ronald feldman fine arts

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Eleanor Antin, Judgement of Paris (after Rubens), Eleanor Antin, 2007. Chromogenic print, 38 x 73 in. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Eleanor Antin, The Tourists, Eleanor Antin, 2007. Chromogenic print, 61 x 77 7/8 in. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Eleanor Antin: Excerpts Of A Memoir

I fell in love with ancient Greece.  

I played hooky from school and got to the museum early so I’m the only one in the Greek rooms. Except for the guard, of course. The guard’s a killjoy.  But when he isn’t looking I can go up to a youth on a pedestal and stroke his cool white thigh, if I can reach it. I’m pretty short for my age. But I can peek under his tunic. I wish I could slip my hand under there and feel his balls but I’m chicken. I can’t tell if he’s attracted to me. He looks down at me with blind eyes. Ancient Greeks don’t have eyeballs. I pull my hand away before the guard sees me and gets all uptight. But my heart breaks at the loneliness of marble. The poor thing has only one arm, the other one must be on a pedestal in London or in a bank vault in Japan. Cripples every one of them. They’re cemented together: you can see the seams. Some don’t have heads and only half of their chests. I want to comfort them, even though I know that some of them aren’t Greeks. They’re Romans, Romans aren’t as good as Greeks. But what the hell! They’re all in the same boat now. Sometimes the guard catches me feeling them up and throws me out of the museum. But I change my hairstyle and sneak back.

One day, Comrade Stalin says the ancient Greeks were bad.  They didn’t let everybody vote and they looked down their noses at foreigners. “They were stuck up, little Elly, Aristocrats. Their slaves ploughed the fields and baked the bread and sewed those sheets together to cover their naked flesh. Without slaves they would never have invented philosophy.”

       I think of those great blank eyes staring down at me. It’s clear now what they’re thinking. Send her around to the back. She’s a foreigner, a daughter of Abraham. Out!  I’m heartbroken. Tears burn my eyes. “So the museum is off limits, comrade?”

       “Of course not, little Elly. Culture elevates the soul and makes it sing.  Consider the ancient Egyptians. They were working people. Their artists carved bakeries and factories and warehouses and granaries and markets. They valued the labor of the common man.”

       So I did, but it wasn’t the same. Knowledge is hard and strewn with bodies. The next time I played hooky I went to the movies.

Later, I modeled for painters when I was in college and even later when I was an actor looking for work. It beat working in an office or getting emphysema in a coffee shop. It paid pretty well in those days and was relatively easy.

        One winter, I worked for Eugene Speicher. He was very small. A lot of those realist painters were very small. He had a great studio with a balcony running along one wall and this cool natural light coming in through the vaulted ceiling. His nasty wife used to come out from her room upstairs and lean over the railing to check on his work. She never said hello to me. Maybe she thought it was spring and I was a still life. He said that’s what he painted in the spring and summer: flowers. In the fall and winter, he did portraits. He had one of Mrs. Whitney coming up and he needed models after doing flowers for so long. “To get my hand back,” he said.

           He did a charming little portrait of me over several days. One afternoon, he looked at it sadly and remarked that it was a nice picture. Then he took up his paint rag and wiped off the image in 3 swift moves. I jumped out of my pose and ran over to look. My pretty likeness was gone. Just a lot of smudged paint.  “Why, did you do that?” I wailed. “It was so pretty.”

           “I was only getting my hand in before doing Mrs. Whitney,” he said. “I told you that.”

            “But why didn’t you just hang it up on your wall? Why didn’t you give it to me?” I felt like crying.

            “Stop talking to her, you idiot,” the wife shouted from upstairs. “Go get dressed, you girl. Out with you!”

            He patted my hand kindly. “I can’t do too many pictures, dear. It lowers my prices.”

       

                            -excerpt from Eleanor Antin’s memoir, “Conversations with Stalin”  (2011). 

Kelly Heaton’s “The Parallel Series” at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

by Niki

          Stepping into Ronald Feldman’s gallery is like coming in from a storm. Outside, the sardine can sidewalks overflow, spilling people into the streets. It’s hard to enjoy a leisurely walk in SoHo. Upon crossing the threshold of the exhibition space, however, the fog clears and the dimly lit room beckons you towards the animated pieces hanging on its walls.

          Kelly Heaton’s “The Parallel Series,” her second solo show at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, is alive; it sings and dances on the storied walls of the gallery. The work is a mimetic counterargument to two hackneyed phrases: “Painting is dead,” and, “God is dead.” The pieces appear from afar as pseudo-impressionist canvases, but as one nears them a truer picture comes into focus: it is not paint that is being used to create these multicolored works but thousands of tiny capacitors, resistors and transformers, soldered together to form a living, breathing “painting” that will, in time, die. The electronics will gradually wear away and cease to function as they do now, reminding us of our own impermanence. These compositions emit not only beautifully soft, glowing light but also sound: the chirping of birds and crickets emanates from within their frames. It is interesting to note that even for the audio effects no recordings were used. Instead, Heaton engineered these sounds using the same technology with which she crafted the paintings. These naturalistic landscapes evoke woodland and pastoral scenes, and the piece “Spout Run at Dusk (Batrise)” reminds me of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.

Spout Run at Dusk (Batrise), 2009-2012
electronics and oil on canvas
20 x 20 x 5 inches

            In the adjacent room, the works take on a more colloquial tenor. They are whimsical, yet instructive. Organized as diagrams, the pieces demonstrate their mechanisms through the display of their schematics, inviting the understanding viewer to recreate the circuits at home. Many of the artworks are interactive: “Motion Detector,” in which a painted eye stares out at the gallery, signals when movement has been sensed in the room.

Motion Detector, 2011
electronics, gouache, and colored pencil on paper
18 x 18 x 3 ½ inches

            In “Restless Bird Chatters, Still Bird,” a painted bird seems to stop chirping as you draw nearer to it. The scrawled notes in the pieces and the homemade aesthetic make it all seem rather like outsider art.

Restless Bird Chatters, Still Bird, 2012
electronics, gouache, and colored pencil on paper
18 x 18 x 3 ½ inches

            Heaton is an accomplished scientist, with degrees from Yale, MIT and Duke University. She gained fame in the art world in 2003 when, at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, she staged an exhibition that included 64 “Tickle-Me Elmo” dolls fashioned into a wearable coat.

            Ronald Feldman and his wife, Frayda, are art-world heroes of mine. Working with artists whose work they value for its concepts and values instead of only dealing with artists they know will sell, they have crafted a highly respected, and profitable, institution for themselves since the gallery opened in 1971. Often showcasing “difficult art,” they have represented artists like Beuys, Burden and Todd Siler (whose scientific work might remind one of Heaton’s). Ronald Feldman Fine Art is a shining reminder that it is possible to be a successful art dealer while staying true to one’s ideals.

           Kelly Heaton’s work is a great model of the type of artwork that can be found at the gallery. This is electronic media art that does have a market; the size and shape of the pieces allow them to be easily installed in the homes of Feldman’s collectors. Its non-traditional medium, however, intrigues new audiences, shifting the realms of art with an easy sell.