20 January 2015

In the Galleries

"Shenzhen 2" Erwin Olaf (2014)

Saturday I visited a bunch of art galleries in my neighbourhood (Chelsea). While some of what I saw wasn't exactly my cup of tea, there were some shows that I liked a lot.

 Selections from Erwin Olaf: Volume I & II” is a collection of striking oversized portraits by the noted Dutch photographer. The lush colours and vintage feel of the images can give the impression that one is looking at recreations of paintings. As for the subjects—a boy scout with an ice cream cone and his dog, an elderly man and woman in a hairdressers, a young blonde girl with her back facing the camera—they are all alone even when sharing the frame with another. My favourite was a group of black and white photos titled "Shenzhen," accompanied by a video installation in which a beautiful bobbed-haired woman sits at a table in a restaurant, waiting for her date. At first she seems to be patiently waiting but soon she begins to fiddle with the glass in front of her and to glance at her watch. Slowly her face shows the realisation that he’s not coming. It's mesmerizing to watch. “Waiting: Selections from Erwin Olaf” is at Hasted Kraeutler Art Gallery through February 28, 2015 (more info here).

“Art is Long, Life is Short: Marsden Hartley and Charles Kuntz in Aix-en-Provence” combines some of my favourite things—the Lost Generation, Provence, and Cezanne. Hartley was already a well-known poet and artist while Kuntz was just starting out as a painter when their paths crossed in 1925. Kuntz convinced Hartley to join him and his wife in Aix-en-Provence, the hometown of Cezanne. There the two painted the same sites and landscapes that Cezanne had including the great man’s studio. It’s interesting to observe the artists’ paintings side-by-side, often of the same subject, and notice the differences in perspective and colour. I especially loved Hartley’s “Landscape #29, Vence” (1925) and Kuntz’s “Mount St. Victoire in Clouds,” their vibrant colours so indicative of the South of France and Cezanne's influence. Sadly, Kuntz was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1928; it’s believed he never exhibited during his lifetime. Now's the chance to see his work. “Art is Long, Life is Short” is at the Driscoll Babcock Galleries through March 7, 2015 (more info here).

"Las Meninas renacen de noche IV: Peering at the secret scene behind the artist" Yasumasa Morimura (2013)

“Yasumasa Morimura: Las Meninas Renacen de Noche (Las Meninas Reborn in the Night)” is Velázquez' famed painting “Las Meninas” re-imagined by the Japanese photographer. Morimura started by photographing the original painting along with the room where it resides at the Prado in Madrid. He then cast himself as each of the figures including the Infanta Margaret Theresa. In his version(s), the characters are allowed to move around within the painting and even to step out of the frame and into the museum. It's a bit disturbing at times (some of the images could be stills from a Tim Burton film) but still intriguing. As a bonus, there's a room in the gallery that includes a collection of black and white portraits of Morimura impersonating various movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Liza Minnelli, and Audrey Hepburn in full Holly Golightly gear. “Yasumasa Morimura: Las Meninas” is at Luhring Augustine through January 24, 2015 (more info here).

I’m a John Waters fan so naturally I had to check out “John Waters: Beverly Hills John.” Needless to say, it was exactly what one would expect from Mr. Waters. Hilarious, at times over the top, and highly entertaining. Some of the objects on display include "Fellini's 8 1/2," an oversized wooden rule measuring just that; "Library Science," in which a series of old paperback covers are matched with reworked Adults Only versions; and "Bill's Stroller," a baby stroller complete with a spiked leather belt and cloth decorated with sex club logos. The best though is a video that features a table reading by a group of kids of Kiddie Flamingos, a children's version of Waters’ infamous Pink Flamingos complete with a miniature Divine. Enough said. “John Waters: Beverly Hills John” is at Marianne Boesky Gallery through February 14, 2015 (more info here).

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