You have all of two short weeks – through February 16 – to rush over to Chelsea to the Brenda Taylor Gallery, 511 W 25th St. between 10th and 11th Sts., gallery #401 on the fourth floor, to catch some of the most astonishing art on display in New York right now. In the side room there are several boldly playful, colorful, somewhat tongue-in-cheek paintings by Kathleen Kucka, acrylic appliqué on acrylic. Although many of the accent colors here are pastels, Kucka’s clever cut-and-paste gives them an amusing, guilt-free edge.
But the stars of the show are in the main room where you’ll find A.D. Peters’ new work Iron Ridge: Sunsplash, which is oil and ferric oxide (translation: rust) on a sheet of iron. It’s absolutely brilliant, a reverse image of sorts, of light seen through a thicket of trees. Only the light is painted: the woods reside in the untouched iron. The painting’s focal point, where the light is greatest, is obscured by a tree trunk. It’s a stunningly imaginative, somewhat dark work and is surprisingly inexpensive for something of such imagination and quality. Kudos to the gallery for spotting it.
The piece de resistance here is Leonardo Drew’s Number 74, dating from 1999. Drew’s specialty is gargantuan, wall- and floorsize installations assembled from found objects, something akin to the toy town Bob Geldof constructed out of bits and pieces of sledgehammered appliances in the film The Wall, taken to its logical extreme. Drew’s work is deliberately unsettling, often grotesque. This piece is particularly visceral, practically nauseating: it packs a knockout punch. It is impossible to turn away from. Within its huge, approximately eight by ten foot frame, there are several hundred square wood boxes, each seemingly in various states of decay (Drew’s use of sawdust here, mixed with other debris, is spectacularly effective). Across the top are plastered what appear to be used mop heads (or something equally Blair Witch), along with a couple dozen stuffed toys in various states of decomposition. All of the toys’ faces are either turned away from the viewer, or have been deliberately effaced. Childhood has hardly ever been this brutally or dismissively portrayed: to call this piece iconoclastic is a gross understatement. A work this powerful is too important to reside in the hands of a private collector (although one has to wonder who would actually have the fortitude to come home at night and be greeted by this on the adjacent wall). Whatever price the gallery is charging is not too much for a world-class museum to afford. MOMA, are you listening?