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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."



The New York Times, ever alert to novelty, ran a story on August 2 about "a site-specific work of performance art" called "Ocularpation: Wall Street." It was billed as a commentary on "work and the economy," and masterminded by an artist named Zefrey Throwell (that last name, compounded as it is of two other words that make sense as a command or commentary, looks suspiciously like a nom de plume -- or it nom de guerre that I mean?). Anyway, at 7 am, Throwell & 49 other people stripped off their clothes in the middle of Wall Street. Police swooped down, arrested 3 of them, and gave them summonses for "disorderly conduct," while the remaining 47 put their clothes back on 5 minutes later and went about their day. The Times devoted about 3/4 of a page to this masterpiece, including an interview with the artist and 5 photographs, but what I liked best was the headline: "A Bare Market Lasts One Morning." And the Times was far from alone. This event was also covered by the Wall Street Journal, artinfo.com, artdaily.com, the Associated Press, Yahoo!News & presumably endless numbers of Tweeters, Twitterers, Youtubers & so on. Throwell has received sizeable amounts of publicity ere now, but this time, he seems to have achieved a new high -- or a new low.

Those sophisticated few for whom art still means visual pleasure and emotional satisfaction(as opposed to circus stunts)may enjoy a quick visit to Tally Beck Contemporary, on the Lower East Side. This gallery is showing abstract paintings and works on paper by George Tun Sein, an artist born in Burma, educated in Australia, and (after decades of racketing around several continents) settled in the New York area. The show runs through August 30, and it isn't great, by a long shot. There is indebtedness to Richard Diebenkorn in a number of its pieces, and one modest little hommage to Klee, but there are also a number of very sweet small- to medium-sized paintings that convey a subtle meditative mood. Among them, I would single out "Windemere" (a nifty little watercolor), "Romance in Mandalay," (a small concatenation of still smaller pieces of color), "One Touch of Tan" (mis-titled--it's really a vigorous orange and yellow) and "Green Doors" (a veritable symphony of garden- and forest-like greens). As I say, this isn't a great show, but it's peaceful & serious & upholds the standard of esthetic value as important to art during an otherwise pretty desolate time of year.
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