What I’m Looking at: Chryssa’s Sizzling Tribute to Times Square, the MyPillow Guy’s Office Paintings, and Other Things at the Edge of Art



Chryssa Gets Her Day

I only really knew the name of Greek-born sculptor Chryssa (1933-2013) before this big show dedicated to her New York output, currently at the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea (co-created with the Menil Collection in Houston, and on view through July 22, 2023). What fun to get a full sense of her! In the 1950s and ’60s, Chryssa breathed in New York’s energy, and breathed it out as art. She took inspiration from material that evoked the swirling, information-dense urban environment: newspapers, typography, neon signs. Then she stripped away their information-conveying function, distilling and abstracting their forms into reliefs and sculptures that become mysterious, austere, transfixing.

Her act of going by the mononymn “Chryssa” itself mirrors her procedure of subtraction and abstraction: adding to a signifier’s evocative power by stripping it down and making it mysterious. It also suggests a certain swagger. The sculpture that probably best incarnates this appetite is her magnum opus, on tour here from the Buffalo AKG Art Museum collection: a 10-by-10 hulk called (1964–66). It is a glorious abstracted “A,” in sizzling blue neon. It wants to stun you as a distilled version of the grandeur of New York’s commercial center, while also conveying the mystery of an altar of secret texts held just out of reach.

Chryssa, Five Variations on the Ampersand, 1966 in "Chryssa and New York" at Dia

Chryssa, (1966) in “Chryssa and New York” at Dia. Photo by Ben Davis.

Chryssa, Classified (1960).

Chryssa, (1960). Photo by Ben Davis.

Chryssa, Cycladic Movement (n.d.) and Letter "T" (1959)

Chryssa, (n.d.) and (1959). Photo by Ben Davis.


The Berlin Scene

The tightly packed one-room show dedicated to Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin does contain things you’d call art, ranging from Berlin’s raucous “tit prints” (made by dipping her breasts in paint and smooshing them on paper) to the needlepoints of lurid covers from her latter days. But “The Heaviest” at Vito Schnabel (on view through August 18), organized by Alison M. Gingeras, is really more akin to immersing yourself in a full “Brigid Berlin” exhibit at a museum of Downtown history.

Along with the art, you get letters and pictures from her childhood as a rebellious heiress (her dad was CEO of the Hearst Corp.); newspaper articles about her as the flamboyant character that she still was in her post-Factory life; a video made with Warhol and Larry Poons documenting her breast-based art-making practice accompanied by her own gregarious, self-mocking commentary.

It’s actually fitting that the show runs together Berlin’s art and material about her as a character, in a way. Berlin didn’t really seem to distinguish art-making from living an interesting life. This is probably best represented by her copious Polaroids of characters who lurked around the Factory, and in her recordings—which you can listen to at the gallery—of her constant phone calls with intimates and associates.

The show’s a fascinating look at a life. As to the art as art, I’m of two minds, I guess. On the one hand, it does feel to me that Berlin’s output mainly depends on your interest in a certain form of micro-celebrity. But then this kind of self-mythologizing persona does feel very contemporary, with its indulgent eclecticism, its defensive bravado, and its melancholy undertones.

Brigid Berlin material in "The Heaviest"

Brigid Berlin material in “The Heaviest.” Photo by Ben Davis.

Four of Brigid Berlin's "Tit Prints" in "The Heaviest."

Four of Brigid Berlin’s “Tit Prints” in “The Heaviest.” Photo by Ben Davis.

A Brigid Berlin Polaroid of Dennis Hopper in "The Heaviest"

A Brigid Berlin Polaroid of Dennis Hopper in “The Heaviest.” Photo by Ben Davis.

Sampler by Brigid Berlin in "The Heaviest"

Sampler by Brigid Berlin in “The Heaviest.” Photo by Ben Davis.


Fun With Shirts

I wandered, basically at random, into Fierman gallery to find a one-weekend-only display of Nora Griffin’s paint-on-vintage-tee-shirt art show. Griffin, a maker of wonky abstract paintings, deploys her groovy, whirling colors to various New York-themed vintage tees, all hailing from the pre-9/11 era, bringing a sense of a vanished era of the city into alignment with an approachable kind of thrift-shop creativity. The effect was to make you feel like you had time traveled momentarily to a simpler, sunnier, nicer scene, and one that you could walk away with a piece of.

You missed the show, but the shirts have their own Instagram—so join the 1999 NYC Tee club while you can.

Nora Griffin's "1999 NYC TEE"

Installation view of Nora Griffin’s “1999 NYC TEE” show at Fierman. Photo by Ben Davis.

A Nora Griffin tee.

A Nora Griffin tee. Photo by Ben Davis.



As to things to read… I guess the art world is embracing Threads, according to Annie Armstrong’s piece on the Whitney’s gushy foray into the new social media network. So we have to deal with Threads. And I’ll say that Kate Lindsay’s post about the Threads experiment for the Embedded newsletter about internet culture is the best thing I’ve read on it.

Pungently titled “Threads Is a Mecca of Millennial Brain Rot,” it sums up my experience of Meta’s new social media platform, and of social media altogether right now—everything feels like different flavors of desperate:

I feel it would be better just to admit that this form of communication has failed than to try to get back to some imaginary “good” version of it. But that’s me, and that’s probably not going to happen.

Screenshot of a Threads post from the Whitney Museum

Screenshot of a Threads post from the Whitney Museum using Allen Frame, (1981) as a meme.



The MyPillow Guy’s Art

Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, Inc.—known around the web as the “MyPillow Guy”—is selling off his company’s stuff on K-Bid Online Auctions to raise money, having wasted his empire’s actual and reputational capital on trying to overturn the 2020 election. So of course, I went to check if there was any art. And there is, sort of.

It’s a lot of framed images of plants and green landscapes and such. If you have a suburban bathroom to decorate, you have a week to place your bids.

I do love this still-life, below, presented with no info on what you are looking at but with the accompanying detail shot of the signature to show the authenticity of whatever that is. I’ve always wanted to own a… “ufiloojp[??]”

It really is like owning a piece of history: Offering random, blurry details to prove something is real is kind of what Lindell is known for now.

An artwork being sold in the "My Pillow Surplus Industrial Equipment" sale

Screenshot of an artwork being sold in the “My Pillow Surplus Industrial Equipment” sale on K-Bid Online Auctions.

an artwork being sold in the "My Pillow Surplus Industrial Equipment" sale

Screenshot of an artwork being sold in the “My Pillow Surplus Industrial Equipment” sale on K-Bid Online Auctions.



More Trending Stories:  

What Opulence Lay Behind Marie Antoinette’s Secret Bedroom Door? The Palace of Versailles Has Just Reopened the Queen’s Hidden Chambers 

An Ornate Viking-Era Relic Unearthed by a Metal Detectorist in the U.K. Could Fetch More Than $30,000 at Auction 

A Rediscovered Portrait of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s Sixth Wife, Fetches Four Times Its High Estimate at Sotheby’s 

Art Industry News: More Museums Distance Themselves From David Adjaye After Allegations + Other Stories 

For Their First U.S. Museum Show, Artist Wynnie Mynerva Has Reimagined the Creation Myth as an Act of Rebellion Against the Patriarchy 

An Israeli First-Grader Stumbled on a 3,500-Year-Old Egyptian Amulet on a School Trip 

Why Hasn’t Atlanta’s Art Scene Flourished Like Other Cities in the South? A Tragic Tale May Hold the Answer 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here