Monday, November 21, 2011

Allison Schulnik - Zieher Smith : Jim Hodges - Gladstone Gallery : Neo Rauch - David Zwirner

Allison Schulnik - Zieher Smith

The first time I saw Allison Schulnik’s video was at a hip hotel in Los Angeles. It was a music video for Grizzly Bear. It was an animation of melty, goo-faced, sad monsters that were morphing into and out of eye sockets, the ground, and other bodies. It had me fixated. Just by wandering chance I popped into Zieher Smith the other day and lo and behold there was Schulnik. Then I realized I had seen her paintings somewhere before. They are massed glops of never going to dry paint that make muddy colored peaks and divots. They are of murky and distorted animals, plants, clowns, and they reminded me of dried flowers and specimens that have already begun to rot. In addition to these there were glazed ceramic works, a miniature lotus flower tableau, a quirky white cat. This type of quick hand sculpting and glazing in ceramics is something I have noticed cropping up more, Schulnik doesn’t do it the best but I understand the impulse. Then there is a projection of an animated film called MOUND. Her cast of purgatorial clay beings returns, again sprouting and cannibalizing themselves in soft colored swirls. There are also puppets in the film; stringy haired wallflowers with stooped necks performing a choreographed dance. The audio is an old-timey ballad by Scott Walker entitled “It’s Raining Today,” the whole effect is really lovely. Schulnik’s films are very good, the best of her art repertoire, but she’s smart to keep at it in the various mediums, her checklist was almost completely sold out with very well positioned prices for an artist gaining traction. This is a good sign, since experimental film is impossibly hard to manage without time and money.

Jim Hodges – Gladstone Gallery

There is a duel show of Jim Hodges works at Gladstone Gallery; I only viewed one in their massive project space located on 21st street. In this high ceiling room, four massive boulders sit. These are very pretty boulders, they have appealing, dented egg like shapes and they have lichen and geologic streaking but what makes them the prettiest rocks in town is that half of each boulder is covered with mirroring tinted metal. They are purple, blue, yellow and orange mixed with gasoline luminosity that visually blends together in their reflected surfaces. In the press release it goes into detail about the various points of investigation Hodges explores in his art and this installation was apparently inspired by his trip to India. The release says that through these boulders he is, “Merging the real with the imagined…seamlessly juxtaposes dense organic forms with the interventions of synthetic beauty.” There that is in a nutshell, but regardless of the talky-talk, it does get to its point. They are impressive or at least makes the day a bit different after you have been next to them. Also, they are executed stunningly, really superb objects. As much as those types of efforts usually make me shake my head in disbelief of sapped resources, they are admittedly neat to see. Also, just by randomness, Glen Ligon was the only other person viewing this piece when I was there, so we were solemnly rotating around these objects and reflecting into them. I know a thing like that should not change the way art is experienced, but it does. Everything is relative.

Neo Rauch – David Zwirner

Neo Rauch’s exhibition, Heilstätten, at David Zwirner is a flat bore. Sorry to say it Rauchians but that is the truth of it. His exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 (god times flies) was impressive, immersive and even if you are not into that sort of thing you got why so many people fawned over his paintings. Now, this current exhibition at Zwirner feels like a cliff notes version of that show. It has the same characters, the same compositions and the same devices but the substance is gone. The larger paintings are dull and obvious and too self-aware. His technique of morphing animals and humans seems silly and awkward and his other technique of thwarting space by skewing architecture and scale by inventing coexisting visual planes seems formulaic at best. Interspersed there were smaller canvases, and these were a bit better then the larger works but still they seemed more like money making devices then works in themselves. The most embarrassing part of the whole show was the bronze sculpture entitled Die Jägerin that is supposed to be Athena. It looks like a gouty Benjamin Franklin that has face tumors and one of those fake owls you put on your roof to scare away small rodents. The sculpture seems like evidence of that thing that happens when people get stratospherically successful and then there is this entourage of Yes people that fuel and feed any bad idea that may be thought out loud. Is this being too harsh? Possibly, I mean it is just art for goodness sakes and not every show or every decade is going to be a hit but the thing that bothers me the most about this show is just what I referred to, this allowance and proffered way of making art and selling art that has forgotten what the whole point of it was in the first place. What that exactly is, I’m not sure but what I do know is that it’s not supposed to look like this. Hopefully, Rauch’s next hurrah will be less manicured but I think the veil may have been lifted on Rauch for me, which is a bit sad but inevitable it seems.