Feminist collective Pussy Galore has taken up where Guerilla Girls left off by re-visiting their 1986 report card, which tallies representation of female artists by major New York dealers. When Pussy Galore re-issued the card in February this year, Tony Shafrazi Gallery held the dubious distinction of representing the smallest number of women in their stable (a measly 5%). They’ve recently slid to second place however, replaced by Marlborough Chelsea, who, following the departure of represented artist Davina Semo, now represent NO WOMEN.
In response, Marlborough Chelsea co-Director Max Levai had this to say; “As we enter our fourth season at Marlborough Chelsea, we continue our mission to work with artists of the highest calibre. This includes a commitment and priority to working with as diverse a roster as possible and to gender parity as we evolve. We take these issues very seriously and our audience will see that reflected in our planned schedule of upcoming exhibitions.”
While there have been some improvements since Guerilla Girls issued their first report card in 1986 there’s still a long way to go. Women make up 50% of the population; in 2015 there’s no excuse for this disparity to continue when it comes to commercial gallery representation.
Ten handsome young male troubadours milled about a dimly lit exhibition space, sitting on squabs, leaning against the wall, pulling beers out of a fridge. They were singing the same song, in a heartstring pulling minor key, over and over again. Initially it was all too schmaltzy, too earnest, but it didn’t take long to be sucked in. This same group of singers occupied the exhibition space 6 days a week, eight hours a day, for FOUR MONTHS. So there was a significant feat of endurance at play that cut through the frat boy prettiness. On one of the gallery walls was a large video projection on a loop. Shot in soft 70s hues, it featured a housewife and plumber arguing in a kitchen, before falling into an awkward embrace. This was in fact the artist’s actor parents, starring in Iceland’s first feature film, Morðsaga (1977) and family legend has it that Kjartansson was conceived the night after the shoot. Deciphering the lyrics to the troubadours’ song, which included the title of the work; Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011/2014), added an element of humour that initially made me feel embarrassed about my indulgence in the sheer beauty of the thing. And this is what makes Kjartansson’s work so great – he attempts to convey genuine emotion through melodrama, seeking sincerity within stereotypes. This was one of the best works I have ever experienced.
LOL was surprised to discover that the commercial galleries in Chelsea were largely filled with big, bad paintings. Lichty’s show, his first commercial solo, was a welcome antidote. Containing only four works, each sculpture and installation was a refined study in the interplay of two corresponding materials – a small square of basalt sat upon an identically sized block of steel, two strands of black Japanese silk knotted in the middle stretched floor to ceiling, Fred Sandback style. In the back room, two bronze troughs filled to the brim with water bubbled ever so slightly as the water was pumped gently from one end to the other, emulating the basic functions of the human body, and oxidising the base of each object in the process. These three works were foils to the show’s centrepiece, a single piece of naturally shaped basalt topped by a taxidermied cat. Lichty worked closely with the taxidermist to ensure that the resting shape of the creature closely followed the form of the rock, the top of which he had polished by hand. Speaking with the artist, Lichty mentioned that his hands were all over this show, an interesting observation given the slick and minimal result. Despite this, the work has real warmth – it’s distinctly human. Lichty is one to watch.
Lassnig was wild. The Austrian painter’s tightly curated retrospective was presented chronologically, charting the artist’s progression from graphic abstraction to figural representation, when she began painting according to ‘body awareness’ – aiming to represent the way her body felt from the inside, rather than superficially. Reveling in abjection and the monstrous feminine, her portraiture battled conventions of female beauty head on. We’re presented with images of the artist naked, hairless, with her brains spilling out of the back of her head, or, iconically, toting two guns – one pointed at us, the other at herself. This gritty, confrontational subject matter is matched by the most exquisite, fresh palette (helpfully amplified by the blonded wooden gallery floors). Lassnig was a brilliant colourist Many works in the show that she made in the 70s look as if they could have been painted today, her singular aesthetic is resoundingly contemporary. The Austrian painter began showing in New York in 2002 so the exhibition was timely. Sadly Lassnig died in May this year aged 94.
(You can watch a video walk through of the show here).
Art world darling (and certified creep) James Franco recently launched a new and appallingly bad photo series at Pace Gallery, New York, that riffs on Cindy Sherman’s iconic film stills. “Cindy is an artist who used cinema as a source for her work; she ‘played’ at being an actress” says Franco. “I am an actor who inserts himself into his work. I am fully embedded in Hollywood, but these photos allow me to take a step to the side, look back, and refashion the work I do in Hollywood. I am at the same time actor, critic, artist, and character.” Hmm. When asked about Franco’s appropriations last week, Sherman said: “I was flattered, I can only be flattered. I don’t know that I can say it’s art, but I think it’s weirder that Pace would show them than that he would make them.” Not exactly a glowing endorsement then…
Jay Z’s taken his art wank to the next level this week with a 6-hour ‘endurance performance’ at Pace Gallery in New York. The rapper performed his new single ‘Picasso Baby’ over and over to an audience filled with fans and art-world heavyweights alike. Attendants included Girls producer Judd Apatow, art critic Jerry Saltz (who had this to say about the performance) and artists including Marilyn Minter, Laurie Simmons, Marina Abramovic and Laurence Weiner. According to crowd member and artist Adam Pendleton however “It was a little unclear when Lawrence Weiner came out if Jay-Z had any idea who he was.” Awkward.
Footage gleaned from the performance will eventually be edited into a music video to accompany the single. While photographs and tweets were allegedly not permitted within the space, this hasn’t stopped them cropping up all over social media and Gothamist has some good snippets of pirated footage. The whole thing’s created quite a buzz, but LOL wonders if the result is anything more than a cleverly crafted situation where name dropping artists becomes another hollow signifier of status…
Haunch of Venison, the commercial gallery established by Harry Blain and Graham Southern in 2002 and controversially acquired by Christies in 2007 is shutting its doors. The New York space will close at the end of its current exhibition ‘How to Tell the Future from the Past’ and the London branch will be converted into a Christies sales and exhibition space. The auction house is streamlining the business to focus on secondary sales exclusively, meaning that they’ll also no longer be working with the 40 artists in the Haunch of Venison stable. Ouch.
Larry Gagosian is facing the loss of two of his most well known artists. Last week Damien Hirst’s company Science Limited announced; “Larry Gagosian and Damien have reached an amicable decision to part company.” It was only in January that Gagosian committed to showing the artist’s complete suite of spot paintings at all Gagosian galleries worldwide. The dealer has represented Hirst for 17 years.
Hirst’s departure was followed a day later by that of Yayoi Kusama, who has shown with Gagosian since 2009. (Another Gagosian artist – Jeff Koons – is still ostensibly in the stable, but has lined up a solo show at rival gallery David Zwirner in the New Year). In the mean time, Hirst and Kusama continue to be represented by White Cube and Victoria Miro/Ota Fine Arts respectively.