20 December 2008

gilbert, george, just, and sackler

When I saw Roberto Ferrari last week at Boys Night Out, he mentioned that he'd done a blog entry at bklynbiblio on the Gilbert & George show at the Brooklyn Museum and wondered what I thought. Earlier today, I went to the blog and skimmed the entry and realized that what I really wanted to do was SEE the show so I logged off the computer and got me off to Brooklyn. What a great visit.

After checking my coat and bag, I started into the galleries and noticed the sign for "Romantic delusions" by Jesper Just. Wow, what wonderful videos. I liked all four of them, partly because of the ambiguous sexuality. Nothing about the signage in the gallery seemed to indicate homosexuality but each, in their way, had a queer element. "No man is an island" showed an older man dancing around a square as a younger man wept (thoughts of Jan Bas Ader). The crowd gathered and some of the children mimicked the older dancer. In "The lonely villa," two men -- again one older, one younger -- call each other and sing to each other, the older man being in a space that looked like an old-fashioned men's club, redolent of Victorian novels. In "Bliss and heaven," the young man walks out of a field and into a semi-trailer. A shaft of light appears in the dark space and another man in a blonde wig is singing in the shaft of a spotlight. He seems to have some kind of anxiety attack, leaves the stage, leaving the other man clapping. And then in "Romantic delusions," an older man wanders the streets in an athletic shirt with a padded bra underneath. Not sure what any of it meant but they were very intriguing videos.

After a quick viewing of "The black list" photos of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (they are good but it was getting late), I went up to the fifth floor for the Gilbert & George show. It starts in the polygonal gallery with several of the postcard sculptures and small pieces in vitrines, as well as crayon drawings around the outside walls. I'd forgotten what wonderful text accompanied the early G&G works, particularly the "Art for all" projects. And that reminded me of Judy Hoffberg who was the chief founder and first executive secretary of ARLIS/NA. For the 1977 conference, we had a button "Vita brevis, ARLIS longa." Judy taught me, early on, that art is primary and that has informed my life, personal and professional, all along. She is now very ill with acute myeloid leukemia and has just published the last issue of Umbrella, the whole run of which can be found at umbrellaeditions.com.

I was a tad reluctant to run to see the G&G show because recent paintings that I've seen haven't especially drawn me. There seems to be unnecessary vulgarity. I don't think I have a problem with piss and shit but their renditions of same just seemed silly. The installation in Brooklyn has a wide mix of the huge paintings. Although there are a couple of the piss/shit variety and a few with overt homoeroticism, most of the objects are actually quite serene (symmetric, men in suits) and not especially titillating. There's a parents and teachers advisory before you go into the show but the mix of works seems to me to enable an imaginative parent or teacher space for talking about the art without getting all tangled in "adult" subject matter.

My favorite postcard sculpture was probably "Coronation cross" with images of Queen Elizabeth II and the vaults of Westminster Abbey, looking very peacocky. My favorite slogan on one of the paintings was probably "Are you angry or are you boring?" Alas, no postcard of the slogan.

I haven't gone back to read Roberto's blog entry on the show but I guess I should.

Leaving the G&G show and shopping opportunity, I walked into the Sackler Center for Feminist Art. By now, I was down to about ten minutes before the galleries closed but what a quick feast: Nayland Blake (having just seen his show at Location One, curated by Maura Reilly, Sackler curator), a couple Suzanne Opton portraits of soldiers, a good Lorna Simpson, and a wonderful Adrian Piper installation in the far corner "What it's like, what it is #1." I checked the Brooklyn Museum website for information on the works and the link to the Feminist Art Base from the main page leads to a page with rotating images. The one when I popped in was a Katy Grannan of a naked man in a sauna. Love Grannan's work in general, her languid and serene images of people in mostly natural settings are enigmatic yet attractive.

So it wasn't like I did oodles of art venues today but I did visit Tracy Williams Ltd this morning as I ran errands and really enjoyed the Ernst Caramelle works on view. The works in the lower gallery were on paper exposed to the sun. Soft colors, strong shapes, something like a combination of Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, and Ezra Stoller photos of International Style interiors.

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