Wicked Artsy: Meaning in Saturation

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01/29/2009 11:39 AM |

“Wicked Artsy” (you try coming up with a better name) is Benjamin Sutton’s new art round-up. Tell him what you think of him in the comments.

Three especially rewarding exhibitions closing in Chelsea on February 7 generate much of their meaning from the improbable numbers of signs and images they encompass. These clutters of artworks tell the stories of both their subjects and their authors. As with Louise Bourgeois, each new work tells us something about the individual who produced it and the society in which they live, and as the works accumulate the personal and social portraits become more detailed.

The exhibition of early black and white street photography by Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki at Anton Kern Gallery tells of a nation modernizing with fits and starts, and a young photographer’s eye sharpening over hundreds of prints. Photographs taken in the streets and subways of Tokyo throughout the 1960s show pedestrians wearing kimonos, business suits and short skirts as they pass each other below modern skyscrapers and in front of traditional architecture. Though the aesthetic recalls contemporaneous New York urban photography by the likes of Robert Frank, Araki foregoes working class subjects to focus on Tokyo’s women. This leads to the exhibition’s final series of intimate erotic images that anticipate Araki’s subsequent work.

Pace Wildenstein’s 25th Street space, meanwhile, has become a warehouse for the display of a different private narrative. In Jim Dine: Hot Dream (52 Books), the artist’s collected works from a year of producing one book of art per week occupy every surface the labyrinthine gallery has to offer. The mix of audio installations, sculpture, photography, painting and drawing isn’t unlike the cavernous warehouse in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. One gets the sense of entering into the artist’s life and looking back out at the world through his art. Judging by all the mutilated Santa Claus figures and proliferation of Pinocchios in Dine’s visions, the world outside seems caught up in its own illusions.

Another set of familiar icons gets a postmodern, postcolonial makeover in Midwesterner Nick Cave’s show of sculptures and his Soundsuit costumes at Jack Shainman Gallery. His fabulously garish pieces appear like nightmare visions of multiculturalism, dressed for Carnival in the loudest piecemeal pillaging of traditional Caribbean and African patterned fabrics, blackface memorabilia and colonial knickknacks. In a world where culture-jamming and bricolage have become a way of life, Cave reminds us that fashions, styles, icons and objects don’t simply lose their meaning when removed from their context.

Araki at Anton Kern Gallery (until February 7), 532 West 20th Street, Tue-Sat 10am-6pm
Nick Cave: Recent Soundsuits at Jack Shainman Gallery (until February 7), 513 West 20th Street, Tue-Sat 10am-6pm
Jim Dine: Hot Dream (52 Books) at Pace Wildenstein (until February 7), 534 West 25th Street, Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

2 Comment

  • Wicked Artsy is my new favorite name for an arts roundup.

  • Benjamin’s art view is Totally RAD! I will be going to each of those, some maybe more than once! Art is So exciting. Also I will be going to twice as many concerts and buying twice as many records, and I will be going to every movie that Mark writes about, and everything else that gets mentioned I will be doing too. I am single handedly bringing NYC out of the depression! Yes, Lets do it, fuck yeah!!!