Chelsea Extended: More Art, “Less Famous”
I compared all the huge names showing, now I want to talk about the less famous artists I saw exhibiting in Chelsea. I laugh at this thought, less famous. Of course showing in Chelsea means you are known, someone has already recognized you. You cannot be a nobody and get a show in Chelsea, that’s not the way it works anymore. As I wander through the different galleries, I notice Yale is plastered all over the CVs I care to look over. I think of my friend, Linda, who completed her MFA at Yale also, but is much more low key, not making it a habit to submit work to galleries or throw Yale around. So I represent her and do that for her.
I do have some favorite spots in Chelsea I like to visit, and this pays off as I discover one of my new favorite artists, Frank Yamrus at Clampart Gallery. I seem to always like the work exhibited here and today is no exception. Yarmus is exhibiting some very unique self portraits that I absolutely adore in his show titled I Feel Lucky. I have never seen self portraits as revealing as these. More than capturing his image, each photo exposes a very intimate side of this man. It’s amazing to see how imagery can say so much. Yamrus muses topics such as life, death, sexuality, and perversion as he talks about himself. I found myself drawn deeper into this intimate conversation, wanting to continue. While not all of his imagery is sexually related, I look around, wishing he would be in Seven Minutes. Though a far-fetched dream, as I look at his prices, they are in line with other artists I currently work with. Maybe I am heading in the right direction, towards the path of curating and expanding the list of artists I work with.
Stricoff Fine Art has quite a few great artists put together, but my favorite is discovering the work of Rimi Yang. Painting images of prim and proper women of different cultures, she does anything but present a perfect appearance. These women seem to exist in some chaotic world. Depicting them in fine, traditional clothing, the blurred environment they occupy recontexualizes their lives, forcing me to confront the women themselves. As they emerge from these expressive environments, the women are lacking expression. Not a hint of a smile, not the revelation of anger, these women seem ambivalent to their situations, of their lives, at least for this one fleeting, captured moment. Yang discusses in her artist statement how beauty exists as a comparison to the ugliness. She refers to a William Blake poem where all the people are rich and happy, and heaven sunk.
Paul Graham’s photography also caught my interest at the Pace Gallery, with his show, The Present. His main concept was to photograph different circumstances of people in the same location, finding parallels with a basic premise that we are all not so different after all and that we share the places we live our lives. I am reminded of the work of JR, a photographer that enlarges and posters his images all over the world, often of Israelis and Palestinians, proving that if you place them next to each other, you can not tell what they believe in.
Graham chose to display his large photos in sets of two at various heights on the wall, including some pieces a few inches off the floor, an interesting choice. While the photos where shot at mostly eye level, this particular displays forced the viewer to look down as they consider the art. I always want to see new ideas to display art. Although, I am still deciding how I feel about the contribution this particular display adds to this body of work.
Piet van den Boog at Mike Weiss Gallery has done amazing, huge, haunting portraits. Staring at you dead on, you are confronted by the subject, feeling an uneasy gaze. Bruised and Battered, van den Booge depicts them with bright blue and green shades of patina, interspersed with rusted tones, hinting at a much deeper age, discussing their emotional history. Looking worn and weathered, these confrontational portraits are capturing a much more raw side of his subjects, exposing a vulnerability normally not seen. He pushes these ideas literally, as he chemically etched into the lead surfaces he has chosen to work on.
Exhibiting at Luhring Augustine is Michelangelo Pistoletto. He is a contemporary painter I remember reading about and looking up further. It was probably a review of one of his previous shows. Pistoletto’s interactive paintings are referred to as mirror paintings, however, they are actually photo silk screened images on steel. This instantly places the viewer in the painting plane. The imagery primarily shifts between people working, talking with their back to you, and objects of construction. When he could place the viewer anywhere, in any exotic locale, he chooses construction sites, wood pallets, and behind orange plastic fencing for this particular series. Unusual choices to converse with. I enjoy that he involves the viewer in such a simplistic way. That is a concept for me to consider. These pieces force the viewer to contemplate themselves and reality. These works combine both conceptual and figurative concepts. I think of my friend, Kelly Reid Walls, ‘ is perfect for these works. She finds a way to interact with most art pieces, most do not involve viewer participation. I would love to see what she would come up with for these pieces.
Chelsea, as usual, was amazing and did not disappoint. While the area has changed considerably from its inception, thankfully, the mission of art is still strong. Experimentation and inspiration was rampant. While these were some of my personal favorites, I had a hard time just discussing five. I literally spend two days in and out of these warehouses full of galleries. I left with a ton of photos, lots of notes, plenty to contemplate, and so much inspiration.