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Monday, June 06, 2005

Impressions from a Sunday Afternoon Ramble

I was able to get out yesterday to see a few things I’ve been wanting to see.

One of the most consistently well-curated exhibition spaces in New York right now is the small Ames Family Gallery on the Whitney’s fifth floor. Usually showing works from the museum’s permanent collection of prints and drawings, this space always has a single gallery show up that’s worth making a point to see. Yesterday I took a second look at the current show there, Prints into Drawings, and liked what I saw as much as I did on my first impression last week. The show’s premise, that artists are using the approaches of drawing to invigorate the craft of print making, focuses on process. While process stories usually bore audiences, this one is stimulating. Using process to think about the works on view here by artists such as Jasper Johns (at right), Brice Marden, and Julie Mehretu provides a fresh perspective on familiar (and not so familiar) work.

Downstairs Julie Mehretu is represented in a much bigger way in the interesting summer exhibition Remote Viewing: Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and Drawing. I’m not giving gallery talks this summer, and after seeing this show installed today, I’m a bit disappointed about that. I tend to think about exhibitions I lecture on in three ways: the exciting exhibition that loses my interest after a month of lectures, the exiting exhibition that retains my interest for three months, the ho-hum show that never becomes anything more than ho-hum for me. This show feels like it’s something categorically different. It’s a strange show that I wasn’t eagerly anticipating, but now that I’ve seen it I think it will continue to grow on me with each viewing. I’ll reserve further comment until I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with it.

The high point of my Whitney visit, though, had nothing to do with the art. I happened to run into the playwright Charles Mee in the elevator and ended up having a nice discussion with him while we were standing in front of a large Julie Mehretu painting. I adored his Love Trilogy that showed in three theaters around the city a few years ago, and I was especially fond of the scene in Big Love where his female characters literally launch themselves through the air and come crashing to the stage while cursing the men in their lives. I’ve never laughed as hard at a BAM performance as I did during that scene, and I’ll probably never laugh that hard at BAM again. It was nice to be able to give the creator that kind of positive feedback.

After leaving the Whitney, Mrs. FtF and I managed to slip through the Salute to Israel parade on Fifth Avenue to run into the Met for a quick visit. She wanted to see that advertisement masquerading as an exhibition. I was more interested in seeing the two new Tony Oursler video installations. I was somewhat disappointed with both works (installation view of Seven Months of My Aesthetic Education (Plus Some) at right). Oursler tends to do better on a smaller, more intimate scale than with these large, more complex installations. Seeing Oursler’s video-based work in these mezzanine galleries reminded me, though, of how big a deal it was a few years ago when the Met put its Bill Viola on display there. Look how far they’ve come. I hope they’ll continue to open up their contemporary galleries to living artists like Oursler who are producing challenging work.

No promises but that could be it for me this week. When duty calls, blogging stalls. And duty is calling this week.

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