New Year’s Picks
By Christopher Chambers
Joyce Korotkin "CAMEO: Robert Longo," 2004 22 1/2"W x 30"H Watercolor, colored pencil, graphite on Arches watercolor paper
Tisn’t still the season to be jolly, so my pet bitch this new year is these charities that take rampant advantage of emerging artists. The well-intentioned collectors get tax write offs, a nice (maybe) dinner and under-priced original artworks. The charity gets …well…the money. The charities are usually worthy causes, although this year I donated time and artwork to XXXXXXXX, which was a pretty questionable operation. The artist gets zip. Once or twice I have heard of silent benefit auctions where the artist actually received a percentage. The irony is in that the affluent collectors and working charities profit while the generally broke artist who has been goaded with the promise of rubbing elbows with the rich – that means sitting in the corner at the artists‘ table at a reasonable benefit, or no eats at all at others. The lure is that the artist will make contacts and meet new clients while supporting a worthy cause. The artists themselves, however, realistically wind up minus one artwork and are treated with an, "aren’t you lucky to have had this opportunity," administration. I think artists should unite and just say no to the next dilettante who rings up asking for a freebie in exchange for a lucky maybe.
Meanwhile, despite the inequities:
One of the most remarkable artworks on public display in New York for the last couple of months has been Ivan Witenstein’s Girl’s song for a blessed sun and Light a fire so the world will be brighter, black knight, die and live free, on view at the Whitney Museum at Altria. Near the front door of the atrium-like space sprawls Witenstein’s felled fiberglass dragon. Saddled, knee high horses eagerly devour its flesh. Nearby a life sized, horned male figure (titled, Bad habits die hard, I hope I die hard) with hairy legs and long clawed fingers roars down at the scene from atop a large pedestal; all enthusiastically, if messily, fabricated in off-white resin. Appealingly vicious Tolkien—esque stuff.
Joan Snyder’s exhibition at the recently opened Betty Cunningham Gallery stood well for the painterly painters’ platform, and what is becoming the painters’ adage, "doing what can only be done in paint." Although her brand of abstract expressionism hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years, in this day when sophisticated image making is being largely influenced by digital manipulation, photography, and video, it is refreshing to see a bit of the pure stuff being done so well.
Ursula Morley Price exhibited delicate ceramic vessels at McKenzie Fine art. Well, "vessel" is a bit of a misnomer; their obsessive craftsmanship overrules utilitarian application. She has a lovely feeling for materiality. The pieces are variations on a theme–thin flanges radiating from a central hollow core–and represent a natural sense of abstraction akin to Zen disciplines.
Group show pick of the holiday season is "100% Acid Free (neo-narrative works on paper)" curated by Micaela Giovanotti for White Columns. She included nine artists united by obsessive detailing and craftsmanship, with the exception of Steve Mumford’s dashed off war illustrations which are so obsessive to begin with that they pass the gate. Personally, I liked Hans Op de Beeck’s three architectural-style renderings: one of clouds; one of a wooden dock; and one of barren trees in a landscape. Also a standout: Joyce Korotkin’s four mixed media portraits of contemporary artists surrounded by their own visionary icons. She had another piece that was festooned with Asiatic motifs with a bikini-clad temptress looming in the background.