New York City Exhibits

February 25 Weekend:

MOMA, Mary Ryan Gallery, Bailey Gallery, St. John the Divine exhibit The Value of Water

My trip to the Big Apple began with a visit to MOMA to see the two printmaking shows, and the Diego Rivera Murals, a show curated by Leah Dickerman and Anna Indych-Lopez.

This was my first real look at Diego Rivera’s working methods and painting style up close. As “movable” murals that MOMA had commissioned in the 1930s, these pieces feel almost newly finished. All 5 murals commemorate aspects of Mexican history. Riveria added another three murals later that celebrate life in New York City. I was really impressed by the strength of his drawing style and the beautiful way he rendered volumetric forms. The sizes of these pieces are enormous. He shows masterful skill in composition, narrative, and perspective. They also have amazing expressive force, beyond my expectations. Even the large cartoon preparatory drawings are just as impressive in this respect. 

The two printmaking shows share some of the same artists’ work, but both are a refreshing look at contemporary printmaking practices. I was eager to see these two shows based on Faye Hirsch’s talk at Cornell a few weeks prior. Faye Hirsch, of course, is the senior Editor for Art in America, which has been a must read for me the past several years. Faye finds some great writers who can write in a language that is understandable. These writers are both informed and have a keen art-historical perspective.

Printin’, was the smaller of the two shows. Organized by Ellen Gallagher and Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books, featured the large portfolio called DeLuxe by Ellen Gallagher. The concoction of collage, incorporated references, traditional processes and digital elements was mind-boggling, but intriguing. This show of course had some great Veja Celmins and Xu Bing woodcuts. I also enjoyed Len Lye’s line videos, Hannelore Baron monoprints, Keith Haring’s large woodcuts, Mark Bradfords’s screenprint and lithograph printed by Cirrus editions, and Jean Dubbuffet’s Wall with Parachute lithograph.

Print/Out was an amazing show, not just for the amount of outstanding prints, but the layout of the galleries was unique. The magnified dot pattern used in digital screenprinting was translated to some of the walls, and some work was displayed on it, or in some cases prints were hung very high above eye level in a very effective way. I loved Lucy Mackenside and Paulina Plowska’s poster screenprints, and Julie Mehretu’s Landscape Allegories. Xu Bing had more work in this show as well. I absolutely love whatever he does.

The galleries in Chelsea were a lot of fun to see. It was my first time to these particular galleries -- Mary Ryan Gallery and Bailey Gallery, both galleries that Hannah Barrett suggested I should look at for finding a possible artist mentor. I was struck with how small the spaces were, and the amount of capital that must go into these ventures. Mary Ryan had an interesting display of drypoint prints by Kakyoung Lee called Dance, Dance, Dance of a single figure dancing. Close to 200 prints were made of slight changes of movement of the figure. It reminded me a lot of William Kentridge, because she then shot images of each of the finished prints and produced a film, a kind of digital flip book, to show the dancer moving. It was very well done. My colleague Roberto at the Ink Shop would have loved to see this show. He spent last summer doing drypoints on plexiglass of dancers. The idea of stopped motion is very interesting. Bailey Gallery featured artist Louise Belcourt in a show entitled Mounds. The sense of color and spatial volume of the shapes were incredibly well done, but not something I fell in love with. The idea of mounds, though, has been one image I have begun to really think about in my upcoming work.

Lastly, the exhibit The Value of Water at the Church of St. John the Divine had some great pieces but otherwise an odd space in which to exhibit work. My colleague and friend Kadie Salfi exhibited her camel installation Camel Caravan, which looked wonderful in the space. The highlight piece in the show was the circular installation of Terry Tempest Williams, Beth Roth, and Felicia Resor's piece called Council of Pronghorn. The skulls of pronghorns were placed on metal poles placed in a circular, a memetic device that alludes to Native American  peace-pipe ceremonies. This council is a strangely powerful voice in this amazing spiritual place, a cross-section of spiritual energy. The effect was prayerful and iconic.

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