Friday, January 25, 2008

Christopher K. Ho in The New York Times

Congratulations to Christopher for the wonderful Ken Johnson NYT review of his first solo exhibition in Chelsea! Our Associate Director Max overheard Mr. Johnson when he was in the gallery say of the sculpture "It looks like he's sucking in his stomach." Er...uh...well, I never!

Of course, I'm sucking in my stomach.... Who wouldn't? In fact two separate people at the opening, who could also tell I was sucking in my stomach, explained that I was doing it wrong. I need this? Still, we're beyond delighted today.

Many thanks to Mr. Johnson (who we are so very happy to have back in New York, I must say) for the insightful response to the show. Here's the review:

CHRISTOPHER K. HO
Happy Birthday
Winkleman Gallery
637 West 27th Street, Chelsea
Through Feb. 9

As you enter through the glass front door you glimpse a naked man lurking behind the big square column that sits in the center of the dimly lighted gallery. Inside, the gallery has been painted entirely gray and is empty but for that life-size sculpture of a muscular nude man, also painted gray, who stands facing the column as though frozen in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

The statue is a portrait of the gallery’s proprietor, Edward Winkleman. The 6-foot-1-inch painted polyurethane sculpture is realistic yet simplified, its details smoothed over as though it had been sandblasted. The exhibition’s title, “Happy Birthday,” spelled out on one wall in vinyl black letters, alludes in part to Mr. Winkleman’s being in his birthday suit. A red spot just below the title is like the red dot customarily used by galleries to designate a sold work.

The effect of all this is funny, creepy and mysterious. The image of a dealer — who in reality wields considerable power over an artist — stripped bare and turned to blindly face the blank expanse of the column produces a weirdly Oedipal effect.
Mr. Ho is a conceptualist who uses art in many different forms to critique the art system. His aims are detailed in a tediously academic exhibition catalog, which is supposed to be a discrete artwork in its own right. In the Magritte-like gallery installation, Mr. Ho’s garden-variety neo-Marxist conceptualism comes surprisingly to life. KEN JOHNSON

It's probably less surprising once you know Chris considers each and every conceivable detail so very carefully. If you're reading this from Wyoming (and who isn't?), you can catch Chris' exhibition "Time Machines" at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts in mid February as well. Or head out there in a few weeks...you have time.

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38 Comments:

Anonymous nathaniel said...

Chris and I were on our first-ever Museum exhibitions together in 2000/2001, @ the Johnson. Lovely to see the development of his work; congratulations on what looks to be a smart and elegant and quirky show - wish I could see it in person.

1/25/2008 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks Nathaniel.

The exhibition at the Johnson was the "12 Artists" one? The curator should maybe reunite everyone for a follow-up show.

1/25/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous t.whid said...

congrats on the review. sounds like a great piece... i gotta get over there to see it.

1/25/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is too bad that Mr. Johnson was limited to 239 words. In terms of positive comments about the exhibition he says it is, funny, creepy and mysterious (I guess these are positive comments), comes surprisingly to life, and produces a weirdly Oedipal effect. On the negative side of things he says that the catalog essay, which he says is part of the artwork, is tediously academic, and that Mr. Ho's art is garden-variety neo-Marxist conceptualism. Certainly this reads like a mixed bag of judgements to me. A majority of the review is taken up with self consciously literary descriptions of what Mr. Johnson saw when he entered the gallery. I guess what it boils down to is, it is valuable for an artist to have a review of his/her exhibition, whatever that review might say, appear in the NYT. One does have to wonder about the value of the content of said review. It appeared to be pretty empty to me but perhaps the artist thought it was filled with insights.

Eric

1/25/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Congradulations to Chris and Mr. W

1/25/2008 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Eric, maybe I'm misunderstanding your last line, but I have not even mentioned the artist's response to the review, only what my response to it is (and yes, I tell every artist I work with or lecture to, a review in the NYT is an important milestone, regardless of whether it's 100% positive or not [and how many are?]).

As for how insightful it is, with a show as spare as this one and no text to illuminate the specific intent of the piece, Mr. Johnson nailed the central accomplishment here, IMO.

Chris' show is experiential (which is why the longish narrative of what the writer saw is appropriate), formal, and still rigorous, yet remarkably discomforting. In other words, he's taken a genre generally considered rather dry, if not lifeless, (neo-Marxist conceptualism [which I'm not saying is the best description, but fair enough]) and with a very minimal installation pumped life into it. And not just life, but also an unsettling and mysterious effect. I think that's enough for an artist to accomplish and a review to point out, no?

1/25/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I said three things. One was that the main goal is to have your show reviewed by the NYT regardless of what the review says. We agree on this. The second thing I said was the review was ambiguous. We agree on that point as well. We don't agree on the third point however. I said Mr. Johnson's review doesn't say much in terms of analysis, and you (and the artist I guess) think he nailed it on the head, brought up the most essential qualities of the work. I never said that you said anything about what Mr. Ho thought about the review.

Some questions I would ask myself if I were to review the show would be, why is the the gallery empty except for a nude sculpture of the gallery director? Why is their a red dot beneath the title of the show and why does the title of the show appear on the wall? Don't specific works of art get red dots placed next to them upon their sale? Why does the red dot appear next to the title of the show instead? If in fact the catalog essay is part of the art work wouldn't it be fair to make some comment about the content of it and how it or if it relates to the other visual elements on display in the gallery space? What is neo-Marxist about this work? What is it critiquing and how is it doing it? Just a beginning obviously, but I don't want to argue about whether one should be satisfied with the review or not. Neither of us are idiots after all.

1/25/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is this last anon 10:39, who I assume to be the eric of the previous comment, harping on this negative review stuff? The only negative I saw in the review was the "tediously academic" remark. Yes, that was negative, but the rest was positive, and the fact is, yes, it's more important to have a review in the Times than what it actually says. It will be on your bibliography forever, but very very few people will actually read the review after today (I guarantee you, not that many people are reading it today, either. Not that many people care about art criticism). But this is a triumph for the artist, and for the gallery. Why not let them rightfully enjoy it? What's with all the carping?

anono

1/25/2008 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Oops. Messed up that one idea in editing the comment.

I tell all the artists I work with and lecture to that all press is valuable, even negative press, in the service of a dialog with the public (I can't think of a single artist now considered great who didn't get blasted from time to time in the press). Press in the NYTimes, in particular, is an important milestone, as it's the paper of records in the nation's cultural capital.

Having clarified that, though (and not speaking for the artist in anyway at all), I loved Mr. Johnson's review. He called the statue of me "muscular." I can die happy now. :-)

Just saw your second comment Eric.

Still not entirely sure I understand your main point here, but it seems to be that the review could have/should have been more in depth. That would, of course be nice, but would be out of keeping with the typical Art in Review piece on an emerging artist.

Neither of us are idiots after all.

ahh...thanks!

1/25/2008 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

There's no such thing as bad publicity. The significant vector here is not whether the review is positive, but the fact that EW has successfully emulated Triple Candie's ability to put up a show that raises issues, and thereby make the NYT come running, barking and wagging its tail. Meanwhile, I look forward to dying, which seems to be the main prerequisite for a review if one makes non-conceptualist work. Congratulations anyway.

1/25/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes that is why I started off my first comment by mentioning the word count. I know from experience how a limited word count greatly inhibits the reviewer's ability to analyze a work of art. A few really talented critics can squeeze quite a lot into a blurb review. I am not one of them. Luckily nowadays I can use 1000 words or more to say what I want to say about an exhibition because I am no longer writing for the NYSun, who butchered my work. I guess my original comments have more to do with a general dissatisfaction with mainstream coverage of the arts, which you have gone into before. Did Mr. Ho sandblast the sculpture to hide blemishes?

1/25/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I guess my original comments have more to do with a general dissatisfaction with mainstream coverage of the arts, which you have gone into before.

Got it.

Did Mr. Ho sandblast the sculpture to hide blemishes?

Nice.

No, my skin actually is as smooth as sandblasted polyurethane. And gray too.

Meanwhile, I look forward to dying, which seems to be the main prerequisite for a review if one makes non-conceptualist work.

Who's got the stats on that? (You're not the only person to mention that today.)

1/25/2008 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Emily Post said...

Congratulations, all;

Did Mr. Ho sandblast the sculpture to hide blemishes?

I'd say that Mr. Ho chose Ed as a subject for his smoother-than-smooth sculpture because Ed, even upon close examination here, is quite close to being blemish-free.

:)

1/25/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psychological analysis of my comments: Mr. Gelber is jealous that he did not review Mr. Ho's exhibition for the NYT. He thinks he would have done a much better job than Mr. Johnson did.

1/25/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the review read fairly ambiguously, especially under the David Smith review.

1/25/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

ahh . . . I'm slow . . .

Mr. Gelber has tossed down the critical gauntlet.

(Having said that, Eric, your spectacular review of the last Joe Fig show we had remains among my all-times favorites, but makes me wonder how the NYTimes word count limits would impact your talents. And I have to assume the Times edits as much as the Sun, no? Not that the Times wouldn't be lucky to get you.)

I agree that the review read fairly ambiguously, especially under the David Smith review.

Yeah, did anyone else pick up on the fact that Roberta liked that show? :-)

1/25/2008 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Christopher for the show and the review. You deserve it.

One question: Did you make/model the sculpture or had it made, Chris? ( I know you are a conceptual artist, it doesn't matter but I am curious....)


""" Yes, that was negative, but the rest was positive, and the fact is, yes, it's more important to have a review in the Times than what it actually says. It will be on your bibliography forever, but very very few people will actually read the review after today (I guarantee you, not that many people are reading it today, either. Not that many people care about art criticism). ANONO """""

OMG! Yes, you are right. Tough but so true most of the time. (So cynic.) For Art in review this is a "mostly good one", IMO. Very Ken Jonhson/Holland Cotter for a known artist and gallery. Very short, its' purpose is to place you in the art map. Excellent.

Martha on the other hand can do a bad review and convince you of the fact. You won't forget it if you read it. I am scared of her, not so of the others in the NYT.

1/25/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Joe Fig, why don't you represent him anymore? Or Nancy Baker? Your roster seems to have changed quite a bit, with no announcement of a change of direction in your program. What's up?

anono

1/25/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, the roster was changed. I made an announcement about it here.

1/25/2008 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous nathaniel said...

Ed: The exhibition at the Johnson was the "12 Artists" one? The curator should maybe reunite everyone for a follow-up show.

Yes, and nice idea! A cursory glance shows she's no longer curating, has moved on to conservation... Still, you've inspired me to look up and see what some of those artists are doing now, and maybe try to get in touch with the current Johnson curator....

Ed: No, my skin actually is as smooth as sandblasted polyurethane. And gray too.

I laughed out loud and scared those around me when I read this.

1/25/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

One question: Did you make/model the sculpture or had it made, Chris?

Chris may not get a chance to read here today, so I'll answer this.

I had to go get a three-dimensional body scan (in Los Angeles) and then the file was sent to a studio in New Jersey that "prints" out the sculpture in polyurethane...so it is a fairly accurate replica of me, warts and all, only sanded and then painted. The scan was fun (very Total Recall), but it's the same place a lot of actors get scanned (Schwarzenegger, Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, etc have been body scanned there) and upon noticing they had all signed the door to the scanning cabin, I asked, "Oh, so is it customary to sign the door after the scan?" to which the young woman conducting the scan replied, "Oh, that's OK...you don't have to."

1/25/2008 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the compliment Ed. Just because I think I would do a better job than Mr. Johnson doesn't mean it is true. Johnson can sparkle once in a great while. I would not begrudge him his position at the NYT.

Could you tell us a little bit about this allegedly "tediously academic" catalog essay and if in fact it is meant to be part of the art work rather than a non-art information source?

1/25/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Who's got the stats on that? (You're not the only person to mention that today.)

The correlation at the linked page is perfect, but there are only three data points. One would want more. Those of us whom the bias works against have known about this for a long time, though, based on the anecdotal evidence.

1/25/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

who let the dogs out? Woot Woot Woot.

Is the digital file for sale? Are we going to see a tribe of winkleman's in second life?

You could cast vinyl replicas and sell them as action figures...

the possiblilities are endless, im sure you have already thought of this, I mean you'd have to be an total idiot or a neo-marxist not to.

How was that? It had a kind of jocularity with an implied critique of the shallowness of the commodity fetish.

How many column inches of coverage?

Who let the dogs out? Woot Woot Woot Woot!

1/25/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Could you tell us a little bit about this allegedly "tediously academic" catalog essay and if in fact it is meant to be part of the art work rather than a non-art information source?

Two of the exhibition's 5 pieces are referenced or evidenced in the catalog, so it is actually a "piece" and not your typical catalog, per se. I think by what Ken wrote he's calling the catalog "tediously academic" and not the essay (which I rather enjoyed, but who's to say I'm not tediously academic...other than real academics, I mean) and so it's tough to make a call as to whether that's a negative critique or acknowledgment of the vehicle's insidery motif.

1/25/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

Hey Edward,
You've probably seen this already but just in case...
http://www.newarttv.com/index.php?id=256

1/25/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will stop asking questions that will be easily answered when I see the show in person (or perhaps not). By the way I agree with a comment zipthwung made about a month ago about the NYT. We can complain all we want about it but it is just silly to dismiss it completely. No publication can compete with it, in terms of what it does well (at least in NY state).

1/25/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous pedro velez said...

NY Times now supports another dinasty, the Clintons...what does that say about the US? First the Bushes now the Clintons...weird and sort of anti democratic-nepotism, too bad it might happen.

Congrats to K Ho, hi is smart and his works looks smart, to bad I can't see it in person.

1/25/2008 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Writers who think we would be better off without the NYT obviously have never had the opportunity to have their writing appear in it.

1/25/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

Brave man Ed. I don't even like getting undressed at the gym when its crowded (in the locker room I mean of course).

Congratulations!
I'll get a look at the show this weekend.
p.s. particularly good Friday section to be in with
the R.S. Diebenkorn review.

1/25/2008 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mike @ MAO said...

Congrat's to Chris and Ed on a nice review...

Plus, The catalog is wonderful as well!

Wow.. Posting it right on your blog.. Great way to blow you own horn Ed...

1/25/2008 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Wow.. Posting it right on your blog.. Great way to blow you own horn Ed...

I am so-o-o-o not touching the possible puns in that one. :-)

Thanks MAO.

1/25/2008 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

p.s. particularly good Friday section to be in with
the R.S. Diebenkorn review.


I thought so too. I'm a big fan of RD's New Mexico period, although for the first time today I thought his pinks were a bit Gustony...maybe just the Times printing. Not sure.

1/25/2008 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Ed. I watched the artTV clip with Mr. Ho. You are hung like a horse! No wonder you have done so well in the art world. Congrats big guy!

1/25/2008 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

...although for the first time today I thought his pinks were a bit Gustony...maybe just the Times printing.

I'm assuming you're referring to the NY Times jpegs, which are oversaturated when compared with the actual paintings. This is a stunning exhibition.

BTW, I also liked HO's installation

1/25/2008 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For posterity's sake I just wanted to note that my comment made at 11:16:00 AM was tongue in cheek. I do not think that I am capable of writing a better review than Mr. Johnson, with only 239 words at his disposal, did. Congratulations Mr. Ho and Mr. Winkleman.

Eric

1/25/2008 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

So if I may sum up:
. A funny, creepy and mysterious show that is worth seeing
. A short, insightful and overall positive review by a critic we're glad to have back in town
. A (presumably pleased)artist who will no sooner close in NY than he will open in Wyoming
. A pleased, proud (and muscular)gallerist

Congrats.

1/26/2008 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed sez:
Yes, the roster was changed. I made an announcement about it here.

Nice dodge, Ed.

1/28/2008 03:35:00 PM  

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