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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Chelsea Gallery Crawl

Chelsea is a neighbourhood on the west side of Manhattan Island that is currently the main gallery district in NYC. It has been three years since I did a gallery crawl through Chelsea.

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Walking back and forth between 10th and 11th Avenues, up and down the streets: West 25th, 24th, 23rd. It is so easy to find a gallery on these blocks, just go to the next door, the next room on the floor of a warehouse, they are in almost every space.

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In Chelsea you have to put up a sign to say that it is not a gallery.

Often my gallery crawls are endurance walks, hours of the touring around galleries, climbing up stairs in old warehouses and in newly furbished gallery spaces. Often I was looking at third rate commercial art, or second rate work by established artists. At times I wonder why am even here looking at pointless commercial art suitable only for the lobby of a three star hotel. I’ve never heard of any of the artists exhibiting at the Agora Gallery’s “Out from Down Under & Beyond – Fine Art from Australia and New Zealand.” My guess is that Agora is renting the wall space by the metre.

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James Turrell installation at Pace

Wondering is Cindy Sherman too old to play dress-ups and what will happen if she lives into her 90s? There are other veteran established artists continuing to blandly do their trademark thing; David Hockney is drawing Yosemite National Park on his iPad, Richard Serra has large pieces of steel, and James Turrell working with space and light. Then I see art that really works and I know why I am on this gallery crawl.

The highlight of visiting all of these galleries had to be an installation by a duo of Canadian artists, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, “The Marionette Maker” (2014). The installation, at Luhring Augustine, included a caravan with robotic marionettes, audio, and lighting. It was such stuff as dreams are made of; amongst the miniature scenes in the caravan was a tiny scene of the caravan in a field by a lake. (For more see Hyperallergic’s review.)

Another exhibitions that caught my attention was Anthony Adcock, “Marks of the Trade” at Lyons Wier Gallery, has painted aluminium to look like sheets of plywood and carved wood that looks like steel, it is very impressive while remaining almost too subtle.

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Aiko at HG Contemporary

And at HG Contemporary a group show of street artists from around the world; Retna, Swoon, Olek, Aiko, Pixelpancho and Jay West. There is so much variety in styles, and techniques from Aiko’s stencils to Olek’s crochet world.

There is some good street art on the streets; street artists like to put up work near art galleries, perhaps because there they find an appreciative audience. I see a couple of low relief panels by Kai (tying in with my special interest in street art sculptures).

I pause briefly for lunch but then I keep going until 5pm as I don’t know when I’ll be going around the Chelsea galleries again.

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Save Strata!

Melbourne University has a fine tradition of acquiring, for very little cost, sculptures that are surplus to the requirements of Melbourne’s business world. Many architectural sculptures from the 19th Century “marvellous Melbourne” found new homes at Melbourne University. The demolition of old commercial buildings and the removal of their sculptures has added to the university’s collection. Urban Melbourne has a page about sculptures that have moved generally due to demolitions.

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Chris Booth, Strata, 2001

This tradition continues today with the university acquiring the sculptures in the AXA Plaza in Little Collins Street. Several sculptures will be displaced by construction including the works of Peter and Paul Blizzard and, New Zealand sculptor, Chris Booth’s massive stone assembly (400cm x 1000cm x 35cm), Strata, 2001.

Booth is known internationally and has major commissions in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Strata is typical of Booth’s work with stone. The stones are bound together with stainless steel cable to create the curved sculptural form. The sculpture is tied to the land for on the Castlemaine slate there are petroglyph by aboriginal artist, Fiona Clarke.

The problem is that Melbourne University has agreed to take Strata but not pay for it to be reassembled by the artist. Chris Booth describes this as “an act of vandalism” for it  is no better than the complete destruction of the sculpture. For without reassembly Strata is nothing more than a pile of rocks. It doesn’t come with pages of interactions and an Allen key from Ikea; not that would help, it needs the artist to reassemble it.

Urgent action is required as the dismantling of the sculpture is due to start in a week. Chris Booth is requesting that the Melbourne University reconsider their decision. It is all very well for Melbourne University to accept Paul Blizzard’s Fossil Stones because it can easily moved and plopped in a new location. However, as Booth points out, “as the University of Melbourne has accepted these three works into its keeping it has a legal and moral duty to protect them for posterity.”

The Moral Rights provisions in the Copyright Act, under section 195AT, states that the owner of a moveable artistic work is liable to the artist if they destroy the artistic work without first giving the artist opportunity to remove it.

For more about this issue see my earlier post: Redevelopments and Public Sculpture.

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The forecourt on Lt. Collins Street


Books and Milestones

Today is the anniversary of my first book launch (insert plug for Sculptures of Melbourne here). Recently I passed several other milestones. Earlier this year I posted my 1,000th blog post. And now this blog has had over 500,000 total views! Thanks to everyone for reading it. Cheers!

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The author trying to look through Andy Warhol’s eyes with a sleep mask from the Warhol/WeiWei exhibition gift shop.

I have started researching my next book about art and crime. There are many true stories at this intersection between two worlds, stories involving art thefts, art forgery, vandalism of art, vandalism that is art and criminals who do art. If you want to contact me with information about art involving crimes or crimes involving art in Australia I can keep your identity confidential.

I was able to post an early draft about courtroom sketch artists but I will not always be able to do that. I can’t blog about some of my current research into art and crime, so you will have to wait and read about it in my next book.

For this and other reasons, that I will describe as R&R (research and relaxation), I will be taking a short break from posting on this blog. I feel that I owe my regular readers a note explaining the absence of any blog posts rather than simply vanish and leave them wondering what happened. I hope to be posting my usual mix of exhibition reviews, street art notes, public sculpture history and other items about Melbourne’s visual arts culture in a little over a month.

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