Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gallery Report, 09/27/2006

There isn't much I could write about the craziness of the New York Art World's opening weeks that hasn't already been said. Suffice to say it was overwhelming, and I'll save my fingers any more pecking on that count. Discouragingly, I was disappointed by most of the shows I visited on those first, crowded evenings, although, to be fair, openings are not an opportune time to view art. Swimming in the Chelsea insanity, most of us are otherwise preoccupied: forgetting names, smiling at appropriate moments and striving to achieve a balance between sufficient social lubrication and clenched teeth sobriety.

Now that the "We're Back In Black" (and tight jeans) frenzy has quieted, however, and most artists have been reminded of why they retreat to the studio to begin with, I've been visiting exhibitions in both Chelsea and Williamsburg. I'm happy to report that there are plenty of good things to see, so many, in fact, that I don't have the time or patience to write about all of them. Below, I focus on only seven shows that stuck with me.

In past Gallery Report posts, I've been very critical, unwilling to refrain from saying exactly what I thought. After talking with a number of artists and curators, I've decided to focus more on work I appreciate. The Art World is a relatively small place and one in which I hope to find some sustenance, so that I can continue making my own work, even after I leave New York City. Personally, I find harsh critique amusing, almost comforting - someone really hates my work - but I've met no shortage of artists who take it seriously, including individuals I've attacked here in the past.

I don't regret having written what I did and I stand by it - I'm extremely opinionated and always game for some verbal pugilism - but neither do I care to count many artists, curators or dealers among my enemies. Am I selling out? I hope not. I think most readers will find the write-ups below more critical than a lot of what appears on other art blogs - even if HH only kinda qualifies for that label - but I've elected to remain mute about shows I was allergic to.


Diane Carr
"Forest Edge"
Ink, paper, foam, resin
40 x 20 x 18 inches

NURTUREart: "Another Place," the group show currently on view at Supreme Trading*, reminds me why my favorite moments with art almost always occur in the home or some similarly private setting. Most of the work included in the exhibition is strong - particularly pieces by Jimbo Blachly and Diane Carr - but presented in the gallery space, with its tall, white walls and heavy stone floor, much of the work is overwhelmed. With one or two exceptions, the sculptures, drawings and paintings in "Another Place" are intimate works and in such an airy setting they can be dismissed as precious.

The theme of the show, the "environment [explored] through the creation of imagined spaces," is timely. Many young artists are mining this vein. Thoughtful landscape art is a vehicle for contemplation and the best work in "Another Place" succeeds on this count, but these artists are interested in a subdued sense of the sublime, more meditative sojourn - the projected interior world - than awesome, violent vista - the reflected exterior world. This being the case, I feel that a sculpture like Carr's "Forest Edge" would be best served by exhibition in a living room. This isn't to say that the gallery space diminishes the aesthetic strength of the work - it doesn't - but that the quiet rumination the artwork desires (and deserves) is that much harder to achieve in this venue.

I don't intend to criticize the curators, NURTUREart or Supreme Trading. "Another Place" is a good exhibition. It just made me pine for the more places like the Morgan Library or Frick Collection.

Diane Carr
Ink, paper
30 x 40 inches

* NURTUREart is in the process of moving to new digs on Bogart Street; Supreme Trading hosts the exhibition during the transition.


Ursula von Rydingsvard
"Wall Pocket"
Cedar, graphite
162 x 72 x 65 inches

Galerie Lelong: For a number of years now I've held Ursula von Rydingsvard's sculpture in reserved esteem. Her heavy-bodied, cedar constructions appealed to me and I recognized them as "good" art, but I was never excited or moved by the work. That changed a month ago, when I first visited "Damski Czepek," the centerpiece of a sculptural installation in Madison Square Park. Captivating, attractive and mysterious, "Damski Czepak" is cast in a translucent resin, allowing light to pass through the walls of the grotto-like sculpture and paint the piece in luminous blues, reds, and purples. On one of my strolls through the park, several children played on the long tendrils that extend from the grotto itself. They looked to the entrance, where a playmate stood staring up at the little cave's roof, grinning.

In her latest gallery show, "Sylwetka," von Rydingsvard continues to impress me. This is the sort of show you must visit when crowds are absent. The sculptures' size - most are quite large - and rough, heavily worked surfaces inspire viewers to engage them in a physical fashion. It takes resolve not to touch them, and I found myself inhaling deeply the cedar scent and considering the work from many vantage points, squatting at the base of one, circling another, and peering down into an opening on the head of a third.

Everything I have read about von Rydingsvard suggests that her sculptures are inspired by everyday, household objects. Spoons, forks, plates, and brushes, for example, or, in the case of "Damski Czepak," the resin work in Madison Square Park, a bonnet. Personally, I reject this reading, though I know it to be the artist's own. I have little interest in viewing "Damski Czepak" as a giant bonnet. For me it is a coastal cave, transplanted from the shores of the Aegean in a time, maybe even a dimension, not entirely our own. For the children playing on the tendrils it was something different, but no less wonderful.

My favorite works in "Sylwetka" also transcend their mundane inspirations. "Small Comb" and "Dubeltowa (Double)" reach toward the metaphysical. The artist Matthew Ritchie, a favorite of mine, comes to mind when I notice the marks and notes von Rydingsvard has left on the cut cedar surfaces. These marks map the mind's peregrinations; obscured by woodworking tools and partial erasures, then removed from the studio and presented out of context, the notes are traces of an abstruse plan that only the artist and her assistants might decipher. Even the exhibition's title, "Sylwetka," which means "silhouette" in Polish, nods to theoretical physics, with its limning of multiple dimensions and incomprehensible, immeasurable varieties of dark matter and dark energy.

Based on what little I know, I assume that the artist would find my reading of her recent work entirely foreign, but whatever her intent, "Sylwetka" and "Damski Czepak" erased all reservations. I now hold Ursula von Rydingsvard's sculpture in high esteem.

Ursula von Rydingsvard
Installation view of /Sylwetka/
Left: "Small Comb," 2004
Right: "Dubeltowa (Double)," 2006
Cedar, graphite


Esko Mannikko
Date ?
Chromogenic Print, edition of 20
18 x 21 1/4 inches

Yancey Richardson: I enjoy looking at photographs a great deal. Just a few years back, my appreciation of the medium drew some derision, especially from my painter friends. These days, though, it seems even long-time naysayers are coming 'round. Unfortunately, I usually find photography exhibitions, even those featuring work by photographers I admire, a bit lifeless. This is less often the fault of the images than the presentation. I realize that a plain black or white floater frame is, perhaps, the best way to display and protect photographs (and other works on paper), but if all pictures in a room are prepared in this way, the sameness can distract and dull. I was delighted, therefore, by the installation of Esko Mannikko's "Cocktails," at Yancey Richardson.

The close quarters of Mannikko's interiors and the tight cropping of his animal pictures are complemented by the cluttered hanging. Crowded up against one another - literally, there is no space between the work - the photographs are displayed in old, found frames, another unusual choice that further flatters the already striking prints.

It doesn't hurt that Mannikko's subject matter is close to my heart, if not my homeland. The photographer's rural Finland supports a foreign flora and fauna, but the lifestyles of his subjects are little different from those of the folks I grew up with on a more rural Delmarva Peninsula. My own drawers and scrapbooks are piled high with images of hunters alongside field dressed game, animal jaw bones and decrepit island hunting shacks, and I responded immediately to Mannikko's stolen moments, glimpses of a complex, but intimate relationship between rural people and their animal neighbors. The artist writes, "My installation is like a village, composed of people, animals, buildings, still lives - all together."

Despite my appreciation of the medium, it is rare that I respond to a photograph as viscerally as I do an exceptional painting. Visiting "Cocktails," however, I was rewarded a few times over. Works like "Mandibula" and "Rapakivi" are stunners, and the exhibition as a whole is impressive. With the exception of a few works that seem undistinguished or too self-consciously composed, "Cocktails" is a singular showing.

Esko Mannikko
Date ?
Chromogenic Print, edition of 20
20 x 24 inches


Nicholas Di Genova
"Cuttlefish Floater"
Ink and acrylic on mylar
24 x 30 inches

Fredericks & Freiser: In early 2005, when I first came across Nicholas Di Genova's layered mylar paintings, I was impressed. However, because I was so enamored of - even distracted by - the artist's accomplished graphic technique, my consideration of the work was superficial, of the gee-whiz-ain't-it-great variety.

Happily, I was able to spend more time with the paintings included in "Death From Below," the Canadian artist's current solo show at Fredericks & Freiser. I admired them long enough for the initial intoxication to wear off, allowing me to think about the work in terms other than "kick ass" or "f*ckin' tight."

The gallery's press release describes Di Genova's paintings as "fine-lined Darwinian allegories." I'm not sure this is applicable; I see little Darwin in Di Genova's mongrel machine-animals. His beasts are not products of natural selection but rather monsters borne of the violence, deceit, fear and uncertainty which permeate contemporary life. Hieronymous Bosch and Francisco Goya (the latter is also mentioned in the press release) are the more fitting ancestors, although I would argue that Di Genova's graphic line and composition align him even more closely with a group that, for most of the twentieth century, was unfairly maligned in the world of "fine art": the many popular artists who have long reflected and confronted grievous social truths in the pages of graphic novels or on facades of buildings.

The animal body parts that appear in his work are signs, not representations. In other words, the ox with a gun head is closely related to - even interchangeable with - the sunning anhinga with a gun head; what matters is the mess that has been made of the various components, not the animal species themselves. As long as the viewer recognizes the product as a grotesque, if seductively rendered hybrid - part natural, part manufactured - Di Genova has communicated his intent. In essence, the artist, like others who work with signs - notably, the popular influences mentioned above - traffics in visual shorthand; specificity is less important than style and statement.

The essential similarity of Di Genova's paintings, then, makes sense; the artist is riffing on a recipe with limited ingredients and Di Genova uses repetition and remixing to his advantage. In fact, the comparison that came to mind was the mix-and-match surgery so many of us - of a certain age - did with G.I. Joe action figures in the eighties. Because the construction of the figures allowed for it, you could easily disassemble the given characters and "make" a cast all your own. Back then I called it Frankensteining, and the fact that my time with Di Genova's paintings brought it to mind is fitting, given the monsters he depicts.

On the other hand, the similarity of the work serves another, almost contrary purpose. Because all the monsters featured in "Death From Below" are variations on a familiar theme - riffs on that one recipe - the viewer is encouraged to look closely at each piece and, in doing so, learn more about the given character of the "original" hybrid.

The press release suggests that very few artists since Goya have "attempted to tease...monsters out into the light of day." A great number of talented artists are being snubbed here. A trip to the west coast or, faster and cheaper for those of us on Atlantic shores, a few minutes spent on the websites of collectives such as ArtDorks or BLK/MRKT Gallery will just scratch the surface of this tribe. The times are changing quickly, however, and the Art World at large will see an increasing amount of graphic/graffiti influenced work appearing on white gallery walls and over couches of the monied and privileged. Generally, I feel this is a positive development - despite the sad commentary of graffiti/populist approaches stolen from the public for use as one more commodity/investment - but I hope a good number of these artists are able to avoid the common pitfalls of the genre.

In Di Genova's case, at least, the work is growing more sophisticated and complex while retaining the gee-whiz visual punch that so excited me back when I wrote that I was "ready to trade (or steal) to get one." I expect more good things will follow.

Nicholas Di Genova
"The Great Oasis Ram"
Ink and acrylic on mylar
36 x 24 inches


Alessandra Exposito
"Kitty Bean"
Mixed media on cat skull
3 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Mixed Greens: Alessandra Exposito's second solo show at Mixed Greens is divided between the front and back gallery spaces; my opinion of the show is similarly split.

The walls of the front space are hung with decorated chicken, dog, cat, mouse and horse skulls. These skulls are painted in pastels and saturated primaries, and bedazzled with rhinestones. Central to each piece is a stylized depiction of the living animal, with its fictitious name emblazoned above. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of these works. They're at once sweet, in a vaguely morbid way, and zany. By attaching proportioned antlers or horns* to all of these skulls, Exposito has turned them into surreal caricatures of death, a kind of pop sublime. They are the skeletal remains of a boy's demonic fantasy - I thought of Herne the Hunter, satyrs and Bosch's hybrid creations - rendered impotent by the imagination of a girl.

I assume this is just the sort of reaction the artist desires; all of her statements stress her interest in sexuality and culture. But, and I recognize that I'm being a bit particular here, I am troubled (just a bit) by all the invention. These skulls belong to once living creatures - real horses, chickens, cats, mice and dogs - and I felt as though the artifice of Exposito's project somehow cheated them a bit. Would we dig up the bones of a loved relative and cast it as someone else? Unlikely. I found myself wishing the "memorial portraits" were not fictitious, and that the skulls had been obtained from actual owners interested in celebrating the life of a beloved companion.

This is a very individual criticism, to be sure - regular readers will know just how animal obsessed I am - but it led me to another complaint, though one not inspired by the art so much as the artist's statements and the gallery's press release, which reads, "[Exposito] flirts with machismo stereotypes associated with the 'hunter'." I appreciate the rhetoric involved in the statement and certainly understand why Exposito would be drawn to the "trophy head" as a masculine symbol - not one, mind you, that most of us are proud of - but I always wince when I see "the hunter" reduced in this way. This stereotyping reeks of a common misunderstanding, whereby we confuse social/cultural evolution with a remove from blood letting, when those that so remove themselves - urban dwellers like me, for example - are almost always assigning their bloody obligations to another, less privileged member of the species. Furthermore, it undermines a richer reading, one that includes the species old dialogue with death, as understood through shamanism, ritual and myth. But this is not a failure of the work so much as a failure of the work's justification, just one more reason I feel the less said about one's work the better. Indeed, my ultimate index for judging a work of art is how much time I would like to spend with it, and I wanted to take "Buckshot," and one or two other "pets," home with me, to live with.

The paintings in the rear Mixed Greens gallery, however, left me cold despite their warm palettes. I spent long minutes with some of the skulls in front, but my circle through the back space took all of ten seconds. One could argue that I didn't give the work enough time, but I did, and then I returned to the front, to spend some more time with "Buckshot."

Alessandra Exposito
Mixed media on dog skull
6 x 8 x 5 1/2 inches

* In an interview on the Mixed Greens website, the artist makes an all too common mistake, referring to deer antlers as horns. Click for today's natural history lesson.


Kay Rosen
"Yellowish, reddish"
Color pencil on paper
18 x 25 inches

Yvon Lambert: Although the show is no more remarkable than any of Kay Rosen's efforts, I enjoyed most of the pieces included in "Wall Paintings and Drawings 2002-2006." Many artists find her work too straightforward, but the apparent simplicity of her presentation is essential to the works' communicative ability. The clean lines and striking color combinations compliment the etymological investigations that are Rosen's focus and assist the viewer in understanding language as a construction or puzzle to be diagrammed, dissected and reworked. For the polyglots among us - and those, like me, that stumble along with no ear for languages but nevertheless fancy themselves amateur philologists - Rosen's paintings and drawings are a treat. As I wrote here about a year ago, she "rocks in her own quiet, thoughtful way."

(The piece pictured above, "Yellowish, reddish," is included in the Yvon Lambert exhibition, but it isn't among my favorites. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of these online and I ran out of time and so neglected to contact the gallery. If you swing by the show, be sure to check out "Semi-colonization.")


Karen Kilimnik
"the Malaysian deer in France"
Water soluble oil color on canvas
9 x 12 inches

303 Gallery: Why do I like Karen Kilimnik's paintings? Seriously. This is an open question. I don't care for Elizabeth Peyton or any other artists that share Kilimnik's fast and loose aesthetic. Why, then, don't I find Kilimnik's work as irrelevant and vapid as the rest?

The exhibition currently on display at 303 doesn't offer an answer. Only two of the included paintings (pictured here) are strong - and most are relatively weak - but I still left the space with a smile and the sense that Kilimnik is a cut above most contemporary painters. What's this about? Is her subject matter, seemingly so open ended, able to satisfy all my varied appetites? Hell if I can figure it out... Whatever. I'll stick to my guns. Karen Kilimnik is a good painter.

Karen Kilimnik
"arriving at the cove, Hawaii, 1600s"
Water soluble oil color on canvas
11 x 14 inches


Photo credits: Diane Carr images courtesy the artist; Ursula von Rydingsvard images ripped from Galerie Lelong; Esko Manniko images ripped from Yancey Richardson Gallery; Alessandra Exposito image ripped from Mixed Greens; Nicholas Di Genova images courtesy Fredericks & Freiser Gallery; Kay Rosen image ripped from; Karen Kilimnik images ripped from 303 Gallery

Monday, September 18, 2006

Something in the AIR

"AIR is a public, social experiment in which people are invited to use Preemptive Media's portable air monitoring devices to explore their neighborhoods and urban environments for pollution and fossil fuel burning hotspots.

Participants or 'carriers' are able to see pollutant levels in their current locations, as well as simultaneously view measurements from the other AIR devices in the network. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources such as power plants and heavy industries, allow carriers to see their distance from polluters as well. The AIR devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real time data visualization on this website."
If you're based in or around New York City, I encourage you to participate in this terrific project. I just signed up myself, and I really hope that someone will pass along one of the devices. I'm eager to carry it back to my Queens stomping grounds where, so far, it appears no participants have headed.

Although the binocular sized device that Preemptive Media is distributing only measures carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide levels, these gases are two of the fivemajor airborne pollutants listed by the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, they are regulated by the Clean Air Act - not to be confused with the dubious, industry-friendly Clean Skies Act of 2003 - along with ground-level ozone, particulate matter (or PM) and sulfur dioxide.

Most human-produced aerosol pollution - as opposed to particulate matter that occurs naturally - concentrates downwind of urban areas and major industries. The AIR initiative, then, will not be a fair assessment of the reach or magnitude of New York's aerosol influence, but the results will surely be of interest to anyone concerned about pollution and, more generally, global warming.

But the numbers aren't what I find so exciting about AIR. The greatest boon of this project is its appeal to a demographic that must become more invested in environmental and political issues. When air pollution or water quality measurements are made "hip" - I can envision an AIR advertising campaign riffing on the ubiquitous iPod posters and commercials - and accessible, an opportunity is provided for individual investigation of fields that most of us comprehend only in an abstract and limited way. In this case, the invisible world is made pertinent and, in turn, the individual made part of the greater organism.

Photo credit: both images ripped from the AIR website

Thursday, September 07, 2006

March of the Chaplinesque Lovebirds

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Made cautious by all the fuss surrounding Luc Jacquet's 2005 documentary, "March of the Penguins," I elected to avoid the film during its theatrical run. Even the assurances of my co-workers - "Oh, you'll absolutely love it! It's right up your alley since you're so into animals." - only served to strengthen my sanction. When a film generates excessive buzz, especially of a vaguely politicized variety - in this case, much ink was spilled debating the socially conservative subtext of the documentary - I prefer to wait out the media storm, to let the reviews fade from my mind before heading to the rental store.

And so, on a blustery, wet Saturday, over a year after the film's release, I scanned the shelves of Astoria Video Express and settled on the image of an Emperor penguin looking down at its hungry chick. I sighed, thought about it for a moment and decided that I'd waited long enough. I did want to the see the film, after all, and even the blurbs boldly printed on the DVD case, snippets I usually ignore as creative collage work on the part of the studio, further whet my appetite. "Astonishing!," proclaimed David Ansen in Newsweek. "Riveting!," promised Stephen Holden, of the New York Times. And so, that evening, as Ernesto soaked the Tri-State area, I popped in "March of the Penguins," turned up the volume on my home stereo, and prepared to be riveted, astonished, and generally engaged.

Encouragingly, the film opens with some stunning aerial photography of Antartica's otherworldly landscape. (In fact, the film work throughout "March of the Penguins" is exceptional and cinematographers Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison have been justly lauded.)

But then, not two minutes in, the first sign of trouble: "Based Upon the Story by Luc Jacquet," the credits read. Wait. Isn't this a documentary? What "story" are the credits referring to? There is, after all, a significant difference between documentary and fiction, even fiction inspired by real events. Shortly thereafter, Morgan Freeman's dulcet voice begins to describe the harsh conditions at the bottom of the world. After hearing only a few lines of Freeman's narration, I realize this is a film best suited to children. Freeman's genial reading brings to mind the cliche of the old, patriarch storyteller. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this, but Freeman's lilting delivery too often sounds condescending.

But these issues are forgivable, minor faults. If National Geographic and Jacquet can produce an intelligent nature documentary that engages young viewers by framing the penguins' annual journey as a children's epic, then so be it. The world needs more children interested in the well-being of other species and the health of ecosystems at large.

Unfortunately, "March of the Penguins" is not an intelligent story pitched at a young audience. Jacquet supplies Freeman with an appalling script, one that manages to patronize both viewers of the film and the bird it ostensibly celebrates. A minute or so into the narration, Freeman says, "So, in some ways, this is a story of survival, a tale of life over death, but it's more than that really. This is a story about love." Sentimental clap-trap of this stripe is a staple of Disney-style animal documentaries(1), but I am surprised to see National Geographic associated with it. Why must so much natural history writing, particularly film narration, reduce the wonders of the natural world to cartoon significance, clumsy or cute approximations of human behavior? Whatever their reasons, the team behind "March of the Penguins" feeds viewers a canned narrative, replete with emotive musical selections and conservative film editing, tricks and techniques not foreign to an editor of daytime television or Hollywood romances. If we were to transplant ourselves to Antarctica and, in person, observe the mating ritual of an Emperor penguin pair, would we find the vaguely violent frenzy romantic? Would we "see it" in slow-motion, accompanied by a soothing a New Age soundtrack? When the chicks take their first, tentative steps, would we giggle as they stumble about the ice and hear in our heads some sweet, doodling tune? Probably not. These actions aren't funny or romantic for the participants and, unedited, they would not likely be so for us. Why not honor the arduous, annual journey of Aptenodytes forsteri and the marvel of the chick's birth and maturation without attaching our own assumptions and moral framework?

Before I'm written off by some readers as one more proponent of cold, hard science, I should point out that I am no less guilty of anthropomorphizing animals than anyone else.(2) The attribution of human characteristics and emotions to other species is an altogether natural activity. What's more, it is an important, even vital one. Zoomorphism and animal-human relationships, often sexual, are central to the myths of many cultures and religions, and, for time immemorial, we've understood the world via other animals just as we understand those species through ourselves. Lest we forget, we too are animals, and the words we use to describe our more abstract and profound emotions - love and grief, for example - are merely qualifications of deeply rooted drives, behavior observed in different measure throughout the animal kingdom. In other words, the temporary bond experienced by a mated Emperor penguin pair may not be entirely irrelevant to human marriage (or any other romantic union), but we should take care not to confuse the two. It's well and good to talk of love when considering a human couple - if not always accurate - but to project this word, our word, and all that we associate with it, onto another species is problematic. Firstly, it confuses viewers who know no better. Secondly, doing so is no different than projecting the assumptions and practices of one culture onto another. In short, it's ignorant, and reflects a laziness or a woeful lack of curiosity.

Again, I'm not advocating a prohibition of anthropomorphism. Disney - and other studios, particularly those specializing in animated features - has made a fortune appealing to our desire to anthropomorphize, both for laughs and pathos. Clearly, most people appreciate these sentimental takes and, although I feel such fictions more often reduce than celebrate, I don't want to get sidetracked attacking Disney. Disney doesn't claim that "Bambi" is an accurate portrayal of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) behavior, nor do they argue that "The Lion King" provides a lesson in lion (Panthera leo) pride dynamics. Luc Jacquet, however, does claim that Emperor penguins are in love.

Curiously, when asked about the "family values" subtext of the film, the director balked, telling the San Diego Union Tribune that he intended no such message and that "it [is] intellectually dishonest to impose this viewpoint on something that's part of nature....You have to let penguins be penguins and humans be humans." I agree completely, but "March of the Penguins," whatever its stance on family values and gay marriage, does not "let penguins be penguins." In fact, the French version of the film - the original script Jacquet produced - goes so far as to include "dubbed" voices for different penguin characters. Charles Berling, Romane Bohringer, and Jules Sitruk speak as if they are father penguin, mother penguin, and chick. Instead of attaching Morgan Freeman's soothing narration about "family time" to a shot of a mated pair huddled about a young chick, Jacquet prefers to present the adult penguins whispering sweet nothings to one another and cooing approvingly of the product of their "lovemaking." That certainly isn't my idea of letting penguins be penguins!

As I sat through the closing credits of "March of the Penguins," I found myself recalling the emotional reaction I had to Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man," a powerful film that wrestles with man's complicated relationship to other species and our own species' coping mechanisms. "Grizzly Man" was overlooked by the Academy Awards - indeed, the documentary was not even nominated - the same year "March of the Penguins" was awarded the golden statue. In fact, in terms of revenue, the French production is the second most popular documentary ever made. But I suppose I shouldn't be entirely surprised by the Academy's choice or any of the excessive praise lauded on Jacquet's "documentary." Most people prefer animals as cartoon proxies and are uncomfortable understanding them as flesh-and-blood relatives. Luc Jacquet threw out the slop - he is guilty of making a weak, if pretty film - but the rest of us marched to the trough to feed.

Photo credit: image ripped from the homepage of South African scientist, Neil Malan

(1) The most notable of these series, and the one most often subjected to academic consideration, is Disney's True-Life Adventure Series, which aired in the late 1940s.

(2) If you were a fly on the wall of my studio or apartment, you would witness lengthy conversations - note the word choice, as though they are two-sided - between my cat, Mister Misi, and myself. The same is true for my three snakes, Zuri, Sefu, and Kali. Given the rudimentary brain of a snake, the pythons certainly aren't engaged in any way with my rambling, but what matters is my involvement with them and my interpretation of their movements. The exchange is only as valuable as I make it, the communication abstract at best, but not absent. The relationship between pets and caretakers is largely defined by human projection and is one of many examples of healthy anthropomorphism. Lines can be crossed, however. When humans begin to clothe their dogs, for example, they cease relating to the animal as a fundamentally different creature and, in my opinion, do it a great disrespect. Each to his or her own, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Few Opening/Exhibition Announcements

September heralds more than a few openings and other art events in New York. There are hundreds of opportunities to see art while mingling with the beautiful (and not so beautiful) people during the fall kick off of another art season. This time 'round, my paintings and drawings are included in the mix.

If you find yourself in this neck of the woods and you're looking to see some art - even if you're just in the mood for a fine Dixie cup of gallery wine - then join me at one of the evening events detailed below. If, on the other hand, you prefer to see art sans socializing - I appreciate that sentiment - the solo show will be up through October 15th.


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Christopher Reiger
"a painfully ordinary bliss"
Watercolor, gouache, sumi ink and marker on stretched Arches paper
25 x 20 inches

Friday, September 8th
"Mongrel Truth," my first solo show, opens at AG Gallery, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I'm very pleased with several of the paintings included, as well as a number of the small drawings and washes. If you miss the opening on the 8th, there is an encore on Friday, September 15th. I'll be on hand both nights, all dolled up.

"Mongrel Truth"
Christopher Reiger: Solo Exhibition

September 8, 2006 - October 15, 2006
Opening Reception: 9/8, Friday, 7-10pm
Encore Reception: 9/15, Friday, 7-10pm

Gallery Hours: Sun. ‐ Tue. 12-8pm, Wed.-Sat. 12-10pm
For further information, please contact the gallery at 718-599-3044 or visit the website

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Christopher Reiger
"Crocuta crocuta (unknown, saffron-colored wild animal)"
Sumi ink on Arches paper
9 1/8 x 14 inches


Wednesday, September 13th
The Beholder, an online art gallery based in San Francisco, is dedicated to offering art to people who are intimidated by (or just unfamiliar with) the gallery system/art market. I think their mission is important and I was therefore delighted to join their stable of artists a few months back.

On Wednesday, September 13th, The Beholder is landing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Galapagos Art Space. Two of my paintings will be on display, along with works by a number of other talented Beholder artists.

On a related note, I'm the current artist feature on The Beholder site. Check out this link for an interview and toothy grin.