Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bushwick's WILDLIFE: "Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Lutz"

The lobby of 245 Varet Street, Brooklyn, New York, the home of WILDLIFE. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

A plastic Santa Claus greeted visitors on the first floor of 245 Varet Street on February 25th. His hand was raised to the sky, pointing to the third floor WILDLIFE space, an empty studio in which independent curator Jon Lutz had organized the latest installment of his Daily Operation series. That sterling brand would be reason enough to journey to the farthest reaches of Bushwick, and though that was not necessary (WILDLIFE is mere blocks from Roberta's), Lutz made the evening impossible to miss, tagging his exhibition with a title that promised class and discernment: "Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Jon Lutz." (Click for more photos of the show, via Lutz.)

Left to right: Joshua Abelow, I MISS YOU BITCH, 2008. Oil on linen, 16 x 12 in. Joshua Abelow, I MISS YOU BITCH, 2008. Oil on linen, 16 x 12 in. Joshua Abelow, I MISS YOU BITCH, 2008. Oil on linen, 16 x 12 in.

The press release also heralded an auspicious evening. In it, artist Ivin Ballen writes breathlessly that Mr. and Mrs. Lutz's "ability to make decisions that are applauded by both museum and artist is truly remarkable." He notes that he first happened to meet Mr. Lutz when they were both at a local cobbler. Before long, he was enjoying cocktails with him and his wife on their yacht. "The rest is history," he says. Such antics aside, it was, of course, Lutz's quartet of artists that guaranteed the hefty turnout at the reception: Ballen, Ethan Greenbaum, Janine Polak, and Joshua Abelow.

Three nearly identical paintings by the Brooklyn–based Abelow, each with two smiling faces, a triangle, and the sentence "I MISS YOU BITCH," held one wall and dominated the room with their ambiguous, gleeful mania. Abelow is the proprietor of the wonderful art blog ART BLOG ART BLOG, which he updates relentlessly with photos of a wide range of (mostly) contemporary artworks. Astoundingly, he is apparently unaffected by this steady stream of imagery, having honed his practice to a single definitive style: just a few (if any) images — various self-deprecating self-portraits are a recurring theme — and some absurd or sardonic text. It has the rare distinction of looking complete, razor sharp, and fully formed.

Janine Polak, Once bitten, twice shy, 2011. Wood, tinted plaster, silver jewelry, paint.

Ivin Ballen, Mud Fence, 2010. Fiberglass, Aquaresin, embedded dispersed pigments, 24 x 24 x 1 in.

Ethan Greenbaum, Untitled, 2010. Artificial plant, concrete cast, various sizes (all plants)

Other Abelows included a 2008 painting with the equation "YES=NO" and a double portrait called Artist & Collector, which shows an obsequious patron kissing the Pinocchio nose of an artist. (Is it Abelow?) Fully confident in — and even proud of — its pleasant idiosyncrasies, Abelow's work evinces a great and ridiculous sophistication, like that of a difficult gymnastics maneuver ("a double Abelow!") or a rare antique fishing lure ("My Abelow has brought me my finest catches."). Seeing his work, I feel like the woman who appears in another of his pieces (sadly not on view in the show), tilting back her head in ecstasy and mouthing the title of the drawing in which she resides: OH! ABELOW.

Joshua Abelow, Artist & Collector, 2007. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 in.

On the subtler side, Greenbaum placed artificial plants, which had been encased in concrete, around the walls of the room. Polak — like Greenbaum, a Yale graduate — kept it low-key as well, with three precariously balanced thin wood sculptures embedded embedded with tiny pieces of metal. Think David Adamo without the whittling or Susan Collis on a budget — not a bad thing. And then there was Ballen (a Cranbrook alum, like Abelow), who was represented by four effervescently colored works that could have been made by four different artists, as long as each was an extrovert determined to have a great time and, thank goodness, intent on including you in the festivities.

Ivin Ballen, Partyland, 2011. Fiberglass, Aquaresin, absorbed ground, gouache, acrylic, 32 x 24 x 1 in.

A view of the crowd

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