New Reviews in Brief: First Chelsea, then the World

by Will Brand on April 19, 2011 · 1 comment Reviews

Kenneth Noland, "Orange and Blue", 1966, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

It’s tough finding time in an art critic’s busy schedule to criticize art, but we managed it this week. Our Reviews in Brief section is back with a vengeance, and we’ll be expanding it significantly over the next few months; too much goes unreported in this town, and we want to opine on the shows that fly under the radar just as much as the game-changers and train wrecks. For now, five shows we saw over the weekend in Chelsea.

Kate Shepherd at Galerie Lelong, until April 30th

The press release for Kate Shepherd’s current show at Galerie Lelong sells us on the artist’s “resonant colors”, “assured use of line”, and sense of “chaos”; all of that is, of course, true. None of that makes the dozen or so large monochromes present at all worthwhile. Designed first in architectural software, each painting is a flat, glossy field of color, bisected by a single knot of compressed wireframe — presumably of something that looked more stable from the front. The figures (if that’s the term) depicted look vulnerable in their disorder, but that’s about it; there’s simply nothing more to talk about here. There is no discernible difference between the works other than size and color — perhaps one might go better with this or that couch — and the brushwork is intentionally invisible… — Will Brand (2/10)

Kenneth Noland at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, until April 30th

Kenneth Noland’s work shouldn’t be a surprise — he’s been around forever, he’s been in every museum that matters, and a lot of what needed to be said about him was said 50 years ago. Still, walking into Mitchell-Innes & Nash, the quality of some of the canvases on display was stunning. “Orange and Blue”, a diamond-shaped work near the entrance, is a clear standout; the rigidity of the colors gives it a magical sense of motion before the eyes, and I found it difficult to look at the work for any length of time for fear of it expanding, spinning, or jumping off the wall. Some works are weaker — “In-Sight” just got on my nerves — but generally this is surprisingly good work for a gallery show of a Modern artist. You won’t learn anything new here, but the experience is more than worth a visit. — Will Brand (9/10)

Proofs and Refutations at David Zwirner, until April 26th

“Proofs and Refutations”, co-curated by a Mathematics professor at City College, might be the smartest show of the year so far. It’s a diverse body of work we’ve rarely seen before and almost never seen together, relating to math both in content and — significantly — in working method. The press release is insightful, the display is great (Zwirner rarely fails in this regard), the artists are some of the more interesting names of the past fifty years; in fact, the only weakness in this show is the work. Smart works are in attendance, but few hold anything but the most basic visual interest, and many drive right past “smart” into “impenetrable”. This is 2011, so neither of those is necessary for [merely] good art, and this is precisely the quality of curatorial effort that could salvage that; still, all but the most conceptually-minded visitor will walk out feeling unsatisfied. – Will Brand (7/10)

Rachel Whiteread at Luhring Augustine, until April 30th

Rachel Whiteread’s work is best when it explores unheralded spaces: the insides of houses; the undersides of chairs; the interstices between book and shelf. At her best, she reveals these subjects with an unexpectedness that mimics creation. This show has none of that. The casts making up most of the exhibition are of spaces we already knew of — doors, windows — and weren’t interested in. Further, she doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say about them; according to the press release, casting the windows in different shades of resin and naming them after times of day “signifies an interest”¦to not only cast space, but to capture time.” For real? The concepts here are simply too weak for an artist of this stature, and few of the works have the physical power to overcome that. Three works coated in rust and based on soda cans, one of built-up paper and the others casts, are the exceptions. While rust has “been done”, the directness of its relation to time has substance and promise to it, giving the soda can works a visceral “oomph” that’s lacking — perhaps actively opposed — in the windows and doors. They’re beautiful objects, but not enough to save this show. – Will Brand (3/10)

Sascha Braunig at Foxy Production, until April 30th

Sascha Braunig’s show of pseudo-portraiture at Foxy Production is full of promise, but Braunig isn’t quite there yet. The portraits are deformed, with monstrous eyes and features that meld into their backgrounds, and work well as a 21st Century addition to the line of work from artists like Francis Bacon and George Condo. Aesthetically, the composition here is good and the colors exceptional, but the brushwork causes the works to fall apart on close inspection: every painting here looks significantly better from five or ten feet away. This isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, only a mechanical weakness, so there’s every reason to believe Braunig’s next show will be very good. Right now, though? Not quite. This is one artist to keep an eye on. – Will Brand (6/10)

  • Vera

    The Kate Shepherd restricted paintings could be interesting. Conceptually, to use software limited to straight lines only could be a good path to pursue. However, some of these looked too much like initial attempts and remain unsuccessful sketches. The other problem is scale of line thickness to field, I kept losing the lines as they were swallowed by the plane of monochrome. The images with center’s divided recalled Barnet Newman, yet w/o the monolithic breadth, these began to look like elegant, safe images for someone’s side room or student union lobby. Rachel Whiteread suffers from the same lack info, not to mention as this AFC point out a problem with the pieces being dwarfed by the gallery space. Her leaning pieces suffer from a comparison with one of McCracken’s perfect color slabs. Both of these artists suffer from trying to mine old minimalism and a little Duchamp in the latter artist with transparency and mundane objects.

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