I started off my week with a true discovery in the form of the Partners & Spade Gallery on Great Jones Street. I went down to see the work of Warhol’s former assistant Walter Steding and Warhol’s friend Stefano Castronovo (famous for his painted leather jackets) in a group show, “Salon de Refusniks” curated by former Interview and Art in America editorial director Glenn O’Brien. The space and the show within it are eclectic, offering everything from antique globes to found photographs of police evidence. I was taken with Steding’s new and rather eerie portrait of Warhol and Castronovo’s fantastic and hyperrealistic paintings of nude women.
Later that evening, I went further downtown for the Bomb Magazine gala that was honoring former A.i.A. editor Betsy Baker, Richard Armstrong, Marina Abramovic, among other art-world luminaries.The energy was great and it was nice to spend time talking to Sanford Biggers, an artist and Columbia University School of Art faculty member, whose work I have been watching for years.
On Saturday, I visited Rush Arts on 26th Street in Chelsea to meet friend and New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) chair Danny Simmons for a tour of a group show curated by my friend and artist Hank Willis Thomas along with Natasha L. Logan called “The Black Portrait.” I was immediately drawn to the work of Felandus Thames, a recent Yale MFA graduate, whose photography-based works on paper were haunting and powerful in equal measure. Delphine Diallo’s “Queen of New York” series also caught my eye, and even though I assumed her images were found fashion magazine pictures from the 80s, in actuality, they are real women that Delphine found on the streets of New York and photographed because she viewed them to embody the ideals of beauty. It’s a very contemporary project, and a quite Warholian one.
On Sunday, I headed over to the West Side Highway and 42nd Street to attend “1,001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei,” a peaceful sit-in organized by Anne Pasternak and Creative Time calling for the release of artist Ai Weiwei, who was apprehended by police in China a few weeks ago and has been charged with miscellaneous, seemingly random offenses. Hundreds of artists, writers, curators and museum professionals came out to help in the effort, and it was great to know that my colleagues will always make time for causes that really matter.
Later that afternoon I went to the studio of Max Gimblett, a fantastic painter who’s originally from New Zealand, to speak with him about his solo show that will be held at The Warhol in September as part of our The Word of God series. Max, who is an ordained Buddhist monk, has been doing magical ink paintings for decades, and it is always a special experience to visit his studio, directly next to the New Museum on the Bowery. Next time you’re there, look up to the right for the quatrefoil in the window. Max often uses this form in his paintings, which blend elements of Japanese ink painting and Pop art into swirling and spiritual powerhouses.
On Monday, en route back to Pittsburgh, I stopped in Philadelphia to attend a luncheon for regional museum directors and curators at the Barnes Foundation. I had never before visited this world-class collection of Impressionist painting, and I couldn’t bear to miss it before it leaves its beautiful campus for a new home in downtown Philly. All I can say is this: if you haven’t gone before, get there before July (when the original venue closes) to see the best Seurat, Van Gogh and Matisse works that you’ve ever seen–and in the light within which they were meant to be viewed.