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Monday, January 16, 2006

Two Chelsea Picks

I spent a good portion of a day recently zigzagging up Chelsea's cross streets, wandering back and forth and back and forth between Tenth and Eleventh Avenue, and I only came across two shows of work that I found interesting enough to want to comment on here.

Serge Onnen, Forks & Cameras, 2005At Caren Golden Fine Art, the Dutch/French artist Serge Onnen is showing a group of drawings and drawing-inspired pieces that comment on consumer culture. His large works on paper of massed, disembodied arms holding various objects (Forks & Cameras, at right) reminds one of the clumps of writhing, mating frogs seen every so often on television nature shows about the rain forest.

Rather than getting off on members of the opposite sex, though, these appendages are holding, stroking, and fondling cameras, cell phones, and other miscellaneous products--giving a new twist to the eroticism with which so many of these items are pitched to the consuming public. Onnen's hand-drawn, low-tech cell animations of hands performing various surreal actions also charm.

Miki Carmi, Grandpa, 2004At Stux, recent Columbia MFA graduate Miki Carmi presents a show of very unflattering but totally compelling portraits. Working from photographs of family members, but not reproducing them slavishly, Carmi has created a series of similar yet distinct portraits. All his subjects (Grandpa, at left) are painted in three-quarters view and are rendered without hair--all the better to show Carmi's masterful rendering of aged skin. Each vein, every age spot, each wrinkle all take on a texture and transparency that is unlike any renderings of human skin I have seen recently. What Currin and Yuskavage did for figurative painting in the 1990s, Carmi is doing for the portrait today.

This, his first solo show, is already sold out. If it weren't I would have mortgaged the cat, if need be, to purchase one of his paintings. (No matter that I would have a hard time finding a place to hang one of these large pieces in my small apartment.) I haven't been that charitable in the past to MFA students a year out of school who have been given solo shows (with good reason, I still hold), but Carmi is an exception. While I still have a hard time getting what all the hype is around Dana Schutz's work, Carmi's is the real thing. He's young, talented, producing mature work and definitely one to watch.

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