Elizabeth Cooper

Press The New York Sun, 2008

Section: Arts+

Summer Gallery-Going: Hanging the Group Shows

May 27, 2008

High summer gallery-going in New York is low-key in the sense that few galleries schedule solo exhibitions, but the advent of group shows makes it a season for surprise discoveries. Most galleries take a short break at some point, but through the broiling months, those intrepid enough to brave western Chelsea, the Lower East Side, or West 57th Street will find in the air-conditioned galleries dealers taking a chance with artists they are contemplating for future representation, trying them out for size and seeing how they hang with artists the dealers show already.

Sometimes, these group shows have a theme and are guest-curated. Other times, the gallerist does not even pretend, and just calls it "Summer Selection." To the music scene's "Mostly Mozart," the art world answers with "general group."

For reviewers, this can make the summer months somewhat trying, and come Labor Day there is a collective sigh of relief from the third estate as the dry spell is followed by a deluge of solo shows. But for critics as well as dealers, the group shows have their appeal, encouraging an old-fashioned style of writing in which you simply wander around and find talent from amidst the maelstrom — a bit like Diderot or Baudelaire covering the Salon.

But the dry spell is not with us yet. June is still a perfectly respectable gallery month, with rich pickings in store. Just opened are several keenly awaited shows that run through the following month, or longer. Jack Shainman Gallery, for example, presents the spirited black history mural painter Kerry James Marshall, while Marlborough Chelsea has Hunt Slonem, known for his exuberant, serial paintings of birds, and his icon-like portraits of saints, sacred or secular (both shows until June 21). Tibor de Nagy has a historic show of Jess, as the quasi-outsider artist and lover of the poet Robert Duncan, Jess Collins, was known (until July 31).

Also now on view are Darina Karpov's obsessively involved, science fiction-y landscapes in watercolor, at the mainstay Williamsburg gallery Pierogi 2000 (until June 23). Her work ties in with two other artists showing this summer: Fanny Bostrom at 31Grand (the former Williamsburg gallery that has since decamped to the Lower East Side), who also works in aqueous mediums on paper in pieces that can entail schematic constellations imposed on childlike landscapes (May 29 to June 28); and Chris Finley at Lombard-Freid Projects, whose show of swirling, looping abstract forms, each named for a political figure, is titled "Power Sources" (until July 3).

More hard-edged and conceptual abstraction is represented by two solo shows: Michael Zahn at Eleven Rivington (May 28 to July 3) is known for monochromatic canvases in synthetic colors that resemble commercial stationery, while Alix Le Méléder at Galerie Zurcher (June 11 to July 23) makes repeating marks in the corners of small white canvases. For freely abstract painting that steers a course equally distant from neatness and obsessiveness, there is Elizabeth Cooper at Thrust Projects (until June 29).

Figuration, meanwhile, has its devotees among several painters given early summer solo spots. Betty Cuningham's "Philip Pearlstein: Then and Now" compares late 1960s paintings by the veteran painter of nudes in the interior with work of the last decade to dispel the impression held by some of a lack of development in this artist's work. Angela Fraleigh at PPOW (June 5 to July 3) is known for canvases of faces in a tight realist hand that are then submerged in poured sludges and dabs of viscous oil. Gabi Hamm at Perry Rubinstein (May 29 to July 2) paints the female figure in allegorical poses, and forlorn-looking houses in blasted landscapes. Erotic female figures feature in the politically motivated drawings of Zoë Charlton at Clementine (June 26 to August 2). Zhao Nengzhi depicts a series of grotesquely fleshy male figures he calls phantoms at ChinaSquare (opening June 5).

Summer is by no means all painting. Photographer Philippe Gronon, known in the past for meticulous near-abstract studies of metallic architectural details, is to be seen at Yossi Milo Gallery (until July 11). Laurence Miller has a historical pairing in "Henri Cartier-Bresson and Helen Levitt: Side by Side" (June 4 to August 15). And elaborately staged interiors in color entailing surreal antics between figures and props tend to feature in the work of Julie Blackmon at Claire Oliver (until June 21) in an exhibit titled "Domestic Vacations."

The late filmmaker Jack Goldstein will be at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in their Chelsea space (May 29 through July) while rough, large-scale abstract modernist sculptures in metal and plaster exploring phenomena of motion and the figure in the environment by Jilaine Jones will be up at the New York Studio School (June 5 to July 19). And the angry young woman British painter Dawn Mellor has a show at Team whose title, "A Curse on Your Wall," promises that the usual robust stomach will be required for it (June 19 to August 15).

David Cohen, "Summer Gallery-Going: Hanging the Group Shows",
The New York Sun
, March 27, 2008.