If you have a cool million . . .

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait

If you’ve got more money than you know what to do with, and you’re open to worthwhile suggestions, the show at David Zwirner, until the 14th, is the one for you. From there, all the work will go to auction at Christie’s later this month to raise money for Haiti. Apparently, a few people haven’t forgotten how that little nation remains in dire need of help—and they’re hoping for support from those who may not be feeling the pain of our own economic peril here in the U.S. It’s always cause to celebrate when those who have so much more than the rest of us pass along some of it to those who have little or nothing, and there are some wonderful ways to do it hanging at this spacious gallery at the lower end of Chelsea. Who knows, in the process you might get a nice return on the value of your donation, since some of these prices may just go up through the years. It’s been known to happen. Also, there’s requisite overpriced junk on view, for those who snatch it up. But anyone with an adequate checkbook won’t need to care one way or the other when you’re helping to rebuild a small, impoverished nation. If I had an investment banker’s line of credit, I’d be bidding on Raymond Pettibone, Neo Rauch, Dan Flavin (anybody who has spent so much energy on years of work created from long cylindrical light bulbs as a tribute to a Russian Constructivist, I don’t know, it’s just nutty in such an intensively passionate way that I love it, plus all that light it would emit would really help my seasonal affective disorder in January if I hung it down in the basement where I work out), Cecily Brown, Marlene Dumas, and the incomparable Chuck Close, whose self-portrait has a kind of squiggly life force, an amazing feat given the strictures of the grids, and the scale, he relies on to build an image now. His self-portraits have always been his best work and this is no exception. But the little gem of the show is by Ed Ruscha, an artist I’ve never understood and never will, but somehow I keep watching him expectantly, scratching my head, smiling uncertainly, waiting for an insight when it all becomes clear, wondering if the undeniable coolness of what he does will carry him into the next century. This one, though. This one, I grasp with enthusiasm. It’s a little modest line drawing in pencil from 1979, and it seems to speak to our entire national predicament: a prospector’s pick-axe and shovel crossed over a pan containing a few nuggets of gold, alongside a knife and fork crossed over a dinner plate, beside a tiny pair of wooden matches, also crossed. Over the entire sheet of paper, Ruscha walked around in his dirty boots, leaving a workman’s tread everywhere on the drawing. It’s funny and gritty and the evidence of his hand, his body—OK, his feet at least, sorry ladies, not the whole body—makes it lively, personal and unpolished in a very un-Ruscha-ian way. So many crucial contemporary realities juxtaposed in simple graphite outlines: labor vs. wealth, the need for one square meal vs. the cruel dream of luxury and ease, and that illusory gold rush that has powered our economy for so many years now, to the brink of collapse. Brilliant and simple. And the perfect donation for this auction and this cause.

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