The Studio Visit
475 10th Avenue, at 36th Street,
Manhattan, Through March 25
Make art, not video. That is but one nutshell response to the sometimes amusing, occasionally impressive but also enervating slog that is "The Studio Visit," the latest marathon effort from Exit Art. As usual, much of its appeal stems from the fact that the concept has been put into practice at all.
This time, 160 artists were invited to make short video variations on the time-tested ritual of artists inviting friends, art dealers, critics or collectors to their studios to look at their art. It is often a form of audition for all concerned, as well as a way to make contact, gather data and get your work on the information highway that still matters the most: word of mouth.
With videos projected continuously on five large walls and on monitors in 10 small, scrim-enclosed rooms, the look is part art fair, part reality show, especially since seven of the participants have also set up studios of one kind or another in Exit Art's big windows (for an effect that is a little too zoolike). There are too many close-ups of hands wielding pencils and views of gritty stairwells and hallways. At times it all feels dismayingly in step with present-day trends in narcissism, voyeurism and attention-deficiency.
The videos are usually four to six minutes in length, but even the good ones seem too long, with the possible exception of one by Anne Spurgeon, who takes two and a half minutes to transform herself into someone resembling Barry Manilow and leaves you hanging. Music always helps, as does high speed, stop action or high-speed stop action, combinations of which are used to good effect by Joyce Pensato, Cynthia von Buhler, Ida Applebroog, Bruce Pearson and Lance Wakeling, who briskly inventories the contents of his studio.
Taylor McKimens musters some rare self-deprecation, while Paul Wirhun, talking about his devotion to painted eggs, is actually moving. So, less directly, is Elisabeth Kley, whose ink drawings and ceramic fountains seem related to the work of Jack Smith. Also noteworthy are the contributions of Seth Weiner, JP Forrest, Eduardo Gil Galue, Christy Gast, Kim Jones, Ronnie Yarisal and Katja Kublitz, and the collective called the 62, which made a run-on stop-action panorama from mostly still images.
This show would have been more memorable if limited to its best efforts, which by my estimate was about 25. But its massing of individual works has its own impact. It randomly samples the range of talent, delusion and ambition harbored by people who are drawn to art, like moths to a flame.