You don’t have to make it to Chelsea to see New York’s hottest shows this month. Peter Doig’s first New York solo show in a decade takes place on the Upper East Side at Michael Werner Gallery and in the West Village at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise where new canvases feature ping-pong players, human moths and mysterious landscapes.
Also on the painting front, South African artist Marlene Dumas’ figurative paintings in her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art are dark but arresting. Critics from the LA Times Christopher Knight to the New York Times Roberta Smith point out the prominent pros and cons of the show, and it’s easy to walk through and create your own checklist of art historical references, not an unrewarding task.
The New Museum’s first triennial, ‘The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,’ won’t open ‘till April, but its gratuitous title and its exclusion of any artist over age 33 has already created buzz. In the meantime an upcoming new show by British artist Jeremy Deller promises something more daring. In lieu of a traditional exhibition of art objects, Deller’s ‘It Is What It Is: Conversations about Iraq’ will bring veterans, journalists, scholars and Iraqi nationals into the museum space to engage in unscripted discussion. Will museum visitors want to engage? Participating should prove to be as fun as watching others when this show opens on February 11th.
For an artwork with such potential to bore its audience silly, On Kawara’s One Million Years at David Zwirner Gallery is surprisingly seductive. To try to better understand this landmark conceptual art project, consisting of several volumes of type-written numbers counting one million years into the past and one million years into the future, I volunteered to take part in a public reading one Saturday afternoon.
Half expecting to emerge from my two-hour stint hoarse and semi-deranged after such a mind-numbing chore, I was relieved to survive relatively intact. I’d thought that my mind would wander to all kinds of interesting places while my lips went on autopilot. No such luck.
Plowing through the centuries at a steady clip (my male counterpart and I covered a millennium in about an hour), I had to stay focused despite the temptation to meet the gazes of staring gallery visitors or gawk at one knoodling couple. To my chagrin, the piece brought out my inner nerd, so preoccupied by speaking up and not making mistakes that I couldn’t begin to get my head around the idea of the numbers representing meaningful dates. Instead, my thrills came from configurations like 48,888AD and the turn of the millennium.
Later in the day, though, I found myself thinking about the progression of ‘our’ numbers – 48,625 A.D. – 49,678 A.D. Something about the repetition was soothing – maybe the idea of time marching inevitably and quickly on, regardless of what may or may not happen all those years in the future. I can’t say my immediate perception of time has been effected, but the idea of a human lifespan passing in a flash while barely a dent was made in the tally of dates is still awe inspiring.
Catch On Kawara’s One Million Years before it closes on February 14th, or watch my exhibition review .