Distribution Automatique

Tuesday, June 19

Chelsea: Enclosures

Figuring this may be our last chance of the season, Toni and I headed out for a jaunt to Chelsea this past Saturday. We didn't expect much: the latest buzz had it that nothing much was happening this month. In fact, there were few people to be seen as we trudged the long streets between 10th and 11th avenues in quest of transcendence, or maybe just an aesthetic jolt. To my delighted surprise, we had plenty of memorable art to see. What follows is a sketch of that very satisfying day.

First off, we headed for the Pavel Zoubok Gallery, a diminutive affair at 533 West 23rd Street, the perfect scale for its mandate which is to show only collages. The show up now (which continues until August 10), is *In Context- collage & abstraction" This is a fine show- an available treat is a small catalogue for $10, with all color plates from this show. Many favorites in this show, Schwitters, Villegle, Nevelson, Amy Silliman, Tworkov and numerous surprises. A highly recommended show and gallery.

There's a fine show up at the A.I.R. Gallery (511 W. 25th Street) this month, work by an acquaintance of mine and Toni's, Joan Snitzer. The show opened on May 29 and continues until June 23, so you'll have to hurry. These are light and airy abstractions with lots of open space to move the eyes around in and not a little bit of finely delicate line drawing to guide the way. If you like Cy Twombly (who doesn't?) you'll very likely enjoy these too, but I'm not trying to say these paintings are in any way derivative. I found them delightful, sophisticated and charming and look foward to seeing wherever Joan Snitzer decides to go from here.

Moving on, as they so often say these days, and with Toni as my guide I have to because she covers a lot of ground quickly on a visit to Chelsea. In a day of very fine shows this one at the Betty Cunningham Gallery (541 W. 25th Street) was a knockout. Titled "It's All Spiritual: Art from Tribal Cultures", the show consists of pieces that originate from tribal cultures in the Americas, Africa, Indonesia, Polynesia, Melanesia and China, dating from 1100 BC to the early 20th Century. The show was curated by Alan Steele. The excellence of the curating was obvious in noting how incredibly interesting and engaging each and every piece was, very much including the 19th and early 20th Century pieces. Toni remarked how you can see in this show where so much contemporary art derives from; this and the sheer spiritual magic of the show was palpable the minute you starting examining the pieces closely. This is a show that should be the envy of museum curators everywhere. One of the standouts was a group of tiny figures reminiscent of Giacometti, dating from the 12th to 16th Century Djenne culture. The show closes on July 27th and is a must see.

I learned about the book parties at the Cue Art Foundation (511 W. 25th Street) only this year, to the surprise of my friend Charles North, but at least and at last enjoyed quite a few this year. This month at the gallery I liked nearly all the work I saw but particularly the work of Andrew Scott Ross, which, like the 12th to 16th Century piece at Betty Cunningham discussed above was a work consisting of tiny upright figures but these were placed in a miniature mountain landscape constructed out of gray cardstock. Especially after the Djenne piece mentioned above, this piece was haunting and revelatory. But there are other excellent works in this group show as well, including a fantastical painting of two figures in golden flowing robes that open out into biomorphic forms (Shalini Bhat) and some lovely abstractions by Emmy Cho and Maya Onada. Believe it or not, these are MFA award winners (the Joan Mitchell Foundation)- and you can pick up a nicely printed free catalogue at the show. Very satisfying!

Two more shows that follow today's theme of "enclosures." There's Dustin Yellin's impressive, biomorphic "Suspended Animations" at the Robert Miller Gallery (524 W. 26th Street). From the show notes: "For his second exhibition at the gallery, Yellin presents large scale, cast resin sculptures. Some tower over eight feet in height. His works, reminiscent of insects and plants captured in amber, are a fusion of sculpture and drawing. The illusion of encapsulated specimens in suspension is achieved by layering drawings in acrylic or India ink on resin. Yellin builds his drawings, sometimes as many as two hundred, one on top of the next, in precise orientations. The overlap and transparency of each layer reult in an astounding effect of three dimensionality."

I also enjoyed, at the George Adams Gallery (525 West 26th Street) new paintings by Sandy Winters. These are figurative paintings of a fantastical nature, that reminded me slightly of the work of Susan Bee. Hanging from trees are plastic bubbles that enclose strange unidentifiable, yet somehow recognizable drawings of creatures: a familiar landscape is thus converted into a kind of animated dramscape that is cartoonlike yet eerie in a through-the-lookinglass way.

All in all, Toni's Saturday Chelsea tour reminded me that even when your friends tell you nothing is happening in Chelsea right now, if you look closely-and have an artist as a super guide- you may still find yourself astounded.