July 26, 2008

Holland Cotter says weird can be cool but....

Gavin Brown Enterprise and Maccarone released an interesting curatorial statement for their star-studded joint group show, "Pretty Ugly." "When you wake up in the morning, walk into the bathroom, and look at yourself in the mirror-raising the toothbrush to your stinking mouth-do you feel pretty or ugly? Dried drool in the eyes of the beholder. That must really sting. Breathe through the pain. It's alright. You are beautiful. It's true. I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do because I'll never be with you."

I like unusual statements that take the form of fictive narratives (I've written some myself), but they aren't necessarily an indication that the exhibitions will be equally unconventional. Holland Cotter visited "Pretty Ugly" and reports that too much of the work at Gavin Brown is predictable and obvious. "Multiple Kilimniks, Murakamis and Picabias take up space that might have been given to less familiar fare. Can’t Paul McCarthy and Martin Kippenberger have been given a rest? And how many Hans Bellmers do you need to make a pretty-ugly point? In the end the problem with 'Pretty Ugly' isn’t that it celebrates weirdness, but that it stops at weirdness. And weird is too easy, too obvious, too thin. Like Surrealism, which is weirdness psychologized and academicized, it delivers a quick thrill but ends up being a snore. I was glad to spend a summer afternoon poolside with the 'Pretty Ugly' crew, ruffling brackish water, pushing flotsam around. But the art establishment’s vacation should be over now. It has gone on too long. And artists, caught up in a New York market that prospers from a million little weirdnesses, should take a head-clearing plunge back into work and see if there aren’t some other ways to go. Weird can be cool; it can be powerful. (The paintings of John Currin and Peter Saul are good examples.) But as an end-in-itself exercise, which is what this show looks like, it’s a waste of time." Read more.

"Pretty Ugly," curated by Alison Gingeras. Gavin Brown Enterprise and Maccarone, New York, NY. Through August 29. Artists include Pierre Alechinsky, John Alexander, Ida Applebroog, John Armleder, Kristin Baker, Hans Bellmer, Lynda Benglis, Carol Bove, Glenn Brown, Guy Bourdin, Louise Bourgeois, Günter Brus, Bernard Buffet, Chapman Brothers, James Lee Byars, Brian Calvin, Borden Capalino, Chivas Clem, Ann Craven, Roberto Cuoghi, John Currin, Verne Dawson, Otto Dix, Richard Diebenkorn, Louise Fishman, Mark Flood, Llyn Foulkes, Sam Francis, Gelitin, Isa Genzken, Nan Goldin, Leon Golub, Mark Grotjahn, George Grosz, Marsden Hartley, Eva Hesse, Jonathan Horowitz, Gary Hume, Jörg Immendorff, Tony Just, Alex Katz, Karen Kilimnik, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce LaBruce, Nathan Lerner, Eugéne Leroy, Lee Lozano, Markus Lüpertz, Edward Middleton Manigault, Paul McCarthy, Corey McCorkle, John McCracken, Otto Muehl, Takashi Murakami, Alice Neel, Hermann Nitsch, Jim Nutt, Albert Oehlen, Laura Owens, Raymond Pettibon, Elizabeth Peyton, Francis Picabia, Jack Pierson, Rob Pruitt, Carol Rama, Charles Ray, Milton Resnick, Anselm Reyle, Julian Schnabel, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Tamuna Sirbiladze, John Sloan, Eddy Smith, Agathe Snow, Frances Stark, Pat Steir, Haim Steinbach, Stanislav Szukalski, Richard Tuttle, Piotr Uklanski, Kaari Upson, Stan VanDerBeek, Erik van Lieshout, Abraham Walkowitz, Andy Warhol, Hans Weigand, Franz West, Hannah Wilke, Sue Williams, Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Joel-Peter Witkin

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