Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chelsea Gallery Notes: Eric Fischl, Craigie Horsfield, Tom Friedman, Alec Soth, Adel Abdessemed, Mary Corse, Will Ryman, and Motoyuki Daifu

Two must see shows up right now in Chelsea are Eric Fischl and Craigie Horsfield. Mary Boone is showing a survey of Fischl’s portraits.  Fischl has always been known for his ability to imbue his paintings with a psychological frisson. In his earliest work, that affect came primarily from the narrative of the scene -- implied or actual; as his work matured, Fischl developed the ability to carry psychological content through his brushwork and attention to light. It is a perfect example of a painter’s subject eventually being expressed through the act of painting.

Eric Fischl, Portraits, at Mary Boone, 541 W 24th St., through March 17

I was trying to remember the last time I saw Craigie Horsfield’s work. It turns out it was 1996, the date of his last show in New York. I did remember large, refined, marvelously gritty, black and white photographs. So it was a real treat to see his most recent work playing off of what I had recalled: two monumental tapestries, based on photographs of a Russian circus, in which the texture of the fabric serves as a visual parallel to the negative’s grain. The work is spectacular and darkly mysterious.

Craigie Horsfield at Marvelli Gallery, 526 W 26th St., 2nd Fl, through March 22

There is a paradox in Tom Friedman’s sculptures: they seem strongest when they are at their smallest and most delicate. An example in his current exhibition: a tiny sculpture of a boy flying a kite, with an improbably long and thin thread connecting the two. It seems impossible that the string can support the weight of the kite, and yet it does and that gives the piece a kind of magic and wonderful lightness. However, as Friedman’s pieces get physically larger and more numerous, as happened in Luhring Augustine’s main gallery, the overall effect of his work begins feel leaden. Probably the best approach to this show would have been to have the boy with kite piece alone in the back gallery, and fewer pieces in the main gallery.

Tom Friedman at Luhring Augustine, 531 W 24th St., through March 17

The story behind Alec Soth’s Broken Manual is fairly complex: curious about white men who have retreated from society – out of anger, frustration, utopianism, or the simple desire to be left alone – he wrote a manual for hermits, survivalists, hippies -- and I suppose uni-bombers too -- about how to escape. He then went out looking to photograph men who had in fact left civilization to illustrate his ideas, using the manual as a way to gain entry and build trust with his reclusive subjects. Soth is an accomplished photographer and there are lots of sociological and political ideas embedded in his project worth exploring. Unfortunately, the photographs in the exhibition – despite often being beautiful and masterfully composed -- do not shed much light on who these men are. Instead, the endeavor seems somewhat circular – we see pretty much what we expected to see. In Soth’s defense, it may be that his idea is better presented in the expanded format of a book than in a gallery exhibition. The manual itself is problematic for me. It becomes part of an odd and redundant assemblage in the exhibition. But more importantly, I think artists should not be so sneaky.

Alec Soth, Broken Manual, at Sean Kelly, 528 W 29th St., through March 11

There’s been a minor movement over the past 10 –12 years of artists using taxidermy specimens as elements in their work. Adel Abdessemed, with his gigantic conglomerate of burnt stuffed wolves and other animals may have put an end to that trend, as it will be difficult to top in effect. If you go, be forewarned that the room smells kind of funky. His razor wire crucifixions are quite nice – simultaneously expressive and restrained. I also like the drawings of animals with dynamite strapped to their backs.

Adel Abdessemed, Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?, at David Zwirner, 525 W 19th St., through March 17

Mary Corse’s painted minimalist abstractions reflect light rather than represent it. Composed of a material akin to movie projection screens, these radiant paintings change in appearance as the viewer walks through the gallery.

Mary Corse, New Work, at Lehman Maupin, 540 W 26th St., through March 10

At Paul Kasmin, Will Ryman is showing an amazing canyon made out of paintbrushes, and at Kasmin’s second location on 27th St., Ryman has a large bird, made out of giant nails, holding a wilted rose in its beak.

Will Ryman, Anyone and No One, at Paul Kasmin, 293 10th Ave. and 515 W 27th St., through March 24

Motoyuki Daifu takes an intimate look into the life of his former girlfriend, depicting everyday disorder combined with moments of tenderness and connection. His work is concerned with feelings of love and loss on a personal level, as well as serving as a documentation of social mores in transition.

Motoyuki Daifu, Lovesody, at Lombard Freid Projects, 518 W 19th St., through March 3

Of the shows opening this Thursday - Saturday in Chelsea, I have Charles Long at Tanya Bonakdar, Donald Moffett at Marianne Boesky, and Melanie Willhide at Von Lintel Gallery among those I'll make a point to see.

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