Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jasper Johns

In all the years she hung out in Chelsea the Hound attended all of one or two openings. These were for friends, or events to do with friends, and now she remembers why. What a curious event, the art opening. What a melange of people and attire and desire. Though at least at an opening of an icon like Jasper Johns they use stemware. And the wine, though white, was good. And they had gorgeous, lithe young men circulating with silver trays to disperse the stemware. Which they refilled And refilled. And offered sparkling water too.
That was civilized.
But what an odd assortment of people. A few of the regular Chelsea sort: the thousand dollar shoes, the Vuitton bags, the Chanel clutch, the many layered hair, the outstanding pink ruffle coat, the fur, the linen, the blue tinted glasses, the yellow tinted glasses, the Burberry, the camel hair, the silky hair, the young with art bags in tow, the stranger in a Red Sox cap (treachery!) with odd collections of celebrity photos flipped here and there to what end one can't imagine... The latter dipping into the other end of the spectrum of attendee: the kind with many bags--some of which seemed to have contained cats at one point or another so clawed they were from the inside out, the kind, in short, who have no more use for art than they do lobster forks. Not that the Hound has any use for lobster forks either, but she is more selective in her baggage.
But the art. Lets not forget the art. There was Johns in the lovely, spacious Matthew Marks, his trademark grays, as above, the numbers, the combination of lines and circles, the playful, the abstract, in ink, charcoal, graphite pencil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel...the combination of said things on paper. The whimsy, the figures that often remind of bpNichol and to some extent bill bisset. This was the last stop in a long day of art, the reporting on which will now move back in time until it melds with the Lower East Side report of Sunday because one can't be too orderly.
Can we say that we were moved by Johns? Impressed by the weight of a career that has had such an impact on abstract art? A simultaneous show at the Met after all? It isn't fair but I wanted to be in a room full of those early grays...

But of course that's not what Chelsea is for, that's what the big galleries are for...and so we see that which slips through now and then, that which might get lost in a giant retrospective. That which might not fit in the grand narrative of an artist's career. And to be frank, there was a lot of gray in other galleries. A lot of abstract work that didn't seem to be adding anything at all to what Johns, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko (and on and on....) did. So, if one is to compare the energy of the new Johns with the new "Johns-like" work (Charles Cowles for example? What was that all about?) then yes, the Johns moved and satisfied...at least soothed, as in yes, there is sense to this. That along with the stemware and the rather odd and subtle propositions from strangers.

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