12.01.2007

Nancy Graves, Francesca Woodman, and Barbara Kruger in Midtown Galleries

Hallelujah, art sisters and brothers! Read on about three fine exhibits that are all within easy walking distance of one another.

• Nancy Graves
Bronze Sculpture of the 1980s
Ameringer Yohe Fine Art (20 West 57th Street)
Through December 22, 2007 and January 2-12, 2008

The sculptural assemblages in bronze made by Nancy Graves (1939-1995) in the 1980s are among her most critically acclaimed and important artworks. These brightly colored objects, all more than just the sum of their found object and familiar form parts - palm fronds, egg cartons, wheel spokes, tractor seats, etc., exude an inner dialogue, as if they are sentient beings capable of playing amongst themselves. Though heavy, they seem to defy gravity.

These sculptures could fit perfectly in the debut exhibit of The New Museum of Contemporary Art, but I'm afraid they would have the effect of making some of the new work by young artists seem derivative and so yesterday.

• Francesca Woodman
Marian Goodman Gallery (24 West 57th Street)
Through January 5, 2008

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), a tragic suicide at the age of 22, created a body of work of exquisite sensibility during her brief life. Working in black and white, Woodman explored the relationship of the female form to the built and natural environment, often setting up relationships between the body and the exterior form. The gallery, which represents the estate, exhibits a gorgeous selection of these photographs. They're youthful, beautifully made, and heartbreaking.

• Barbara Kruger
Picture/readings: 1978
Mary Boone Gallery (745 Fifth Avenue)
Through December 22, 2007

In 1978, before creating the graphic black, white and red juxtaposition of words and images for which she is most known, Kruger (b. 1945) took photographs of vernacular dwellings in California and Florida and paired these images with imagined soliloquies. The point-of-view of the image is from the sidewalk, while the words reveal the interior life of the occupant. The series commands respect due to its masterful evocation of dualities - public and private, exterior and interior, male and female. Kruger writes powerfully well.
The feeling of the 1970s invoked in the images bears some resemblance to Stephen Shore's road trip images of the time (the subject of a dynamo exhibit at ICP that I saw twice), and I could picture him pulling into the driveway of these apartment houses. That said, I think Kruger, if she wanted, could kick Shore's butt.

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