When Artnet editor Walter Robinson first showed his “Romance Series” at New York’s Metro Pictures back in the eighties, he had recently presented another group of paintings depicting unglamorous patent drugs and salves. For his “Romance Series,” which returns to Metro Pictures this month, he turned to another drugstore staple: the paperback romance novel. Robinson sums up the work as paintings “of people kissing, romance, beautiful women, strong men, and desire.” But the subject is more steamy than sappy. Culled from the covers of fifties pulp fiction, Robinson’s images of girls and guns are painted in an appropriately passionate manner—and the series still demonstrates that, as the artist says, “the act of putting paint on canvas is an intimate act suited well to depicting intimate acts.”
The Fifth Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, "When Things Cast No Shadow," opened to the public on Saturday. The show, curated by Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic, is divided into two themes, "Day," a collection of mostly newly commissioned works spread out across four venues in Berlin, and a night-themed segment, "Mes Nuits Sont Plus Belles Que Vos Jours," a group of 63 performances, lectures, installations, and happenings in diverse locations throughout the city that run until June 15. "There’s a lot of attention on Berlin right now, and there are many young interesting artists living here," said Filipovic. "Although the reasons they come to Berlin may be banal—the rent is cheap, it’s an easy place to be a foreigner—the result is a vibrant community of artists." But among the first was the young French artist Cyprien Gaillard. His film "Crazy Horse," shown at Skulpturenpark Berlin Zentrum, a semi-abandoned lot in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, documents the drawn-out process of construction of a Mount Rushmore-like memorial monument to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. "I was thinking about ruins in reverse," explained Gaillard after the screening. "It’s interesting to show this work in Berlin now, as it goes through its own processes of reconstruction. I’m intrigued by geographical anomalies." Upcoming performances and events include work by Melvin Moti, Augusto Boal, and Cameron Jamie, among others.
The New York School of abstract expressionists—Pollock, de Kooning, Kline, et al.—rose to prominence by stripping away the fluff, flab, and frustrations of reality to reveal philosophical truth and pure sensations in non-representational paint. By contrast, the most compelling practitioners of abstraction today are finding their inspiration in abject and mundane aspects of reality. The six artists in “Substraction,” currently up at New York’s Deitch Projects gallery, create abstract art about strip malls and other down-and-dirty subject matter. Dan Colen first garnered art-world attention with careful Disney-like paintings containing crude catchphrases, but he’s now best known for canvases and papier-mâché sculpture covered in painted bird droppings. Kristin Baker’s booming canvases of race-car bust-ups are full of frenzied color and aggressive forms. And the swirling forms in Aaron Young’s installation art were achieved by inviting motorcycle gangs to burn through layers of paint with their screaming tires. Using a consistent, streamlined visual language, the artists in “Substraction” are creating a new New York school that pays homage to the grimy, swaggering spirit of the city.
Though known more for his art than his boarding, painter, filmmaker, and yes, wave maker Julian Schnabel is also an avid surfer, a fact that wasn’t lost on Freshpaved.com‘s Jeff Gaites when he approached Schnabel to create a new work back in 2005. Gaites, a member of this year’s planning committee for the second annual live art auction to benefit Stoked Mentoring, figured Schnabel would be amenable—after a little coaxing. “I went by his studio and he was just typical Julian, kind of gruff, but he came around after a few minutes,” Gaites recalls. “He did an original piece on a big, long skateboard and it sold for about $12,000 before the auction even opened.” Hence the origins of the nonprofit’s collaborations with big-name artists, including, this year, Barry McGee, Tom Sachs, and Francesco Clemente. Russell Young, who will contribute a silk-screened print of Marlon Brando entitled “Death of a Disco Dancer” for this Saturday’s Phillips de Pury-helmed auction at the Milk Gallery, understands the importance of Stoked’s mission: bringing together at-risk youth and established adults to learn board sports. “I’m actually a big-time surfer,” Young revealed. “Surfing is always a positive thing. When I teach my son, at each little step I just see that he’s so happy. When we go out, he just has this confidence. We have fun together.”
It’s hard to avoid having a conflicted crush on Dubai. The city’s energy and opulence and its glittering, shiny, contagious plastic allure are appealing, but also dramatically off-set by poverty, ecological negligence, and blistering heat—not to mention a frustrating lack of taxis. All of which makes it the perfect muse for Martin Parr’s distinctly critical eye. Parr’s documentary-style images of his native New Brighton defined British photography in the eighties, and his searingly satirical shots of overweight English tourists sunning, shopping, and stuffing their ruddy faces were both funny and tragic. Parr’s new series on Dubai opens this week at The Third Line, one of the Middle East’s most stimulating contemporary art galleries. It highlights the unnerving juxtapositions between Dubai’s über-rich and its impoverished classes, the contrasts between the ancient desert and the brand-new buildings, and sparklingly style versus concrete scenery. As he did with his work in the U.K., Parr demonstrates that Dubai’s truths are in its details.