Here's an amusing essay by Choire Sicha called The Complicated Art of Chelsea (thanks, Linda), wherein he describes a recent gallery crawl with a non-art-appreciator who turns him from loving the neighborhood to hating it in one afternoon. I made the the rounds the same week, also with a non-fan of much of the art, but I didn't start out enthusiastic so I didn't have as far to fall. Sicha's too kind to mention most of the art he's criticizing by name, but I'm not, so let me say the "rather Harmony Korine-esque mockery of people with Down's syndrome" he mentions is a group of photos by Sharon Lockhart, at Barbara Gladstone, depicting museum preparators installing Duane Hanson sculptures. The people he thought had Downs turn out to be Hanson's slightly waxy but lifelike figures--I knew the sculptures but still had to look closely to make sure they weren't reenactors.
An essay needs to be written about the tendency of artists who hit the big time to suddenly start riffing on art history (think Lichtenstein's and Sean Landers' Picassos, Jim Dine's Greek statues, etc etc). Lockhart's '90s photos of kids kissing or leaning on car hoods were nice but hardly theoretical. Now she seems to be straining to be conceptualist, doing art-world-behind-the-scenes shots a la Louise Lawler and Tina Barney combined with the ever-popular perceptual brain teaser. Duane Hanson is one of those "iffy" artists with just enough critical support to keep him out Madame Tussaud's, but still a crowd pleaser, so in a sense Lockhart is getting a free ride on the fun technical prowess of his sculptures. Anyway, I agree with Sicha that "these photographs [a]ren't good."
Sicha's essay goes a bit overboard in its insider-pretending-to-be-a-philistine schtick; the plywood pieces with puttied knotholes he ridicules at Paula Cooper are of course by Sherrie Levine, who's been pissing people off with "too minimal" work for quite some time. What's problematic about recent Levine isn't that she's too minimal but that her combination of art historical spoofs and fine, expensive fabricatorcraft seems like a desperate attempt to be a bad girl while still giving collectors something posh (eg, gold plated Duchamp urinals--puh-lease). Not sure if the plywood pieces are of recent vintage; if so, two more demerits for revisiting what should have been a one-off series from 1985.
Riffing on art history has always bugged me as well. Maybe looting museums is a good thing: I mean nearly all the old stuff in them is looted anyway & alot of it looted from graves. Take me home looter, cry the potsherds of Gilgamesh, to the deep sands I belong. Terence always said we would shed history one day. I wonder when? 2012 or Butte !