by Guiseppe Bernstein
In the 1966 surf movie, The Endless Summer, the characters came up with an idea, that if one had enough time and money it would be possible to follow the summer around the world, making it endless. Nothing short of exactly what happens for many who are both financially capable and addicted to exclusivity of contemporary fine art, within white walls of climate controlled convention center corridors. It has become a lifestyle for myself.
Circumnavigating the world in the name of art will have you galloping Hong Kong to Venice in Spring, Basel, Switzerland to the Hamptons for Summer, London to New York City in Fall and finally Miami Beach to Los Angeles in the Winter. Of course there are many more art fairs and cities to visit in between, but I dare not even begin to take note or I will be finishing this post from the comfort of a private jet. The itinerant lifestyle of many art professionals has done some good for the local, less mobile art aficionados.
Summer, for most brick-and-mortar galleries is synonymous with smaller crowds, shorter hours and line ups of local artist. In the absence of the great big crowds and in the abridged gallery hours emerge a new kind of show, a riskier, funnier, breed of curating that engages with the public. As the big collectors circumnavigate the world in search of bluechip art, the local incubators start brewing something different. Take for example what’s happening this summer in three different cities that I’d like to call The Numb, The Smart & The Sexy
White Column, NYC opened its mind numbing “The Cat Show,” celebrating cats of all shapes, sizes and subjectivities with “cat-alytic work” by over 50 artists. This seemingly simple concept has literally brought life to the gallery. Curator Rhonda Lieberman was counting on more than what most galleries hope for when she pulled on the heart strings of visitors in an exhibition featuring her ‘The Cats-in-Residence Program.” With a centerpiece built by architects Freecell and Gia Wolff, the giant wood, carpet and PVC structure is where adoptable purr-formers, a.k.a. cats, from Social Tees Animal Rescue, lounge and “run amok in a pussy playground” until they find art lovers who want to take home more than inanimate artwork on the walls. Although it may sound kitsch and artist range from the unknown to the highly collected, there is something for everyone in the gallery with over a hundred pieces celebrating the meme culture of the internet, our beloved domestic partner, and ever so classy kitsch icon. Artist like Cory Archangel, Matthew Barney, Barbara Kruger, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Marilyn Minter and Olaf Breuning bring this show to notable high-brow status.
Meanwhile in Florida, renown for its stupidity having inadvertently passed a law outlawing cellphones and computers, Spinello Projects in Miami opened Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares’ installment entitled “State of the Book.” An installation transforming the front of the gallery into an interactive reading room where visitors may sit, read and physically engage with books borrowed from the Miami-Dade Public Library System, private collections and the artists’ own bookshelves. Giving hope to a city plagued with daily summer downpours coupled with obliterating heat and humidity, its nice to take breathe of fresh air and cultural refinement within a Miami gallery for once. As the press release states: “The Florida heat in the summer becomes a New England winter – an invitation to retreat indoors to think.” Although it is up to the viewer to put the knowledge within these books to good use.
On to Los Angeles, where there seems to be something deviantly sexy going on at M+B Gallery. The West Hollywood gallery opened APPARATUS, a group exhibition, curated by Tim Barber, that brings together an eclectic mix of artworks that deal in some form with the human form, mostly nude and erotic ones. Cutting through the trendy crowd of hipsters was easy, nobody was there to look at the art on opening night anyways. Summer in LA is hot, and that is how I would describe this show. It featured nearly two dozen crude nude pastel self portraits by Aurel Schmidt, sexy beach bunnies by skate legend Ed Templeton, a cum covered rose photo by skater-turned photographer Jerry Hsu among other sculptures, paintings, video and photographs. My personal favorite though, Shayne Ehman’s four dust sculptures in a wooden viewing case that forced viewers to stick their face into the work.