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worldwide working artists born in or before 1926
BLT Gallery | 270 Bowery | New York, NY 10012 | May 27, 2010 — July 27, 2009
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"Wiser Than God" presents worldwide working artists born in or before 1926, making them 83 at very youngest . . . Some are considerably older, many born before the First World War, and several are amongst the most famous artists at work today including Hyman Bloom, Dorothea Tanning and Carlo Nangeroni, currently the most expensive living artist. Indeed with a set of artists whose cumulative age might add up to a total of almost 5,000 years, the opening vernissage should hop. "Wiser Than God" runs from May 27th until July 31st overlapping with the current blockbuster Gagosian Picasso show, featuring work made by that artist between the age of 83 and 92. The show was conceived by Adrian Dannatt and co-curated with Jan Frank.

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BLT Gallery opened in January 2009 in a newly renovated 2,000 square foot space on the Bowery, the nucleus of art and culture in 21st century New York. Founded by Billy Lee Thompson, a prolific collector of art across the ages, the gallery will present art of the last thirty years free from the constraints of the often overheated market. The exhibition program will serve to initiate dialogue on the continually shifting role of the art object in the new millenium, both in and out of the gallery environment. Although the gallery's focus will remain on mid-career and established artists, it will occasionally show work from emerging talent whose artistic philosophies align with the tenets of the unique exhibition program.

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Accardi, Carla (b. 1924) | Barnet, Will (b. 1911)  Bloom, Hyman (b. 1913) | Bourgeois, Louise (b. 1911)  Brown, Herb (b. 1923)  Carone, Nicolas (b. 1917) | Catlett, Elizabeth (b. 1915), Clark, Ed (b. 1926) | Coppola, Horacio (b. 1906) | Corneille (b. 1922) | Cosman, Milein (b. 1921) | Cunningham, Merce (b. 1919) | Dannatt, George (b. 1915) | Dannatt, Joan (b. 1925) | Dannatt, Trevor (b. 1920) | Fandel, John (b. 1925) | Freud, Lucian (b. 1922)  Gilot, Francoise (b. 1921) | Hamiltion, Richard (b.1922) | Jenkins, Paul (b. 1923) | Jova, Henri (b. 1919) | Kaz, Nathaniel (b.1917) | Kelly, Ellsworth (b. 1923) | King, William (b. 1925) | Kirshenblatt, Mayer (b. 1916) | Kurahara, Ted (b. 1925) | Lalanne, Claude (b. 1924) | Lassnig, Maria (b. 1919) | Levine, Jack (b. 1915) | Mathieu, Georges (b. 1921) | Mekas, Jonas (b.1922)  Mesches, Arnold (b. 1923) | Metcalf, Jimmy | Nangeroni, Carlo (b. 1922) | Ortman, George (b. 1926) | Ramano, Sal (b. 1924) | Reddy, Krishna (b. 1925) | Ruda, Edwin (b. 1922) | Sherwood, Mildred Dixon (b. 1919)  Sleigh, Sylvia (b. 1916) | Simon, Luc (b. 1924) | Spero, Nancy (b. 1926) | Tanning, Dorothea (b. 1910) | Thiebaud, Wayne (b. 1920) | Weinrib, David (b. 1924) | Weyhe, Arthur | Wison, John (b. 1922)  Youngerman, Jack (b. 1926)

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JOAN WALTEMATH: It takes a long time to become young. –Pablo Picasso

It might be called generational sparring that Wiser than God, a show of octogenarians, opened at the BLT Gallery right across from the New Museum’s catchy Younger than Jesus exhibition unveiled last April. On view through the end of July, Wiser than God was conceived by Adrian Dannatt after attending the New Museum’s press conference, and co-curated with the painter Jan Frank. Although one might initially draw similarities between the two when entering either exhibition and encountering a wall full of quotes, their divergence soon becomes apparent.

Wiser than God starts off with the dynamic and pulsating contrasts in Jack Youngerman’s “Crucifer” (2008) radiating out from a center point. Floating yellow chevrons define a black void cross iconic enough to tread at the edge of “goth”, before the red and yellow stripped outer edges draw the eye back out. “Crucifer” needs a lot of space and is given its due in this group exhibition, which is carefully hung; smaller drawings and prints are grouped together for intimate viewing while the larger works are given room to be seen from a distance.

Hanging by the large front windows at the BLT gallery, a medium sized oil on canvas, “Still Life With Pink Coat” by Hyman Bloom reads almost like a landscape with its strangely hovering, flowing pink drapery. The first Bloom I’ve seen, and perhaps the strongest piece in the show with fluid gestures that move and are moving, it gives evidence for the cult following this gestural master enjoys. At the other end of the gallery, Edwin Ruda’s arabesques in charcoal over oil form a dense, if expansive, network of lines that are also in motion.

Delicate and precise, a print of a sleeping dog by Lucien Freud hanging high up in the center of the gallery calls attention to itself for its clarity and its simplicity. Herb Brown’s sizable tableau of a party dominates the far end of the gallery. Large protruding dicks outlined on several of the male figures in his oil on poster on canvas remind us that the breakdown of taboos leading to present day freedoms in both materials and content began in the 60s. --- published in:

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CAMERON SHAW: Younger Than Jesus, or Wiser Than God?

The reign of youth on the Bowery may be coming to an end, as octogenarians square off against Millennials. The Don King of this match is BLT Gallery, which has been aggressively promoting "Wiser Than God," its hotly anticipated rejoinder to neighboring New Museum's "Younger Than Jesus." Prizing experience over age -- a dwindling concept in the art world -- BLT's "Generational" showcases works, both old and new, by living artists born in or before 1926, making them 83 at the absolute youngest. The unlikely herald of this epochal rivalry is a spindly aluminum sculpture by William King (b. 1925). Perched atop BLT's second-floor fire escape and directed at the New Museum's facade, this tragicomic figure searches inside his cloth red shorts, as if to "size up" the competition. That gesture sets the tone of the exhibition -- and it may be a friendly fight after all.

Hyman Bloom, Still Life With Pink Coat (2009)
Hyman Bloom, Still Life With Pink Coat (2009)

Compared to the year of preparation undertaken by the New Museum, the curators of "Wiser Than God," critic Adrian Dannatt and artist Jan Frank, cobbled their show together in a matter of weeks, scouring galleries and the web for artists that fit their criteria. Some are obvious choices: big names like Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923), Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911), and Lucien Freud (b. 1922). Others were surprising, even to the gallery. Just days before the opening, the wife of artist Nathaniel Kaz stumbled in (while leaving the New Museum, ironically); upon learning the show's premise, she volunteered the work of her 91-year-old husband.

Refreshingly,the exhibition includes some important artists that history and the market have largely forgotten. In a recent painting by Hyman Bloom (b. 1913), Still Life With Pink Coat (2009), a titular garment eerily hovers on the canvas, floating above a kaleidoscopic selection of vessels. The work continues the artist's seven-decade-long investigation into mysticism. Once regarded the "greatest artist in America," by the likes of Clement Greenberg, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning, Bloom regained minor attention in the last ten years with shows at the National Academy of Design Museum and Danforth Museum in Massachusetts. Despite this, his work will likely be new to most eyes.

Herbert Brown, The Party (1966)
The Party (1966) by Herbert Brown (b. 1923)

If a victor must be crowned, easily takes the cake. A juxtaposition of advertising posters with nudity rendered in broad cartoonish strokes, nothing by any artist in "Younger Than Jesus" feels as fresh, funny, and revolutionary. The shows, however, both gain when viewed together, seeming less like a competition and more like a family tree. A printed collage of newspaper clippings by Richard Hamilton (b. 1922), chronicling the trials and tribulations of the Rolling Stones from the late 1960s, is a perfect foil for Matt Keegan's explorations of the Reagan Era across the street. The 2008 color etchings of Krishna Reddy (b. 1925) with their trippy, electric webs echo the oil paintings of the young Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, and the raw, sometimes ghoulish faces in Tala Madani's paintings at the New Museum might commune in the fiery, chaotic canvas of Arnold Mesches (b. 1923), or vice versa.

Megashows, like "Younger Than Jesus," tend to breed minor cousins that often trump the main event, think Lesser New York and the multitude of Whitney Biennial spinoffs. "Wiser Than God," which is more of a feisty grandparent, certainly does its part to expand the conversation taking place right now on the Bowery. One can't help but wonder, amidst the imposed categorizations, "Can't we all just get along?"

[All images courtesy the artists and BLT Gallery.]

Published in: Art in America | New York | May 28, 2009

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Worldwide Working Artists Born in or Before 1926

Continuing this summer’s Lower East Side tradition of putting together group exhibitions with tongue-in-cheek titles, BLT stages (as the press release puts it) a project that should have us “expect a ferocious battle of the generations raging across New York’s Bowery.” However amusing when seen in context with the New Museum’s “Younger than Jesus” show across the street, which was of course its initial source of inspiration, “Wiser than God” is by no means slight or superficial. Quite the opposite. Conceived by Adrian Dannatt and co-curated with Jan Frank, it is a fantastic exhibition that even to the most savvy and seasoned art audience will offer the discovery of many rare treasures.  

The Lithuanian born (but Brooklyn based) filmmaker Jonas Mekas (b. 1922), Francoise Gilot (b. 1921), Picasso’s companion from 1944 to 1953, and Dorothea Tanning (b. 1910), who in the late 1940s married the famous Surrealist Max Ernst, for example, are only three among many well-established and lesser-known artists included. As its title suggests, “Wiser than God” might not take itself too seriously, but it does translate as a valid argument, namely that experience weighs more profoundly than youth.

What is a shocking, though pleasant realization when reading over the names of the artists featured, is how many of them are not just still alive but actively working. That might sound macabre, but it is simply just more evidence that in a culture fixated on youth, many older artists can become forgotten too fast. To see some of these artists showcased here is not only a pleasure in itself, but also a thought provoking hint at the fact that we are all partially responsible for the longevity of the art of our time.

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