If you can get past the relentless self-absorption of Jerry Saltz and read deeper into his appreciation of Andrea Rosen’s career as a gallery owner, you are reminded first of Saltz’s great talent for explaining the art of some great art and, more to the point, second, what an extraordinary career Rosen had.
Saltz begins with encountering Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work. In this case, four “paper stack pieces” which he initially dismissed as “Minimal and post-minimal gestures and geometries” that “seemed dead, silly, impossible, redundant:
But the material made a big difference; the paper was also cheaply printed with stripes or blocked colors. And you could take the paper. The art was free? So these sculptures lost their stability and solidity and turned into something like mechanical or biological models of reproduction, replication. The paper is always replaced, which made the works simultaneously endless and ephemeral, touchable, yet pure, inviolate in their pristineness but highly haptic in experience. And you could take them home. A shadow passed over the art world and I knew not to laugh — that here was new magic. […] Soon after Rosen was showing other new artists, including Rita Ackermann, Ken Lum, Heimo Zobernig, Tony Feher, Andrea Zittel, Paula Hayes, Julia Scher, and Sean Landers — […] She began showing Yoko Ono, Tetsumi Kudo, the Walker Evans Estate, and three personal favorites, Matthew Ritchie, David Altmejd, and Ryan Trecartin. And one of the biggest names of the last few decades — John Currin with his weird realism. […] Here was realism but cloaked in irony, doubt, clownishness, sinister intention, love, intelligence. And Currin’s oldenlike technique in an art world that since the 1960s had lauded “de-skilling” was beyond the taste pale. […] The biggest shock for me was the now world-famous Wolfgang Tillmans. […] Within 48 months, in other words, Rosen had not only identified three foundational artists of the 1990s but of the last few decades in Gonzalez-Torres, Currin, and Tillmans — and three artists whose work could not be more different.