Must See Art: Tom Wesselmann at Gagosian Beverly Hills

‘Still Life #29,’ 1963, Oil and printed paper collaged on canvas, 9′ x 12′, ©Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


This Thursday, Gagosian Beverly Hills will be launching a solo exhibition of rare works by Pop Art notable Tom Wesselmann. Wesselmann: 1963-1983 will feature seven pieces created by the artist, none of which have ever been shown on the West Coast. On view until August, the exhibition will showcase the commercial billboards Wesselmann began painting in 1962.


‘Still Life #61,’ 1976, Oil on shaped canvas in 4 parts, 8’8.5″ x 32’7″ x 6’7″, ©Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


Born in Cincinnati in 1931, Wesselmann was an influential figure in the Pop Art world, with his massive paintings that recontextualized images from popular culture, like the Volkswagen Beetle seen in ‘Still Life #29.’

“I used what was around me, so my culture was what I used,” he once said about his work.

Part of ‘The Standing Still Lifes’ series, the seven works in Wesselmann: 1963-1983 were a highlight in the artist’s long career. Comprised of multiple canvases shaped like the objects they depict and mounted on both the wall and the ground, the pieces are three-dimensional scenescapes that pull you into their world. Known primarily for his work that showcases the female figure, these paintings incorporate everyday objects in exaggerated sizes, exploring sexuality and surrealism in an emotional and experimental way.


‘Still Life with Blue Jar and Smoking Cigarette,’ 1981, Oil on shaped canvas in 4 parts, 9′ x 18’5″ x 5’6″, ©Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


“Wesselmann is an artist well known for his forthright and original standpoint on sexuality,” explains Jason Ysenburg, Director at Gagosian, “but that is only a part of his story. In the ‘Still Lifes,’ ‘Standing Still Lifes’ and ‘Bedroom Paintings,’ we are offered a glimpse into an enchanted world where scale, content and the juxtaposition of materials and images is surprising and innovative,” he continues. “What transpires are a group of paintings where sexuality is often implied rather than overtly expressed.”

Since his death in 2004, Wesselmann’s work has become only more sought after, and has been included in multiple exhibitions at The Whitney and MoMA. This latest exhibition follows another recent showcase, Tom Wesselmann: Standing Still Lifes at Gagosian in New York.


Wesselmann: 1963-1983 is on view from July 12 to August 24 at Gagosian Beverly Hills.


Photos: ‘Still Life #29’ by Jeffrey Sturges; ‘Still Life #61’ & ‘Still Life with Blue Jar and Smoking Cigarette’ by Rob McKeever; all courtesy the Estate of Tom Wesselmann and Gagosian

These Are the 5 Most Inspiring Art Shows to See This Weekend in NYC

“URS FISCHER,” installation view. Artwork © Urs Fischer. Photo by Rob McKeever


Urs Fischer at Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue, NYC
Thankfully extended, the neo-Dada artist’s eponymous show will remain open through January 17 (Saturday,) so get there quickly this weekend. The show includes full room installations of Fischer’s large-scale, semi-impermanent sculptures.
“URS FISCHER,” installation view. Artwork © Urs Fischer. Photo by Rob McKeever


Works & Process Livestream: Miami City Ballet, Justin Peck & Shepard Fairey, through the Guggenheim
7:30 p.m. eastern sees the livestream of a discussion between artist Shepard Fairey and Wynwood Walls choreographer Justin Peck on Heatscape, which will premiere in March at the Miami City Ballet. As the two talk, dancers will perform. Watch it from wherever you are by clicking here.


Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, NYC
This comprehensive collection, containing works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, and Leger, of Cubist art, one of the most influential art movements of the early 20th century. This is the first time this collection is on view to the public. Get there before it closes on February 16.
“Two Nudes” Pablo Picasso. Paris, spring 1909. Promised gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Jennifer Nocon at Tracy Williams Ltd, 521 West 23rd Street, NYC
In her third solo show with the gallery, L.A.-based artist Jennifer Nocon continues to explore reoccurring patterns with her show “You See Ocean I See Sky”. Expect watercolor on paper, sculpture, and a frieze incorporating wool and ceramic to form, what else, patterns.
“Sky Diamonds” by Jennifer Nocon


Jesús Rafael Soto at Galerie Perrotin, 909 Madison Avenue, NYC
Timed to coincide with a show happening simultaneously at Galerie Perrotin in Paris, Soto’s Chronochrome explores the the relationship between monochromatic color and time, hence the title of the retrospective. Wall-mounted works join large-scale sculpture for the deceased artist’s show.
Jesús Rafael Soto/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, ADAGP, Paris, Galerie Perrotin


What Art To See In New York, Los Angeles + London April 14-20

Ai Weiwei photographed by Gao Yuan, 2012

Monday, April 14

Christo makes a rare public appearance at Neuehouse (we assume you’re a member) in New York to speak about Over the River and The Mastaba, two projects of the artist. A tour of Neuehouse’s art collection precedes the talk at 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday, April 15

Jean Nouvel’s Triptyques opens at Gagosian Gallery in London with a reception from 6-8 p.m. 17-19 Davies Street, London.

Thursday, April 17

Julian Schnabel’s View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings, 1989-1990 opens at Gagosian Gallery in New York with a reception from 6-8 p.m. 555 West 24th Street, New York.

Henri Matisse’s blue nudes are back together at the Tate Modern in London. The Cut-Outs exhibition opens Thursday. Museum hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bankside, London.


Friday, April 18

Ai Weiwei’s According to What? exhibition opens at the Brooklyn Museum. Tickets are $15; the show is free for members.

Saturday, April 19

Thomas Ruff’s Photograms and Negatives opens at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills with a reception from 6-8 p.m. 456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, California.

Still Paying Attention: Bruce Nauman at Gagosian

At one time or another, Bruce Nauman, now 70, has been described by Peter Schjeldahl as “the best American artist of the last quarter century” and by Artforum as “adolescent and contemptible.” Either way, it’s not much of a stretch to call Nauman the foremost living practitioner of conceptual art, and his 2005 installation One Hundred Fish Fountain, on display at the Gagosian Gallery through August 31, is an amalgam of materials and motifs from nearly a half-century of work.

One hundred bronze fish dangle from wires, spewing water into a rubber basin, but the most arresting aspect of the piece may actually hit before one’s even entered the room. That is, the sound of the thing is substantial from the moment of exiting the elevator (the girl at the front desk must feel like’s she’s working in the lobby of some Florida hotel, minus the ferns). Inside the exhibit itself, the sound becomes both energizing and trance inducing.

Each fish is a bronze cast of an actual fish caught by Nauman and his longtime dealer, the late Donald Young. Mostly bass and catfish from “the Great Lakes,” some of them are over two-feet-long and thick as watermelons. Staring straight at them, one can’t help but imagine that actually seeing one of these things in the water would be—not to get too Artforum-y—scary as shit. Catfish are ugly fellas, though if any work of art could succeed with such little regard for formal aesthetics, it’d be this one. The marked-up, black rubber basin and the thick tubes pumping water into the fish, like something from the Matrix, are indeed just enough of an eyesore to push the installation past the “I’d want that in my foyer” checkpoint and into the self-assuring realm of art object. Look close enough at some of the smaller fish as they sway back and forth or shake from the strength of the pumps—the resemblance to an actual fish’s motor skills is uncanny, broken only by the blatant mechanistic appearance of the tubes and wires.

In ways replicating both concepts (see Self-portrait as a Fountain, 1967) and materials (see Four Pairs of Heads, 1991) from previous work, One Hundred Fish Fountain is at the same time removed a step from any reference to Nauman’s most common subject: people. That is, there’s no real visible sign of either the human form or the human language. In a long line of work involving cute wordplay (Eating My Words, 1967, features Nauman hovering over a plate of bread cut into the shape of letters), there is here just an undeclared but deducible twist to the “fish out of water” idiom. And in line with a 1996 work in bronze, Fifteen Pairs of Hands, these hundred fish have no less a tangible story to them, having once been handled by Nauman himself.

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana (Gagosian seemed to think it reasonable to say “a native of the American heartland” without a wink), Nauman has been living in Northern New Mexico for over thirty years, and the blend of industrial and ecological in One Hundred Fish, more than in any of his previous works,seems to be a reflection of that background. And for such a celebrated artist, he’s remained notably (and, perhaps, admirably) distant from the New York art community.

This work, like all, is worth checking out. It’s sure to be talked about. The two other people in the room when I stopped by seemed to be engaged in their comments, likely ones more thoughtful than mine. Maybe they said it was the greatest installation of the 21st century. Maybe they called it gaudy and stupid. I don’t know. I couldn’t see well enough through the collage of fish, and I certainly couldn’t hear them over the rush of the water. 

Recollection: Posing for Gregory Crewdson on the Occassion of his New Show at Gagosian, ‘Sanctuary’

The poet Adrienne Rich once wrote, “When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.” In the case of Gregory Crewdson, time – and landscape, for that matter – is the same as a shutter click. Yet the moment can last for decades. A few weeks ago, I attended the opening for Gregory Crewdson’s latest body of work, Sanctuary, at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. All forty-one of the black-and-white photos were shot on location in Rome at the Cinecittà studios. Crewdson had been traveling around Europe when he went on a tour of the legendary studios. Looking at the Cinecittà in all of its decaying beauty, Crewdson knew he had to shoot his next body of work there. “It was one of those few times you have an aha moment,” the photographer told me. Each photograph in the show captures a different, empty scene, often framed by a doorway or vault – many look like they were taken in the aftermath of the scenes from his most famous series, Twilight and Beneath the Roses, brilliantly engaging with the same flattened spacetime effect. They feel almost like the first moment you have to yourself after receiving news of a loved one passing; you can almost hear the reverberation of your own footsteps on the empty cobblestone street. Gazing at these photographs, I could sense the absence of person as subject, and I found myself overwhelmed by nostalgia. One summer ten years ago, when I was a student at an arts camp in Massachusetts, Crewdson chose me as a subject for one his famous photographs.

image Photographer Taryn Simon at the Gagosian opening for Sanctuary

It had been my sixth year at Belvoir Terrace, a small arts camp for girls in Lenox, Massachusetts. In photography class, Shira Weinert, a Yale photo student at the time, taught us how to develop our own film, print our own images, and even shoot with an 8×10 view camera. One day, she announced that we would be having a visitor. Her professor from Yale would be coming up to scout a girl for one of his photos.

A few days later, the camp’s director got on the microphone after dinner and announced the arrival of Gregory Crewdson. We were told that Mr. Crewdson would be giving a lecture about his work. What we didn’t know, however, was that Mr. Crewdson would be casting his photo while giving this lecture. The next day, we gathered at the camp’s outdoor stage to hear Gregory Crewdson talk. I arrived a few seconds late, saying hello to some of the other campers on my way in. Once settled, I looked at the stage. I nearly jumped. Directly in my line of vision was Gregory Crewdson. It almost looked like he was looking back at me. I told myself not to be silly; I was after all too far away for anyone to see me from the stage.

Later that night the director of the camp approached me with the news: I had been cast as the “main” girl. I would be standing, they told me, over a deep pool of blood while 50 other campers would scatter about the background. I was excited, but I was also slightly mortified at the thought of such a loud bond with my own menstruation being captured on film.

Crewdson tells me now that the reason he chose me for the photograph was because he had been seeking “a certain kind of presence but also a slight sense of vulnerability,” someone “slightly haunted.” And that, he explained, “had to be conveyed from about 150 miles away.”

After a few days of faxed-in parental consent forms and model releases, the cast of Crewdson’s photo hopped on a bus and headed for Lee, Massachusetts. When we arrived, Gregory was already there, setting up. A small, white, suburban house sat at the end of a thin driveway, around which two school buses were parked at a perpendicular angle. There were many people, wires everywhere, and a massive lift. It took me a while to find the camera.

image Director Wes Anderson at the Gagosian opening for Sanctuary

“Up there,” one crewmember said, pointing to a lift high in the air—basically at the upmost part of a nearby tree. The crewman led me to a small pool of red gunk by the driveway. “Stand here,” another guy said. “Oh, and let’s toss your backpack to the side.” He poured some more red gunk on my fingers and walked away. “How’s it going?” I looked up to respond to the question and found myself staring at Mr. Crewdson. “This is about transformation,” he said, and instructed me to hold my right arm out, tilt my head slightly to the right, stare at my fingertips, and “watch the blood drip.” “OK,” I said. “And hold very still.” He walked over to the other girls. “Can anyone draw hopscotch?” A voice squeaked, “I can.”

That was the extent of our interaction with Crewdson. He spent the remainder of the time up in the lift. I watched everyone move into place. The girls scattered. Some were instructed to stay by the school bus while others were asked to sit on the ground and play games or draw with the chalk. Then, a voice—perhaps from a loudspeaker—commanded from above: “Ready, and ACTION.” I realized just in time that this meant we were about to be photographed. I drew in a breath and held very still. And it was within this moment that I first understood my role as a “model.” This photograph wasn’t about me. Rather, I was a hologram of Crewdson’s brain. And it was my job to portray his vision. “OK thank you!” That’s how we became Plate 37 in Gregory Crewdson’s book Twilight. We all received a print of the image.

Later, I learned just how much work went into Plate 37, and into all of his photographs. “I divide my life into three stages,” says Crewdson. “Pre-production, Production, and Post-Production.” Crewdson describes the pre-production process as “a kind of idealism,” in which he scouts out the location and subject or subject matter. For the production process, Crewdson starts by positioning the camera and framing the image. The image itself is shot by a crewmember.

Before Sanctuary, when he used an 8×10 view camera, the crew would shoot a few dozen sheets of film, each one with a different focal length, to be put together later. (This is perhaps why Crewdson calls the digital camera “quite liberating.”) Then, in post-production, Crewdson’s least favorite stage, the negatives were sifted through, narrowed down, then layered on top of each other to create one image (along with some photoshop intervention).

Aesthetically, it’s easy to separate the photographs in Sanctuary from Crewdson’s earlier work. For one, his methods have changed—Sanctuary marks the first time he’s worked strictly in digital. He didn’t use human subjects for the series; he worked only with empty back lots; he did not shoot in color, but in black and white; he worked in Rome, not Massachusetts; he did not create a soundstage with lighting, instead relying only on ambient light. And even though he used his usual production team to shoot these photographs (Crewdson has over the years become notorious for employing a team large enough for a Hollywood feature film), the crew feels less present here than in his previous work.

image Writer James Frey at the Gagosian opening for Sanctuary

“One of the things artists have to do from time to time is challenge their own parameters and really try to push their work in the new directions,” said Crewdson. “But of course, the more you try to get away from yourself the more you realize it’s impossible.” This kind of paradox is present in his work: Themes of solitude often accompany Mr. Crewdson’s photographs, and the framing techniques in Sanctuary—doorways and windows—are also present in Beneath the Roses. But this consistency isn’t bad; if anything it gives Mr. Crewdson a sort of brand, which he manages to keep fresh.

Back at the Gagosian Gallery for the Sanctuary opening, the night progresses as the crowd swells. Elaborate hats whirl by, pink Chanel suits, and then, of course, Mr. Crewdson in his slick grey suit (he credits Mr. Ned). At one point, director Wes Anderson appears in a shiny blue blazer. Author James Fry arrives in one piece – and a lacoste shirt. Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn the “gallerist, art advisor, independent curator, collector, and tastemaker” (coined by Bravo TV) looks just as elegant in person as she does on her new TV show, Work of Art.

Larry Gagosian was not at the opening, nor was he anywhere on the grounds. He was, according to his guards, on a plane (they must have meant a spaceship; you’d have to be flying in circles to be stuck on a plane for three days straight). The collectors came at the end of the evening mostly in pairs. One woman traveled all the way from Houston to be at the show. “I’m here for theater and art,” she said. Reactions to the specifics of Mr. Crewdson’s new work came mostly from the non-buyers, however. “I thought the show was beautiful, subtle, and complex,” said Kate Peterson, an emerging photographer. “I’m happy to see people are responding especially when you’re known for something specific,” said Mr. Crewdson. “It’s terrifying to change.”

Perhaps, Mr. Crewdson, this too, is about transformation.

Sanctuary will be exhibited at Gagosian Gallery in New York through October 30th, 2010, and then again in Rome, in January 2011.

Gagosian Gallery’s “Meet Me Inside” Shirks Wine Reception for Beer & French Fries

Unlike New York City, it’s always sunny in Beverly Hills. Even in February, when the East Coast is reduced to a bleak tundra, our friends on the West Coast experience temperature dips that only approach 60°. Which then makes perfect sense for the Gagosian Gallery‘s Beverly Hills annex to open up its parking lot and make a post-modern novelty out of a night at the drive-in tomorrow. “Meet Me Outside” is a one-off event held to celebrate the gallery’s latest exhibit “Meet Me Inside”, in lieu of a staid cocktail reception. “Inside” features not only work from the pair of artists whose work together form the centerpiece of “Outside”, but also that of Andy Warhol and Taryn Simon, among sixteen others. Using the work of Tom Sachs and Edward Ruscha, “Outside” attempts to re-create every part of the drive-in experience, from concession stand to feature film.

Most notably, Tom Sachs has pieced together Salt the Fries–a work constructed entirely out of recycled and found objects–to present a functional deep-fryer that will be serving French fries to all patrons. Which should pair well with the cold beer that’ll be on hand. The exhibit launched a month ago and is showing until the end of February.