New York art galleries that sizzle in summer

The New York art world begins to shut down toward the end of June, and is barely operational during August. The major museums are open, of course, with special summer exhibitions or with shows built around their permanent collections. And visitors to the city and its environs can take advantage of the various outdoor sculpture events that take place only at this time of year. A number of galleries do stay open, however, although generally for fewer hours and with a reduced staff. Only a handful of these schedule anything out of the ordinary for July, and even fewer do more in August than display typical examples by their most successful artists.

There are exceptions, and chief among them this year is the Leo Castelli Gallery in SoHo, where a very large James Rosenquist painting will be on view during the summer. ``The Persistence of Electrical Nymphs in Space'' is 171/2 feet high and 46 feet wide, consists entirely of flowers and a few linear motifs, and is one of the most audacious and successful canvases ever painted by this leading Pop artist.

It is so overwhelming, in fact, that it is difficult to know what to say about it except that it is huge, colorful, beautifully designed, and well painted -- and much too big to hang anywhere but where it is, or on the wall of one of our larger museums. Its execution was an extraordinary feat, even for this artist, who has produced one impressive mural-size picture after another these past 25 years or so, and who has proved himself to be one of the most professional of all recent painters. Perhaps his early training as a billboard artist is responsible for that, although I tend to think it has more to do with the thought and care he has put into transforming his early Pop extravaganzas into truly monumental art, and with the fact that he is a highly disciplined craftsman.

Stunning as it is, however, one shouldn't expect any warmth or other empathic response from this canvas. It may be big, bold, and brilliantly effective, but it was painted with about the same degree of feeling with which new cars are painted in Detroit.

Even so, it is a major American work of the 1980s, and well worth a trip to SoHo, especially as the Castelli Gallery is also exhibiting a smaller Rosenquist oil -- this one ``only'' 10 feet square -- as well as a group show including works by Warhol, Morris, Chamberlain, and Kelly.

The Sperone Westwater Gallery is the main exposure point in the US for several of today's outstanding European painters and sculptors. It has mounted major exhibitions by Enzo Cucchi, Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino, Mario Merz, and Domenico Bianchi and has introduced several other talented newcomers from across the Atlantic to American audiences. This year's summer exhibition is an important one, even though it can only be seen by appointment after July 1 and will close after July 31. All the above artists are represented, as well as Gerhard Richter, Richard Long, Bruce Nauman, and Bruno Ceccobelli. I highly recommend this show, especially as it is so close to the one at Leo Castelli. Both galleries are at 142 Greene Street.

Thanks to the 49th Parallel Gallery, which is operated as an extension to the Canadian Consulate General, Americans have an excellent opportunity to see some of the best art produced by our neighbors to the north. By representing a wide range of styles and approaches, choosing an address in the midst of several other prestigious galleries, and making certain that it had sufficient space for very large and complex works, it guaranteed that it would become and remain the major showcase for Canadian art in New York.

For its summer show, its director has chosen the work of four very young Canadians: Anne Billy, Pierre Dorion, Angela Grossman, and Landon Mackenzie. Although everything on view demonstrates talent and accomplishment, the large paintings by Angela Grossman are particularly effective. They were executed in a style that fuses certain Neo-Expressionist and other recent formal devices with a passionate feeling for paint and a highly personal and provocative imagery. The result is impressive and oddly haunting, proving that an exceptional artist is emerging in British Columbia.

The 49th Parallel Gallery is at 420 West Broadway in SoHo, where these examples of Canadian art will be on display through July 27. I also suggest a visit to Leo Castelli's other gallery, on the second floor of the same building. The light pieces of Dan Flavin may no longer surprise us, but they remain as handsome as ever.

A number of other SoHo galleries are holding excellent group exhibitions. I particularly recommend ``Abstract Relationships,'' at the Charles Cowles Gallery, which includes work by Amenoff, Davis, Saret, Twombly, Winsor, and others (through July 12); ``Artists Choosing Artists,'' at the Artists' Choice Museum (through July 21); ``Drawings From Venice,'' at the Drawing Center (through July 27); ``Social Studies,'' at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery (through July 26); and a selection of gallery artists including Agostini, Baynard, Brach, Schapiro, and Kaufman at Bernice Steinbaum which will run through August.

Among the best and most interesting shows uptown are ``Outline-Cutout-Silhouette,'' at the Allan Frumkin Gallery, which includes examples by Arneson, Azaceta, Brown, Lanyon, and Wiley (through Aug. 16); drawings by nine artists, including Magee, Moser, Paquette, Rasely, Treiman, and Wilde, at the David Findlay Jr. Gallery (through July 13 -- with a possible extension); ``Old Master Prints,'' including impressions by D"urer and Rembrandt, at Associated American Artists (through Aug. 3); paintings by Ceccobelli, Gompertz, and Sicilia at Blum Helman (through July); gallery artists at Sherry French (through August); and landscapes by Klimt, Kokoschka, Munch, Schiele, Van Gogh, and others at the Galerie St. Etienne through Sept. 13.

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