Your West Village Gallery Tour

06/23/2010 4:00 AM |

Let's face it—no matter how big Gavin Brown's Enterprise becomes, it still won't make the West Village—or even Soho—an art world destination. The specific gravity of Chelsea's 500 galleries is just too strong. The result is that I don't visit these neighborhoods enough… But you know what? It's not a bad idea to go out of your way for a visit to some of the following galleries, even if you run into a few bumps along the way.

Speaking of bumps, first duds first: Team Gallery's KRATOS—ABOUT (IL)LEGITIMATE(D) POWER, a group exhibition curated by Raphael Gygax that promises to examine power and how it functions in a "broad social field." This is what I like to call "invisible history art"—work overly reliant on the weight of its material's history to give it value. Teresa Margolles's intellectually vacant vitrine jewelry, crafted from shattered glass extracted from the victims of drug-related crimes, adds no insight to the history she wishes to pay homage to. On another side of the room, Maria Eichhorn photographs images from her Robert Mapplethorpe catalogue, which was temporarily confiscated by Japanese customs officials who sanded away the genitalia. If there's any power in this piece, it's in the gallery's description, and frankly even that's not very compelling. Better was Gianni Motti's strangely euphoric back-room video of alien and clone believers Raël and Brigitte Boisselier. In contrast to Margolles and Eichhorn's esoteric art, the video itself makes the narrative transparent.

The Drawing Center's exhibition of the late Leon Golub's drawings Live and Die Like a Lion, offers a lot more to viewers. The show displays some 50 scrappy oil stick on board paintings on deep salmon-colored walls. "Fuck Death" reads the scrawled lettering over one drawing of a skull (wise words from an old artist), while on another wall hangs a green and pink line drawing of a nude with the overlaid words "Post-Modernist Bimbo." This is pretty funny until you realize he's basically labeled the figuration as a whole as an unintelligent woman who rejects objective truth and global cultural narrative. I'm not overly fond of the sexist aspect of the work though it may well be a jab at post-modern poster boy David Salle's similarly rendered nudes. Even if it's not, since the show itself is so personal—a departure for an artist who spent his life making art about war atrocities—the piece is forgivable. It may be ugly, but at least it's honest.

Over in the West Village, Martin Creed has transformed Gavin Brown's floor with long multicolored marble bricks. Except for a popcorn machine and a glittery pink painting, that's the entire piece. The press release directs viewers to Creed's "new important work" in the next gallery, which as it turns out, is just a large projected film of an erect cock rising and falling. A set of black, vaginal-esque curtains open and close in no particular rhythm with the penis, while a guard stands by whose only job is to watch this "new important work" so it's not stolen. Half of what makes this piece so funny is the juxtaposition of Creed's efforts to create a piece that isn't particularly precious with the gallery's insistence that it is. The show was the highlight of my day.

(photos courtesy Drawing Center, 16 Miles of String)

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