William Corwin’s Top 10 Shows in New York: Oct/Nov 2010

There are a lot of enigmas; false starts, misleading leads, and mysteries in New York this start of the art season.  Cryptic and spidery hands seems to be at work in many galleries.  It’s all about the line, and very little explanation is being offered.  Subtexts abound and the viewer is being forced to think, but not to turn tail and run, or even worse, loudly proclaim their kids could have done it.  There’s an onslaught of brainy art, work that goes somewhere, then drags you somewhere else, and is not terribly narrative or explanatory.  If it is narrative, it isn’t straightforward and there are lots of flashbacks and the characters say weird stuff (to push this drama/cinematic metaphor), like a German expressionist play, or maybe a Mike Myers  Dieter Sprockets skit from an old Saturday Night Live.  But it’s not arbitrary, at least not all the time.

David Scher
Regular is Best
through October 10th

Scher’s drawings, paintings and sculpture float on a gossamer of delicate, fraught and tortured lines.  There are themes, poems even, running throughout his works.  Sometimes these are the drawings themselves, but often they are a separate conversation, between the artist and his piece, and the artist and his spectator, contained as a addendum within the work.  Scher’s art is  all about this endless conversation.  At times the discourse explicates the subtexts and imagery, at times it frustrates the meaning, which is intentional.  You either have to ignore the words and enjoy the drawings for their  masterful and florid execution, or follow the artist in his painfully circular logic, Do you like Frank Zappa?

Dan Colen
through Oct 16

I was a bit trepidatious on entering Gagosian to see Dan Colen’s work, after being overwhelmed by the excited press, and not being able to fit in the door at the opening. But you know what, I was really impressed with the work. It may come as a surprise–a lot of artists work with gum. Or gum-like candy(I’m including Starburst in their), and for the most part, they really just use it as a kooky replacement for clay, so generally the work never progresses beyond a simple-minded one-liner. Colen, on the other hand, chews and mashes (or gets assistants to do it) up the gum. It’s been chewed; there are little bits of the candy shell in among the strands of colorful goo. Various colors are mashed together and the whole is gritty and repulsive in it’s sticky viscous viscerality. There’s a bit of that feeling of the underside of your homeroom desk in high school, which is kind of what art about gum really should be. I enjoyed the strength of the grossness of the pictures. The inverted skating ramp also evoked the randomness of the mark, in this case made by rubber tires, that was something Gerhardt Richter was going after in his drawings as well (see below).

Alternative Histories
through November 24

A magnificent survey of the social condensers where art is made and the discourse flourishes.  This exhibition presents over 130 experimental New York spaces-histories as well as archival material- ‘zines, catalogues and posters.  Represented a classics already in the canon-PS1, ABCnoRio, The Clocktower, and ExitArt itself, or course, as well as the young pioneers of the scene-Pocket Utopia, Triple Candie, and Cleopatra’s among others.

Polly Apfelbaum
Off Colour
D’Amelio Terras
through October 23

Sequins.  The main gallery space at D’Amelio Terras is strewn with glittering patches of sequin bedecked fabric.  Demarcated by color groupings of these irregular shapes, a sort of geography is formed, a giant deconstructed Risk board.  Gallery visitors have to play a sort of hop-scotch, and while there is a sort of paper cut-out familiarity to the forms, for most part these clouds don’t really look like anything.  There is and insistence somehow though, that these shapes must form something meaningful, due to their forced cohabitation in the same space, thus you wander the little streams and gullies of the interstitial space, trying to make sense of Apfelbaum’s puzzle.

Fred Tomaselli
October 8, 2010–January 2, 2011
The Brooklyn Museum

Fred Tomaselli’s work manages, through its artfulness and poetry, not to get stuck in any of the ruts that collage tends to fall into.  He is a master of his imagery, and doesn’t, as many artsist do, get dragged along by the power of a pre-formed picture.  Perhaps it’s just the sheer quantity of imagery-closer investigation of a Tomaselli piece will open a can of blissful information overload, or it may be the subject matter-transcendental experience, biblical references, his purview is expansive to say the least.

Gerhard Richter
Lines which do not exist
through Nov. 18

There are four large drawings that line the back wall of this exhibition that are revelatory.  The title, “Lines which do not exist,” is an apt assessment of Richter’s seeming aim in the act of making drawings.  While some of the drawings are straightforward–diagrams and sketches–his classic simple architectural configurations and even a nude, others seem to question the very idea of putting pen to paper or creating a graphite mark.  Fields of gray bisected by scraggly lines are decisively abstract, yet also diagrammatic, but lacking the necessary reference point to make them actual diagrams.  The installation is also intriguing as well.  The drawings (framed) have the appearance of being neatly placed on shelves and leaned against the wall.

Laurent Grasso
Sound Fossil
through Oct 23
Sean Kelly Gallery

There’s a whole lot of mixed messages emanating through the work of Laurent Grasso. He pulls off a careful balancing act between magic and scientific sleight of hand, and the dark territory that lies in between. On one level, art IS magic, whether or not magic actually exists (so therefore it does in the form of art). On the other hand, there are things like telekinesis, which probably really don’t exist. Grasso comports himself as a skeptic, but he keeps making art about paranormal things, or things that seem paranormal-like the sound of the universe being created–which you ca actually hear– so you have to wonder after a while. This particular show revolves around that univers-noice, aka a soundfossil, and an earlier piece, a relatively convincing CGI video a la Alfred Hitchcock of a summoning of birds, again, creepily paranormal.

Yoshitomo Nara
Nobody’s Fool
The Asia Society
through Jan 2.

I first became aware of Nara’s work at the Drawing Now exhibition at the MoMA Queens back in ’03.  I’ll follow that up by saying I was not a member of the trench coat mafia at my high school that fell in love with the oversized breasts and the general aesthetic of manga cartooning.  In Nara’s work the hyper-cute imagery masks a much deeper discontentment, and his roly-poly characters seem supremely capable of expressing both their own deep personal (or their creators) resentments as well as a critical reflection on the need for saccharine hyper-cuteness in Japanese society.  Thanks for the tip Brett!

Dahn Vo
Autoerotic Asphyxiation
Artists Space
through Nov. 7

This is the first solo exhibition of Vo’s work in the states.  Vo is a master of the brilliant  and witty non-art approach to art, capable, in my view, of pulling off the “white canvas” so well that even the usual conceptual art nay-sayers have to scratch their heads and admit that there’s something there.  The questions he raises about authorship, authenticity and identity don’t just address his own story as a refugee and unintentional Danish citizen (the freighter that picked up his boat was Danish), but also deal with issues of craft/non-craft and the history of imitation and repetition that IS the history of art.

Chaos and Classicism
the Guggenheim Museum
through Jan. 9

This exhibition, curated by Kenneth Silver, charts the real degeneration of art between WWI and WWII.   There was a slow disintegration of ideals that started with the healthy and pure artistic goals that marked the return to the figure in the 1920’s by artists rejecting cubism and abstraction, movements such as Expressionism and Neue-sachlichkeit, and the absorption of the purely craft and aesthetic aspects by fascist causes to reinforce a backwards looking, truly creepy social agenda.  Artists in the show include De Chirico, Picasso, and Leger, as well as Adolf Zielger (I wonder if he’s ever been in the Guggenheim before!).  I would also suggest watching Peter Cohen’s fascinating documentary “Architecture of Doom.”

About the author

Will Corwin is a sculptor and writer from and based in New York City. He shows with George and Jørgen Gallery in London, and will have an exhibition there from March 15-April 2nd 2011. He writes regularly for the Saatchi Online Magazine as well as ArtPapers, Frieze and BOMB. He will be doing an artist residency at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City this spring and summer.


  1. Wow, that’s a lot of dudes.

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