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George Wingate, friend and artist, soaks in the Pat Steirs at Cheim & Read

After several recent trips to Chelsea’s ghetto of galleries that have felt empty and unsatisfying, my visit this past weekend offered up some moments worth remembering. People were everywhere, enjoying a Saturday without rain, snow or blistering cold. The High Line was a solid wave of walkers from 20th Street on down, the galleries and streets of Chelsea full of art stalkers, myself included.

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The Pat Steir show at Cheim & Read is just plain fabulous. These immense paintings (she is 70, and there is no shortage of bravado and muscularity in Ms. Steir) capture an exquisite edge between planned and chance, flow and control, intention and occurrence. The metallic paints used in this series create an understated shimmer, playing the surface while still pulling you in. Loved these works.


Close up views of two of Pat Steir’s exquisite new paintings

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A selection of Joan Mitchell pieces from the 50’s are on display at Lennon Weinberg. Many of these came out of her studio and from galleries after she passed away, so many of these works are being seen for the first time.

I can always spend time and learn from Mitchell’s work. Some of these are as compelling as her later and more prominently known work. And a nice catalog as well.


Joan Mitchell’s work in the 50’s

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New series from North Carolina painter Herb Jackson, “Firestorm in the Teahouse”, on display at Claire Oliver. These works are pushing in new directions of texture, palette and surface. Some lovely moments in this show.


Herb Jackson


Close up on Jackson surface: Lots going on

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The ubiquitous Pace Gallery Empire (how many locations now? 100?) is featuring Tara Donovan at two of them. Stripped of the painterly delights that come from rich color and viscous materiality, her work still offers up something satisfying for me.


Donovan, imaging with nails


Donovan close up

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José Parlá is having his first solo show at Bryce Wolkowitz. Lyrical but gritty, crossing over to a zone that exists between calligraphy and urban graffiti, the works are engaging, energetic, compelling. One to watch.


Two large scale works by José Parlá


Close up of painting by Parlá

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And one more to praise, this from outside the realms of Chelsea: Good friend Filiz Emma Soyak is on display at Giacobetti Paul Gallery in DUMBO. Filiz’s new work is full of remembrances from a life lived on several continents. “My paintings are my stories.” And indeed they speak evocatively and movingly. Well done Filiz.


Barbados no Arashi I, by Filiz Emma Soyak (image courtesy of Giacobetti Paul)


Pat Steir, The Austria Group, No 2 (Photo: risd Museum)

Drawing Out of Line features 40 years of work by Pat Steir and is currently on view at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. The range of expression captured in the show speaks to Steir’s fierce exploration through her force of nature mind and eye—the ambitious and larger than life renderings of Renaissance-inspired eyes, noses and lips that fill a cavernous entry space floor to ceiling, works on paper that blend text and image, and gravitational “waterfall” paintings/drawings that are the embodiment of fluid while also preserving an essential muscularity. In all of these permutations, the hand and an expressive necessity are very apparent (to harken back to Roberta Smith’s memorable line*).

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Shahzia Sikander

Also on exhibit: The Primacy of Paper featuring works from the collection. Most of the pieces in this small show are intimate and enticing. Particular standouts for me were works by Shahzia Sikander, John Morris, Kathy Prendergast, Edda Renouf and Howardena Pindell.

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George Bellows

Not to be missed in the permanent collection: The most gorgeous George Bellows I’ve ever seen. The tonality of this painting—a view of the Hudson River from where the Westside Highway is now located—is a pitch-perfect homage to the gray light of a rainy day. This is unlike any of the Ashcan-style paintings by Bellows more commonly seen.

*Roberta Smith in her critique of recent museum shows in New York Times: “What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand.”