Chelsea Galleries in June, 2011

Another monthly gallery stroll through some Chelsea galleries last week.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of interesting shows, and especially some good painting shows.  First, practically everyone has been raving about Mark Grotjahn‘s exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, and frankly I have been ready to hate it (just my contrarian nature :)).  When I entered the vast gallery space, I wa at a loss to what to think of the work at first.  These thick impastoed abstract paintings seemed almost too old fashioned in both composition and color.  Yet the longer I stayed with the work, the more I started to really enjoy the sheer exuberance of the paint, the weirdness of the colors and the energy the paintings projected.  I also thought that Grotjahn was German before looking at his CV, as German abstract painters seem to be the only ones who can “go crazy” with the paint, and was surprised to find that Grotjahn was from California.  Yet it made sense.  His work seems to combine both European and American abstract tradition and history that might be considered “out of fashion” these days, but I ended up quite admiring the work and staying for a long time.

On the same street, I also saw a show of former school mate, Adam Ogilvie at josée bienvenu.  His combination of whimsical sculptures and paintings were lovely, and as usual they were done with an utmost craftsmanship.   Other noteworthy shows at this outing were: Gillian Wearing at Tanya Bonakdar, Florian Maier-Aichen at 303, Sean Landers at Friedrich Petzel, David Salle at Mary Boone, Louise Bourgeois at Cheim and Read, and Li Songsong at the Pace.

I quite enjoyed Gillian Wearing’s Snapshots, a video projections that were hung like slow moving (Harry Potterish) photographic portraits, but some quite creepy elements in her other videos and photos that made me uncomfortable to linger in the gallerr.  I almost laughed out lout when I saw Sean Landers’s crown paintings, and thought it was a great idea.  I just hope that they were painted a little better; maybe not quite so many of them or at least some of them projecting much more intensity (with more details, perhaps).  Li Songsong, a young Chinese painter’s New York debut at the Pace was an impressive showcase for his paint handling skills, but unlike thick paints of Mark Grotjahn, Li’s pieces seem formulaic and simply show-offish even though I quite enjoyed deconstructing the technics, mediums and supports of his paintings.

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