Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anthony Pearson @Marianne Boesky

JTF (just the facts): A total of 10 works, most of which include multiple images and/or pieces of sculpture, displayed in the back two rooms of the gallery. 3 of the works are sets of small gelatin silver Solarizations, framed in white and matted, hung in rows. A fourth is comprised of 2 of these solarizations and a small bronze sculpture, placed between the two photographs. There are also 3 large individual c-prints, framed in white and not matted; 2 of these images are from the Opaques series, the other from the Flares series. The other three works include mixtures of tall images from the Flares series with more bronze sculptures and are called Arrangements. All of the works are from 2009 and are unique (not editioned). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Given the recent contemporary abstraction shows at Aperture (here) and Michael Mazzeo (here), and the Marco Breuer show at Von Lintel last spring (here), it's clear that using light sensitive materials in a process intensive way to explore the boundaries of photographic picture making is an active area of exploration for many artists. In his first solo show in New York, Anthony Pearson brings a refined elegance to his photo experiments, with a style that hearkens back to late 1940s/early 1950s Abstract Expressionism.
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Several different but related bodies of work are on display in this show, often mixed together to create process juxtapositions and echoes. Intimate solarized gelatin silver photographs of drawings on foil begin the show and are repeated later in alternate combinations; they are scratched and scraped, crosshatched and interlocked in a variety of black and white tonalities, each a small exercise in tight composition. Pearson has then taken these foil drawings and photographed their back sides, enlarging them to make dark, furrowed works that capture the inversion of the original process.
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Another process investigation captures light leaking into the artist's camera, printed as panoramic images turned on end; they are like drops of moonlight rippling outward on a tall, thin, dark pond. Groups of these "flares" (reversed up and down to have the white circle in different locations) are then paired with minimal bronze sculptures, molten vertical strips reminiscent of Barnett Newman's zips, only with negative space cut out of the middle. While I've always considered the specific pairing of photography and sculpture a bit overly mannered (and often just plain odd), most of these combinations actually work quite well; the three dimensionality of the minimal black/silver sculpture compliments the process abstractions in the photographs without trying too hard.

Overall, this is a solid first NY show, with a broad array of images that are both understated and effective.
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Collector's POV: Getting a straight answer on prices for this exhibition was frustratingly challenging; there was no price list available and the woman behind the counter was reluctant to tell me anything. In the end, she looked up a few specific prices in the gallery database, but there was much confusion over works that were made up of more than one image (did I want the entire group or one of the images in particular?), so interested collectors should recheck the following numbers, as there was plenty of vagueness in what I was told. The solarizations appear to be available as both individual prints and in sets: single prints are priced at $2200, with sets of 4 at $7500 and sets of 9 at $12000; it was altogether unclear whether this is a mix and match kind of thing, or whether there are predefined sets only. Works from the Flares series were between $12000 and $14000; whether this includes one or more prints was maddeningly unanswered; I think the prices refer to groups. The largest group of items (2 sculptures and 7 prints) is priced at $48000; I gave up trying to figure out the prices of the other smaller groups that included sculpture. In the future, I'd suggest that a readily available printed price list eliminates these communication breakdowns.
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My particular favorites in this show, even though they don't exactly fit into our collection, were the small solarizations. They reminded me of Callahan's early light drawings, Otto Steinert's swirly luminograms, and some of De Kooning's black and white paintings.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • 2007 exhibit @David Kordansky Gallery (here)
  • Whitney Art Party (here)
Through October 10th

509 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

i liked this show alot too. as a regular gallery goer- id recommend asking for a director if you ever need specific information. often the front desk people are just that and arent all that helpful. but from my experience, the team at this gallery is normally really helpful and informative.

dlkcollection said...

Anonymous,

My issue is less with the friendliness or efficiency of the staff, but more a concern over the lack of transparency in pricing represented by the behavior. Of course, a director at virtually any gallery will be willing to talk with a collector, and will likely be helpful in discussing pricing.

But if I really only want to know the price, a talk with the director forces me to have a conversation, exchange pleasantries, and more than likely, listen to some form of sales pitch. Even if this is all in good faith, all I really wanted to know was the price, pure and simple. Additionally, I think there is a subtle dimension of power being applied here: by having to ask for a director, I am interrupting him/her from whatever else he/she was doing; therefore, most polite people will refrain from asking unless they are somewhat serious. Now my simple question about a price has turned into an implicit signal of potential interest; I wouldn't bother to jump through these hoops to get the answer if I wasn't genuinely interested in the work. An unspoken weeding out is occurring.

This is what drives me crazy. Prices should be readily available for all to access. Period. No misdirection, no games, no being forced to ask humbly, no being forced to talk with someone. Just make them available, and we as collectors can surely sort ourselves out into those that want to follow up and have a deeper conversation and those that don't.

RedSardine said...

I don't lose too much sleep over galleries' position on pricing, as it reflects the fact that there are different prices for different people in different circumstances (every industry gives customers volume discounts) and the real life commercial imperative of getting people focused on "value", rather than "price" (note the prices people pay for an art object which has no economic utility and invariably has a very low cost of production is all about emotional value).

However, my view is that galleries should reconsider and be less worried about putting their prices out there. After all, they all do this in the best trade fairs and it would represent a big step forward in demystifying art collection - a process which I think would open the floodgates when it came to attracting new customers with money to spend on photography and art.

I think the fact that so many buyers prefer buying through auction houses, despite the fact that this can often be much more expensive than working directly with a gallery, is one indication of the potential out there.