Thursday, July 29, 2010


                                                DARIO ROBLETO, The Common Denominator of Existence is Loss, 2008 

Last Monday, the artist Dario Robleto joined us at the home of Nancy and Stanley Singer for a viewing of his new sculpture, installed this past weekend. I was thrilled to be curator this year for the Singer's fantastic collection of contemporary art -- one of the best anywhere. A highlight in the new installation was seeing this Robleto work, which had been on exhibit elsewhere for some time. A few friends joined us for a tour of the hang, and we were treated to comments by Dario, who discussed the concept behind this sculpture. 

Robleto, renowned for his fanatical interest in history and human development, weaves together visual and ideological narratives that expose the effects of war, love, mortality and mythology and how they impact humanity and culture. He is the quintessential  empath, evoking meaning in his art the way a talisman averts evil or produces magic. Like a latter day alchemist, Robleto reorders/reconstructs lives and fates through conceptual themes, and in doing so weaves a powerful and enigmatic tale through which his subjects are resurrected through the artist's eyes. 

Here is an excerpt from his discussion of The Common Denominator of Existence is Loss on Monday, July 26: 

Dario Robleto: "One of the questions I asked myself was: had anyone ever pinpointed the moment in time where the first human-induced extinction occurred -- the first time we crossed that line, which, you could argue, has changed everything. We are now reaching a peak in that process in terms of the level of the extinction rate in the world at the hands of our activities. This piece tried to explore those issues. 

In my research, I found that there's a species of cave bear that is widely considered to be this first extinction. So, what you're looking at here are actual cave bear paw fossils of that particular species. They are lying next to human hand bones. The object they're holding on to (he points to a long braid that looks like a rope of human hair; the skeletal "hands" are holding on to it) -- and this is a common theme in my work -- finding ways to materialize sound; in other words, to use sound as a substance. This braid they're holding is made from audio tape. I'm very interested in sound. I've often used vinyl records. And so, naturally, what the actually recording is, is crucial to my work.

The recording in this piece is another interest of mine -- the history of recording technology. As you know, Edison is given credit for inventing recording technology and is widely considered to have the earliest recordings that you can actually hear. But, there was another inventor working parallel to Edison, Frank Lambert, who is now credited with having the earliest playable recording, predating Edison by just a few months. It's a fascinating story -- I'm very curious about these lost inventors tinkering away in their studios.

We've all lost touch with the fact that in those days, recording technology was seen as a potential a solution to immortality. In Edison's notes, as well as other inventors, they talk about cheating death -- because if they were successful your voice could outlive yourself. In one of Edison's early sketchbooks, he imagined potential markets for recording technology. One of his concept was to place a recording device on the top of a coffin -- it could be marketed to mothers that have lost their children. They could play the recording of their child's voice. Of course in the end, the technology that was used for mass culture turned into something completely different.

But, imagine Frank Lambert -- he's got this machine on his table, and if it works, he feels it can solve the problem of immortality. You have to ask yourself, "What am I going to record?"

What he chose to record is a beautiful, poignant recording of him counting down time: 1:00, 2:00, 3:00. 4:00. That he potentially created a machine that could cheat time and then instinctively began counting it down -- I find that so poignant. The tape here is a transfer of that old recording. I do this process where I heat the tape and slowly pull it into strips. They're literally holding on to time, (the bears and humans) and the fates are side by side these two creatures." DR

Thank you Dario. And enormous thanks to the Singers.                                               JMG


Sunday, July 25, 2010


The theme of last night's gala-extravaganza, Paradise, (dress code: Heavenly) was mitigated by the steamy hell that was the weather. That aside, it was fun. Here's the guerrilla greeter whose leaves were soaked with Wilson's new fragrance, WM: 

The forest was filled with installations from artists from everywhere; Australia, Thailand, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Germany. They lined the path alongside smokey torches and tee pees, silver-slathered actors in slow motion, musicians perched high in the boughs of trees, iridescent performers inside string tents and, of course, pod people hanging from branches like sausages wrapped in twine:

I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with paradise, but, hey, there's a lid for every pot. 

So, here we were, at the party of the season. Fabulous costumes, great people watching, lots of art donated by generous artists and hot, gorgeous weirdness.              JMG

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 3rd Eye

The Radiant Guest, works by Paul P. and Scott Trevealen at Edsel Williams' Fireplace Project examines the kind of visual conundrums that erupt when two distinct idioms find a shared cadence. In this case the two artists are also partners so the poetry that has emerged from this, their first collaboration, is especially poignant. The artists, both widely lauded, share a variety of convergences in their art, but they differ widely in methodology.

While both Paul and Scott deal with issues of cultural and sexual identity, Trevealen works in collage, film, installation, photography, video and various book forms, lending a diversity that has resulted in collaborations with artists such as AA Bronson and G.B. Jones, among others. A full reprint of his ground-breaking zine project, This Is The Salivation Army, (1996-99) was published in 2006 by Printed Matter. Google Treleaven, and you'll find a bevy of accolades going back to the 1990s.

Paul P. makes small, sensuous paintings that seem to hover in between moments. They are romantic, nostalgic and so specific that you can feel the artist's breath. The works here, mostly of places, respond to beauty and longing.

Ken Johnson said of P.'s earlier portraits of young men: 
"There is more spiritual yearning than carnal desire in P.'s work. The play with conventions of visual and literary romanticism and the codes of former sexual undergrounds adds a sophisticated intellectual dimension that Oscar Wilde would surely appreciate."

A muse of Paul P.'s, John Singer Sargent painted numerous ocean side scenes as well as his renown portraits. What artist could be more germane? Check out the Royal Academy of Arts show at the Sackler on view thru September 12: Royal Academy/Sargent

I had a chance to talk with Paul and Scott last week. Here they talk about chance, reinventing content and reveling in the divine accidents within this show. Check it out:

All of the works were executed independently, so the collaborative aspect of the hang revolved almost completely around chance:

Here, Scott talks about the pronouncement of the 3rd Mind. I love this part:

FYI: I have no idea where the soundtrack came from. Very magical, like the work.       JMG

Monday, July 19, 2010


Sunday's annual Pollock-Krasner Lecture at Guild Hall featured art critic extraordinaire, Jerry Saltz. Incisive and immensely entertaining, Saltz engages in art world horseplay like the thinking person's Dane Cook. He's funny, irreverent and very smart. And, as if life wasn't complicated enough, recently Saltz embarked on a second career as a TV personality. He's now a judge on the Bravo reality-television series, "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." 

He talked about seeking credibility as a writer, and for others, as an artist. He discussed "radical vulnerability" and "alienated majesty" -- both of which I wish I could clarify. He said "the best artists are the most self-critical," a concept that is inarguable, and he opined that as artists, we could do no better than to find our "inner Gustons" -- this, of course, referring to Guston's late stage coming-into-his-own. So excruciatingly true. 

Perhaps most poignantly, along that same line he quoted Jasper Johns who said, "I dreamed I painted the American flag." And then he pointed out the cruel dichotomy there -- the fact that the hopes of every generation to that point were hinged on the inclusiveness, equality and fairness that the American flag promised. And Johns, a homosexual, had not experienced a moment of that inclusion in his young life.
It was a provocative and thoughtful talk.                                                                  JMG

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Mel Kendrick: Object Negatives now on view at the Drawing Room through August 1. (See interview below)

The title "Object Negatives" relates both to his sculpture as well as the large format photographs shown here. Striking in both subject and execution, the photographs are drawn from Polaroid negatives created in the process of documenting his own work. Like the methodology he employs in making sculpture, here Kendrick effects a resurrection of sorts, finding substance and drama in material that might otherwise be trivialized -- the negatives that are pulled from instant film. The images, stark and suggestive, evoke the broad functionalism of Russian Constructivism along with its powerful graphic iconography. But they are also mysterious -- unknowable -- images that conjure, as the press release notes, the iconic Modernist film still. 

In his sculpture, Kendrick slices into blocks of wood and plaster, culling from the dense interior both positive and negative shapes that are reassembled to make a new whole. The sculptures are defined by a rigorous  sense of presence/absence, as forms empty out into new boundaries and reconfigured space. 

Late last year, Kendrick's monumental works titled, Markers, received wide praise when they were installed at New York's Madison Square Park Conservancy

Yesterday, Mel Kendrick sat down with me at the gallery to talk about his work, exchange a few ideas and walk through his show. The conversation begins as we are looking at a catalog depicting his "Markers" installation at Madison Square Park:

Janet Goleas:  The stripes seem to create an optical illusion that mixes frontal, mid-ground, background space – the planar information bounces between 2 and 3 dimensions.
Mel Kendrick:  The black and white elements function on a couple of levels – especially in the city. When there are no leaves on the trees you relate them to the surrounding architecture, the crosswalks, the white lines in the road. And then in the spring when the trees are green there’s really nothing black and white near them – then they’re just set against color.
The group is called “Markers” because it’s such a basic marking system of black and white stripes. The stripes act almost like camouflage -- where what’s going on inside them becomes a little harder to see. The imagery is still retrievable, but it’s harder to discern. Here, in the red sculptures which are mahogany, the surface of the block and the interior of the wood define the sculpture.
Each material has its own peculiarities. For instance, for the wooden sculptures I laminate multiple layers of wood and form them into a block. I sort of make a sculpture for the sculpture – it’s a minimal block of wood. Then I paint the exterior with Japan color. After that, the cutting begins.
JG: Is the color significant to you?
MK: It’s significant in the sense that it’s really red. It’s the same red as a Milwaukee tool box.  Japan colors are heavily pigmented and the paint seems to sit on the surface, which is something I really like. It’s almost like the color is another material – somehow it’s also like a marker. With the red sculptures, which are mahogany, as I cut and reposition, the red turns up in unexpected locations.
JG:  It becomes a record of your actions.
MK: Exactly. Back to your original question, each material has its own peculiarities. The black and white plaster pieces with the wood grain on the outside were plaster cast in molds of interlocking layers of black and white. Then they’re cut the same way the wood sculptures are.
JG: It’s not so easy to cut plaster.
MK: No, it’s not. But there are ways to do everything.
JG: I understand that cement is a new medium for you.
MK: Yes -- technically it’s called pre-cast concrete. The one at Longhouse Reserve, for instance, is cut before the mold is made because I can’t cut the concrete. So it’s a stack of a positive mold on top of a negative mold. The top is created from the bottom and the bottom is created from the top. Again, it’s poured in layers of black and white concrete. People seem to love trying to figure out which parts are related to one another.
JG: I would love to see the process – it is so complex. The molds themselves must be like works of art.
MK:  Oh, yeah – they are in some ways. They’re made of foam – a very lightweight material. They look the same, but they’re the opposite. The molds are so lightweight they could blow away. The sculptures, on the other hand, weigh about 16,000 lbs. This one (he motions to the sculpture outside, in the gallery garden), two people couldn’t really lift the top portion – it’s that heavy.
JG: Where do you make them?
MK: In upstate New York. They’re too big for my studio. The people I work with are masters at making structures from this super dense concrete. But the pigmenting is the hard thing. I don’t think anyone has achieved this black of a black in concrete. And the white is difficult – the white cement comes from Denmark and the white sand is important. One of the things I like about the concrete is that it changes with the elements – it gets darker when it rains, for instance. It gets streaks as if it was quarried stone. 
JG: What was surprising about doing things on this scale for you?
Kendrick's Markers, Madison Square Park, NYC; James Ewing, photographer 
MK:  The way people reacted to them. There are different reactions to public sculpture – generally, I think if it’s not representational people tend to keep away from it. But with this – I don’t know if it’s the playfulness of how they look or the fact that there were five of them – a family of them – but these works didn’t seem to suffer the fate of many abstract works. People climbed on them.  I saw adults scratching their heads, wondering if /how the pieces fit -- or didn’t fit – together.  
JG: They do seem to shape shift in front of your eyes. Did doing work in this scale affect you in some way? Did they take on characteristics you didn’t expect?
MK:  I’ve always felt there’s a sort of “scalelessness” to my work – that they can easily be seen at almost any scale. You can easily project them into another scale. At least I did. In that sense it wasn’t surprising. I guess I’ve always felt that because of that – the architectural elements or something -- the making of a large work does not contradict anything about the interior relationships of my work.  To me it was all positive.
JG:  Jessica Stockholder talked about how different people’s reactions were to her installation (also at Madison Park) than she expected. Perhaps it sort of gives the art a second – or third – identity.
MK: Well, yes – you think people are going to stand here, and align their sight-line there and they don’t necessarily do any of that.
JG:  The circles are very evocative. Brancusi’s heads – they seem to have bodily connotations.
MK: It’s impossible not to know about Brancusi. I don’t think about Brancusi in my work, but that’s such a big part of the vocabulary of non-representational sculpture. It’s never absent.  His work was incredibly radical, and when you think of what preceded it – we can’t even know how radical it was. He would look out his studio window onto decorative balustrades and ornate architectural elements.  But it’s not about the material. I use wood because of the irreversibility of the process. You make a cut, and you can’t unmake it. If you make a mistake, you change it, incorporate it. It’s the opposite of Michelangelo’s David – honing in to David, getting closer and closer – where everything else falls to the ground. I use everything. It all gets reincorporated into the work. I call those decisions my “drawings.”  I don’t draw on paper, but the evidence of that kind of thinking is in my work.  There’s been such an emphasis on drawing in the last 50 years – usually as a preparatory stage for something.  It’s the immediacy of the thing – it allows people to witness what the artist’s decision making is. I felt, coming out of Minimalism, that I wanted to hold on to the mistakes as much as the good ideas.
JG: Well, in some ways your drawing tool is your saw.
MK: Yes, sometimes it’s like that. Because I work in 3-dimensions, it’s always a surprise -- you make a mark on one side and something happens on the opposite side that’s completely unexpected.
JG: I was surprised that numerous critics made a connection between annihilation and reclamation in your work. It had such associations to carnage – it wouldn’t occur to me.
MK: I think it had to do with earlier works I did which revolved around dismantling natural shapes and then reconstructing – reordering – them. Like in the Core Samples – I would rebuild the inside next to the outside so that there’s a constant back and forth.  And even earlier than that, because I work in sculpture I very much thought about how it stands on the ground, on the floor of the gallery, or in relationship to people, and sometimes I would place a pipe leg or some sort of prosthetic device on it. There was often this sense that the work had survived something. Now it’s less anthropomorphic -- perhaps more intellectual.
JG: There’s a kind of pragmatism in your approach now.
MK:  Yes. The point, too, is often to go to something you think you know and find something new.  Doing these photographs now, it’s something completely different. 
JG: How does this aspect of your sculpture relate to the photographs? Are these photographs of actual works – not fragments -- but actual sculptures?
MK: Yes, prints of Polaroid negatives of actual works. Isn’t that funny that they’re negatives – that I find more information in the negative than in the positive?  The positive in the photograph is known so it need not be shown.  Nowadays, a negative is an archaic object -- the information it holds has become...unusual.
JG: The conversation they have with your sculpture is interesting.
MK: Yes, I wasn’t sure how it would work – especially with the red pieces, but the conversation seems to isolate certain aspects of the work -- and it creates a dialogue.
JG: Where is your studio?
MK: It’s on the lower East Side.  I have a studio here, too. You know -- I work where I work. A sculptor’s studio has to be sort of like a hardware store. When I was at the American Academy in Rome I had a wonderful time meeting people, looking at art, architecture. It was great, but I didn’t do any work. Since I don’t sketch or draw, if I’m not in my studio I’m likely not going to get any work done. New York is like my factory – I guess I’m sort of stuck on it.                                                                         JMG

Sunday, July 11, 2010


JULY 11: Opening reception, Salomon Contemporary, Hunt and Chase, curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody and James Salomon


L: Michael Combs
Spent Cases, 1998

 R: Spent Cases (ceiling)
 B: Guerra de la Paz
            Martyr, 2007

Background Right: Marc Swanson, Untitled (Vertical T-Shirt with Chains); Left: Alexis Rockman, Reverie

L: Margaret Evangeline
Luminista Series #6, 2003

                                R: Jameson Ellis
                 Improved M16, Prototype #1

Looking through pass through, surrounded by Alice Hope's Stockpiling, 2009-1
                                                    SALOMON CONTEMPORARY

Lady Gala Midsummer

Sunday, July 11: Last night's Midsummer Party at the Parrish Art Museum was a glorious mixture of art, cocktails, fashion and did I say fashion? It was fun and spectacular, and the people watching did not disappoint. And, while events like this are typically not the best circumstance for looking at art, the current show Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008 was a treat to behold. In fact, it may be the most effective installation this museum has ever mounted -- Downes's panoramic paintings of urban landscape and architecture seemed to wrestle the difficult design of Atterbury's 19th century building into relative silence -- not an easy thing to do. The paintings, mostly envisioned as if through a fisheye lens, warp latitude and longitude into dizzying vistas of curved lines and torqued rectangles. The perspectival drama here throws off visual acuity and in the process Downes seems to establish new ground rules for seeing. After some 35 years of mining this subject, his mastery of it is somewhat legendary.

Rackstraw Downes has homes in New York and Texas, and the visual incidents he depicts in his paintings are typical of the  kind that take place in the vast netherworld that connects these two locations. In places where visual opulence is limited to row houses and two-point perspective, Downes locates a kind of roadside majesty that exists above and below the horizon line. It's arresting, in some ways. Wearying in others. In this minimalist terrain devoid of even the slightest seductions, the rewards are strictly about artistry. Downes is a work horse, and his approach to painting is precise, rigorous, painstaking. Like a modern day plein aire artist, he paints not in front of a snapshot, but in front of the bus depots, factories, underpasses and scaffolding that are his subjects. And then, with a sort of depression era work ethic, Downes methodically covers his territory. Like Giorgio Morandi with whom he shares both a palette and an unerring focus, Downes has claimed a good part of the landscape for his own.

Back to the party...the Parrish is in a mood to celebrate these days because next week they break ground in Water Mill on the much ballyhooed, slightly truncated, $25 million dollar Herzog and de Meuron longhouse that will be the new Parrish Art Museum. Last night's honorees were the "Lady Gala" art patron/philanthropist, Beth Rudin DeWoody and the painter, Ross Bleckner, two individuals that, come the proverbial history of the Hamptons will have their own chapter headings. And I suppose they should. 

As for the party, it was great.                                                                           JMG
Left: Artist Jack Youngerman
and photographer John Jonas Gruen,
whose show, Facing the Artist
at the Whitney Museum of American 
Art is on view through August 8.
                                              Right: Parrish sky 

                                                                                           Rock on Parrish

Friday, July 9, 2010


7.9.10:  Throngs of visitors trudged up Snake Hollow Road last night for the opening of ArtHamptons, the East End's art world Lollapalooza. They slogged through Sayre Park's grasslands and manure fields in strappy sandals and rubber flip flops toward  the 52,000 sq ft of tented sky that is Rick Friedman's 2010 "wow machine." The operative word: gigantism. Close to 100 galleries and thousands of art works, baubles, bangles and takeaways lined miles of corridors and movable walls. With most booths renting for a cool 5 figures, it'll be interesting to see who comes out ahead in this unpredictable market.  

Art and money have made strange bedfellows for as long as there have been beds, so it's useless to bellyache about crass commercialism, outrageous prices or greedy art dealers. It is what it is. But there are a few things about art fairs that inspire commentary. No. 1) for some people, art fairs reinforce the idea that art is frivolous and driven by fashion; No. 2) almost without question, art fairs wipe out focus; No. 3) art fairs have a tendency to pander to conventionalism; and No. 4) -- (my personal favorite) art fairs have little to do with art and very much to do with art dealers.  Not that it's criminal -- after all, some of my favorite people are art dealers, but one should know it going in. In a nod to the huge number of "isms" in post-war American art, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called this phenomenon "Fairism." 

Let's face it -- it's a trade show. The big fairs like Art Basel or The Armory Show are a different breed, but in the end they're all about the same thing. However, much as I hate to admit it, the world as we know it would be sort of dreary without a little crass commercialism. My takeaway moments, see below:                                              JMG 

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Welcome to my ruminations on contemporary art taking place here -- at the edge of the world -- on the East End of Long Island. Frustrated by the limitations of and access to ordinary media, I thought I'd dive into this so-called blogosphere where the possibilities seem to be endless, the cost is minimal, and I'm the editor. Who knows, maybe we'll start a conversation. 

Tonight: the opening of ArtHamptons at Sayre Park in Bridgehampton, now in its third year. The ubiquitous art fair seems to be a necessary evil nowadays, like reality TV. (Jerry Saltz, how could you!!) But I'll admit, conflicts, gripes and yawns aside, I have fun looking for a few delicious works of art, friends, ideas. Let's see how it goes tonight in this, my maiden voyage. More later...     JMG                                                              Art Hamptons