Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Part 1 of Pulse NY 2009: Babies like it...

(Everybody's a critic. This little guy was enthralled by perennial favorite Leo Villareal, and rightly so. Ever heard of Lite-Brite, kid? If not, I promise you will soon.)

Pulse NY this year had a little bit of everything for everyone. It was kind of like Bree on Desperate Housewives, the epitomy of the hospitable hostess. In previous years-- back in its 69th Regiment Armory days-- it took much greater risks, and seemed to have a more cohesive feel. Now it's trying a bit too hard to be direct competition with Armory itself, and it shouldn't. So let's start with a little examination of things that caught my fancy.

Darren Lago's Mickey in Trafalgar Square of Davidson Contemporary was a favorite of mine. Something about the outstretched arms of America's beloved rodent in the ultimate "ta-da!!" pose put a smile on my face. I'm also a huge Piet Mondrian fan for eternity-- mostly due to the fact that those famed pieces are cracking faster than Humpty Dumpty. I love the at odds permanence/impermanence of art's very nature. Lago's sleek adaptation, though, gives the impression that it might last a millenium.

Next up, the inner evil of my darkened childless soul leapt for joy at the site of the above work of art. Sure, this blogger has been known to have quite a sarcastic bite on the subject of babyhood, and Dietrich Wegner's logo-embossed sculpture at Carrie Secrist Gallery was no exception. Reminding me of the massive realist works of Ron Mueck, these have a much harder edge-- the newborn's flawless skin covered with a corporate tatooing, if you will. Using babies as a Nascar advertisements is a thrilling endeavor, and I salute Wegner and Secrist for giving this booth the go-ahead.

As to the mystical treehouse in the clouds, was this not every one of our dreams growing up to have the coolest playhouse in the neighborhood? For any collector who purchases this, I can only hope it is dutifully lived in. I'll bring the flashlight if you bring the ghost stories.

Zadok Ben-David at Shoshana Wayne Gallery outdid himself yet again with his minitaure trees standing at attention in military formation. Made from hand-cut painted aluminum, they have such a delicate feel, and their mirrored reflections bring to mind the four seasons. Some quite colorful work, and a peek into another Lilliputian dimension.

Some things that didn't really work for me-- Travis Somerville's The Blind Leading the... at Catherine Clark Gallery is a prime example. I usually enjoy Somerville's intense social commentary dealing with the evil depths of the south's past. Click here for an example of a Pulse work from '07 I totally went gaga over. But in this case, I just am not sure where he's going. It's just a bit TOO literal this time, and the Washington Crossing the Delaware pose is a bit over the top. At any moment I could see the Klansman dehooded, revealing Dubbya, and it would surprise no one. Let's hope next time Somerville has more follow-through.

On the same subject, but with a much different methodology and outcome, is a personal favorite of mine, Michael Scoggins of Freight and Volume Gallery. Scoggins makes wonderful giant drawings on paper like they were torn out of his 6th grade english notebook. Utilizing an intensely witty format, (hand-drawing the blue and red paper guidelines; punching the three holes; fraying the edges), the text is what really works here. The artist frets from within and displays a sensitivity through his public confessions of neuroses. Coming from a small town in the south myself, I always get a huge kick out of Scoggins' playful and wondrous takes of 30-something fish out of water ennui. This piece in particular gives me the chuckles, "Cuss I may slip and say y'all..." yet at the same time makes me take notice of its darker undercurrent of race relations circa 2009.

Part DEUX of Pulse NY comes tomorrow night. Until then, keep reaching for the stars, as I leave you with one more cute baby enjoying digital art for the masses.

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