Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Rise of Optical Art: Ricci Albenda at Andrew Kreps

It wasn't too long ago I had my first close-encounter with "Op-Art" in the form of sculptor Robert Lazzarini "skulls" at the Whitney's "Bitstreams" exhibition in 2001.
(image at left taken from Pierogi 2000, all rights reserved)

I was taken aback by the strange carving that lay before my eyes, making me think that I either had accidentally consumed some peyote, or the brain tumor behind my right eye was REALLY starting to grow unimpeded.

Taking the last few years into account, Mr. Lazzarini has made a nice mark for himself in the realm of contemporary art.

But more importantly, it's opened new doors for other artists playing with visual perception-- including my own current personal fave, Brooklyn's own Ricci Albenda.

Albenda's work is truly stunning in its mastership of optical trickery.

Are his pieces caving in or pushing out?
Is this recessed or jutting forward?

I like to stand in front of Ricci's pieces taking in the subtle transitional shadings between each variant of brilliant white.

It really can give one a splitting headache at times-- kind of like a Bridget Riley work, except with full-fledged three-dimensionality coming into play.

For this show at Andrew Kreps, Albenda takes some of his recent mural work experience (including a great piece in Chicago) and transforms an entire wall of the gallery into a tromp l'eoil fantasy.

Where does visual perception begin and end?

Can we adjust ourselves to our surroundings by literally transforming the background into a different dimension?

I like how these works differ from his usual more phallic imagery, (along with a sort of sunken-in fortune-cookie shape).

This time around, I feel as if Albenda is taking into account a gamer's world-- each solid geometric form, each hallway could be a background right out of "Final Fantasy."

I can just see the running valiant soldier hiding behind one of the walls while he waits to go into the next room.

It certainly also takes imbedded cultural imagery, such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" final scenes, into account.

But the use of the blinding white in Albenda's pieces makes it more than just about gradient shading, or turning corners into hidden lairs-- it's more of a gradual increase as the eye moves from left to right in each image.

Albenda's piece included in the Fall 2006 new Boston Insitute of Contemporary Art's "Supervision" exhibition was marred by a cramped space-- too much artwork in not enough square footage.

I felt he had to battle it out with the Kapoors and Hatoum pieces just to get attention-- even though his piece was by far the best in show.

I think Albenda's work is much more suited to a larger, open space such as the special dual room built for the Kreps show.

Take in the close-ups here.

The show will be up until June 16th, 2007.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

28 Days Later for Jerry's Kids

For the past month or so, out of sheer force of habit, I've kept getting my weekly copy of The Village Voice with the knowledge of, "Hello!! You know he's no longer there. Why are you still getting this rag?"

I think I've been unable to come to terms that my free midweek treat is no longer there to accompany my sushi dinners on 17th street.

So truth be told, as of this afternoon, (it's been a bit of a holy grail quest for me over the past few weeks-- with each newsstand and store having NO COPIES) I picked up my week-old copy of New York Magazine for one reason-- to see venerable art critic Jerry Saltz's work.

(Jerry checking out the tunes photo at right credited to

Since Saltz departed the Voice's key reviewer position for his April 2007 magazine launch, I find it kind of humorous that I have fallen victim to such standard marketing science-- that an audience always follows wherever the star ends up.

But I must say, also out of loyalty, I've kept reading the Voice.

But truly the Voice has never felt so dead than it has in the past month and a half since Saltz's departure.

It's like his immense shoes to fill might have been proven irreplaceable.

Each of the reviews since have been truly uninspiring.

I find that they are now tending for the more "uptown" or museum shows, or a bit more conservative.

So the $3 per issue of New York might be worth it-- Saltz already nailed the Ririkrit Tiravanija/Matta-Clark exhibit at David Zwirner last week.

(My own review of that show has been forthcoming for over a month now-- a mixed bag, I originally thought, but Saltz once again is able through persuasion to make me rethink my own opinions with his keen eye, utilizing the multiple layers of experience he possesses.)

So what does Saltz's move mean in the long-term for the Voice?

Less out-of-the-way galleries to be given the spotlight?
Female artists highlighted in decreasing numbers?
Critical market demand no longer balanced with artistic credibility?

I think it remains unclear, given the fact art readership probably doesn't play nearly as an important a role as I'd like to think it does in circulation.

But it will be interesting to see how it affects New York Magazine's own reputation and readership in the upcoming months.

I've always thought of New York as a bit highbrow; concerned more with the fashionista socialite sect than the downtown crew.

I had my own Saltz close encounter not too long ago-- being that I was the last human being allowed in to the Warhol retrospective at Gagosian not too long ago.

There was Jerry getting a private tour right next to me.

I watched how he examined each work, noting his 100% attention to the task at hand.
His bespectacled eyes never deviated from the large-scale works hovering above his tiny frame.

My weeks without Jerry in this interim period have been boring indeed.
It felt nice to have an old love back in my paws.

Cheers to NY Mag for seeking out the world's best.

Bring it on, Jerry.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sex Cells at 49 Grove

There's a certain element to NYC's club scene I've always found to be disingenuous.

Perhaps it comes from my own firsthand experience in the club world as a youngster that has soured me to the mixed drinks, the dark lights, the velvet ropes, the kohl-lined gamin street urchins and silky fabrics.

I'm not one much to venture out for much of anything these days except for the occassional quick gallery peek, or milk and cereal at the store.

So I do declare that at 49 Grove I was a true fish out of water.

I mean, this is the kind of place where you'd most likely encounter Sienna Miller on a back banquette sipping a Vodka Campari w/grapefruit with a Swedish fish at the bottom.

Most likely your dj would be James Iha, or someone even less accessible.

The Sean Lennons and Bijou Phillips of the world all unite under one roof.

So I didn't stay for long, but truth be told, I didn't come for the drinks-- $10 for a really bad chardonnay.

I came (but of course) for the art.
My tense of "come" here, to be fair, is a play on words, for the title of this show--
"Sex Cells"-- is tongue-in-cheek at best, but overall the exhibit is jarred by being woefully undersold in presentation.

A mix of some fine female photographers focusing on the feminine mystique are at the forefront.
Unfortunately, I felt the exhibit doesn't match its surroundings.

The club is all about a celebration of the now, the luxxxe, confidence, extravagance... and definitely having FUN.

The exhibit's finest pieces are in truly dark direct contrast-- a red alert of what happens to naughty little girls and the jarring consequences of being "bad."

In this case, excuse my manhandling of a Pete Yorn album title, it's truly "Music for the Morning After... PILL."

Let's start with the tragic hero of Sebrina Fassbender.

The beautiful redhead in her works signifies such pain and desperation; a last resort; a final cry for help.

I don't think anyone can relate unless they, too, have ended up on a bathroom floor.

The cold porcelain brushing against your skin is a harsh wakeup to reality at hand.

Sebrina tends to specialize in work that displays junkies' sad fate.

Not only do I feel for this girl-- her cascadingly thick hair clumping together while she holds her face in her hands-- but I also can relate to her isolation.

Yes, too much self-reflection can warp a critique, but I find that I'm able to relate best to work that focuses on soul-searching based only on what time can provide-- distance and experience.

"Ding-dong the witch is dead"-- her ruby red slippers and legs in the forefront here are corpse-like.

No munchkins in sight-- but I'm sure towards the end of the night there was dancing.

The Wizard behind the curtain, Johnny LeValley and his Dorothy, Ksenia Hovden, (both of my previous reviewed Le Jungle Gallery Fame) do a great job again with showcasing artists not afraid to take risks.

Yana Toyber is unique in her focus.

Her work feels like an intimate look inside the boudoir of Madame Bovary.

It's amazing that context can influence perception to such a great degree.

Who's to say this woman isn't just a housewife having fun playing dress-up, but the maturity she possesses, the confidence in her sexuality as she brushes her hair showcases she's up for a night she might want to forget.

I can't be certain of the age of the model at hand, but she seems more "experienced," shall we say.

Great piece.

Next, Fumi Nagasaka.

Ms. Nagasaka is a world traveler who spotlights the fashion industry.

Here, she removes elements of glamour and focuses on serenity and peace.

I like how the girl here seems so removed from everything in her dream state.

Her gloriously perfect skin is in direct contrast to the hard-living club scene.
Of course, once again, this could be the day after a night out.

Much as a parent looks with devotion upon their child, so, too, the viewer is pulled in by this photo.

I find myself truly caring for this girl-- worrying if she's okay.

Who will be there for her when she wakes up?

It's something to think about, and I like how Nagasaka uses narrative to tell an untold story.

Finally, Tracey Anopolous, an NYU student.

Gothic beauty-- a bit of Coco Chanel mixed in with some Siouxie Sioux.

I actually don't find this image here to be sexual in the least.

The makeup is great-- theatrical, stagelike, and runway ready.

But I can't say that this image is developed as much as I find the other photographers' work

Perhaps Ms. Anopolous is showing her age here-- but I think she'll do fine work in the future with more career development and focus.

Overall, once again, a delightful creative forray by Hovden and LeValley.

Unfortunately, I don't think a club atmosphere suits this exhibit as well as a gallery would, for one big factor-- lighting.

I noticed other patrons struggling to view the works just as much as I did.

The only light came from my Powershot's far too strong flash-- I apologize immensely for the image quality here.

In a sense, I felt the club was undervaluing the art at hand-- pushing the drinks and atmosphere before creativity.

It will be interesting to see how subsequent shows might go at 49 Grove, but this initial visit might have spoiled it for me.

Back to my cave of solitude I go.

To view some more great work of the artists above, please go to:


Friday, May 11, 2007

Myung-Ock Lim at Denise Bibro Fine Art

Much has been discussed recently on the rise of the international art market.

In many cases, currently we're dealing with a futures market, with investors heavily trading on (hope against hope,) that the work at hand will increase tenfold.

Unfortunately, in many cases most of the newer collectors are speculative at best.

That's why when I evaluate an artist-- I take into account more than just the current work at hand, but look for a gradual career progression and most important of all-- master craftsmanship.

Whether a sculptor, painter, or installation artist, there must be proof in the pudding.

I believe that with age comes expertise.

I also have found that upon numerous viewings, Korea is stepping up with almost unmatched talent.

With this thought process in mind, I come to my newest review, Korean artist Myung-Ock Lim's modernistic take on light, space and technology.

The minimialist exhibit "A Living Being" at Denise Bibro Fine Art represents her own take on life and its many elements through "filtering."
In this case "filtering" is experience through light.
The artist's belief is that life is made up of many parts that become whole.
In much the same way, Lim's works reflect this structure.

Within each of her sculptures, the individual glass plates are hand-painted in varying degrees of gradient color.
Each work--with their majestic arching of angles-- comes to signify something particular.

Dimensions are all variable; each work taking on a new and different meaning, and reflection.

When light hits each work, filtering through the multiples panes, it forms a prism-like effect-- reflecting back upon the viewer.
In her artist statement, Myung states she is fascinated with inner peace and solace-- and wishes to translate that to the viewer through her work.

The shapes are stunningly simplistic in their geometric makeup-- much in the way you look at the clear-cut lines of Fred Sandback or Donald Judd.

But there is the added benefit of the works being on a much more human-scale that some of Judd's greatest works.

I like also how the display shelves or pedestals are clear-- enabling the work to be viewed from mutiple angles-- within each framework exists a different piece.

Multiples pieces together as one.

The exhibit runs until June 9, 2007.
For more info, go to:

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Karina Wisniewska at Sara Tecchia-Roma

There's a song callled "Simplicity is Beautiful" on the great Juliana Hatfield cd, "Only Everything."

You can also apply these very words to painting as well.

Most of the time I find with so many artists that they take on the personas of court jesters-- doing anything and everything just to get your attention.

It's similar to what happens when you walk into a daycare.

Upon entrance you're greeted with cartwheels, frantic jumping up and down; performers ALL-- "Look at me! Watch me! See what I can do?"

But more often than not, the best artist is the shy kid in the back, fingers deeply stuck in the paste, eyes focused on the work at hand.

The artist currently on display at Sara Tecchia-Roma Gallery on West 20th Street has mastered the power of understatement.

Form, line and color all play a direct role in the success of Karina Wisniewska.

But what makes Wisniewska's work different from plain minimalism is the addition she adds--quartz sand-- which forms new pathways through her works, branching out in so many different fabulous directions.

Rather than a distraction, it is a perfect complement.

It calls to mind memories of the intricacies of chocolate truffles in the display case, perhaps; or luxurious wedding napkin designs at the finest boutiques.

I find that each work highlights magnification as well.

Looking closely, you might see the make up of fabric, almost like linen fibers under a microscope.

There's a familiar grid pattern; organizing, categorization, overlay, framework!

Much in the way a tennis racket's gut strings can be manipulated to and fro with your fingers, I see the pathways she was taking to get her work to this point.

The show runs until May 26th.