Some highlights from a weekend of visits to galleries in Chelsea and Williamsburg:
Kota Ezawa The Simpson Verdict 2001 DVD still in installation view
Murray Guy (unfortunately the site hasn't been updated) has a very smart group show, "in words and pictures," which includes several of the gallery's own artists. The wrapper refers to the common thread of various dramatic texts, whether printed or spoken, which runs through the two exhibition spaces.
Dasha Shishkin Ham Inspector 2005 acrylic and marker on wall dimensions variable [pretty large - ed.] detail
Mike Paré Together We Can Do This 2002 graphite and egg tempera on paper 22" x 30"
Cohan and Leslie has quietly become more and more a gallery which just can't be ignored. The current show. "Much Madness is Divinest Sense," is a knockout, distinguished by work both subtle and definitely not-so-subtle.
Tony Feher Super Happy Special Group II (Green Bow) 2004 mixed media 11.5" x 13" installation view
D'Amelio Terras has hit something of a jackpot with "One-Armed Bandit," which uses the conceit of the eponymous gaming robot to feature work by Polly Apfelbaum, Tony Feher and Joanne Greenbaum, three of the gallery's artists. Once again I found it hard to look at anything else when Feher has is showing his stuff.
Don Doe Three Friends 2004 oil on linen 60" x 48" large detail
Oliver Kamm (Gallery 5BE) is showing the work of Don Doe. Don't let the scary drama of the images in (any) reproduction put you off. If you get up to the second floor of the gallery you'll find these outrageous pirates have real staying power. The effect is somewhere between Rubens and Mad Magazine, with the Antwerp master holding the balance. When you get there, look at those gorgeous highlights, especially on the prominent gelatinous telescopes.
Betty Woodman Aztec Vase #1 (V.B) 2004 glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer and paint 35" x 28" x 20"
Max Protetch is showing new work by the magnificent sculptor Betty Woodman. Nothing I can show here can do justice to the quality of what you will see in the gallery. I think this is the best work she has ever shown, and the timing is perfect, since I understand the Metropolitan has scheduled an important retrospective for 2006.
James Hyde Equivalent 2004 wood on chromed steel 49" x 68" x 4.5" installation view
Rachel Berwick Lonesome George 2005 still from video in installation
Brent Sikkema is showing James Hyde in the space recently vacated by American Fine Arts, thus doubling the gallery's exhibition area. Hyde continues to confound whatever boundary might still exist between painting and sculpture, and he always does it with a smile. With her own sculptural installations in the space to the west, Rachel Berwick and Lonesome George encourage the sober contemplation of great loss.
Aaron Spangler The Sniper's Home 2004-2005 carved maple, black gesso, graphite 32" x 36" x 4" detail
Ryan Johnson Ghosting 2004 paper, acrylic paint, epoxy, color-aid, matte medium, aluminum rod, wire 74" x 22" x 22" detail of installation
The Zach Feuer Gallery opened two shows on Saturday. Zach mentioned to us that it was his "war show." At first I didn't understand what he meant. Sure, there was violence in the imagery shown by both of these artists, but it seemed to be pretty much a homemade violence. Then I managed to remember that in democracies wars are always homemade by definition. So there we are.
Aaron Spangler shows elaborate faux-naive carved-wood dioramas which have been totally blackened, suggesting, at least to me, monumental bronze castings. They reward a thorough inspection, both for their details and their larger significance.
In the gallery's other space Ryan Johnson has assembled three amazing sculptures composed largely of colored paper. At least two of these painfully frail and incredibly exacting forms describe the fragmentation of physical time.
William Lamson Irving Pointing to God 2003 digital C-print 24" x 36"
Pierogi 2000 is presenting large photographs by William Lamson in the smaller gallery space. I've seen examples of Lamson's work one at a time in various venues for a year or more. My early interest is reinforced by this strong show of images of what can still best be described as the American heartland. Lamson's camera seems to love this world, even if it refuses to accept it on its terms alone.
THE SOUTHFIRST SECTION HAS BEEN UPDATED AND CORRECTED [February 3]
Ellen Takata Sleeper 2005 fabric sculpture, aproximately 20" x 14" x 11"
At Southfirst Maika Pollack and Florian Altenburg are showing paintings and drawings by Rebecca Bird and new sculpture and watercolors by Ellen Takata.
When I first posted this item there was very little information available about either artist, on the site or in the gallery, but I was intrigued by a number of small, soft works by Takata, a larger example of which appears in the image above. Maika had been suffering both from the flu and her exceptional absence from this excellent gallery - and its data manufactory - but today (Thursday) she wrote that she is now fully recovered. The show can be seen until February 13.
Excerpts from Maika's intriguing notes on these sculptures:
[The show, "Winter Indoors," is named] for an artists book by Takata that features the adventures of a sock cat and an ex-samurai in a New England home during the wintertime coupled with haikus . . . .
Ellen Takatas soft sculpture figures are small creatures conjured from scraps of fabric taken from the artists own closet. The Scholars Rocks refer to the Chinese meditation tool and status symbol of the literari; other sculptures resemble animals (Octopus on Rock, Fox, Spiderbaby) or human-ish figures (Aristocrat, Topknot, Ghost). These gently animate things seem to refer to the Shinto belief that nature is littered with small gods; they might be the population of a childs winter toy chest, or a collection of imaginary companions made real. A series of eight companion watercolors evoke natural scenes and creatures. The exhibition seems to create a family of slight, somewhat ephemeral beings.
Lisa DiLillo This Call May be Monitored 2004 still from video installation
Finally, I confess to being more charmed than ever by repeated visits to Lisa DiLillo's sensitive little video, "This Call May Be Monitored," currently installed at Momenta Art. Barry and I had first seen it at Fish Tank Gallery last summer where we thought we had the basic conceit down, but it was during the opening reception so we missed much of the audio. It's those recorded sounds which really put the piece over the top.
[Paré image from Chan and Leslie; Woodman image from Max Protetch; Berwick image from Brent SIikkema; Lamson image from Pierogi 200; DiLillo image from Momenta Art]