Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nothing But Paint: Jeanne Risica

[“Shields” installation of various acrylic on canvas works (2009), Untitled IX (2009) acrylic on canvas. Untitled XIX (2009) acrylic on canvas. ]

While it closed on August 15, Jeanne Risica’s first solo exhibition at Dillon Gallery deserves a word here. Substantial work results in her casting of paint (acrylic, in particular) as a sculptural substance. Combine a cake swirl of cream with an uninterrupted swoosh of thick colored foam and what do you get? The resultant processes of “transcription” and “translation” bind color and texture “codons” into compelling two-dimensional works.

While compositional form subordinates color in Risica’s paintings, her resultant visual enigmas sustain suggestive, sensuous, aggressive, or even engaging sequences for the viewer to absorb. Accomplished by melding the paint to her canvases without a brush, Risica’s fundamental method often comes out looking like marzipan. Graffiti dollops, paint spills, and chromatic pools converge on a pure saturated field. Weighty and dense with hue, Risica’s technical surface manipulation brings the viewer full circle in a direct presentation of paint’s essential chemistry and gravity.

Coming forth as if white chocolate or petit fours mysteriously (or ominously, as the case may be) layered onto her paintings, Risica’s work has been exhibited internationally in such venues as Art Synergy (Bologna), Museum of San Felipe (Caracas), DongHo Gallery (Pusan), and Rhode Island’s Warwick Museum. As always, Risica (reviewed here in December 2006) blends visceral and cerebral elements into a larger work imbued with chromatic deftness.

Devoted to representation of international contemporary artists in various media, Dillon Gallery exhibits established, mid-career, and young emerging artists whose works convey Formalism and structure. This approach to visual content carries through and transcends various styles and media the gallery presents.

Recent Paintings: Jeanne Risica
@ Dillon Gallery
555 West 25th Street, NYC 10001

Friday, August 14, 2009

Light Through Tattered Curtains at Heartbreak Hotel

[“The Straight & the Narrow,” Erik den Breejen (2009), acrylic on canvas. “E.S.A.D. Monster,” Russell Tyler (2009), oil on canvas. “Old Glory’s Wake (Part 1),” Michael Scoggins (2008), marker on paper. “The End,” Danial Nord (2008), DVD disk installation.]

Despite the extreme latitude of the medium, style, and approach of works in “Heartbreak Hotel,” this summer group show at Freight + Volume including 21 artists offers a galvanizing conversation on whether—despite solidity of identity—“together we are alone, alone we are together.” In this reverb and progression, implicit sadness resounds in this show’s metaphorical array. So many “walk a lonely street.” Ultimately, “Heartbreak Hotel” asks about regeneration and renewal. How appropriate, as we continue to deal with the fallout of the credit crisis, crazies at health care forums, draining effects of fighting two wars simultaneously, revelations of torture, continuing bailouts of corporate giants, and unacceptable levels of unemployment, underemployment, and general despair. None of this has been good for artists or the art market. In this show, Freight + Volume has provided a refuge for these artists—guests as well as gallery regulars—to participate in this rich dialogue across media. Importantly, they’ve been given an opportunity to regroup, rethink, and recreate their identities in a kind of “half-way house.”

Michael Scoggins' work—with its crushing, wrinkling, tearing, and folding paper—viscerally conjoins the physical and visual in a frenzy of various dimension perspectives. Rendered on large sheets of paper, Scoggins evokes the viewer’s various experiences in a way that can be seen as poignant, providing an avenue—whether naïve or not— to candidly express primal emotions. Indeed, nothing is sacred in terms of what can become fodder for Scoggins, yet this wry, shameless quality brings the viewer deeper into his work. In his straight-shooting manner, Scoggins deftly and inimitably sums up the tenor of this ensemble in “You Make Me Sick.” More subtly, Peter Hutchinson’s Wallflowers present an opportunity for the viewer to survey loneliness’ intersection with humor that so comes forward in “Heartbreak Hotel.” Importantly, Hutchinson’s use of text fortifies his work while allowing a reflection on the beauty of the unappreciated more than feelings of the rejected.

With color conveying mood and playing with our fascinations, Andrew Guenther’s ironic take on room service is a cunning trompe l’oeil. His illusion of perception and resultant suggestion returns over and over to evolution of various kinds—including culture, life, and ourselves—with or without spiritual underpinnings. While Guenther’s adornments and electric palette commence minus inhibitions, elemental individuality comes forward in a way that gels with the viewer’s clichés and fascinations. His nonsensuous mimicry incorporates color to capture moods, render worlds, and share the viewer’s very space.

In motives and ways that can touch on Guenther’s, Eric White’s equally cunning work has the effect of a lure and hook—giving way to prank and whimsy. White’s proportional distortion evokes surprise, juxtaposition, and non sequitur in a way that summons surrealism’s spontaneity and mannerism’s restrained naturalism. Heavily influenced by the work of psychic and trance medium Jane Roberts (1929-1984) and her channeled personality Seth, White devours alternate realities such as dream state and metaphysics. His technique and themes come together in complex, multidimensional, and refined worlds that tempt the viewer inside despite the peril. While White’s preferred medium is oil on canvas, his work and approaches to figuration absorb the photographic process in ways subtle and not so. Regardless, his brush painstakingly and competently mines scenarios calling forth issues of societal malaise (and their being overcome) at the heart of this show.

The subconscious looms large in Erik den Breejen’s work. Additionally, his colorful acrylic canvases carry on as self-explorative journals that tackle underbelly issues of abuse and decay. Tangled associations are plotted by Jonathan Hartshorn with drawings, photos, and objects (both found and created). Hartshorn’s collage-like installations seem complete in their intricate and tautological constructions of repetition and attempts at clarity. At once introverted and biographical, Hartshorn’s every component is significant and relational. Meanwhile, the installations of Danial Nord confront our society’s absurd mass production of waste and its eventual fate. Nord displays this absurd and destructive existence. His critical perspective forces the viewer beyond a role of silent onlooker to accept complicity in a choking economic ideology that makes our lives comfortable while it kills us. Thus, viewers of his work can longer escape questioning their own actions. His video work frames the other side of collapse and adversity. “The End” is most certainly a beginning. In his work’s repetition and anticipation, Nord’s sampling techniques inform us that, for some institutions, the end can’t come soon enough.

The work of Tabitha Vevers—both sharp and cutting—depicts scenes and narratives at face value, rather than fabricating or interpreting them. Concrete and tangible, Vevers’ technique and work absorb the spiritual grounding of Mexican devotional paintings while attempting to correct the gender-level imbalance of power. Circumstance and experience come together with a grounded internal process moving toward an integrated whole as opposed to a pastiche. No matter the action or construct, Fanny Allié’s work explores narratives through role-play, reenactment, and reflection. Equilibrium is examined at the same time she questions identity. Mystery and introspection help focus her work (and her viewers’ response toward them) on relationships toward the body, “family,” and outside world.

The intensity, energy, and seductiveness of Lucas Moran’s work—while on the rambunctious side—vacillates being issuing decay’s clarion call offering the viewer a glimpse of the city’s physical and psychological landscape. Meanwhile, Peik Larsen uses light, color, and relationships to reveal both a gesture’s physicality and its resultant energy—at the same time embracing imperfection on a number of levels.

Finally, Kadar Brock—one of my favorite artists (along with his fellow BUIA artist Matt Jones)—conflates minimalism and abstract expressionism in oil, acrylic, and spray paint on canvas. Personal psychological, physical, and spiritual realms associated with philosophy come alive in his primal work and push his dense and tactile abstract paintings to the limit. Brock’s work simply doesn’t allow the viewer to just observe: Rather these canvases compel one to take a journey.

Smartly, this gallery sees this current art world “correction”—mirroring events across all levels of a society that have been so adversely affected and traumatized by eight years of the Cheney/Rumsfeld regime—as an opportune time to create a healthier forward path. As described in the show’s press release: “When we fly too close to the sun, a plunge back to reality is inevitable. Yet maturity tells us that heartbreak is necessary and edifying, that scrapes come with lessons, and from those lessons new perspectives arrive to recharge the mind, body, and soul.” Freight + Volume is dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging and established artists, and in particular work that is innovative and not afraid to take risks. While Freight + Volume is especially interested in narrative and text-based material, its predominant criteria is the quality of the work, regardless of technique, content, or style. One finds here dynamic, visceral, and provocative work in all media and dealing with a range of subject matter. Remarkably, in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the gallery has remained true to that mission.

Heartbreak Hotel
Through September 12
@ Freight + Volume
542 West 24th Street, NYC 10011

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gems Amid the Crowd: Marlborough Chelsea’s Summer Exhibition

[“Mad Mom,” Tom Otterness (2005) bronze. “Poppy Passion Pyre,” L.C. Armstrong (2007) acrylic, bomb fuse & linen on birch panel. “Wall Street: Rush Hour,” Will Ryman (2008) steel, paper mache, magic sculpt & paint. “Worship,” Benjamin Edwards (2008) acrylic on canvas. “Wall Painting (Firewall),” Bruce Robbins (2008) acrylic, wood resin, jute on panel.]

While almost dizzying in its incoherence, there are amazing works in Marlborough Chelsea’s Summer Exhibition in which it has trotted out (with exceptions) various works by its stable of artists. Running through September 4, one may find under one roof (indeed, in one room) the works of Magdalena Abakonowicz, Kenneth Snelson, Shuo Feng, Claudio Bravo, Manolo Valdes, and Red Grooms.

One can never go wrong with the whimsical and "pointed" sculpture by Tom Otterness. One of the United States’ premier public artists, he lays it on the line with his bronze works that “hang out the dirty linens” of our society—bringing representational bromides to such issues of greed, class, money, religion, immigration, and sexual relations. All this Otterness manages to do with his adorable (though at times menacing) figures. Truly, the viewer can find “meat” in these works. These likable “characters” encapsulate the artist’s philosophy of society as a living organism that moves forward only when its constituent parts function together—that even the smallest segment offers a vital contribution. All this without slapping the viewer in the face! Is it any wonder that his public art is so popular? Otterness’ substance is entrancing and has brightened many a New Yorkers’ commute. Indeed, seeing Otterness’ bronze figure in the rear of the gallery drew me in to see this show.

“Brooklyn Rail” reviewer Maxwell Heller perfectly described the work of Will Ryman: “[He] translates commonplace urban scenes into playful but unsettling sculptural gatherings. His portraits of city life emphasize the absurd, abandoning natural proportion in favor of dreamlike distortions in which lips and eyes balloon forward, furniture becomes architecture, and limbs stretch in fits of ecstasy…” By allowing creative materials to be left visible (e.g., wire mesh, struts, fasteners), viewers are reminded of the artist’s presence. These touches also give Ryman’s work a movement and immediacy.

Cooper Union graduate Bruce Robbins—who broke into the art world as a new image sculptor with his series of painted and constructed ladder and seesaw sculptures—offers very rich and meditative work calling forth structure.

Subconscious and relentless repetition come together in Benjamin Edwards’ powerful and transcendental works—combing through the flotsam and jetsam of our society and expressing our mutual path in a its illusiveness. Edwards’ aesthetic antennae absorb pasts, presents, and futures so tempered with disorganization and pitfalls. Who, what, how, and why are these various places we have inhabited and travelled? Will we see them, and at what price to ourselves? He flays the flurried and fragmented landscape of our mass culture, so fraught with alienation—doing so with energy, speed, and aplomb. Like Otterness, Edwards absorbs, synthesizes, and conveys the most sensitive issues of our environment, economy, technology, society without hyper-didacticism. Karmic unfolding of our society’s dizzying frenzy is elemental and visceral in his nuanced work—incorporating the real estate bubble, biodiversity, lack of cultural rectitude, consumerist delusion, corporate duplicity, and spiritual dearth in our teetering house of cards.

Magical realism and Romantic tradition inhabit L.C. Armstrong’s color-saturated and highly detailed maximalist paintings—accomplished with her signature technique of acrylic with bomb fuse and resin on linen. Her dazzling flower and landscape images stretch the pallet to the fullest. Known for working intuitively in a meditative state, Armstrong lets these images find themselves in her psyche and allows them to travel to her canvas. Both psychic and poetic, her landscapes engage streams both utopian and kitschy in intense explorations of nature’s power, perils, and awe. Her influences are rich and many and include John F. Kinsett (1816-1872) of the Hudson River School; the mood- and light-immersed works of Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904); and the bold, geometric, and highly polished works of John McCracken. Indeed, Armstrong set forth in and reinvigorated a discarded niche ripe for reinvestigation.

This exhibition—in its concentration of work by some of America’s finest contemporary artists—is a must-see in these August days. While inconsistent, the viewer will be treated to powerful and rich works.

Summer Exhibition

Through September 4

Marlborough Chelsea

545 West 25th Street, NYC 10001

Sunday, August 09, 2009

How Common! Presenting Cueto Project’s Summer Offering

[ “Corps Ivre” (Drunken Body), Eve Bailey (2007) wood studs, plywood, painted 5 gallon steel pails, foam, fabrics, cable, small hardware, and sand. “Shoulder Path,” Eve Bailey (2008), mixed media on paper. "The Edge," Elinor Milchan (2004) photography printed on clear paper mounted to A.R. Plexi.]

“We don’t all choose our neighbors, but they affect us. We don’t always choose our thoughts, but they also have a bearing.” The title of this text is “The Common Mind.” This statement by art critic and curator Greg Hilty in a “Frieze” article about British artist Eric Bainbridge—which at the same time claims and avoids responsibility—encapsulates the dynamic tension of "The Common Mind,” a group show including four artists at Cueto Project. In their work, Elinor Milchan, Christina Kruse, Tatyana Murray, and Eve Bailey—exhibited together for the first time—present levels of spiritual integration and appreciation of the unconscious. The resultant “common spirit” embraces multiple artistic discourses and processes.

By embracing these multiple artistic discourses and processes, it is possible that the collective subconscious plays a number of roles in this ensemble. What differentiates these artists who all live in New York City, are of the same gender and generation, and speak the same language?

The recent work of Tatyana Murray explores authority’s role in the human need to harness and exploit nature. Growing up in England, she loved playing among apple trees in the field behind her family’s home: Recently, she was shocked and saddened to find a housing project instead of those trees. Such a jarring counterpoint to childhood memories inspired her to use trees as the main subject of her new work because of their inherent majesty and, additionally, to address her sense of loss. Weeds have also been incorporated into this series of etchings, but in the larger sense of a plant growing where people don’t want it. Murray’s scratches detailed markings into individual sheets of Perspex, which are then multilayered. In doing this, she liberates images from flat pictorial planes into dimensionality and translated them to the viewer with refracted light. The viewer absorbs what is visible through these layers of Perspex, guided by the lighting’s effect in a way that recalls memory passing through time. Light plays a fundamental role in this series of luminous and evolving installations, provoking the viewer’s very sense of movement and place and achieving a memoir of the natural world.

Melting into the structure of Eve Bailey’s constructions and body-explorative sculpture and drawings, are the strong presence and fluid movements of dance and martial arts. Her very conception of this work and her parallel performance is that of a body confronted by the city and its resultant structure. Yet while these innate fluid movements never seem enough to free her from urban confines. Born in Nancy (France), Bailey has exhibited her work in Germany at the Kunsthalle of Baden Baden and the NAK of Aachen, in the Netherlands at Artis Gallery (Den Bosch), in France at the Musée Royet Fould (Courbevoie) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Paris), in California at the Art Institute and 2C Gallery (San Francisco), in Tennessee at Labarts Gallery (Knoxville) and recently in New York at Triangle for the Arts (Brooklyn) and Cuchifritos Gallery (New York). Awarded several funded residencies such as Triangle for the Arts, Sculpture Space, and Bemis Center, she has also received several commissions as a designer after she won the first prize of Museum Expression Art and Design Fair at the Louvre in Paris.

“Walking through luminous fields” with her photographic work, Elinor Milchan brings her light to touch the viewer. This is true whether her images are larger than life or closer to human scale. Thus, by losing familiar habits and being taken by opposing currents, colorful streams, and sensual waves, Milchan’s abstract “landscapes” summon the viewer the viewer’s perspective. Elinor Milchan takes time-lapse photographs of colored light reflected on a white canvas or wall. Resulting images are printed onto acetate: The transparent sheets are then affixed to thick panes of Plexiglas. Hung several inches from the wall and mounted with translucent posts and screws, these photographs—when properly lit—present a nearly pure image field. As with Milchan’s other works, these pieces take the viewer into a meditative journey of emotions and movements. Their depth and perspective thus enhanced, they explore movement, color, light, and time in human experience. Describing feelings of engagement with this world, Milchan’s collective work speaks of universal notions rather than particular subjects—breaking reality’s surface to reach an emotional consciousness or to return to essence. Born in Tel Aviv and residing in New York, her work has been shown in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Israel and Geneva.

Christina Kruse, however, cannibalizes her various images. She photographs herself, moving between glossy and matte paper, in such a way that the particulars, the figure herself, are absorbed and lost. Detached body parts are interrupted by diagram and imposition, calling forth superposition. When the body becomes measure, it then is displaced beyond said measure.

Cueto Project (then called Galerie Valérie Cueto) was founded in September of 2000 by Valérie Cueto—thriving in the French contemporary art scene in le Marais, Paris. For two decades, Valérie Cueto has sought out emerging and innovative artists—giving them the means to produce and share their energy and vision with the world. In 2007, she relocated her gallery in New York. In The Common Mind, Cueto provokes a creative dialogue in various artistic media. In this electric summer group show of sculpture, performance, photography, installation, and drawings, these exhibited media twist, magnify, abuse, and galvanize the respective animus of the respective artists.

The Common Mind
Through September 10 @
Cueto Project
551 West 21st Street, NYC 10011