Photo by Alex Delfanne (courtesy Hauser & Wirth, New York & Ibid Projects, London)
Anj Smith’s “R.” (2010. Oil on linen. 42.5 x 38 cm / 16 3/4 x 15 in.).
Short gallery season packs punch
Noteworthy exhibitions as 2010 winds down
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN
Shortly after Labor Day, New York’s galleries reopen en masse — with countless simultaneous openings. Most often on a Thursday (but also on Fridays and Saturdays), artists, collectors, curators, dealers and bystanders crowd the sidewalks as they drift from venue to venue. These first nights of fall mark a moment of solidarity and focus — an opportunity to collect strength for a short season that peaks in early November when Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips host their major art auctions. Rather than looking solely at September, this column will offer a glimpse at some of the most noteworthy exhibitions scheduled for the remainder of 2010.
On September 16, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (521 W. 21st St.) unveils a new project by the American artist Sarah Sze (through Oct. 23). In recent years, Sze — who is a 2003 recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program genius grant — has gained much recognition for her intelligent and ephemeral installations. Made of a large variety of small-scale (usually household) items, her constructs are staggeringly complex — vehemently defying the notion of architectural boundaries by invading their surroundings by penetrating walls or digging deep into the ground. Not unlike nerve strings or web links, all of Sze’s elements are connected. Employing painterly and sculptural techniques, she ultimately establishes faceted networks that despite their convolution reveal a sense of intricate organization.
Though it’s only been a few months since the international powerhouse Hauser & Wirth (32 E. 69th St.) opened its New York branch, it’s already proven to be one of the city’s most enchanting venues. Instead of inaugurating the fall with heavy hitter fare, the gallery will focus on the young, London-based artist Anj Smith (through Oct. 2). Smith’s paintings are serious contemplations of anxiety inspired by the uncertainties that color our world. Her subjects are extreme and address issues of identity, eroticism, and mortality. Rendered with a sincere devotion to Realist detail, Smith’s compositions are dominated by apocalyptic landscapes — which are occasionally home to mysterious female protagonists. Myth, glamour, decay and darkness mingle as if to foreshadow looming devastations. Her vocabulary is vast and reflects an affinity for 17th century Dutch vanitas paintings, medieval symbolism and Renaissance aesthetics.
Freshly moved to the Bowery, Sperone Westwater (257 Bowery) will celebrate their new location with recent work by one of their most established artists — Guillermo Kuitca (Sept. 22 – Nov. 6). Kuitca, who lives and works in Buenos Aires, received significant international attention after he was selected for a 1991 “Projects” show at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and participated at Documenta IX in 1992. This will be Kuitca’s eighth solo show with the gallery, featuring paintings that were developed from a series he showed at the 2007 Venice Biennale when representing Argentina. Incorporating fragmented maps from randomly selected locations and architectural floor plans, Kuitca explores the interplay of light and shadow as well as the color and transparency of planes. The works here will range from monumental to intimate — emphasizing the shifting height of the gallery’s new space.
The solo exhibition of New York abstract painter Stephen Mueller (Oct. 21 – Nov. 27 at Lennon, Weinberg — 514 W. 25th St.) should not be missed. While Mueller has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad since the 1980s, this will be his first local solo show in four years — and his first with this gallery. A vibrant palette and iconic forms that are seemingly floating within infinite spheres characterize his work. Here, structure and focus are carefully balanced to ponder themes of universality and limitlessness. Cosmology, Eastern spiritualism, an interest in symbolism and the color psychology propagated by 19th century Romantics, have had an impact on Mueller’s oeuvre — and yet, his personal synthesis of such influences makes for a unique blend. At first glance, Mueller’s shapes can look flawless, their edges as cut and clear as that of graphic ornaments. Upon close inspection, however, one finds the artist’s hand in each. In many ways, Mueller’s work aims to simplify without looking simple — offering a meditative code to existential riddles.
Concentrating on one of the most famous contemporary artists, The Drawing Center (35 Wooster St.) will present approximately 50 works on paper by Gerhard Richter (through Nov. 18). This is an enhanced version of a 2009 exhibition that was on view at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (UK). The works date from 1966 to 2005 and will provide a rare overview of his practice on paper. The layering of color washes, without losing light or vibrancy, is one of Richter’s more unsung skills — yet one struggles at times to trust that each painting is a contemplation and not just a mere blend of gesture and technique. This particular exhibition will aid in revealing how sincere Richter’s consideration of his medium is.
At Kathryn Markel Fine Arts (529 W. 20th St.), New York painter Lisa Breslow will present new paintings that capture moments of quietude in the notoriously loud city she calls home (Nov. 11 – Dec. 11). For years, Breslow has explored New York’s buzzing urban landscape in its calmest state — be it during early morning hours or in the aftermath of a snowstorm. More recently, her pursuit of tranquility has led her to study Central Park at dusk and concentrate on still lifes in front of her own window. Rather than being romantic, Breslow’s search for distinct moods is inquisitive. In her work, we find the city devoid of its invasive crowds — and suddenly, lonely traffic lights and building facades draw our attention. It is through this crystallization that we get a sense of the city’s true character, and encounter its iconic stature.
In “Transient Borders,” Thatcher Projects (539 W. 23rd St.) will present new works by Fran Siegel (Sept. 16 – Oct. 16). In a series of monumental drawings, Siegel gathers visual references from the sprawling urban topography that surrounds her Los Angeles studio. By layering, drawing and stitching her materials, she fuses multiple aerial viewpoints that examine how shifting light conditions impact the atmosphere of a particular space. In addition to the drawings, Siegel will also construct a site-specific installation — namely, a volumetric woven structure of wire, porcelain and incandescent light. Through overlapping and fluctuating patterns of edges, images and densities, Siegel creates unique spaces that seem to be in flux and hence, read as independent organisms. She not only challenges both subject and medium, but also our perception of their traditional roles.
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, The Pace Gallery will present a comprehensive retrospective highlighting the many artists, exhibitions, and people responsible for making it one of the leading international art institutions (Sept. 17 - Oct. 16). The show will unfold in the gallery’s four local venues, each focusing on a different aspect. While the gallery’s enduring devotion to American Pop art and Abstract Expressionism will dominate at 510 W. 25th St., its contributions to Minimalism and the Post-Modernist movement will be featured at 545 W. 22nd St. Its contemporary program will be shown on 510 W. 25th St. (in contrast, 32 E. 57th St. will house mini-reprises of its groundbreaking historical exhibitions). What makes this celebration most intriguing is the fact that it will bring together key masterpieces that have passed through Pace’s hands. Important loans from notable public and private collections — including from the Estate of Mark Rothko, the Fondation Beyeler and the Guggenheim Museum — guarantee a rare treat.