Monday, December 29, 2014

My Top 10 Art Gallery Solo Shows of 2014

This past year, starting in February, I began collaborating with Arte Fuse and posting most of my reviews there (and also cross-posting here to continue serving the readers who got used to this blog). This top-ten list is, however, exclusive to this blog.  You can see all my Arte Fuse reviews here: 

I reviewed over 75 shows this past year, and it was hard to narrow them down, but I chose these ten for purely subjective reasons.  I loved every show I reviewed, or I would not have reviewed it.

The Proletarian Art Snob's 10 Favorite Shows of 2014! 

Without further ado, we start with number 1.

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1. Paul Glabicki at Kim Foster Gallery

Glabicki first gained notoriety in the experimental film scene. He created work of ingenious complexity and humor. He brings the same complexity and humor to his visual art pieces. 

"Glabicki is inviting you not to focus on individual equations or images but to contemplate an underlying nature behind these symbols of science. He seems to be validating and rejecting these symbols at the same time. The symbols have worth, in a limited application, but the method is not applicable, say, to introspection or examination of our inner motives, emotions and thought processes. Glabicki’s work, to me, always invited a greater scrutiny of the process of science while also inviting a look at what science might not be capturing but which needs to be experienced and grasped through some deeper process on an individual basis.

The equations, symbols and measurements become, basically, dead but functional statements for the understanding and manipulation of the outer world. They are formulas as much as combinations of Nordic runes were.  Sir James Frazer, after all, pointed out that science was, basically, magical formulae that always ‘worked’ in the world and that magic and science both contained the same basic logical structure.  These attempts to document events in the outer world become insufficient, however, to fully examine the inner world."


2. CHANG jia at Doosan Gallery New York

CHANG jia is a rising star.  After her NY City show she was chosen as one of 4 Korean artists, by one of South Korea's most prestigious museums, for an ‘artist of the year’ competition. Although she didn’t win, she should have. She brings elements of experimental performance into her visual art and confronts the viewer with real suffering (voluntarily endured by her subjects) to make a statement about the extent to which art can be used to reach and transform others. If a New York City gallery were smart, it would sign this girl up. She deserves to go global. Please read my review, above, for more info about her and what she does.

Unfortunately, she didn't get a lot of press in NY City for her AMAZING show (most of the art rags and 'critics' in NY need to be told, themselves, what amazing art is and have no instincts to trust since they are desiccated buffoons), so I'm proud that I might have been able to promote her a bit. She's doing truly provocative work. She's represented in Chicago by a gutsy gallery - let's hope someone swoops her up here.


3. Beth Carter at Bertrand Delacroix

"In 'Wolf with Deer' (2013), we see the wolf is not carrying the deer in a triumphant or exuberant manner.  The posture of the wolf belies the joy of the kill that seems to be reflected on the wolf’s face.  The mood seems mournful and apologetic.  Deep down inside, the wolf rues the loss of the deer and involuntarily expresses grief for the killing.

Furthermore, Carter’s minotaurs are not the bloodthirsty killers from mythology – they are pensive and introspective.   Some of her minotaurs are seated and reading books.  These are minotaurs between meals.  They are using their leisure time to engage in the examined life. They are trying to understand and come to grips with themselves – examining their actions and expressing the dolor of those who cannot change what brings them moral anxiety and pain. In “Sitting Minotaur” (2013) we see such a creature slumped over and dejected."


4. Kathy Ruttenberg at Stux

"There’s symbolism in the work of Ruttenberg, but it hearkens back to the type of pre-industrial, pre-urban symbolism often equated to the pagan religions (i.e. the Celts).  Her figures have become re-embedded in a subservient and hapless manner in nature, as nature is seen to be deeply embedded, often literally, in many figures.

Has Ruttenberg gone completely Schopenhauer now that she lives upstate and can commune more easily with all creatures great and small, while watching nature’s cycles more keenly? No, she seems to be saying, however, that our notion of inner or spiritual development is too limited because it is too urban.  Our spiritual narratives often neglect the earth and nature and more meaningfully integrated relations between ourselves and the whole of life. "


5. Alex Gross at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

"In ‘Drones’ we see the sad effects of a culture dedicated to narcissism and hedonism and oblivious of ethical values or the search for meaning.  The smiling broadcasters cheerily report on the latest drone strikes, Obama experiences a type of ecstasy of self-glory, a sheep passively looks on.

In ‘Shopaholics’ the brand buyers are sheep-headed and surrounded by vultures, as if the shoppers have little to offer the world other than flesh to be consumed, someday, by carrion. Or are the shoppers ignoring this vanitas theme – recognize your mortality, repent, do penance, prioritize your values, see and engage the world and strive for meaning."


6. Boyoung Lee at Hyun Contemporary

"The most salient feature of Lee’s buildings would be the windows, through which you see little details denoting middle class, urban, professional life.  Through the windows everything seems perfectly in place and immaculately tidy. The units seem to be empty, the places of solace and comfort we seek to get to after work to get away from each other in order not to go completely nuts.  

The windows become symbolic of our inability to really mesh emotionally with each other – we live separate and secluded, surrounded by the best stuff we can buy, in lieu of feeling a meaningful sense of community.  Nature seems to serve its function in this scheme – in one drawing the roof is overrun by vegetation and the stuff used to enjoy such outcroppings is strewn willy nilly. In another building nature asserts itself by growing wildly from some upper floors. Perhaps biophilia has morphed into some stronger form of dedication to the world we abandoned."


7. Ian Davis at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks and Projects

This didn't hit me at the time, but I think Davis and Neo Rausch are on the same track, but I think Davis is better and more complex.

"In each piece Davis presents groups of men engaged in various types of ritualistic activities, but these don’t seem to be the sorts of activities my dad engaged in at the Loyal Order of the Moose. There are rituals here that are so arcane and perplexing that the participants seem to be engaging in something so higher order as to not be understandable to the uninitiated.  So it’s fun to try to figure out exactly what might be going on in some of these paintings.

In Priests we see many men dressed in white robes who are pouring blood on some type of machinery. It could be some type of nuclear generating machine or it could just be your basic run of the mill factory machine.  Like the real-life activist rituals above, it’s a type of action which just highlights the futility and helplessness of the men to truly change something they feel is wrong.  It’s a meaningful, heartfelt gesture of huge symbolic significance, and no practical change.  

So why do it? Well, it probably has to be done, what else is someone who opposes something that’s wrong supposed to do, sit and do nothing? It also highlights the ‘logic’ of magical rituals that Frazer wrote about in The Golden Bough – the core of any ritual is an approximation of what you want to see happen.  For instance, in some preindustrial societies people would dance and leap high in the air because they believed this would make the crops grow higher. So men in white pouring blood on a machine means, I guess, you want to see this machine bleed and die or become more human or take on more humane qualities (your guess is as good as mine!)."


8. Mary Henderson at Lyons Wier Gallery

I have a special place in my heart for Lyons Wier Gallery. Once I placed an ad on craigslist to meet a 'platonic' art gallery partner (yes, I'm still looking) and a very friendly 65 year old retired Jewish lady answered my ad and we went trekking through Chelsea on a Thursday night (no it didn't turn into a Harold/Maude situation - and she hated the atmosphere of the openings since she could see there were a lot of frivolous people getting free drinks).  The owner of Lyons Wier patiently answered all of her questions about art even though he knew she wasn't going to buy anything.  Kudos to that super cool guy.
In any case, please support this gallery - they have nice people there and amazing art.
What I'm really proud of is that I came up with the title "Nothing Fails Like Success" by myself and was later told Arnold Toynbee got there first. Great minds think alike baby.
Henderson paints yuppies.
"First, yuppies seem to represent those folks who were able to pursue their own excellence and success while blithely ignoring the plight of those who were not as privileged. Sure you voted for Obama and do volunteer tutoring at the local Presbyterian church.  But didn’t it bother you just a little bit that your prestigious university was only comprised of 4 % black and Latino students?  When you were studying for your GMAT and/or LSAT, did you ever wonder how the other half lives?  Did you ever really, really, really do pro bono work because you wanted to, or did your firm make you do it?
Secondly, well, here’s a nice quote from the artist Martin Firrell: “No one would wish suffering on themselves but equally a life with nothing remarkable in it would be a kind of bland hell.”  This is the key, I feel, to unlocking the rest of my raw hatred towards these lovable urban creatures."


My favorite line from the review: I’m looking at an image of Garrard’s Blue III on the floor in front of me, and it looks like a robot floating in a sensory deprivation tank.

"In Vessel by Rachel Garrard at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert (curated by Mitra Khorasheh), Garrard uses her own bodily proportions to create geometric, cruciform structures often contrasted with gentle and swirling abstract backgrounds.  Did you know that almost every Catholic Church is also ‘cruciform’? Also the cruciform shape is, obviously, an abstract form of the human body.
So when Garrard calls her body ‘a vessel’ I think there are parallels to church architecture. You enter a church and amazing things happen. The body of Christ is (theoretically) present in the Eucharist, a ritual is performed and spiritual union with the Trinity is accomplished. Within this proscribed structure of the human architecture amazing things can also occur. So the body as vessel implies that there is an interface between outer and inner reality – but, I think she is also asking to what extent our inner reality can reorder and perfect itself. Is our inner world just a response to stimulation (as science would have us believe) or is there an inherent factor or capacity within us to determine our own responses to stimuli and to what extent can that capacity be used?"

10. Kyoshi Nakagami at Galerie Richard

"What he does with light, though, goes even beyond the Nihonga tradition.  He shows those qualities and aspects of light, in itself, that allow it to become meaningful to us on a deeper or symbolic level.  He shows us what it is about light that makes light such an important symbol in our religions, mythologies and philosophies.  Basically he seems to be saying “This is the essence of how light is most meaningful to us”  – and he further plays with light and darkness to tweak this “archetypal” relationship and make it more direct and engaging to the viewer."


By the way, I have noticed that many people from foreign countries view this blog. If you want a very good and very inexpensive English book to help you improve your reading, vocabulary and grammar, please consider buying my ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Still Want To Come Here

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