Last night there was a standing-room-only crowd at the Swiss Institute in SoHo to hear artist Jamian Juliano-Villani talk about her work. Just back from opening her first solo museum show, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, she flipped through slides of her electrifying, madcap paintings, explicating the sources of their images—the cartoon characters, album covers, golf balls, stock photos, and lyrics that make her paintings hum. “I pull in things that I see in my daily life, and also things that I really love and respect, or just things that I like the way they look,” she said. “I paint shit that I like, and I also want to paint shit that I want to see.”
Brian Belott closed the lecture with one of his characteristically wild vocal performances. Sitting at a desk, he was talking gibberish one moment, with a Gaelic accent the next, then dipping into Dada-esque sound poetry, periodically speeding up to the very edge of nonsense so expertly that it was as if someone was hitting fast-forward on his mouth. Soon enough he was wailing on a cymbal with a mallet, dancing, and finally bowing to sustained applause.
On the more reserved end of the musical spectrum, Broadway 1602 is showing Rainforest V, a new site-specific version of a beguiling installation created by David Tudor (1926–96), the pianist probably best known for premiering work by Cage, Boulez, and quite a few other leading postwar avant-gardists. (Former collaborators Composers Inside Electronics are responsible for this posthumous edition.) Slices of wood, plastic tubes and bowls, and metal pipes hang from the ceiling by string, each adorned with sound-producing electronics. (Sergei Tcherepnin may come to mind.) It really does sound like a burbling, murmuring rainforest in there, but the real joy is getting up close to the sculptures to hear their individual chirps. The gallery provides stethoscope-style devices with metal tips at their ends that you can pop into your ears and press against various sculptures, getting an even more intense experience. This carries the added bonus of making you feel that you may be electrocuted or deafened in the process.
The current show by Dada scholar-dealer Francis M. Naumann of the fourth, youngest, and least-well-known artist in the Duchamp family, Suzanne (1889–1963), who followed brothers Marcel, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Jacques Villon into the profession, is an absolute treat. A gouache on paper from around 1920 offers a flavor of her early work, which has a Constructivist vibe—all shapes, angles, lines, and floating letters. In the 1920s she developed a short-lived avant-garde movement with husband Jean Crotti they called Tabu Dada—details are scant, but it seems to have taken an almost-mystical approach to creativity. Suzanne, the fourth of six Duchamp children, then moved into figurative work, depicting landscapes, flowers, and portraits (one of the son of Francis Picabia, who was a family friend). Many are quickly brushed in oil or watercolor, and they ooze Fauve color. As with the work of Charles Burchfield, you can feel that some of these ostensibly straightforward subjects harbor dark, vibrating energies.
There are only two full days left to see “The Gentle Way (Judo),” the elegant group show organized by artist Zak Kitnick that counts among its choice artists Rochelle Goldberg, Anicka Yi, and Roelof Louw, whose gorgeous Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) (1967) began its life as a pyramid of thousands of oranges that visitors may pick up and consume. When I stopped by last weekend, quite a few were missing and the pyramid was more like a fading ziggurat, though the fruit was still just barely fresh. Roberta Smith has already championed the works in The Times, but sometimes you just want to join the chorus: it’s pretty thrilling to think about the South African sculptor making it in 1967, years before such giveaways became an academic tick. The piece suggests a warm, funky retort to the self-serious minimalism that prevailed in so many galleries at the time. There are no promises that the oranges will still be fresh on Saturday, when the show closes, but I imagine the work will still pack quite a tropical punch in the middle of this brutal winter.
Out in Glendale, Queens, in a very modest basement space right next to the Knollwood Park Cemetery, the artist Eric Schmid, whose work takes the form of plastic bags that he fills up with detritus of what he consumes any given day (bottles, packaging, the odd newspaper article), has started presenting shows with a variety of young grit-minded artists. (He’s titled the space Kavita B Schmid.) The first outing included people like Ben Schumacher, Elaine Cameron-Weir, and Simon Denny (a cardboard flat-screen television box); the second and most recent, Bradley Michael Kronz, Jonathan Gean, Olga Balema, and Ben Morgan-Cleveland (a white version of the burlap paintings he makes by leaving sheets of burlap on streets at night, to be run over and abused). Schmid is leaving most of the work from each show in place, letting it pile up (as at Peter Nadin and Christopher D’Arcangelo’s space, in a sense) and get a little scuffed and muddled. The basement is filling up fast.
“Art of the City” is a weekly column by ARTnews co-executive editor Andrew Russeth.