Monday, September 19, 2016

September Brief – Cosima von Bonin, Art Book Fair, Stephan Kalmár, Lisa Cooley

Cosima von Bonin at SculptureCenter

Hello Darkness My Old Friend,

Well actually, more like hello mid-September my old friend, but anyways, hello, hello, we meet again. As nibbled upon a few weeks ago, I gave a de-brief on the Art World’s WTF week which included a sloppy-joe sandwich of crazy that was happening in the art world at the end of August. Now, just a few weeks later, we have a whole other bag of goodies that has made September already overcooked with new news. Unlike that post, this post is not a cluster of crazy but rather quick reflections on what is going on in NYC, which reflect and portend what else may be around the corner.

It’s only September 19th and if the rest of the season is anything like these past few weeks I can only predict that the art world will be a changing, very-very swiftly.

Cosima von Bonin at SculptureCenter

Let’s start off with something nice(ish). Cosima von Bonin just opened a show at SculptureCenter entitled, Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea? The show, co-curated by Ruba Katrib (curator of SC) and Sarah McCroy Director of Glasgow International, uses the ocean as its loose thematic net to orchestrate this micro retrospective. von Bonin is a funky sort of artist. She was born in Kenya but is a white women who lives in Cologne. Does that matter? No, not really but this is something to remark upon because there seems to be a consistency of biography throughout her work. It’s not biography in an Emin sort of way but more a re-creation, total self-amusement based work and that in its own way is very personal. What we see in the show is a collection of sculptures, most of them made of bright fabric, most of them cartoonishly anthropomorphized animals; an octopus, shark, and clams. The theme of the ocean, although possibly the vastest theme out there is well contained by creating a B-52’s like beach vibe with an oversized bikini, and uselessly faux changing stalls and dune barriers. At the opening there was the added flare/blare of singers performing pop music while wearing bright pink wigs who would intermittently saunter through the space. That part felt a bit overdone but overall there was something light and fun about the whole show albeit I’m not sure I liked it all too much. But that’s what I appreciated about it. It wasn’t trying so hard. von Bonin seems to make what she wants to make because it’s funny to her/fun to make and that was extremely enjoyable to see. There is a fine line of goofy good and goofy dumb. von Bonin acutely knows this and her toying with it makes you understand that mastery.

Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1

September doesn’t quite feel like September until the Art Book Fair comes to town. Its been going on strong for years now and its one of those things that keeps going and going and gets bigger and bigger. Even though going to it feels like Groundhog Day in many ways, I do like to go and get an injection of what’s going on out there in art book land. I went this past Sunday at around 3 and it was hot, humid and packed. I always expect the zine tent/prison to be a sweaty mess but I was surprised the rest of the building was just as fuming hot. Someone should really try to do something about that. The only place that was bearable was the dome. I hate this dome but I loved it that day because it had AC. There is something impossible about neck-stooped book gazing and heat exhaustion. Besides the heat and ridiculous crowd it was nice to see the wares of smaller book publishers. Why bigger galleries and bigger art presses like Frieze, even has anything there is sort of beyond me. There should be another thing entirely for artist’s editions and rare archives. Oh and those project rooms. Totally useless. A tattoo station in Gagosian’s made me eye roll so hard that I almost found it funny, almost. Overall: glad this still happens, feel terrible for the dealers who had to endure the hours of heat and I bought two things! One a poetry book from The Song Cave by Christian Schlegel. The other a postcard that reads “Love Art. Hate The Art World” a quote by Kenneth Goldsmith (yeah, yeah I know…) but I couldn’t resist, it’s just too me.

 Stephan Kalmár Leaving Artists Space

It was just announced that Stephan Kalmár, current Executive Director and Curator, is leaving from this post which he has had since 2008 to go to ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in London this November. Hmmm, how do I feel about this? Not much but it doesn’t surprise me one bit and I am hoping that whoever does replace Kalmár is not…well just like Kalmár. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with what Artist’s Space has become under his tenure, in fact he has done everything right. The shows, the rebranding, the fundraising, etc... but there is something a bit sad about all that pristine success. Artist’s Space has transformed in the last decade or so to be so European in its modeling that the grit of New York has been Perrier with a dash of Club Mate washed away. Is there anything to do about that? I’m not sure but I always believe that a non-profit’s ultimate motive is to meet its mission. This has been maintained in some ways under Kalmár but in others it has not. Artist’s Space was/is/should be a place that serves artists. I’ll just leave it at that and am curious to see who/where it will go next.

Lisa Cooley Closing

Lisa Cooley is closing her Lower East Side Gallery space and it has been buzzing around these past weeks and it frankly made me sad to hear. Not too surprised but sad. The influx of LES galleries these past few years has been at a terrifying rate and although that glut needs/needed to be abated it nonetheless is very disheartening to hear that Cooley is one of the larger spaces to fold. Her programming was consistent and from every encounter I ever had with her or I heard about her, there was always professionalism and sincerity which is downright rare in the art world. Her reasons for closing have been articulated by her directly in various interviews and I think that even in these statements there continues to be a transparency and grace. It's sad that places like hers are the ones to close but I do not doubt that by year’s end more and more will be making similar announcements. Here’s to hoping that after all of that there are still some good ones left.