An art world mini-district south of Chelsea already peppered with a handful of excellent galleries just got better. After being closed for more than a year, one of the most punchy, impertinent, and unpredictable gallerists in the American (if not the international) art world, a sort of one-woman energy-and-event-machine, our own Calamity Jane/Peggy Guggenheim, Michelle Maccarone re-opened her gallery a block north of Gavin Brown in the West Village. Making matters better, she did this in an amazingly well designed, far from slick, 8,000-square-foot ground floor space. On the night of the reopening I found her in the gallery’s basement, surrounded by a few close friends, and towers of paper and junk, sipping water and trying on shoes.
Maccarone’s debut exhibition is Christian Jankowski, who in the past has incorporated faith healers and fortune-tellers in his art. His current show, “Super Classical,” is a mixed affair that starts iffy and ends interesting. In the middle of the otherwise empty first gallery are three life-sized bronze sculptures of figures that street performers impersonate on sidewalks. There’s Che Guevara, a Salvador Dali statue of a woman, and a seated Roman legionnaire. The sculptures are solid, stylistically non-descript, and clunky-looking. After two minutes of thinking about how it’s nifty to see these sculptures more frozen and dead then ever, and therefore somewhat undead, you’ll want to move on to the better part of the show.
“The China Painters” is a group of eight large paintings that the wily Jankowski commissioned from “a painting sweatshop” in China where for 20 years Chinese workers have replicated western masterpieces for North American and European hotel lobbies. China is currently building hundreds of new museums. Jankowski asked these workers to make paintings they thought should go into these museums. There’s a Courbet-like seascape, a family portrait, a jade pot, an ersatz abstraction, and Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.” Scariest of all is the giant Bob Ross/Thomas Kinkade landscape. Jankowski reminds us that if our linear ideas about art history aren’t outmoded, when China’s museums are up and running, they’ll be blown to smithereens.