Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, Christine Messineo and Jack Pierson's Abstract #10
Last week, I attended a press preview for the latest offering of Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and his co-curator, Christine Messineo, via a photo that simply read Merci-Mercy. As only my luck would have it, the location and time of this preview were equal parts inconvenient and annoying. This preview was not only to take place on Manhattan's Upper East Side at art aficionado Aby Rosen's contemporary art gallery/shrine, it was also to be unveiled at the ungodly hour of 11:00 a.m. In all honesty, my art eyes aren't even in pristine focus until well after 6:00 p.m. To make matters triply worst, it was 10 degrees outside and I was not at all a very happy camper -- to say the least. But in the back of my mind, I thought to myself, perfect. Finally, the wiz-kid and his co-conspirator will be presenting an exhibition I will be able to critically approach and examine void of any opening-night frenzy and/or gushing from adoring Vlad-Stans. The curators of this impending fiasco were presenting a show on the relevance and power of text in art, blah, blah, blah. Now under normal circumstances and milder weather conditions, I would never pre-judge an art experience or curated endeavor, but this time I knew I had them both dead to rights. Text! Not only text, but text in 10-degree weather, up in no-cool-man's land, and at 11:00 a.m. Forget about it, I was a man on a mission -- and they would rue the day.
So off I go, faux fur in hand and a mission in my icy heart. I even brought along the slightly cynical and extremely talented emerging artist Guy Girambaldi to assure my feet would remain tethered firmly on the ground without going up, up and away into la-la-Vlad-land. A place I have embarrassingly travelled several times before.
As we stepped through the venerable looking glass of 980 Madison Avenue and off the third-floor elevator, we made our way to a set of shiny glass doors that read in simple text Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld. I thought to myself, sly fox, what a simple and elegant touch. A nice touch, if you go in for nice touches and that sort of thing. Upon entering the double doors there was, of course, the lovely and predictable public relations vixen there to throw me off my game. But not even her perfectly coiffed red hair, rosy cheeks and cheery disposition would stand in my way. I just kept thinking, just get me to Vladmir or Christine and then straight on to the demolishing of words and text. And once again, as only my luck would have it, before either of those things could occur, there it was. I had no idea who or what had created it, but there it was -- a large mirror defiantly spray-painted across the entire length of the frame with the dripping letters R-U-N. Why did I not head artist Rashid Johnson's poignant and profound warning? RUN! Because, sure enough, as my eyes began to pan the walls as well as focus in on the onslaught of text and letters, and before I had willpower enough to could recall my mission, it happened. I had began reading and deciphering, interpreting and reinterpreting every font, scribbling, jumbled syntax and conflicting phrase. One by one the text began to come alive and start to magically dance across my cold yet thawing heart.
Artist Rashid Johnson's, "RUN"
And in the midst of all this text and without warning, there was the curating duo standing proudly and stoically in the center of their artistic doings. I could tell by the pleased looks on both their faces they knew exactly the kind of magic they had created within these unsuspecting and freshly painted walls. Nevertheless, my mission would not be thwarted. As Mr. Roitfeld made his way over and began taking us around the gallery to view each piece by unknown, emerging and great artists all sharing equal wall space -- I could feel my ridiculous plan slipping away. As he slowly and methodically moved through the space he began reciting artist statements and intentions with an electrifying vigor and clarifying compassion. At one point I thought I could have sworn I saw his heart light up and begin to throb through his stylish and signature tailored black suit. Once again Vladimir's ability to tell a story through curation was impeccable. Nothing felt out of place or jarring -- and when it did, all one needed to do was to look across or around the room and you would see the work's splendid and divine rejoinder. However, the entire time he talked I kept thinking to myself, "How did these two young curators manage to get some of the hugest names in the game as well as important galleries to agree to be a part of this group exhibition?" But before I could get the question out of my mouth the Svengali-like Vladimir had already read my mind, "They trust me. They all know we will do something special and exciting with the work -- and for me that is a really good feeling." There it was, not only was it the answer to why these industry leaders and artists were participating in the show, it was also the reason I had braved the blood-curdling temperatures, as well as the long subway ride. The truth is that somewhere deep down inside, I too trusted and hoped. I trusted that somehow between the lines of TEXT and artist statements I would find just a glimmer of truth and beauty or at the very least, a molecule of passion. And instead of a molecule or a glimmer I received a panoramic vista of genius.
TEXT, TEXT AND MORE MAGNIFICENT TEXT
This well-curated show was not merely a gallery exhibition, in all honesty, this is curation at the museum-level. At one point I found myself following the TEXT around corners and small crevices, private rooms and holding areas, and eventually I followed the words straight out of the door and back into my beloved frigid New York City. By the time I made my way safely back downtown, I realized that I had subconsciously been reading and internalizing every street sign, billboard and crumpled newspaper in a new and magnificent way. But what I hadn't realized was that I was no longer cold, I had no idea of time or space and my heart was now racing and fully inspired. In hindsight, I know that great art has a way of doing that -- even if it is just a few letters spray painted magnificently on a mirror. Great art is just that -- great.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Mueller and Nadine Johnson PR
Follow Malcolm Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/curatorofcoolny