Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Art

A relatively rare non-philosophy post.

I wandered around some Chelsea galleries yesterday, as I regularly do, before going to Pat Kitcher's talk on Kant on theoretical and practical reasoning at CUNY (which didn't inspire me to go and read more Kant).

The previous times I've been around the galleries this year, I was uninspired. But for some reason, this time, there were several exhibits that impressed me a great deal, so I thought I'd mention them.

At Margaret Thatcher Projects (not the British ex-PM) there was another showing of Robert Sagerman's work. This one had the title "On and On: Inquiries into Indeterminacy." (In fact it starts today, but I saw it up. I had seen his work there previously, and I'd liked it a great deal then. Looking at his work on the web, his works look rather dull, but when you see them close up, the thick three dimensional use of paint is stunning. You can see it better on the Marcia Wood Gallery page.

It was fun to see John Water's Rear Projection show at the Marianne Boesky Gallery. Nothing very stunning there, but it was refreshingly silly.

The piece The Sound of Silence by Alfredo Jaar at Galerie Lelong was, in sharp contrast, very depressing. The main work was a sculpture and film installation. The 8-minute film was about famine, South African aparteid, the suicide of a photojournalist, and the ownership of images by one of Bill Gates' companies. There's an interview with the artist in the latest issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

At P-P-O-W there was quite a strange installation: Bill Smith's Intuitive Visualization of the Unseen. You walk through a black curtain into a room with hanging sculptures. There's a sign saying that the way to experience the main item, "an epidemiological model of the perfect infectious disease (evolved growth system)," is to lie on the floor and look up, but I chickened out of that. But it was a very intriguing network of wires in spherical form, and then the lights went down, to show that the joints were luminous. It was both surprising and amazing as a visual effect, completely changing the experience of the object. It felt a bit like being Jodi Forster during her trip to another galaxy in Contact: well, just a little. It was certainly on the psycedelic side.

The highlight of the afternoon was Dustin Yellin's Dust in the Brain Attic at Robert Miller. His website is at but I had trouble viewing it: I found Opera worked a little better, but still with problems. The gallery website works fine though. There are biological themes, as with Bill Smith's work, but this reminded me more of the Bodies exhibit in New York (I realize there is controversy about the morality of the possible use of the cadavers of Chinese political prisoners there). The works by Yellin included anatomical depictions of the human body using paint in layers of glass fused together, based on CAT scans and magnetic resonance imaging. They were visually fascinating, and I loved the artistic use of science, raising the questions of the meanings of the information we get from modern scanning. These works were also quite playful, with, for example, an extraterrestial landscape. I especially liked that while the images looked three dimensional from the front, they gradually disappeared as you moved to the side, showing empty glass.

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