Webb Disappoints, Tagore Delivers, Choe Delights

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With the term winding down, I finally had some time to look at art outside ICP, and with a painter-friend about to go away for a while, Friday was a good opportunity to catch up on several counts. We started with what turned out to be a little appetizer, the Seydou/Sander show at the Walther Collection. Since part of Sander’s strength derives from the encyclopaedic nature of his work, the show was a little small to have impact. Seydou Keita was a great revelation, but I wish the prints (which are not vintage) were printed with a little more mood, perhaps a little warmer. They were a little too straight, but Keita’s use of backdrops almost as an active participant was very interesting.

We walked one street over to the Aperture gallery for the Alex Webb show. What a disappointment! High contrast, cartoon colors. There was almost a condescension in the palette – look at these miserable third-worlders with their saturated solid color plastic shoes. What a distance we’d traveled in a block from the dignified treatment of Seydou Keita. We rested our eyes with an extended pizza break before heading uptown to the Asia Society.

It is always with trepidation that one introduces to others the work of a revered figure from one’s own culture: Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali writer who was the first non-European to win a literature Nobel (for what that’s worth), and who let flourish a late, serendipitous discovery – a genius for drawing and painting that started with the doodly editing process of his poetry. Not being formally trained, his oeuvre is like no other painter’s. The work passed muster with my friend, and I was rewarded with the originals of many paintings I had not even seen in reproduction before.

But the real jewel, the little pièce de résistance of the day lay across the hall – a mobile by the Korean artist U-Ram Choe. It is not a mobile really in the Calder sense of the word; it is a delicate piece of delightful electro-mechanical dance. I will not spoil it by saying more. Get over  and see for yourself – both shows close on December 31. Free on Friday evenings.

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