Dialogue between Art and Life: suggestion, that is the dream

by Etty Yaniv

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To My Mougouch (dedicated to Agnes Magruder) by Arshile Gorky; all photos courtesy of Outlet gallery website, unless otherwise noted

In response to Arshile Gorky’s colored drawings exhibition, an ARTnews reviewer back in March 1947 declared that Gorky is in no sense a draftsman and that his drawings “must be appraised as doodlings, for psychological rather than formal interest.” More than sixty years later, an exquisite Gorky drawing from 1946 on loan to Outlet gallery, serves as a starting point for a vibrant dialogue between more than thirty contemporary artists with strong and distinct personal iconography and some shared formal concerns.

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Outlet gallery; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

Akin to John Cage, William Anastasi largely draws upon the element of chance in creation and is well-known for his drawing in motion such as his subway drawings, which he produced on the train while wearing noise-cancelling headphones in an effort to exclude his senses from the artistic process. In Untitled (9.28.10 22:48 9.29.10 15:40), a drawing out of this series, his energetic marks form on top of a blank space two concentrated horizontal ovals, made of repetitive black and blue scribbled lines that connect in a delicate web. The image may easily read like a pair of eyes, or two pools of water, but most essentially it emits the sheer energy of movement. Wired and raw, its rhythms resonate the mysterious source of mark making.

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Untitled by William Anastasi; photo courtesy of Sandra Gering, Inc., New York

Sara Schmerler also appears to be fascinated by chance, but unlike Anastasi, she removes her headphones on her subway ride to allow for what she calls “the aural and visual frottage” of her surroundings, people’s conversations, her jarred hand on the train, and her own “inner” dialogue. She fills small Moleskin sketchbooks with fragmented texts integrated with scattered pen drawings, which have been presented open in a humble plastic bag mounted on the gallery wall.

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Artist Sarah Schmerler in front of her work, Scientist—The Hipsters, from the notebook “PFOTG” (Prayer Files On The Ganges)

Similarly, Lucy Mink says that her seat on the bus or train becomes a studio for the four to five hours of travel to Connecticut or New York City. The middle of Trusted portrays a blue oval-like shape that contains overlapping voluptuous forms, and at the same time, this oval shape is also contained within the engulfing white space. The image resonates an embryonic space, claustrophobic yet intimate, enclosed yet open-ended with possibilities.

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Trusted by Lucy Mink

Nothing is contained in Susanna Heller’s City Walk. Her energetic brush strokes are a force of nature, which sweep viewers off their feet and grab them for a brisk walk through her crisp vision and assured hand. The line variation, patches of color, and poignant segments of empty repose create an evocative drawing that resonates an engaging musical segment with staccatos, legatos, and some moments of silence.

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City Walk by Susanna Heller

Paul D’Agostino’s brooding Couplets, a pair of drawings with various density of vertical dark lines, which are in beautiful dialogue, draw the viewer in with a mysterious alchemy. The relationship between the repetitive rhythmic marks in the foreground and the surface underneath creates a subtle sense of light and rich darkness, like a primordial landscape of the mind.

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Couples by Paul D’Agostino

Resembling an abstracted diagram, Leslie Kerby’s graphite and ink drawing is part of a series of abstractions that is based on public housing as a construct. Kerby aims to mimic in her form the repetitive nature of the architecture, while shedding light on the role of public housing in the community.

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Artist Leslie Kerby in front of her work, Trouble from Below and Above

Besides drawings, the show also includes Andrea Burgay’s process-oriented collage, which is part of series dealing with impermanence and ritual. Burgay explains that the accumulation of biomorphic forms rising toward the light, while simultaneously dissolving into the surrounding space, allude to religious themes of ascension and rebirth. 

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Never/Forever #20 by Andrea Burgay

Finally, more figurative work such as Todd Bienvenu’s loose-lined beer cans, Andrew Szobody’s  more tightly rendered pair of skulls, and Thomas Miccelli’s engaging linear-strip fit well into the mix.

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Artist Todd Bienvenu in front of his work, I Love Cheap Beer; photo by Etty Yaniv

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Untitled (Two Skulls) by Andrew Szobody

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First Love 1—4 by Thomas Micchelli

Overall, the curators of the show, Jason Andrew and Julian A. Jimarez Howard, succeeded in creating an elegant flow, providing ample space for some artworks and grouping others to enhance a dialogue between past and present, line and color, collective and personal, art and life. We hope this conversation among artists will open a wider door to the public at large. 

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Visitors to Outlet gallery

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Outlet gallery is located at 253 Wilson Avenue; suggestion, that is the dream: Arshile Gorky and a selection of contemporary drawings will be on view through June 29, 2014