The worst bat idea in art this month coincides with the release of the latest Batman movie. In Metro Pictures’ Group Exhibition, Andreas Hofer attaches wooden bat wings to a big armoire he titles For a Pleasant Room. In a quick viewing, I might’ve fallen for the piece (I love that Dark Night) but the eyes hollowed out of the piece eliminated that possibility. Through these slits a viewer can peer inside the sculpture, offering up either a variation on unwearable costume art or a “humorous” window into the empty soul of the bat. Neither cliché sold me.
For better or worse, the work is among a random selection of art gallery goers will see this summer in countless Chelsea group shows. Along with the Hofer piece, Group Exhibition featured a number of oversized works — a large monotone gray square painted directly on the wall by Louise Lawler, and a few messy Sterling Ruby sculptures, for example — none with much relationship to one another beyond their shared physical space.
24th Street performed poorly: Luring Augustine and Barbara Gladstone put together forgettable group shows while Andrea Rosen’s assortment of Tetsumi Kudo floral sculptures were dull at best. Crop Rotation at Marianne Boesky faired a little better; the work at least seemed to make sense together, though the concept of replicable art-making acts isn’t overly exciting. My sneaking suspicion that evaluating one hodge-podge of supersized material over another, on that block anyway, is a waste of time, was confirmed when I realized Neil Campbell’s two giant painted black circles on opposing walls in a corner titled Bloodline at Boesky were the circular equivalent of Lawler’s square two doors down.
Of course, not all summer shows underwhelm. Two years ago, Cheim and Read’s group exhibition, Soutine and Modern Art: The New Landscape/The New Still Life, defied expectations featuring, among other works, Soutine’s masterpiece Carcass of Beef alongside one of the more brilliant Willem DeKoonings I’ve seen. By contrast, this year’s I Won’t Grow Up isn’t all that great. The trouble lies mainly in the evocation of childhood art clichés, which the exhibition pays for through a few poor decisions. For every creepy childhood art stereotype avoided and unexpected curatorial choice made — Phillip Estlund’s wall-mounted miniature treehouse and Ryan McGinley’s photograph Ski Mask, respectively — there’s a Chapmann Brothers stature of a two-headed girl with a penis growing out of her throat. This, in addition to minor works by Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, leaves a viewer wishing the show had been reserved for an art fair. These works weren’t improved much by the gallery setting, and while their salability justified their inclusion, they watered down an otherwise strong show.
But this is what you get in the summer. Slow sales, compromised exhibitions and risk taking that occasionally pays off. I haven’t seen too much by way of the latter, but there’s still a month to go...