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It’s March and what’s the deal with this weather! Early Spring 2002
By Scott Speh

Hey y’all, I do more than just watch TV (not that I should feel the need to defend myself). For instance, tonight before sitting down to watch “24” I did some prepping for dinner tomorrow night. We have a weekly house dinner and it’s my turn to cook: I’m making a cheese tortellini, kielbasa and kale soup and an apple pie (from scratch, natch). Like I said in the last column - Don’t you wish you lived with me?!

Much more art this time: The Armory, the Richter retrospective and scores of gallery shows, plus one little dip into pop culture. Sorry pop junkies, art ascends this week.


Gerhard Richter at MOMA

You can play a little game at this show - the same sort of game you can play at a Rauschenberg or Nauman retrospective - that of “whose career did this work launch?” Much like the two giants above, whose minor studio experiments were fodder for a subsequent generation’s work - think of Rachel Whiteread basing her whole career on Nauman’s “The Space Beneath my Chair” or all of Post-Minimalism based on Rauschenberg’s Black and White Paintings, Richter seems to have jump-started many artists work, especially European photographers and abstract painters. My favorite part of the show was the middle section - little seen (at least for me) experiments in process-based abstract painting from the ‘70s - that seem to hold major sway in the work of Bernard Freize and Albert Oehlen, just to name two major painters from the old world. And Struth, Ruff and Gursky ought to pay royalties to Richter as they’ve strip-mined his photo-based paintings for their output.

This middle section contains some boldly hideous paintings that, even in their hideousness, sucked me in, much like a slack-jawed gawker at a car crash. I’m speaking of the large, ridiculously and luridly colored abstractions from the 70’s that look like gestural geometric abstraction stolen from a shitty gallery from say, Sarasota, and amped up to elephantine scale. The tiny room with 3 gray abstractions and the one sculpture in the show was a revelation for me. Color field, except the color is gray. Process-based, except the process is pure painting, brush-to-canvas. All-over, but strangely detailed. T’is a wonder these were painted before gray became the new black! I liked these works even better than the sublime Ellsworth Kelly gray paintings so elegantly displayed at Matthew Marks last year.

In fact, all of my favorite works in this show were gray. I don’t know what to make of his photo-based work (a gap in my education - I never learned how to deconstruct image-based work. I can’t “complete the text” as a viewer, as it were. This why I have no idea what Jeff Wall’s work is about. And I don’t really care. Sue me). For all the guff about Richter’s coolness and austerity, the seductiveness of his shades-of-gray palette surprisingly sucks me in. I find it oddly sensual. Maybe I secretly find Germanic austerity sexy!


The Consumer Report Guide to Gallery Going
Short and sweet observations: not quite reviews but handy when you want to go window-shopping. (And isn’t gallery going just window-shopping for us littles: we can’t afford any of this shit. This is why the gallerists, the assistants and the desk jockeys sneer at us with contempt. Fuck ‘em, I say - if they’re gonna keep the doors open, I’ll take advantage of the one of the few free things to do in this town.)

Martin Kippenberger at David Zwirner, Soho:
Another artist whose protean output makes me feel lazy. I spend many a night in faceless hotel rooms: why aren’t I making silly drawings on the free stationary?

Jessica Jackson Hutchins in Different Class at Debs & Co., Chelsea:
Jessica Jackson Hutchins showed a funny, poignant, crappy (in a good way) but ultimately sad installation on the trials and travails of Daryl Strawberry. Newspaper clippings, ribbons and butterflies sweetly and shoddily pinned to the wall, this piece’s sentiments hold a powerful sway over our heart, but the ephemeralness of the materials reinforces the chew-‘em-up-and-spit-‘em-out relationship we have with our scandal ridden celebrities.

Clay Ketter at Sonnabend, Chelsea
Since this guy uses construction materials - formica, masonite, roll-tex, drywall, cement, siding, joint compund, joint braces, housepaint - to create his abstractions, you might think I’d like his work: I didn’t. It’s too mannered, too tight, no zest or zing, even the drips of glue and varnish seem planned. And the non-abstractions - simulacra sections of siding with a window - were just glib.

Emil Lukas at Stark, Chelsea
This stuff looked like geological diagrams of construction sites, perhaps core samples of an artists studio or a paint factory. Rectangular, modular pedestal-bound cross sections of puddled, slathered, and caked layers of paint, concrete and plastic. All of the stuff I like most about abstract art: alternately hideous and beautiful, about process and structure.

Karen Kilimnik at 303, Chelsea
After they exhaust celebrities and childhood fantasies, today’s pop-obsessed artists have to show that they’re down with art history. Kilimnik’s work is always charming and delightfully quirky, but here her subject matter is tad boring.

Wim Delvoye at NewMuseum, Soho
This contraption shits daily at 2:30 and eats better you and I do. You not supposed to be able to smell this stuff, but…

Jeronimo Elespe at Von Lintel, Chelsea
These are sexy little paintings, and I do mean little: less than an inch square, yet still meticulously hand-brushed, detailed and sumptuous. Figurative painting: is it only interesting on a microscopic scale?

Rob De Mar at Clementine, Chelsea
His fuzzy model-train pine tree accretions get a little seemy-saming: didn’t he show this same stuff at this same space roughly a year ago? Oh yeah, he did have little metal box houses on sticks then with just a couple of these European vacation sculptures. The best ones add contemporary trappings to the Alpine resort mood - like satellite and antennae equipment soaring high above the forests. My fave was a tiny tropical island protected by a delicate fuzzy web, like an electrified force field.

Juan Cespedes at Andrew Kreps, Chelsea
Cespedes joins Jim Lambie, Brad Tucker, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, John Bock, Pedro Velez in a neo-grunge semi-movement of artists who use humble, even shoddy materials in a carefully considered degree of shabbiness who themes tend to include rock-n-roll, sports, trash, youth culture and wistful romantic longings. Their patron saint aesthetically (but certainly not politically) might be Thomas Hirschorn (with a dollop of Jason Rhoades) as all use non-archival, not-art materials like packing tape, newspaper, mylar, film, toys, album covers; basically anything at hand. The gallery info describes Cespedes practice as “lo-fi versions of the hi-fi” which is an apt enough description for the artists above. A crappy plywood shack that housed a projected video a looped drawing, looking much like an “Etch-a-Sketch,” paired with delightfully annoying tinny percussion, dominated the gallery. Atop this shack sat an improvised satellite dish comprised of a tripod cradling an upturned umbrella. Also on view: a crash scene - an over-turned go-kart likely built by five year olds - it had a plastic child-holder for an adult bike as its cockpit - accompanied by an effigy of a passed out drag racer; a plexi vitrine full of elegantly sculpted trash - calling cards, plastic sheets, unfurled 35mm film, action figures, product packaging; and yes, another show with a turntable - much like Tom Sachs at the Armory, turntables are everywhere.

Zak Smith at Frederich Freiser, Chelsea
Sensitive and funky painting/collage/photographs of young women in their milieu: dorms, offices, and studios. Although the gallery info disputes this, it looks like he painted over photographs. I was drawn to the tension between his expressive use of line and reticulation of watery washes of paint and the semi-photo-realist veneer: he could have a great career as an illustrator. What takes these beyond illustration is they seem to capture some sort of charming mix of vulnerability and defiance in these young alterna-chicks. Looks like anime but not, like pop but not, like old master portraiture but not.

Tim Hawkinson at Ace, Tribeca
An artist with elephantitis who actually gets its right. Hawkinson doesn’t lose any of his quirkiness, his love for quotidian materials, his sense of humor and play when he pumps his work up to this gargantuan scale. Love how these ur-stomachs bellow and moan, unsettling and funny all at the same time.

Alice Neel at Robert Miller, Chelsea
The only good artist Miller shows. Nice drawings.

Fischli and Weiss at Matthew Marks, Chelsea:
Tourism as art: Kids, it’s really that easy! Just go somewhere and take some snapshots.

Type A at Ten-in-One, Chelsea
The photos are not so interesting but the video is rather poignant. At times this group’s work is tad too macho for me but in this video they explore ideas of working together and failure. Two video screens sit next to one another - the boys try to climb a rope that’s been flung over a handball wall. Quickly you realize the screens depict both sides of the wall at the same time: they are trying to climb the wall at the same, using their weights as a counterbalance. The first dude reaches the top while the other struggles. He gets close but can’t fling himself onto the top, even with the passionate assistance from his partner. Ultimately he crashes to the ground and the video starts over. The video becomes a kind of a Sisyphean fable extolling the virtues of teamwork and process. One of the more successful videos I’ve seen in awhile.

Paul Henry Ramirez at Caren Golden, Chelsea
I just finished Tom Robbins latest book and had the same criticism I do of this show: perhaps too florid. I love baroque excess much more in art than I do in literature and maybe Ramirez didn’t go far enough. He tries here to create a painting installation. What the hell is wrong with just plopping your paintings on the wall? Why reduce your primary creative objects to props in a half-baked attempt to connect them with the architecture of the space? Were the paintings conceived to be displayed in this manner or were the design elements painted directly on the wall and were the odd placements of the canvases (butted up against the ceiling, hung at different eye levels) a capricious installation decision? I would’ve rather seen him paint everything directly on the wall for a more seamless installation. It seems he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too: do a wacky gallery treatment while still having saleable objects. All that whining aside, I did like the direction his individual paintings are taking: introduction of garishly colored, rounded geometric shapes and what could be interpreted as a celebration of pubic hair

Dennis Hollingsworth at Nicole Klagsbrun, Chelsea
A few beautiful paintings in a group show of gallery artists: Small paintings on paper with a simple, controlled fussiness over a Thiebaud thick, frosting-like white ground.

Lisa Mimm in Outside at Kravets/Wehby, Chelsea
Cute modest paintings with washes of pastel color, scribblings of pebbles and words and a palpable Laura Owens influence, especially the blue and black striped thickly painted beehive images or the flatly painted tree over an abstract ground, except that she’s a little more expressive and fussy than Owens.

Marc Dean Veca and Cotter Luppi at Daniel Silverstein, Chelsea
A tender paring of two artists who work on paper in a clean, graphic yet ultimately sublime style: Veca’s works look like R.Crumb designed wallpaper: confidently rendered black ink all-over composition marrying decorative patterns with pop cultural icons like Peter Frampton or JAWS and an assortment of cartoon characters. Scatologically elegant! Luppi’s drawings are pretty accumulations of pastel patterns, both geometric and gestural.

David Shapiro at Liebman Magnan, Chelsea
A hilarious room constructed from wall of pegboards - step inside and you’re invited to put a record on the turntable (more turntables!) and help yourself to a cup of tea. And then you meander through the room full of ephemera hanging from scores of peg hooks: art projects, toys, books, trinkets and tchochkes: wistfull, sad, poignant and silly and well worth your time.

Power Ballads at Rupert Goldsworthy, Chelsea
Wow I wish rock and roll themed art was better. I like rock and roll, I like art (sometimes) and I want to like them together. Is that so hard? The best rock and art practioner, Joel Otterson was represented here with a couple of elegant china plates with rockers enameled on the surface. Otterson actually takes his practice seriously - he’s studied Victorian china techniques and glass blowing to add a dose of high craft and class to his celebration of classic rock and hair metal. The rest of the artists in this show use rock as an excuse to be lazy with their horrible ham-fisted paintings of album covers, band logos and rockers. Could ya try a little harder? As cheesy as power ballads and hair-spray bands were and are, at least the rockers learned their craft. Most of those hair-band guitarists were classically trained. You suck-ass lazy artists could use a little classical training yourselves.

Ugo Rondinone at Matthew Marks, Chelsea
This installation seemed really sad.

Cy Twombly at Go-Go Gagosian, Chelsea
Two words: colorful birdshit.

Greg Bogin at Mary Boone, Chelsea
His work used to have a quick-hitting graphic zippiness, like futuristic Ken Noland paintings. These here are boring, too mannered and soulless in a bad way.

Jonathan Seliger at Jack Shainman, Chelsea
The first show I ever liked in this gallery, even if the work was too cute and clever by half.

The Armory Show
Piers 88 & 90
Five trends I found at this year’s fair:
1) Boobs are big this year. Well, the actual boobs are all sizes, but they were everywhere. These galleries all showed boob-related work: B+D Studio Milan, Artemis Greenberg Van Doren, Eyestorm, Xeno X, Paul Morris, Anton Kern, Ars Futura, Ronal Feldman, Art and Public, Deitch, Feigen, Galerie Emanuel Pertrotech, Roger Pailhas. Just so you know where to direct your anger/interest.
2) Smart/dumb painting a la Laura Owens. Owens is proving to be a major influence as many painters were combining areas of flatness with thick, squeezed-directly-from-the-tube cylinders of paint. Many of these painters went beyond Owens mannerisms to lay thick-ass chunks of unmixed paint on top of one another and nudge or cleave these chunks so the pure colors commingle without exactly melding into another. The purest Owens acolyte looks to be John Chilver (Michael Jansen, Asprey Jacques), my new favorite painter. He showed a couple of landscape type paintings featuring dumb flat depictions of grass or mountains punctuated by birds or abstract forms drawn with paint squeezed-directly-from-the-tube. These paintings were charmingly stoopid. Other practicioners: Pia Fries (Galerie Nelson), Cameron Martin (Artemis Van Doren), Michael Reafsnyder (Marta Cervera) is my second favorite painter, strictly due to the happy faces!
3) The third trend, which isn’t exactly new, yet still prevails are large photos (and sometimes videos) of domestic, often modernist, interiors, devoid of people, usually luxuriating in shades of gray and bright white.
4) Sarah Morris, Tom Sachs and Muntean/Rosenbaum were fucking everywhere.
5) White is the new black. (Sorry grey).

Quick Armory observations (because it’s frankly too exhausting to go into any sort of depth):
Jim Lambie at Anton Kern - wall painting consisting of white gloss paint littered with confetti, glitter and colored foil trash
Wim Delvoye at Galerie Faurschour: My favorite pieces in the show - “Anal Kisses” - looks like he lipsticked up someone’s bunghole and puckered it up to some hotel stationary. More like some kinky game than art, which is fine by me.
Jennifer Reeves at Max Protech: if Laura Owens tried to make a Joe Cornell box.
George Stoll at Cirrus Edition: funny edition of hand-crafted, down to the wrapper, ivory soap bars
Daniel Richter at Patrick Painter: big, ambitious DeKooning by way of Giles Lyon painting with ridiculously sensual color.
Ian Kaier at Asprey Jacques: Dirty, fluorescent light and tiny, cubicle inspired sculpture that was also dirty. Looks like he pulled out a freshman in art school 3-d project from his closet.
Peter Sarkisian at I-20: Puddle video. Funny.

Highlights (or, my favorite artists):
Emil Lukas at Studio La Citta; Aaron Parazette at Mark Moore; Jennifer Reeves at Ramis Barquet; Chris Verene at Paul Morris; Dave Muller, Shirley Tse at Murray Guy; Stephen Sheaver at AFA; Erwin Wurm, Joe Zucker at Galerie Aurel Schieble; David Schrigley at Stephen Friedman; Erik Parker at Leo Koenig; John Waters at AFA; Paul McCarthy and Parks Spander at Luhring Augustine; Murakami at Marianne Boesky; Carlos Garaicoa at Lombard Fried; Royal Art Lodge at I-20; Josiah McElheny at Donald Young and Brent Sikkema; Steven Charles at Pierogi


Birthday Wish List:
My birthday is coming up. I’ll be 31 and heading down the other side of the mountain

Helen Mirra: Names and Poems
Robert Gober: 49th Venice Biennale
Richard Prince: Adult Comedy Action Drama, The Girl Next Door
Gerhard Richter: MOMA catalog
Tim Hawkinson: Power Plant, Mass MOCA

Drive By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera
Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong
Tenacious D
Kittie: The Oracle
Oasis: What’s the Story Morning Glory
Moulin Rouge soundtrack

CD burner
window blinds
office chair
decent job
subscriptions to artforum, new art examiner, men’s health, people, entertainment weekly
health club membership


Just a little pop (can’t resist)….

Two albums that I purchased after I posted my Best o’ 2001 list:

Jay-Z - The Blueprint: Woulda been a strong contender for album of the year had I bought it on time. The best thing about it is its efficiency: 12 kick-ass jams, straight with no chaser. No stupid skits, no throw-away r&b crap, very few guest stars (Q-tip barely makes an appearance, Eminem gets a “feat.” credit). Still rapping about how damn great he is, but you know what, the m.f. ain’t lying.

Ryan Adams - Gold: Starts off strong but over-produced, so heavily influenced by warhorses of the 70s (The Boss, The Eagles, Stones) that it’s incongruous with the hipster set his name gets bandied about in. The problem here is that the disc gets draggy and faceless by the end. More grit brother.

One last thing
Jerry Saltz was dead fucking right about the Guggenheim.

So there

The next Hot Commodities will tackle the Whitney Biennial like a blitzing linebacker on Drew Bledsoe.

“Burn off all the fog, and let the sun shine to the snow.
Let me see your face again, before I have to go”

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Valentine's Day 2002
Way too much info on my TV watching habits, plus Daniell Tegeder, Brad Tucker and art in Boston and much, much more...

Best of 2001
Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, James Ensor, Wayne Thiebaud, Radiohead, System of a Down redux

Thanksgiving from Hawaii
Serra, Pardo, Katz, Coen Brothers all suck. Grabner, Sienna, Prekop, Jay-Z all rock

Early Fall 2001
The Onion, Rodney Graham, Jim Lambie, Larry King, Music Movie Sundays, sucking up to Jerry Saltz and stuff...

Early Fall 2001
Skinny actresses, Fall Previews, Hair metal (again), and some other crap...

Late-Summer 2001
Chicago Art, Radiohead, Tony Kornheiser, another David E. Kelley rip and more...

Summer 2001
Wane Thiebaud, Printmaking, movies, more summer shows and more...

Summer 2001
Summer Shows, Paul McCarthy, Me, My Sister and more...

Spring 2001
James Ensor, Ennui, Journey, New Art Examiner and more...

Late Winter 2001
Dawson's Creek, Jessica Stockholder, David Salle, Albums of the Year and more...

Early Winter 2000
riffs on rock-Roll Singles, the West Wing, Bernard Frieze and more...

Fall 2000
The dirt on Damien Hirst, Jibangus, Cable TV and more...

Respond to this blather


Hot Commodities
Market Report
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