Art Letter (9/8/04)
I think Millennium Park is mind-bogglingly incredible. It makes me proud to live here.
Dan Ramirez is showing 20 Contemplations at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) in St Louis. His work and photographs of religious architecture by Richard Meier and Steven Hall play off each other gorgeously.
New Shows I Like: (opening Friday, September 10th and listed in the order I received them)
I have always been fascinated by Henry Darger’s work which will be on exhibit at Carl Hammer Gallery, perhaps because it is just about the opposite of everything I exhibited when I had a gallery. But in being opposite it is in a certain way a direct parallel. Darger was a recluse. To get by in life he credited a fictive world. He didn’t seek to exhibit his work. It was not an endeavor at communication. It was his salvation, his only way to find enough peace and calm to function. Seeing his work gives insight into the alternative realities that many around us might know personally. As such it leads me to ponder the differences between me and others around me, and to appreciate what I have.
Herbert Migdoll’s “photographs” at Flatfile Galleries (in a new location) are about movement. Migdoll has worked for years with the Joffrey Ballet, designing sets, and photographing the dancers. I love how his art comes out of his experience, but looks so different than static photography; his images are quite horizontal with components overlaid upon one another somewhat like an unrestrained Muybridge. I believe there is a unique honesty, innocence and focus to ballet and modern dancers and I see the same integrity and focus in these photographic images, a palpable pureness.
In part, because my son is fluent in Mandarin and travels to or lives in China with increasing frequency I have grown more sensitive and aware of things Chinese in particular and Asian in general. Over the years I have been exposed to some of the best of Chinese art at Walsh Gallery and in a different way at Pagoda Red. It was at Julie Walsh’s that I first met Wu Hung, who has curated shows with her and is responsible in a large way for stunning avant-garde Chinese survey exhibits which will appear next month at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum.
A brilliant introduction to contemporary Chinese art opens Sunday at the Renaissance Society. Yang Fudong is an especially gifted filmmaker who simultaneously acknowedlges tradition and brakes new ground in his mesmerizing art. So often we watch artists grow for years before they attain the competence exhibited here. It is always a pleasure of the highest order to be exposed to things so new and so good at the Renaissance Society. (I’ve heard that the Renaissance Society does not have an endowment and must raise their yearly budget annually. They are very worthy of our support. A benefit auction of outstanding photography will be held October 2nd and is a wonderful opportunity to do good for them and yourself.)
Now we come to one of my favorite artists, William Conger at Roy Boyd Gallery. Rich, lyrical, complex, abstract imagery flows through Conger’s paintings. When I look at art I want a sense of the artist’s soul. And I see it here. I see splendid dichotomies; strength and tenderness, confidence and fragility, loyalty and experimentation, as well as risk-taking and love. There is truth here. And history. Too many artists run out of ideas by the time they hit 50 and start doing greatest hits. Not Bill Conger. I think his having to rally to confront challenges to his family’s well-being a few years ago propelled him to a new strength and clarity that enables his paintings to just plain sing today.
Peter Stanfield’s wall borne sculptures at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery
Certainly, there are other worthy exhibits out there. These are just a few that I like.
The art world tends to be seasonal and Friday, September 10th is the opening of The Season. There will be lots of people out and a friendly, raucous scene. It’s a great time to be out in the city. Also this season-opening weekend is the annual Around the Coyote artsfest. There’s certainly plenty to do.
I’ll be out there. I hope to see you. And if we miss one another, please drop me an email.
I look forward to being in touch.