let's push things forward
This is not unlike how I felt after spending an entire day at the Armory Show (read commentary and see images over at AFC here; read the NYT's take and additional praise of Peter Coffin's double peg-legged pirate here). The show, as expected, was overwhelming, but my impressions were that here, too, artists were looking back more than they were looking forward.
At the Armory, I saw: chunky, ugly paintings done with fluorescent colors and thick impasto (or, conversely, thin, wan, sketchy paintings looking like third-rate versions of Luc Tuymans); references to guns, rock bands, and porn; uninspiring erector set minimalist sculptures; cartoony paintings that would've worked equally well hanging in a booth at an alt-craft fair; and...taxidermy? There was, as Paddy noted, a lot of strange animal art this year.
And then there's the phenomenon of the gallery that puts all of its eggs into one, big, questionable basket: See the anticlimax of Tony Feher's Pace Wildenstein install, featuring colorful found objects, more colorful found objects, and, oh yeah, pictures of penises. See also Adam McEwen's I Am Curious Yellow in Nicole Klagsbrun's space, featuring yellow carpeting, a phony obituary for Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose gender was publicly questioned in 2009, and, um, a yellow swastika. (I think McEwen's installation was stronger/more thought provoking than Feher's, but, still.)
I was surprised to find myself enjoying the Sean Landers mini-retrospective that Friedrich Petzel offered--maybe because I've seen so much bad kitschy, lowbrow, self-referential and deliberately self-defeating work by young artists in the last five years that Landers looks light years better and smarter.
Overall, the energy was good, but I didn't see much that surprised me, or felt new--just different versions of familiar objects and strategies. Maybe that's the best we can hope for right now given the state of the economy.