical sculpture and pushing her materials in challenging directions. My first impression on entering her recent show at 303’s 21st Street space was that the new work bore an affinity to Matthew Monahan’s recent sculptures that also incorporate figures from folklore and art history. But Chu’s characters are more forthright, directly confronting the viewer, not merging with other imagery or the base. They want to interact; each figure in the show turns to face the front door with the exception of From A Hanging Garden which resembles both calligraphy in space and a complex wood carving and offers a place at the center of the show to stop and converse.
Dana Hoey had to overcome her success to make good work. Nearly ten after having been included in the influential show of female photographers, Another Girl Another Planet, then lumped together with a group of so-called “girl photographers,” Hoey’s strong show at Friedrich Petzel Gallery makes the case for her independence (another reluctant alumni of the “group,” Nikki S. Lee, is coincidently showing across the street at Sikkema Jenkins and Co, but could take a page out of Hoey’s book about moving on). Using a genre-busting mix of narrative, portraiture, and nature photography, Hoey tells a loose tale of environmental apocalypse. Dividing the gallery into four sections, she imagines the effect of ash fallout, a freeze, thaw, drought, and flood on the landscape and its inhabitants without creating an environmentalist parable or easily read storyline. Instead, the eclectic mix of shots is in turn gorgeous, haunting and sobering leaving us wanting to know more.