The democratization of power in the New York art world is a direct result of young artists and curators self-publishing on the Internet using blogs and social media. This phenomenon has never been more visible as when artist Joshua Abelow turned his blog, ART BLOG ART BLOG, into an alternative exhibition space in Chelsea. The result was comparable to any other major commercial venue in the area; Abelow mounted a rigorous schedule of ten exhibitions from May to October 2011, and so, an opening approximately every two weeks.
Abelow, a successful painter in his own right, was Ross Bleckner’s studio assistant for the first seven years he lived in the City. Abelow’s upcoming publication Painter’s Journal, from Tomorrow Gallery/Yesterday, Toronto, consists of six transcribed journals which describe in detail Abelow’s move to New York to work for Bleckner full-time and live in his building, while maintaining a daily practice of painting. It was his close relationship with Bleckner that allowed him to use the artist’s airy studio in Chelsea as an exhibition space nearly ten years later.
Ten unique shows largely focused on contemporary abstract painting were curated by eight artists, curators, and bloggers, one by Abelow himself, and one solo presentation of artist-blogger Martin Bromirski. Young Brooklyn-based independent curator and former-blogger, Jon Lutz, organized Gold Records. He included incredible works by Wendy White and Sara Greenberger Rafferty. Lutz began organizing shows in 2008, and this was his third curatorial project in 2011. Nudashank, an artist-run gallery based in Baltimore, which is also a blog, was the first to show the Matissian paintings of Ted Gahl in New York, and paired his breakdown of painting with the sculptural/deconstructed paintings of Maria Walker.
Can I Get A Witness?, curated by Tisch Abelow (Joshua’s sister), Dakotah Savage, who work together on AH HOLE AH HOLE blog, and Jashin Friedrich, paired the relentlessly inventive abstract 1970s drawings of Jaochim “YoYo” Friedrich (Jashin’s father), which had never before been shown, with Joshua Abelow’s wall-size grid of paintings, Mystic Truths, 2008, the painted text of which alternated between “HANG ME HANG ME,” and “HARDER FASTER.” Although separated by over thirty years, Friedrich and Abelow shared a common sensibility in color, ingenuity and a love of paint.
Similarly, MAGIC HAND!, curated by Abelow himself, featured five of Bleckner’s small oil studies from the 1980s, never previously exhibited, which were surprisingly juxtaposed with young painter Jonathan Allmaier’s large abstractions. The effect was striking, as Bleckner’s early experiments in the studio clearly had such a strong influence on the next generation of painters.
In this short time span, Abelow and his collaborators connected a brand new, vibrant network of young artists. They proved to the commercial art world that big names, reputations, and sales records are not necessary to make an enormous impact, even on the notoriously hierarchical and closed-door system of the New York art world, even in July and August, supposedly the least important season in the City. Transforming ART BLOG ART BLOG from a low-tech blog into a physical exhibition space had the feeling of vindication similar to having a close relationship with someone online and then meeting them in person.
A print version of this article was published in ArtPulse magazine, Winter 2011.