19 June 2005

"suggestive" incoherence

Saturday I did some old-fashioned gallery-hopping in Chelsea with friends. Two shows were decidedly mobbed, those were Sophie Calle and Jasper Johns. Ms. Calle, who the internet tells me used to be a "stripper," titled her show "Exquisite Pain"--not sure whether the translation makes it sound like early undergraduate melodrama or if it's wholly intended (one expects the words "liminal" and "spaces" to crown the gushy thesis of the catalogue like a rainbow refracting through fresh waterspray). Ms. Calle declares in silkscreened text , marking the entrance museumlike, that the exhibition chronicles the "end of a love affair." This end she casually identifies as "nothing unusual" is built up to through the dark/glib (all kinds of depressing Japanese hotel rooms) and bloody/passionate (texts which narrate the lover's past attempts to strangle her) in the photographs and found objects which count down her "92 DAYS UNTIL UNHAPPINESS." She's stamped each photo, ticket, key, book, and letter with the phrase and the numbers descending. Though I have done this kind of thing once or twice before, I'm always puzzled by certain aspects of the whole sticky wicket: First, do people just trawl about, like the lady I saw with the mercury-shaded coif and the quilted rompers, pointing at and then purchasing art? Who chooses the artists?--an obvious question, yes, but, so many of these shows felt like "friend" shows. Like, "I have this friend and she's brilliant and you simply must give her a week in June." An example of this might be the neon spray painted glossyblack fields of a painter whose name, of course, was neither memorable to me nor well-known. I suppose I'm going to have to go a lot in order pinch off my proverbial dillettante.


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