A lot of art feels pretentious, as if it were laying claim to something to which it has no right. That stuff gets old really fast.
On the other hand is art that successfully transcends its materials, its inherent obviousness, to become something more, perhaps to even take on spiritual aspects as it alters our perceptions.
I've just seen two fresh shows. What's also interesting is that some would accuse these exhibits of being pretentious, which is precisely what I'm saying they're not. That they don't conform to our tradition expectations is good.
These shows are Fred Sandback at Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Sam Taylor-Wood at Donald Young.
Sandback's art is remarkably simple and all about transforming space. His media is colored yarn and it stretches either from floor to ceiling or floor to wall, and it is sparse. A whole exhibit won't have much more than a dozen strands - but how they activate the space. I never knew that Rhona, in a rehabbed space in a loft building, has a ceiling covered in ornate tin.
Over 100 years ago Alphonse Mucha speculated that the pleasure derived from viewing art is a direct extension of how the eye moves or more specifically, the path it takes in experiencing a work of art. What the eye does in absorbing these pieces is different than what normally happens in an art gallery. And it feels good.
These sculptures sing. They define the space, enhance it, increase it, alter it and play with it. Beautifully installed, this show is simply elegant.
There's a quantumly different kind of transition going on in Sam Taylor-Wood's video at Donald Young Gallery. And a lot of enigma. A lot of the shows Donald has been doing stick with you. This is one of them - particularly the video. The picture pretty much tells it all. There is a man with a pigeon on his head tap dancing behind a person (dead?) lying on the floor. That's the whole piece, for several minutes, until the pace accelerates and the pigeon flies away.
Sam Taylor-Wood is young, British and female, and quite possibly an "artist for the ages." She's smart and it shows in her art. Her subjects are meaty and universal, not readily accessible, but readily decipherable. They don't really ask much. You can try to dismiss them if you want, but they tend to come along anyway, sort of like a stray, hanging back on the periphery of perception. Then, sometime later, cognition hits and you've got to experience the work again.
There are clues. The video is titled Ascension.
I haven't seen her work in about a year. A special artist. And it is great to not have to leave town to see her genius.
Keep the faith,