Ken visited this weekend, and, as usual when this walking encyclopedia of art is in town, we tried to take in some of the exhibitions that interested him. Our first stop was the Neue Galerie which owns and is currently exhibiting the largest collection of Egon Schiele works in the world. Schiele's portraits and nudes are really arresting. The portraits are intimate, as if he caught the subject letting down their guard and then drew them the instant they reacted to being discovered. The female nudes exhibit a shamelessness that seems very modern in retrospect, their legs spread or splayed at all sorts of obtuse angles like turn of the century porn stars.

I suspect Schiele's work was a huge influence on Peter Chung's Aeon Flux visual style as well as on Frank Miller in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Miller's Joker in that book resembles a Schiele.
Incidentally, the wait for the museum cafe, Cafe Sabarsky, was almost an hour. If you've a hankering for Viennese food...
Our next visit was to the Marian Goodman Gallery, currently exhibiting paintings from 2001-2005 by Gerhard Richter, renowned for being the the most expensive living artist, at least in auction. We were told that most Richters sell for several million in auction, with even letter-sized prints fetching $800,000. Most of the exhibition showcases his Abstraktes, not my favorite of his works, but at the last room of the exhibition are four of his Silikat pictures, massive grey paintings based on photographs of molecular structures. As such, they straddle the line between abstraction and representation, like all of his photo-based paintings. Any of his Silikats would make a fabulous desktop wallpaper.

Richter made many paintings based on photographs. Only two were on display here. One was Mustang Squadron (1964) which sold for $462,000, and the other, Waldhaus (2004), looked like a picture of a country home nestled among the trees, shot out the window of a moving car. I wasn't in New York for his 2002 MOMA exhibition, the one that traveled to Art Institute in Chicago, SF MOMA, and the Hirshhorn in D.C. Someday I hope to see his Iceberg in Fog in person.

Our final destination on the Artwalk was the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, currently exhibiting a Bill Viola exhibition. At some hours, it's nearly impossible to hail a cab, so by the time we arrived, we did not have enough time to watch the hour long video piece The Darker Side of Dawn, which depicts an oak tree against a sunrise and sunset. The most beautiful piece was Night Journey, a slow reverse zoom which begins with a few candles and then zooms back to reveal a woman lighting several dozens of candles. Other works including a slow-motion high-def video of a man and woman's hands under running water, a man and woman submerging their face in water and holding their breaths for as long as possible, and two lovers entwined below the surface of a darkened pool of water, thrashing, gasping for breath, and finally sinking into the darkness until they disappeared. Inspired by Elizabeth Berkley and and Kyle MacLachlan in Showgirls? Artists don't kiss and tell.
Some of his pieces were projected on walls or screens, while some other HD videos were shown on plasmas oriented vertically. Along with my desire for Richter wallpapers, I'd love to have some Bill Viola screensavers, but I suspect either would cost an arm and a leg. Actually, my arm and my leg probably wouldn't be enough, sad to say, though for that price I might be able to procure a few PAL videotapes.
Some excerpts from Viola's pieces can be seen in this Quicktime video at the Getty website. The Viola exhibit at the James Cohan Gallery ends Dec. 22.