Let’s Not Talk About Dan Colen

09/29/2010 4:00 AM |

The art world’s most boring story this month is about how everyone hates Dan Colen. How his show at Gagosian sucks (it does); how his story is one of excess (both personal and professional: how he’s a reformed drug addict and his work is expensive); and how everyone begrudges having to talk about him because we all know the work isn’t worth it.

I’m not going to spend much time writing about Colen myself for precisely this reason. Colen’s ability to generate press has more to do with his reputation as a badass than artistic merit. You’ll reap no rewards for seeing this show. Let me spare readers the trouble of walking over to Chelsea: A giant brick wall, the first object viewers see, was inspired by a photograph of star Michael Jordan in front of a brick wall. It’s just a brick wall, and even if Colen had come up with a better explanation it would still only be a brick wall. Then there’s the line of motorcycles, which Colen toppled like dominos just before the show opened. Like every other work here, the bike pile is simply a gratuitous display of wealth. Add to this two skateboard ramps turned upside down to make an archway and a bunch of large abstract paintings, some made out of confetti, others out of gum, and all this work has going for it is that it’s big.

I say skip this show and see something that won’t depress you. Take a walk down to the West Village and visit Sarah E. Wood‘s exhibition, Tilt, at Kate Werble Gallery (through October 16). The display of hanging sculptures is small and carefully constructed. Chains inspired by the shape of a necklace hang from the ceiling, each designed to showcase the force of gravity on a hanging object. For this reason some works are encased in black rubber, while others are suspended from a hanger. It’s a simple concept, elegantly executed.

Over at Murray Guy in Chelsea, photographer An-My Lê exhibits a new series of photographs from her travels with the American armed forces (through October 30). This kind of work isn’t typically my bag&#8212war correspondent-as-artist fare often ends up flatly depicted. Yet Le’s work avoids heavy-handedness by often locating its subject outside the brutality of war. She captures an incredible breadth of experience, from seaport vistas and army workrooms to posed shots in Haitian hospital rooms. A naval hospital ship on the horizon in Vietnam, an American sailor waiting with a Vietnamese Buddhist&#8212such variation brings to life the scope of American armed forces’ efforts and the experience of the workers Lê depicts.

(photo credit: Rob McKeever, courtesy Gagosian Gallery)

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