Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thoughts on Yvon Lambert

Thanks to my art-newsy Twitter feed, I learned this morning via Artnet that Yvon Lambert, owner of and name behind Yvon Lambert Gallery (NY and Paris) is retiring and closing his NY space, w/ Olivier Belot taking over the original Paris gallery.

I always dug this gallery. I liked the roster and the exhibitions (both solo and group) overall, which tended to feature either Europeans who don't get much coverage stateside (particularly solo) or Paris-living non-Europeans who also don't get much coverage here. Considering I actually have advanced knowledge of the gallery's closing (that final NY exhibition, "Play Time", opens May 20), and considering my appreciation for the space, I looked back at my old LISTS and pulled out a few exhibits that especially struck me as compelling or dope:

09162007: Tsang Kin-Wah. The patterns of pornographic text running through Tsang's paintings of lotus flowers surprises and engages the viewer, and the bolder text cutouts against light — Tsang's dialogue on racial discrimination and terrorism — are immediate.

You'll have to forgive the brevity, as I'd written the above three and a half years ago. Scary! Tsang's exhibition is my earliest record of Yvon Lambert (though I recall attending a Mario Testino show that summer). Back in the day, Yvon Lambert had two spaces in Chelsea, the familiar 21st St space and this "project space" on 25th St (what would become Gana NY, the large local satellite of the Seoul-based gallery), which always reminded me a bit of a barn for some reason. This was Yvon Lambert's first year in NY, whether I knew that at the time or not, and I remember visiting its spaces regularly. The project space ended by 2008.

10192008: Berlinde de Bruyckere. The first solo U.S. show by the Flemish artist is an exercise in disquietude and reverence. You may have seen her stuff before — waxy, flesh-pigmented humanoid sculpture and meat-like objets d'art — in group shows and at the New Museum, but if anything those glimpses gave you just a hint of what to expect here. What we have here, scattered sparingly over the entire three-room gallery, are five pieces — environments, really, think Louise Bourgeois' 'Cells'. The main room is dominated by slabs of meat (the Francis Bacon reference is obvious, but there is something horse-like in this too, de Bruyckere's other figurative element) suspended over a wooden platform. The duo of male figures (headless/armless) cunningly titled 'Pieta' — like a twisted relic from the Met — recedes in the presence of the meat. Two humanoid figures, one male and one female, lurch against white-washed wood and glass in the side gallery, their tortured bodies emitting (or being consumed by?) branchlike entrails. Oh yeah, where is the 'reverence' I wrote about earlier? The wisecrack about the Met wasn't just me being opportunistic; you have to really look at de Bruyckere's sculpture up close, how lovingly detailed the musculature and parts of the body she chooses to depict, and perhaps it's not that different a journey than Michelangelo.

To my memory, this was de Bruyckere's debut solo stateside exhibition, or at least it was in NYC. She went on to mount a fantastic one at Hauser & Wirth NY this spring, steeped in Pasolini, but Yvon Lambert's was my first. An excellent example of "firsts" from this gallery.

04122009: "Especes d'Espaces" Group Show. Translation: 'species of space', from Georges Perec's eponymously titled novel, and like two dozen artists transform and delineate the gallery space in their own subtle or invasive ways. This is a very cool group show. We have the dual assault of Zilvinas Kempinas (a brilliant installation of two facing head-high fans blowing dueling hoops of magnetic tape between them, equally fragile and mesmerizing) and Robert Barry (a nearly invisible nylon string suspending a steel disk just above the floor, careful or you will walk into this one like I nearly did). We have the subtle textures of Brice Marden's ink drawing and Stefan Bruggemann's 'reversed' mirror. We have the Jonathan Monk metal puddles in both side galleries, one accompanying a Jenny Holzer corner LED, the other minimalist plinth paintings from Ian Wallace. We have Bethan Huws' and Michael Brown's artistic statements that, in a nice change-up, follow a sound-piece conversation courtesy of Lawrence Weiner, which echoes throughout the gallery and, as you ponder the trickier pieces on display and navigate the more treacherous ones, ultimately proves inescapable.

Oh I used to despise group shows. I felt that way years ago, beleaguered by boring everything-and-the-kitchen-sink affairs in the spring, in June, in late autumn, whenever a gallery seemed to not have its planning together and decided to thrown down a crapshoot from its roster, just to fill the space and the month and maybe move some art. I didn't have that sentiment for Yvon Lambert's group shows, and this one in particular still resonates with me. If anything, people who trekked out to W.Chelsea just to see Zilvinas Kempinas' (another rare soul stateside) dual-fans installation (which recurred awesomely, of all places, at MoMA's "On Line" exhibition last year and totally got the tourists going).

09212010: Zilvinas Kempinas "BALLROOM". The Greek curious-installation artist stole the show during "Especes d'espaces" w/ a hula-hoop-sized magnetic tape loop "suspended" b/w two industrial fans. He ups that perceptual excitement to the nth degree w/ this temporal riot, a shimmering, humming cerebral disco, like out of Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void", composed of Kempinas' usual bag of tricks (magnetic tape, fans, swinging incandescent bulbs, reflective paper).

I had a lot of fun w/ Kempinas' solo installation and must have revisited like a dozen times. Again a gallery "first". From what I've read about Kempinas and seen in photographs, his installations are where it's at.

I file my take on the current gallery show, Idris Khan's "The Devil's Wall", in this week's LIST. Bravo, Yvon Lambert.