Sometimes the best way to describe something is by its absence. It gives the thing shape, a construct zoned by everything it’s not. Yesterday art took form at Artexpo New York but only by not being there.
Squatting at Pier 94, a space that just weeks ago hosted the Armory Show, Artexpo was filled with galleries setting up camps of wall-hangings where there should have been paintings and statues where there should have been sculpture. All the area airport Marriotts must have been booked.
Row after dizzying row of horses running on beaches, tourist-targeting city scenes and photography that gave lie to the aphorism that any photo blown-up can pass as art. For those who have trouble discerning nude from naked, they need only have viewed the Playboy-pose-based paintings that formed their own category at Artexpo. Soft-focus soft-core that even had sub-genres: religious (Da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Rocks” huddled in one corner of a painting that could only appropriately be called “Madonna on the Rocks”), fantasy and with koi.
Legitimate artists were bastardized and it was impossible not to conjure their presence in the crowded cubbies. Andy Warhol might have wandered through, dazzled by the commercialization of it all; forty of the same painting being sold like so many cans of soup. Monet may have called the authorities when he discovered the actress Jane Seymour had been prancing across the bridge in his garden at Giverny. The tiger may have lost its place as muse to Henri Rousseau if he’d seen the close-up of one clutching a rose in its teeth. Picasso, who wouldn’t allow out of his possession so much as a scrap of paper with his handwriting on it, would have sued for the white canvas bearing a replication of his distinctive signature. In the end, what I would have liked to have seen most would be Jackson Pollock rushing in like a fanatical PETA protester and violently drip-painting everyone there.