May 2013 Gallery Roundup in Chelsea

Last Thursday, I took the advantage of the brilliant sunshine to walk around Chelsea galleries to see some shows. Unfortunately many galleries were closed for installation in preparation for their big shows for the upcoming Frieze week, and I will have to go see some of these blockbuster shows next week after my art fairs fatigue wears off somewhat (a blog post on some of the art fairs to come soon). Still there were some interesting exhibitions that I enjoyed this time around.

Orly Genger has a big colorful public art installation of her trademark knitted rope piles at the Madison Square Park. In conjunction, her gallery Larissa Goldston is showing a smaller rope sculpture and small-scale cast metal sculptures in a pop-up space next to Freight + Volume. In contrast to her more ambitious project at the Park, the smaller sculptures seem a bit of an after-thought, or maybe a work still developing. I was somewhat left cold with both William Leavit‘s show at Greeene Naftali and Spencer Finch‘s at James Cohan Gallery. I appreciate both artists’ work, and in the past I liked some of their exhibitions a lot, but this time around, I was disappointed by both artists’ cool detached and overly intellectual approach to the work. Spencer Finch, unlike previous shows where his cerebral and systemic approach to lighting resulted in sensuous environmental experience, showed work that was impossible to understand or appreciate without reading the press release.

In the realm of paintings, I saw a couple of good figure painting shows: I was glad to see that Joan Semmel (at Alexander Gray Associates) continues her decades long examination of female nude through self-portraiture, adding poignancy to the entire endeavor by frankly showing her aging body in motion. I also found Laura Krifka‘s strangely plastic doll like figures at BravinLee Program very interesting. Many contemporary realist figure paintings are based on photos, often resulting in stiffness and artificiality. I am guessing that Krifka also paints from photos combining this photo-realist approach with 18th or 19th century classical paintings styles. Yet in her case, the artificiality and awkwardness heightens sexually-charged and theatrical scenes of women (often in martyrdom), whose contradictions I enjoyed very much. In abstract paintings, a German painter, Bernd Ribbeck (at Harris Lieberman) shows Andrew Kuo (Malborough Chelsea) how same geometric motif can be so much more interesting without having to be bombastically large. Philip Taaffe, in his first solo show at Luhring Augustine, shows his trademark combination of screen printing and free hand paintings. Although I liked these more modestly scaled series of paintings, some of them veered too close to an area rug design compared to the more ambitious canvases that I last saw at Gagosian Uptown a few years ago.

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