“Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown” opens this Thursday at Paul Kasmin Gallery. The exhibition chronicles Hujar’s time on the Lower East Side between 1972 and 1985, when he photographed his friends and acquaintances, including Susan Sontag, John Waters, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Paul Thek, Edwin Denby, Divine, Fran Lebowitz, and William Burroughs. “There was something about him that invited a personal intimacy,” the writer Vince Aletti said of Hujar, who died in 1987. “He was very allowing. He allowed people to be themselves.” Hujar’s photos are on view through February 27. Read More
Iván Navarro was born in Chile, in 1972, the year before Pinochet came to power. He grew up with the fear of being disappeared, and so it’s fitting, in a way, that he’s chosen light as his medium. From his studio in Brooklyn, Navarro makes sculptures of fluorescent tubes. “I make spaces in a fictional way to deal with my own psychological anxiety,” he’s said. He’s created neon men and doors, neon words and portals. Ladders of light. Shopping carts of light. Fences, basketball hoops, and water towers of light. There’s an unnerving, geometric precision to these objects. Coming away from them, you begin to see doorways and boundaries with their same nefarious glow; every act of exiting and entering becomes freighted. Many of his works seem to stretch into infinity, as if beckoning you, against your will, into another dimension—a mise-en-abyme effect that’s sometimes deliberately disconcerting, as in one work that shows you the word BOMB receding toward the horizon. It’s seductive signage: you want to go toward the bomb.
Through October 18, CorpArtes is hosting his first retrospective in his native Chile. These images are drawn from the works on display there. You can see more of his work at Paul Kasmin Gallery’s Web site. Read More
Down the block from the Review is Paul Kasmin Gallery, where through October 25 you can see Nir Hod’s Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future, which has the distinct honor of the most captivating snow globe I can recall having seen. (An honor formerly held by a particularly endearing Epcot souvenir from 1997—sorry, little guy.)
The globe is large—more than seventy-eight inches; the photo above doesn’t do justice to its scale—and it’s filled not with “snow” nor even “sno,” but with flakes of twenty-four-karat gold. Its vivid, lustrous amber color comes from mineral oil, and at its center is an ominous, gently swaying pumpjack. As the gallery notes, Hod’s work contains a “dark glamour that is both alluring and menacing”—this piece in particular brought to mind the iconic poster for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
As Hod, who was born in Tel Aviv and lives in New York, told the Creators Project last month, “A generation ago, there seemed to be more collective romanticism, and I’m nostalgic for that.” That romanticism isn’t immediately in evidence here, but if you peer into the amber for long enough, you start to get a sense of it: the pumpjack, which begins as an emblem of rapacity, takes on a sentimental sheen without your even noticing.
“I’ve been told a number of times that people innately feel bad for the pumpjack because of the feeling of loneliness and despair imbued in it,” Hod said. I came away feeling faintly starry-eyed: how could such a beautiful machine do such violence to the landscape, et cetera, et cetera, the beauty of polluted sunsets, et cetera, are we all doomed, and so on. Then I stepped onto Twenty-seventh Street and was nearly hit by a cab, and the spell was broken.
My commute takes me past Paul Kasmin Gallery, at the corner of Twenty-seventh and Tenth, less than a block from The Paris Review’s offices. Every morning for the past month, I’ve paused there to stare at an installation through the window, a pair of illuminated silhouettes. I watch as one red neon man thwacks another with a red neon two-by-four. Every time, the second red neon man falls to the ground; every time, he rises again, on hands and feet, retracing the ungainly arc of his fall; and every time, the first red neon man thwacks him again.
Thwack, fall, rise, repeat. Like many forms of suffering, this one goes on ad nauseam—and like many forms of suffering, it burns itself into your retinas. I watch the cycle four or five times and then walk the two-thirds of a block to the office carrying an afterimage of neon trauma. I find this strangely buoyant.
Only today, after more than a month of doing this, did I decide to find out what exactly I’d been seeing. It’s Roxy Paine’s Incident / Resurrection (2013), which the artist’s Web site characterizes as “a visual loop of pure narrative movement”: Read More
Paul Kasmin Gallery has a show up about the Iolas Gallery, which was open from 1955 to 1987 and was helmed by Alexander Iolas. He’s best remembered as the dealer who (along with William Copley, in California) helped introduce the Surrealists to the American art world; the work on view, which he originally showed, is worthy of a museum exhibition—paintings by Magritte, de Chirico, Ernst, and Man Ray. But Iolas championed art that suited his taste, rather than art that was trendy, which means he liked what was, at the time, very weird stuff—such as Joseph Cornell, Copley, and Takis. He gave Warhol his first gallery exhibition when the artist was eighteen, and he was the first to show Ed Ruscha in New York. In Paul Kasmin’s showcase, there’s a wonderfully big, ethereal painting by Dorothea Tanning and a bronze toilet in the shape of a fly (the paper is dispensed through the fly’s mouth, and you can store reading material in a bin under its thorax) by Les Lalanne. My favorite, though is a hand-painted glass bottle by Copley covered with tiny blue nudes, a modern take on the Grecian urn. —Nicole Rudick
In our recent interview with Matthew Weiner, the Mad Men creator states, “To me … digressions are the story.” César Aira’s wildly funny novel, The Conversations—recently translated by Katherine Silver—is one long digression: two friends discussing an action movie argue over the inconsistency of a Rolex watch on one of the film’s goatherd characters. This seemingly small error sets off an exploration of, among other topics, the reinterpretation of memory, reality vs. fiction on film, and storytelling in our “technological state of globalized civilization.” As Aira writes, “What had seemed about to come to an end had, in fact, just barely begun.” —Justin Alvarez
I realize I’m 993 years late to this party, but Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, as centuries of scholars and readers know, is one of the richest and soapiest books ever written—not bad for what’s arguably the first novel ever. The story follows Emperor-spawn Genji as he navigates his way through the Imperial Court of eleventh-century Japan, marrying, political-intriguing, philandering, marrying again, and predating Freudian psychology by nearly a thousand years. The Penguin edition, translated by Royall Tyler, retains the high language of the original Japanese while situating the modern reader in a world in which poetry could make policy—would that it could today!—and the intricacies of court hierarchy could make even a Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade Left Officer’s head spin. —Rachel Abramowitz
I’ve just received a new translation of Louise Labé’s love sonnets and elegies. Labé wrote during the French Renaissance; after her death, her poems fell into obscurity until they were rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Earlier today, I flipped through its pages and landed on Sonnet 18, which brought an immediate smile to my face. It begins,
Kiss me, rekiss me, & kiss me again:
Give me one of your most delicious kisses,
A kiss in excess of my fondest wishes:
I’ll repay you four, more scalding than you spend.
You complain? Well, let me ease your pain
By giving you ten more honeyed kisses.
What it lacks in subtlety it recoups in passion. No need to compare your love to a summer’s day: just bring on the kisses. —Dan Piepenbring Read More