“Deborah Kass: America’s Most Wanted, 1998-1999″ at Sargent’s Daughters (East Broadway), through June 28.
“RE(A)D” at Nathalie Karg (Grand St.), through July 3.
“Margaret Loy Pula and Lily Kelly Napangardi” and “Emil Alzamora” at Marc Straus (Grand St.), through June 12.
“Not a Painting” and “Holton Rower: Psquirmour” [sic] at The Hole (Bowery), through July 26.
Contemporary art-time really flies – can’t believe it’s been two decades since Kass began her ten-year-long “Warhol Project,” in which she mimicked the Pope of Pop’s duplicative, attention-grabbing tabloid-to-silkscreen-to-canvas method to express her personal and professional identities (artist, feminist, Jewish, lesbian). Integral to this art journey was calling out art-world patriarchies all along the way, with lots of winks at Warhol’s somewhat closeted art-gayness (although out there in life, there was little critical discussion of gender and sexuality in relation to his art before his death while, since then, this direction has proliferated).
It started with the “Barbra” paintings–two series in which Kass replaced Warhol’s shiksa celebrities with images of Streisand–one featuring a schnozz-enhancing profile, the other, in drag in the lead role of her 1984 film, Yentl. From there, the “guerrilla” Warhols rolled off the press, including the series on view here, based on his notorious “Most Wanted Men” images, thirteen mugshots appropriated from an NYC police blotter, transferred onto the exterior of the New York pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair. While Pop art was assimilated relatively quickly by commoners as well as mainstream cognoscenti (one famous exception: C. Greenberg), this prosaic reality romp was out of bounds whether or not the gay in-joke just below the surface was intuited by the fair officials who promptly had it covered up; Warhol used the screens for a later series on canvas. Kass’s “suspects” are those “wanted” by emerging artists: scholarly and commercial art movers and shakers like Thelma Golden, Robert Storr, Donna DaSalvo, Lisa Dennison. While Kass’s concept is the overpowering thing, the canvases have an engaging optical and physical presence first hand, coming in and out of focus as they shift between grainy, grisaille photo blow-ups and Lichtenstein-pointillist, near abstract, black and white print-paintings. They look strong and committed to their collective statement/s in this cement-chic space at the edge of the LES scene.
Up (north) the street a piece, fortuitously: a direct riff on Duchamp’s seminal art poster, “Wanted: $2000 Reward” (first created 1923) that also haunts Warhol’s–and Kass’s–respective series, by oldster Angeleno outlaw (and early Warhol appropriator), Richard Pettibone, in the group show, “Re(a)d.” His re-do, in which his own image replaces that of Duchamp’s, retains the original’s red-lettered headline and list of aliases. The merging of red color and text is not as preciously random here as it may first appear; foremost, it refers to a series of shows curated by Bob Nickas in NYC in the mid-1980s. (Interestingly, the “red” show last summer was a revisitation of Alexander Iolas’s 1947 show, “Bloodframes,” at Paul Kasmin; see post, 8/11/14.) But even if it it were, it’s fun, with serious work looking relevant across several generations (iffy elevator and steep stairways in this gallery’s new space notwithstanding). From Scott Reeder’s adolescent-graffiti-writer canvases to an studio apartment-sized jewel of an Ed Ruscha, the inter-generational roster is inspired, and the semiotically-charged sensibilities floating around quite individualistic. A favorite: Kay Rosen’s Overbite–you’ll see. It also appears to be a smart art-world display in terms of mixing up constituencies and, most likely, primary and resale merch.
For true art world outsider art, see the indigenous Australian “dream painters,” Pula and Napangardi, at Straus. Their respective all-over, dotty and spider-web-delicate, earth-toned abstractions need to be engaged up close and personal. While (near obligatory) comparisons are made in the gallery hand-out of resemblances to mainstream Minimalism, I could not help thinking of kooky ( in the most endearingly sense of the term) Yayoi Kusama while gazing into the infinite (outer) space evoked by these artists. Upstairs, Peruvian sculptor Alzamora re-treads the modernist track with human-scale figurative sculptures variously stretched and bundled, nude-like and strangely wrapped, evoking Henry Moore and (a bit) Antony Gormley. It’s good old-fashioned carving (gypsum; finished to look like stone) and modeling (presumably, for the several bronzes).
Back in the East Village (and a reminder of its gallery heyday), The Hole summer group turns painting inside out by hanging on its walls everything that’s “not a painting”– although stuff hanging on a wall in a gallery inevitably refers to painting. So, fantastical “phony baloney”–literally, rubbery-cast, over-sized, mimetic slices of pimento-and-olive-infused lunch meat–by Martha Friedman; a chain-link fence “canvas” by Evan Roberts; buoyant, bright plays on Frank Stella’s heavy-metal wall constructions by Adam Parker Smith; and funkily “bedazzled” mandalas by Evie Falci (re the term, check the current AT&T t.v. ad, or Michael’s Hobby store). Back gallery bonus: definitely (rich) painting by Holton Rower–one series, all-over squirmy, poured pigments based on the wood grains of their grounds; another, the “worms” congealing into Surrealist biomorphs, popping off the sanded, raw wood. Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, Lynda Benglis, Morris Louis, a dash of Peter Schuyff, in a post-millennial blender.