What's on in New York: Bars, overlays, assemblages, and plug-in art

Arman, Bailey, Johns, Ono, Rauschenberg, Salle, and more


The Louver Gallery has this month cleverly devised a show which overviews this underlying notion in so much recent painting. Called “Overlay”, it includes work by Rauschenberg, Wallace Berman, John Baldessari, Jasper Johns, Matt Mullican, Allen Ruppersberg and, of course, David Salle. It’s on until 18 April.

“Behind Bars”—at the new, huge, non-profit Threadwaxing Space on Broadway—is not as you might suspect a show of political art about prisoners’ rights or even about the exotic lives of cocktail waitresses but rather about the stripe in art. More precisely, about the-stripe-repeated in art. Curated by Meg O’Rourke—and continuing until 28 April—the show includes work by, among others, Dennis Ashbaugh, Jacqueline Humphries, Sean Scully, Suzan Etkin, Stephen Westfall, Ricardo d’Oliveira, Wolfgang Staehle and Karin Sander.

More than thirty works by Balla, Boccioni, Marini, Medardo Rosso, Fontana and Manzú figure in “A Short History of Modern Italian Sculpture” opening on the 22nd at Baldaccio-Daverio and lasting until 6 June. There’s an illustrated catalogue with essays by Paolo Baldacci and Ronny Cohen. Rachel Adler has gathered together “Designs for the Avant Garde Theater” at her gallery, opening 9 April. Among other delicacies on view, until the end of May, are no less than seven ballet costume designs by Natalia Goncharova dating from 1916 and studies for costumes by Pavel Tchelitchew for a production at the Streina Theater in Istanbul in 1920. There’s also one of Alexandra Exter’s extraordinary marionettes and an example of one of Sonia Delaunay’s costumes—for a slave in a 1918 revival of Diaghilev’s “Cleopatra”.

Titus Moody, the curmudgeonly New Englander on Fred Allen’s old radio show, used to say—in regard to television—that he didn’t hold with furniture that lights up. What would he say of the masses of modern art that you have to plug in in order to fully appreciate? Of, for instance, Keith Sonnier’s new metal-and-light structures at Castelli and 65 Thompson St (until 25 April) or of Stefano Arienti’s styrofoam-and-neon installation at Jay Gorney (until 2 May)? Or of the light sculptures of Thomas Skomski at Rosa Esman (until 18 April)? His mind would likely have blown a fuse at the Jon Kessler show, at Luhring-Augustine until the 25th. Kessler, known for his ingeniously mechanised and electrified constructions, this month ups the ante with a piece called “Music Box” which has got something for the ears as well as for the eyes.

At Postmasters (until 25 April) Perry Hoberman introduces viewer-activated assemblages involving adaptations of quotidian household objects. Willie Cole, at Brooke Alexander from 8 April to 16 May tortures home appliances with heat. Look for a scorched toaster and a burnt hair-dryer, among other modern artifacts.

Everyday objects are of course the stock-in-trade of Arman, whose retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum continues until the 26th of this month. Coincidental with that event are the two gallery shows, one at Sonnabend and the other at Marisa del Re. At the former there is a mini retrospective of the artist’s “accumulations” (earliest from 1962, latest from last year) while at the latter there is “Cycles”—not a meditation on the passing stages of an artist’s life but, more prosaically, about the leg-propelled two-wheeled conveyance. Both shows run from the second week in April until 2 May.

Allen McCollum is a sculptor of conceptual bent. He makes vast series of variations on given sets of conditions. There is a room chock-a-block with drawings by him in the “Allegories of Modernism” show at MOMA right now, and a room chock-a-block with objects at John Weber (until 18 April). The objects in question are a series of dinosaur bones reproduced in plaster and painted in 750 permutations of a set of colours. He calls them “Lost Objects”. Mark Dion, at the American Fine Arts Co, puts his conceptual installations to the service of our threatened ecology (11 April-4 May) as does Yoko Ono hers in new sculptures entitled “Endangered Species” at Vrej Baghoomian (18 April-15 May).

More traditionally modernist is the work of Michael Steiner. New bronzes by him are at Salander-O’Reilly (until the 28th) and the new forged iron pieces of Martin Chirino appear at Borgenicht until 2 May.

Shari Dienes has over many decades produced a steady stream of ingeniously constructed found-object assemblages often involving glass, mirrors and boxes. With her extended white cloud of frizzed hair she has been a constant, if sometimes startling, presence in the New York underground art scene for many a year. Now in her early early nineties, she’s back again at A.I.R.—her longtime gallery—until the 18th with new work.

Walter de Maria has always rummaged about in the realm of the mystical and this month at Gagosian (downtown) until 9 May he shows his “5-7-9” series, betraying a continued interest in numbers and, according to the gallery, psychic phenomenona. The show consists of one installation, a piece consisting of dozens of 50 cm-high three, five and seven-sided steel rods placed in upright groups on granite bases. James Lee Byars, who is no slouch himself in the mystical department, deploys white marble balls at Mary Boone (until the 25th). He calls it “The Thinking Field of One Hundred Spheres”.

Would you say that politically conscious art is “conceptual”? Perhaps not in the sense of de Maria or Ericson and Ziegler but surely so in the sense that the idea of it often takes precedence over all other of its aspects. It’s a kind of work encountered with more and more frequency in New York galleries these days.

Andre Emmerich has realist William Bailey’s newest exactly-so tablescapes in one of his spaces and in the other works by the eminent British painter William Scott. Donald Sultan, who atypically showed sculpture in his last exhibition, returns to painting at Knoedler while Bryan Hunt, known as a sculptor, atypically attempts paintings at Blum-Helman (uptown). All of these shows continue until 25 April.

New paintings—though lately they seem more like coloured sculptures fixed to the wall—by Elizabeth Murray are at Paula Cooper until the end of the month and Pat Adams, whose abstractions seem to result from a collision of the macro- and micro-cosmic, is at Zabriskie with twenty new paintings beginning 15 April and continuing until 15 May.

Every year the technology of photography becomes more and more complicated. Barbara Ese pays all of that no attention whatsoever. She has for sometime been fixated on photography at its most basic. She uses only the pinhole camera—or, as it was known in pre-photographic times, the camera obscura. She manages to make something intriguingly complex with a great economy of means and her newest work may be seen at Curt Marcus until the end of the month. Nancy Burson also works with a kind of pinhole camera—in her case the commercially produced “Diana” box cameras of the 1940s and 50s. There is no focusing device, no lenses to change: you just open and expose. For her show at the Jayne M. Baum gallery she has photographed portraits of children at Montifiore Hospital who suffer from cranio-facial deformities. Many of them have been printed on metal, as 2 in. square daguerreotypes.

Drawings by Bill Jensen and Myron Stout are at Washburn, by Sidney Goodman at Dintenfass (all until 9 May) and by David Salle at Gagosian (uptown) until 25 April. Drawings by sculptors Jonathan Silver are at Victoria Munroe until 25 April and by William Tucker until the end of the month at David McKee.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Overlays at the Louver'