March 2008, PULSE New York

 Petroc Sesti
 Event Horizon, 2005
 plinth, turbine, glass, fluid
 71.5 x 19.5 x 19.5 inches
 Courtesy Carrie Secrist Gallery

PULSE New York
Pier 40, West Side Highway at
West Houston Street in Greenwich Village
Thursday, March 27 through March 30, 2008

Sculptures, icy as muses, guillotines, expanding superhighways spelled curtains for outdoor sculpture. Semiotics was bombed by Phillip Johnson’s architecture. The frenzy of art as currency, to be bought and sold at auction, gave way to the desire for larger pieces. Thus, indoor sculpture emerged.

Kinetic tabletop sculptures from the 1960's and little John Chamberlains were the trend at the most recent 67th Street Armory Show. Adam Parker Smith’s On the Wings of Maybe (2007), vinyl, felt, wood and vintage wedding dresses, courtesy of Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York; Andy Yoder’s Licorice Shoes, imported Dutch licorice, courtesy of Winkleman Gallery, New York; Nicola Verlato’s, Zakk (2007), cast resin, courtesy of Bonelli Arte Contemporanea, Mantova, Italy were all the rage at PULSE New York.

Pre-Warhol society was more like The Maltese Falcon. Today, Petroc Sesti’s Event Horizon (2005), plinthe, turbine, glass, and a barrel of fluid, 71.5 x 19.5 x 19.5 inches not only transforms the room into a fish eye, but contains an illusion of a fountain, kineticism and modernism. No television existed back then. New York was a giant Radio City, Deco, Film Noire, Charlie Chan with an edge. I suppose Warhol idealized the Campbell’s Soup Can and celebrity with the same angelic naivete as Norman Rockwell or the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films. Today we have the surrealistic Stepford Wives. They replaced Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

While the modern wings of our major museums taught us something about how important art was as a political tool for the perpetuation of democracy, the art world became a cult of Kafkaesque proportions. As we entered into the studios of Mark Rothko in the 1950's where we saw those oranges and magentas. Cy Twombly’s blacks and grays redefined religious art, taking it indoors.

de Kooning was especially good at passage paintings which made East Hampton resonate as if it were the Uffizi. He hid behind F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda banking instead of on his wife, Elaine. Seeing them in museums though reminds me of Marilyn Monroe in foster care. Certainly, the plein air painters, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh in the 1880's steadfastedly held to their belief that style didn’t mean only the godlike perfection of Greek art. Nature contained mirror wisdom. We needed to look at the truth about ourselves. At the same time, once you convey an idea to the public, there is a magnetic pull toward a muse, a corrupted idealization once more occurs.

A decade of two later, outdoor sculpture appeared. Robert Grosvenor worked with colorful patinas naturally occurring from industrial paint chipping off of steel beams. Mark DiSuvero’s tarred wood beams were a continuation of the lines of our children’s playgrounds during the 1970's. Certain sculptors worked indoors like Carl Andre with his tiles and the great Ronald Bladen whose organic shapes were perfection.

I suppose in New York, Central Park was like the Berlin Wall. Spanish Harlem was on the Upper Eastside. The remnants of Central Park West were the backside of Columbia University. A city pool and an earthquake fault line graced the top of the park at 110th Street. Malcolm X Boulevard shot through the center of the northern metropolis. Licorice, polyurethane, cast resin/plastic molds, plexiglass and gilded fabric sculptures travel to Fiera Bologna, Miart, Milano, Verona, Miami Scope, Miami Basel, and then to Maco, Mexico City.

Claudia Schwalb

Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974.  She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's.  She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977.  Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction).  She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight.  Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year.

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