If you’ve heard anything about the weather here in the northeast, you can guess what a strange art weekend it was here. Snow and high winds mixed to make galleries empty and museums emptier. Two examples:
I don’t go to a lot of gallery openings — they’re a lousy way to see art and I feel like I have to be ‘on,’ to be engaging, witty and intelligent. I prefer to be alcoholically incoherent on Saturday nights at seven, so no openings for me. (And god forbid I’d accidentally slip into GawkerForum mode.)
But this past Saturday was an opening to which I had been looking forward. I’ve written about LA-based painter Robert Olsen a few times — both here and for Artnet — and his newest work just went on view at G Fine Art (which still has a Nov/Dec show on its website, hence the link to Olsen’s site). The show is excellent, the best of many strong shows in DC galleries right now.
If you’re going to paint artificial light, you have to paint night, or at least the darkness that makes artificial light stand out — and Olsen paints the inkiest black imaginable. In a white cube gallery (which G is), his paintings are like black holes that suck the light out of the space, releasing only the manmade light on which Olsen wants us to focus.
Stranger was my experience at the Philly Museum (Dali!) on Sunday. As a result of a Bloomberg assignment, I had to zip up to the PMA ($2.6 million reasons to remember: Dali!) to take in a show, and I had to do it on Sunday. And I had to do it in a taxi-free city, with 15 inches of snow piled up around Philadelphia (Dali!), with temperatures in the low teens, and with wind gusts up around 40 mph. Then when I arrived at the museum, they told me that only parts of the 20th century galleries were open — they didn’t have enough guards to open anything else because the roads were still a mess.
I had a darn good time in the 20thC galleries until some of the rest of the place opened. Philly has a fine Jasper Johns room, one of the greatest Matisse portraits, and a fine Rothko and two Newmans on loan from private collections. (And oh yeah, a painting by some Vermeer guy.)
But just as the PMA got under my skin with their ridiculous Manet and the Sea shopping experience (with accompanying mediocre exhibit), they’re already under my skin leading into their big Dali show in three weeks. The advertising banners in Philly’s train station are about 20 yards long and cover three gates. Every train platform ad is for Dali. It’s exhibit as marketing opportunity first, art second.
Also: It’s harder to link directly to, but I wrote about Olsen when I first saw his work (in Sept. 2003). Scroll down about half the page to 9/18/2003, or just do a search on “Olsen.”