I love visiting galleries as much as museums in NYC, partly because they are not as mobbed. (Note to self: DO NOT go again to MOMA on a Sunday.) At the Madison Avenue Gagosian Gallery on Saturday, I was the only visitor taking in a giant room of works by Rudolf Stingel.
Big rooms with repetition of a theme are impressive, to be sure, and these works beckoned for close inspection. Shiny. When I chatted with the gallery assistant about people’s reactions to the work, she said that they were all blown away by the time it must have taken to make the panels (I hesitate to call them paintings). The artist is very close-mouthed about his techniques, she told me; it’s all very mysterious. I think he took woven fabric and traced around the designs with a marker or black paint on a brush. The silver areas seem to be covered with a wash of silver, allowing the fabric texture to show through, and the pink areas have a thicker paint applied, obscuring the weave structure. I asked whether anyone had commented on the textile quality of the work, and she looked merely baffled. No, that wasn’t anything that anyone mentioned.
The panels had areas of imperfect painting that gave the work as a whole more interest than complete perfection would have. Note the darker lines at the bottom of this wall of panels.
From the website of the Whitney Museum, about a 2007 exhibit: “Employing such materials as rubber, carpet, painted aluminum, Styrofoam, and paint, Rudolf Stingel’s work questions and disrupts the viewer’s understanding and experience of an art object. Although Stingel’s work does not always involve paint on canvas, it continually reflects upon some of the fundamental questions concerning painting today, including authenticity, hierarchy, meaning, and context.” [italics are mine]
Authenticity…Clearly he didn’t paint it from scratch (which of course is not a requirement for a wonderful work of art). Is it an authentic anything? Is it fabric, which brings up hierarchy; does the textile gain importance by the addition of paint by a famous artist or a bevy of assistants?
Meaning…does it have more meaning that the fabric panels in the elevator at my hotel?
And context: clearly it’s important–it’s at the Gagosian.
So that was an interesting afternoon interlude, but the object was not nearly as compelling as this magnificent Uzbek ikat coat I saw at the Jewish Museum the next day. If you are going to spend A LOT OF TIME making an object, this trumps the painted pink panels.