A Critic's Diary

July: At a Pfizer Factory, Water Cannons, Off-Season Venice, a New Museum on Eldridge

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Blood), 1992, at the Punta della Dogana in Venice.

It is disorienting to be in Venice between art Biennales, passing all of the palazzi that were home to pavilions and parties not so long ago, not to mention accidentally hitting dead ends that I am fairly certain I have run into more than once before.

Lauretta and I are in Italy for the wedding of friends in the Dolomites, so we bookend the trip with two nights in the Most Serene Republic, just enough time to see a decent amount of art. At the Punta della Dogana, François Pinault has a superb group show very loosely themed around self-portraiture called “Dancing With Myself”—it includes work by Cindy Sherman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Urs Fischer, and others—and at the Palazzo Grassi he’s got a convincing Albert Oehlen retrospective. At the Peggy Guggenheim is a second chance to see the great “Josef Albers in Mexico” show, which was in New York a few months back, plus “1948: The Biennale of Peggy Guggenheim,” a look at the time that the inimitable patron presented her collection in the Greek pavilion at the Biennale.

A model of the Greek Pavilion at the 1948 Venice Biennale, with Peggy Guggenheim’s collection installed.

The Fondazione Prada, meanwhile, has one of the most insane (in a positive way) shows I see all year, the Dieter Roelstraete–curated “Machines à penser,” which examines, through photographs and artworks, how Theodor W. Adorno, Martin Heidegger, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, as well as other intellectuals, spent time living in exile or isolation. There are even meticulous miniatures of the modest rural residences that the big three philosophers called home at various points. No expense is spared when it comes to Prada affairs.

Post-wedding, we take a bus to Trieste, where we enjoy big plates of tripe and mortadella at Trattoria da Giovanni (not to be confused with the itinerant art resto in New York). The main art museum in the city, the Museo Revoltella, housed in part of the manse that once belonged to a financier of the Suez Canal, has an intensely eclectic selection of mostly Italian art from the past few hundred years. I recommend it. Then, via bus, it’s on to Pula, Croatia, which is light on contemporary art but does feature a cute little Temple of Augustus from around 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., a Roman colosseum from about the same period that is believed to be the sixth-largest in existence, and a seriously detailed floor mosaic—also Roman in origin—of the punishment of Dirce that is located just off of a parking lot.

The onetime studio of Milton Resnick on Eldridge Street.

On the homefront, I am bowled over by the work I see while interviewing the inimitable Petah Coyne in her sprawling studio in West New York, New Jersey; speak with a class of inquisitive high school students studying at NYU with Jamie Sterns for the summer; visit with the painter Chuck Webster in Bed-Stuy; attend a party held by MoMA’s press team in the museum’s library, where I am delighted to meet both the legendary critic and biographer Kay Larson and Yumi, Maika Pollack’s newborn baby; finally make it to the latest edition of “Re:Art show,” a multi-part series of experimentally minded exhibitions that have been occurring in a variety of rooms in a onetime Pfizer factory, also in Bed-Stuy, where highlights are ferocious paintings by John A. Rivas and an off-the-wall video-game work by Porpentine Charity Heartscape, who’s also organized a selection of digital pieces; and dash through the palatial exhibition space that the Milton Resnick and Pat Pasloff Foundation, which has opened in Resnick’s old studio building on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side with a survey of his work. The artist’s last workspace—splattered with paint and filled with canisters of paint—has been preserved, and I am shocked to find he wore the same Adidas flip-flops I had when I was younger.

Meanwhile, Condo, the gallery-share program that involves local dealers hosting shows by colleagues from abroad, is in full swing, having opened at the very end of June. The quality of the contributions from 26 international gallerists at 21 locations varies considerably, but ultimately it’s just nice to see work by a number of artists I have only ever known through JPEGs. Making it to all of locations feels like partaking in a scavenger hunt. While the official closing of Condo is July 27, a few galleries extend the run of their shows into August, making that hunt a bit easier. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time—like when Bourdon was writing his diary, back in 1977—many galleries had closed up shop before July. What did art obsessives do all summer back then?

Work by John A. Rivas at the Re:Art Show.

Shows seen, many of them group affairs, as is the summer tradition, with Condo outings included: “Summer,a buoyant group show organized by Ugo Rondinone with “Sky Paintings” by Geoffrey Hendricks (Freeman); Anna K.E. and Daniel Sinsel (Sadie Coles HQ at Subal); “Distortions” (Karg); the punch-throwing “Putting Out, with Juliana Huxtable, Annie Sprinkle, Amalia Ulman, and more (GBE); Helene Appel (Cohan); Diana Lozano and Marisa Takal (Company); Rose Salane (Carlos/Ishikawa at Company); Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin (Lewis); Matt Keegan (Altman Siegel at Lewis); “Gallery Artists” (Abreu); “Safe, which manages the not-unimpressive accomplishment of getting Sam McKinniss and Philippe Parreno in one space (Gladstone); Julia Haft-Candell (Franklin Parrasch Gallery); Gözde İlkin (Gypsum Gallery at Franklin Parrasch); Hisachika Takahashi, J.Parker Valentine, and Yui Yaegashi (Misako & Rosen at Franklin Parrasch) Haroshi, Makoto Taniguchi, Masato Mori (Nanzuka at Petzel); a deeply wonderful Alan Shields selection (Van Doren Waxter); “Cliche” (Rech); Math Bass (Boone); Thomas Downing (Yares); group show (Hopkinson Mossman and Kristina Kite at Bureau); Julie Béna, Julie Curtiss, and Joy Feasley (Adams and Ollman at Chapter NY); “tears then holes” (Uffner); group show (Cooper Cole and Night Gallery at Uffner); “Totems and Trophies” (Proxyco); group show (Crèvecoeur at Bodega); Rose Marcus, Sara Barker, and Hans Breder (Mary Mary at Algus); “Annex” (Shrine); Hannah Barrett (Yours Mine & Ours); Mandy Lyn Ford (Yours Mine & Ours); a remarkable show of shell sculptures and other intrigues by the dealer Mitchell Algus, returning to his past life as an artist (47 Canal); “Snarl of Twine” (Magenta Plains); John Miller and Megan Plunkett (Shoot the Lobster); “The Culture Curated” by Dapper Bruce Lafitte (Fierman); group show (Christian Anderson and Edouard Malingue Gallery at Foxy); Sam Windett (The Approach at Marinaro); “Cheeky: Summer Butts,” organized by Anthony Iacono and Peter LaBier (Marinaro); “New York” (New Release); “Expired Attachment, where Gretchen Bender looks very good: someone please get more of her work on public view soon! (MX); Matteo Callegari (Downs & Ross); Igor Hosnedl (Downs & Ross); John Russell (Donahue); group show (Experimenter at Donahue); Louis Cane and Gedi Sibony (Emmanuel Barbault); Elizabeth Enders (Cunningham); “Summertime” (Tibor de Nagy); “Beside Myself” (JTT); Benjamin Hirte (Galerie Emanuel Layr at JTT); group show (Grey Noise and Maisterravalbuena at Van Doren Waxter); Martha Diamond (Presenhuber); “Draw a Line to Make a Landscape” (Madragoa at Alexander & Bonin); “Gallery Laboratory” (Alexander & Bonin); a giant Ed Flood and a giant Rebecca Morris, both rollicking (Corbett vs. Dempsey at Bortolami); group show (Park View/Paul Soto at Queer Thoughts); a survey of the esteemed painter and curator Paul Bloodgood (White Columns); Michael LeVell (First Street Gallery at White Columns); “Voice of America” (Gladstone); Hanne Lippard & Nora Turato (LambdaLambdaLambda at Metro Pictures); Jason Dodge (Kaplan); and Cait Carouge and Alyse Ronayne (321).

Aboard the Fireboat John J. Harvey, painted by Tauba Auerbach for a project called Flow Separation.

Near the end of the month, I board the Fireboat John J. Harvey from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Tauba Auerbach has painted it in marvelous wavy red and white dazzle camouflage, a project of the Public Art Fund and 14–18 NOW tied to the centenary of the end of World War I, when that bizarre form of disguise predominated. For a little more than an hour, the boat cruises the waterways of New York—up the East River, around the southern tip of Manhattan, and into the Hudson (more properly termed the North River, the captain forms us via loudspeaker). All along the way, people from the shores wave—most wave back—and snap photos.

Finally the boat cruises up to the Statue of Liberty, where it stops and unleashes its water cannons [video], putting on a show for those on the island, as it once did in the days of old to christen new ships or celebrate other special occasions. The whole experience is magnificent.

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