Marko Velk's masterly charcoal marks and Matt Blackwell's masticable textures in backwards march head up the roster in this round of art picks from our 2/3 issue.
MARKO VELK: WHAT IS LEFT
Slag Contemporary, 56 Bogart St., through March 20th
Marko Velk wields his draughtsman's tools and hand with such deftness and skill that his renderings in charcoal sing with gritty elegance and gravitas. Plumbing depths at times violent, at times tinged with ephemeral grace, Velk references hallmarks of art history and human endeavor—on scales ranging from intimate to grandly robust—with sufficient self-contained narrative force and stylistic variance to challenge all conceivable aesthetic reaches of his medium of choice. Whether his renderings depict decapitations or angelic presences in throes of sublimation, Velk's blacks could be no blacker, his whites no whiter, his gradations no more dramatic or delicate. You might well forget, in viewing the results of so many fine and necessary marks, that the process behind them could even begin to make a mess.
MATT BLACKWELL: ASS BACKWARDS TO EDEN & LARS KREMER: SPECIMENS
Valentine Gallery, 464 Seneca Ave., through March 10th
Blackwell's somewhat large scale paintings are at times bone-chilled and wind-swept, softly blackened-out like a long spent quarry; other times they're exothermically vibrant, or endothermically sunburnt. Either way, they seem always to portray idled stories of sorts—protagonists lunging stillform in pregnant pauses, reedy heroes verged precipitously in a mundanity that might take a turn for the more absurd. Also consistent throughout this seasoned painter's oeuvre are mastication-begging thick lumps and nearly sugar-salt-crusted chunks. Short of featuring teeth marks, in other words, paintings can get no chewier. For exquisite smoothness of surface, then, and finely severed pieces and appendages sutured such that a surgeon would shruggingly shudder, see the gallery's lateral corridor lined with Specimens, a suite of photo collages by Lars Kremer. Double-up the magnifying glasses to add special effects to the rich details you stand to extract.
NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, 24 West 57th St., through March 29th
Planned with enough perspicacity and practicality to open on the very day of The Armory's 100th birthday on the 15th of February, 2013, this deep-rostered nod to the controversy, sensation and eventual sublimation of Duchamp's then less-than-unanimously loved painting features a broad range of pieces by a broad range of artists all aiming to achieve the very same thing: to somehow respond to such a watershed work. Peter Saul, Richard Prince and Yoko Ono are in the homage-rendering mix, as are exactly 28 others. Space concerns aside, then, one is forced to wonder: Why not just extend the roster and go for 100? No shortage of artists in town, after all.
HENRY MATISSE: IN SEARCH OF TRUE PAINTING
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., through March 17th
The exhibition has been up for quite a while at this point, so let this be a reminder that master-in-the-masthead shows of such an insight-tending sort neither come around all the time, nor do they stick around forever. By gathering together pieces from a number of different institutions and collections, and by allowing for a great deal of wall space to be occupied by studies, unfinished works, repeated compositions and photographs of in-process paintings, the curators of this exhibition have created an investigatory, revelatory display of Matisse's oeuvre as you have most likely not seen it before. What you have here, in other words, is the artist questioning himself, challenging himself and reiterating himself, and thereby emboldening selectively those aspects of his painterly manners that seem, after so much scrutinizing, worthy of further refinement. A delightful show in many ways, and no matter your level of expertise on Matisse. Go see it soon before it packs up and leaves.
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