Exploring Chelsea – Do Bigger Names Mean Better Art?
The last few days had cool weather, perfect to stroll through the galleries in Chelsea. I always love Chelsea, the original art area of New York. Even though it is very different now (try unaffordable for artists), there is still something special about this area. It’s still a dream of most artists to show here. If you have never been here, it may be accurate to describe this area as gallery stacked upon gallery. Huge warehouses and office buildings are clustered together, each housing normally several galleries. As I walk into gallery after gallery without ever being acknowledged, I remind myself, You’re in New York. The pretension makes me laugh. There were some big names showing in the galleries this month. I decided to see what they had to offer and to see if they were worth the price I know these galleries paid to have them there. Of course, not out right payment, but after promotions, catalog printing, shipping, huge opening reception, flying in the artist, etc. It adds up very quickly.
David Lynch had a show at the Tilton Gallery. His work was as crazy and deranged as I was hoping. The desolation seeped off the walls of the posh gallery space. With phrases such as I don’t love you and
everything is fucking broke, there was no perfect art here. Most pieces were made on cardboard using charcoal, found objects, and other unidentifiable mediums to create the grotesque figures that reside in Lynch’s head. I have been a huge David Lynch fan since watching the Twin Peaks series and immersing myself in his films. The dissension he draws you into is like walking into an unknown dark alley. You will meet seedy people, get into a complicated situation, and before you know it, you’re in deep. The show had just opened the previous week.
David LaChapelle also had a show up of his large scale still life photography at Fred Torres Collaborative. Known for creating over the top celebrity fantasy worlds, these
pieces were much more subdued, although still had his characteristic absurdity imbedded in each photo. The still life began with a traditional flower motif, but quickly updates the idea of what should be documented. His color palate starts with the flowers and extended into the modern items placed in the composition. Mylar balloons, a child’s toy, the uneaten half of fruit, candles, a burning American flag, plastic items, lots of plastic…and this is all in one photo. In fact, so many plastic items were used, I questioned if it was a direct commentary or just pure coincidence, a documentation of real life, as no items were completely unknown or unusual. I am immediately drawn to the suffocating bouquet, wrapped in plastic, surrounded by medicine bottles, plastic tubing and other familiar, yet out of place objects.
I was very excited to hear that Georg Baselitz had work up at the Gagosian Gallery (number one). He is a German painter considered a pioneer of Neo-Expressionism. I have only seen large exhibits of his work in Germany, never in the US.
The scale of his work was so immense! The main image on most of his pieces are people, but what the eye immediately recognizes is just the surface of Baselitzs work. His paintings confront what is reality through rough, expressionistic depictions. The emotion and chaos take over, ruling the twelve foot canvases.
The show at the (second) Gagosian Gallery was Roy Lichtenstein. They were exhibiting the Chinese Landscape series he did apparently the year before he died. While the pieces are done in Lichtenstein’s stylistic benday printing dots, the subject has changed from moments of biting wit to serene landscapes. This was the only photo I was able to take before I was told no photos were allowed. I felt this was a little silly – you can take pictures at one Gagosian location, but not the other? But working in galleries, I’m sure it had to do with artist stipulations or who lent the work, etc. I know how this works.
There was a lot of interesting art spread out in the galleries. How did the big name artists compare? David LaChapelle and Roy Lichtenstein both displayed worked that differs from their normal repertoire and I found this exciting to look at, not to see the same work over and over, just in different colors. David Lynch, well, his work was exactly as I had expected yet still there was never a dull moment. The creepy world of Lynch will always intrigue me. Georg Baselitzs work was done in his traditional style, yet the scale is what was captivating to me. Anything smaller would have undermined what he was trying to do. While I made a point to see these shows, by no means would I ever pretend to like the art because someone famous made it. There was not one of these shows where I loved every piece, but it was definitely an interesting day.