Chelsea Galleries – Part 2

February 18, 2011

You could smell spring in the air on Thursday night. So I wasn’t surprised at the hundreds of people wandering from gallery to gallery on an opening night.

First stop was Tache Gallery which features the work of young Russian artists. Their current show focuses on the work of Vasily Hapov. As Amy Kousnetsova from Sputnik Gallery points out, the Russian point of view is different and still rather outside Western experience. It’s harder to see that in photography – but it’s clear in these paintings and drawings. All are done on paper using either tempera or acrylic.

Hapov works in two styles. The first style is beautifully Byzantine mosaics, drawn tile by tile. They are complex, detailed and exquisite. I’m astounded by the patience required to execute these.

It’s clear that Hapov is a superb draughtsman, evidenced in his other style of mythological figures in dream environments. They’re beautifully done and mostly very creepy, skin crawling creepy. But I’m not Russian so that might not be a fair statement. Through March 19.

On to Bertrand Delacroix Gallery. As we’ve written about before, Delacroix owns Axelle Fine Art. He’s moved them to Soho, that former hub of contemporary art which is having a resurgence as building owners in Chelsea price galleries out of existence. Delacroix set up BDG to discover new talent creating art in a different style from Axelle’s well-developed and highly successful formula. This was their first show of new work by a diverse group of artists. Through March 19.

The main room was given to Jerome Lagarrigue who showed large portraits. Lagarrigue is clearly a major talent but I was disappointed to realize that the work he showed was painted in precisely the same style as Francois Bard. Their work in interchangeable: subject matter (large faces) with broken color blotches applied with broad brushwork. Who came first – the chicken or the egg – Bard or Lagarrigue? Did they study with the same teacher or in the same school? Did one teach the other? It does no service to either talent to be indistinguishable, particularly as Delacroix has transitioned Bard from Axelle to BDG. One hopes they will not show simultaneously or sequentially.

I will say the work was effective. It kept me awake thinking about it. As we all know, art is a matter of taste. You like it or not, you want to live with it or not. My very good friend, Montserrat Coll of Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery tends to refer to corporate art and personal art, the latter being work you want to live with, that enriches your every day. Musing about these paintings, I don’t imagine a corporation wanting a super-sized head and I question whether a person would hang one either. So I’ve concluded that they’re either painted to hang in museums or to attract commissions. For me, neither answer is satisfactory.

Beate Bilkenroth’s architectural paintings are again beautifully done and very inviting. Her technique is excellent, as is her use of color. She made some difficult choices in tonality and color depth and the results are superb. Again, Bilkenroth seems familiar, likely also having transitioned to BDG from Axelle.

Beth Carter is a painter and sculptor. She showed charcoal drawings and drawings. Her drawings of mythological figures and children were beautifully done as were the statues. I don’t want to live with either; they seemed like nightmares … so much of mythology was built around propitiation of frightening events and nightmares. Beth is an excellent artist. I want to see where she takes her work.

Joseph Hart’s abstracts are accessible, attractive and fun. He works in multimedia on paper, cutting, gluing and pasting. This is excellent work!

Now for the best part of the evening: Shinichi Maruyama at Bruce Silverstein. One word: revelatory. This is some of the freshest, best work I’ve ever seen. I could talk about how imaginative and painterly it is, printed on canvas. But really there’s nothing more to said than that the work is magnificent. Go, see for yourself. Through April 7.


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