Three Parallel Worlds at No. 4 Studio

Monica Lorraine Bernal, Heather Merckle and Sabrina Barrios, the three artists featured in Ground Control currently at No. 4 Studio through May 14, draw on physics, cosmology and symbolism to create three distinct bodies of work, which altogether pose engaging questions on the way we perceive reality.

Sabrina Barrios’ outstanding site specific installation “The Earth Experiment” consists of white strings of different thickness which are arranged in a web of geometric patterns, multiply in a mirrored backdrop and glow under ultraviolet light. Once you enter this linear maze, you are locked inside a convincing matrix which alludes to the cosmos and to the collective unconsciousness. Outside of this bubble, and totally out of our reach, floating linear hieroglyphics in a totem shape represent the forces beyond our control which are manipulating our perception. This linear totem may read as power, collective memory, or blind fate among other possible interpretations.

Sabrina Barrios, The Earth Experiment strings, fishing wire, UV light, dimensions variable, 2017 , Brooklyn, NY
Sabrina Barrios, The Earth Experiment strings, fishing wire, UV light, dimensions variable, 2017, Brooklyn, NY

By utilizing relatively simple means like string, fishing wire, mirror, and light, Barrios creates an engaging experience of a parallel universe which is both hermetic and full of possibilities, evoking a Borges parable or Plato’s cave allegory. “I use visually simple symbols (sacred geometry) to tell a story. I like to compare it to a dream, in which you can’t always verbalize your experiences, but you often remember their feeling,” says the Brazilian born, Brooklyn based multimedia artist who moved to NYC eight years ago for an MFA at Pratt. Barrios says that traveling and spending longer periods of time in places like Southeast Asia and Europe inform her work in substantial ways. “I visit places of ancient ruins, pyramids, temples, tribes, to understand the knowledge that is passed from a generation to the next. I combine ancient knowledge with conspiracy theories,” says Barrios.  She start her projects with research on quantum physics, mythology, and ancient civilizations like Mayan, Egyptian and Sumerian, along with internet pseudo news, overall aiming to create  portals which are open to alternate realities and hidden dimensions.

Heather Merckle, This has no sensible dimensions” 2017 Acrylic on canvas, plexi, ribbon, foam and paper 144” h x 78”w x 24”d
Heather Merckle, This has no sensible dimensions” 2017
Acrylic on canvas, plexi, ribbon, foam and paper
144” h x 78”w x 24”d

Heather Merckle, who lives and works in Brooklyn, is also fascinated by the intersection between art and science, posing the question what happens when you give elusive ideas such as black holes, vacuums of space, and quantum fields a physical presence. In “This has no sensible dimensions” installation, a black matte canvas acts as the background for the exploration of multi-dimensional space. Merckle imagines the curvature of space and time, questioning “how it slows and sags, gravity and its presence, black holes and surface tension.” Using materials like polyester ribbon, acrylic cut-outs, foam, and paper, she created an installation that measures hundred forty two inches high, but feels monumental in scale.

Monica Lorraine Bernal, installation view, No. 4 Studio
Monica Lorraine Bernal, installation view, No. 4 Studio

On a smaller scale and with a more surreal bent, Monica Lorraine Bernal also references in her drawings cosmology and optics through playful and imaginative forms. Her white abstracted linear marks and abstracted forms on black surface evoke a sense of a microcosmic world with an enigmatic set of rules, vast and confined simultaneously. Bernal, who was born in Bogota, raised in Los Angeles, and moved to NYC in 2009 to earn an MFA from Parsons, explains that in these drawings she envisioned invisible light, referencing our evolutionary inability to see radio, infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray. “Here, invisible light and its color spectrum is reinvented and translated into a meditative, yet energetic imagination of an unearthly existence, whether brightening up a parallel universe, teetering on a black hole, or hazily shining through a planet’s moon. And this was a response to Heather’s black holes and Sabrina’s parallel worlds,” says Bernal. Overall, “Ground Control” builds an engaging thematic show which invites the viewer to reflect on the limitation of human perception and the uplifting possibilities in creative imagination.

Ground Control is open April 14th – May 14th at No.4 Studio

Exhibition hours are Friday through Sunday 1-6pm and by appointment

No.4 Studio, 361 Stagg Street, #204

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Ellen Hackl Fagan is Immersed in Blue

Ellen Hackl Fagan_ Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_studio_2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, studio, 2016

Ellen Hackl Fagan, the artist, gallerist and curator who runs ODETTA, is having a show at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT. It is curated by David Borawski, and runs till Feb 19th. AIB interviewed her by email about her diverse roles, exhibitions, and overall vision.

AIB: How long have you been associated with Bushwick and in what forms?

EHF: I’ve been working in Bushwick since late May 2014. Prior to that I had my studio in Harlem, mainly in the barrio. From the moment I registered for Bushwick Open Studios, other artist/curator/gallerists have invited me to work with them, and we exchange opportunities often. There’s a strong sense of community here, about raising the quality of our galleries by supporting one another.

AIB: Tell me about the genesis of ODETTA.

EHF: I’ve been organizing, hanging, creating exhibitions of art since 1982. I’d been looking for the right space to both live and work, for several years. I wanted a gallery space where people could see the work from the street and then walk right in. Also, I was looking for a space that could handle exhibiting large-scale sculpture and painting. Finding that combined use space proved impossible in my price range. When I decided to look at leasing strictly commercial spaces instead, I walked into this building the very first day. My landlord loves the arts and had put in the glass front, hoping to attract a gallerist tenant. So I can’t live here, but it’s definitely where I’m getting some good work done.

3 ½ weeks after signing the lease, I designed and built out the space, incorporating my studio into the back of  the gallery space, and opened ODETTA the day Bushwick Open Studios_2014 weekend started with a four-person show titled Opening Day. This featured the work of artist/gallerists Joe Amrhein, Rob de Oude, Enrico Gomez, and artist Marcus Linnenbrink. The place sang with color and artists and the culmination of 30 + years of art and practice was launched in its new home. That was one of the most fun evenings of my life. The neighborhood welcomed me completely.

AIB: You are an artist, gallerist, curator. How do these roles inform each other and how do you prioritize?

EHF: I think it’s difficult to prioritize, but these sides all support each other. I’d like to believe I’m an interesting curator because I see things from an artist’s perspective.  If I’m working for myself, rather than the gallery, I try to give that some attention mid-week every week. Multiple roles have all always been a part of my overall practice. I’m one of 8 children, and married into a family of 12 kids, so I’m used to chaos.

Ellen Hackl Fagan_Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016

AIB: You are having now a big exhibition in CT at Real Art Ways. What can you tell me about it ?

EHF: Since mid-November, Into the Blue Again, curated by artist David Borawski, has been running concurrently with Kurt Steger’s solo exhibition, Scribing the Void. Real Art Ways www.realartways.org, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. They’re a remarkable institution. Paving the way for interdisciplinary arts as early pioneers in experimental music and film, along with solo exhibitions of some of our best contemporary artists. David placed my works in a solo exhibition in one of their longer, narrow gallery spaces. My 9’ tall blue painting found its home on a singular wall that soars 18’ x 14 ‘ wide. I have experimented with the orientation of my blue paintings, sculpting them while drying in order to amplify their dynamic patterns and to create a humming sort of tension with them just lifted off the ground. Along with large works on paper, the viewer is immersed in this blue environment, creating a joyful space to connect in a full body experience with this gorgeous blue.

AIB: ODETTA is remarkable for incorporating poetry, performance and dance in dialogue with the visual art exhibitions. What is your vision for that in future programming?

EHF: I plan to continue introducing the community to innovative artists who want to share their talents with our enthusiastic audience. Expanding the programming into other genres builds the gallery’s audience. Coming up: Creative Tech Week in May brings the tech world into the gallery setting, integrated into an exhibition about healing systems created by Nature to restore and regenerate itself in the wake of human intervention.

Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography

AIB: What is your vision for the art exhibitions in 2017-18? 

EHF: I plan to have some exhibitions revolve around major themes in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake like our next show, River Woman, featuring works by Nancy Cohen, Fritz Horstman, Ellen Kozak, and Kathleen Vance. A special guest event will an introduction/reception to Riverkeeper. Future exhibitions this year are mainly focused on healing. I feel we’re all in need of that. 2018 is the Year of Color for ODETTA. Programming is going to be all about my favorite topic, color.

AIB: Can you give an insight on how you pick the artists?

EHF: I think, in many ways, the artists pick me. Through studio visits and regular interactions, I get to know their work. If I see a high degree of craftsmanship and intention, and they seem easy to work with, then it’s a matter of how to fit their work into the puzzle. Right now, I’m still in the introductory phase of getting to know artists. I’m looking for quality, a subtle humor and intelligence, compassion, and beauty.

AIB: How does the change in the neighborhood affect the art scene and can you share any concerns and hopes for the near future?

EHF: I see the neighborhood as prime for becoming another extension of Williamsburg. As in other areas, artists and galleries will get pushed out ultimately to luxury brand stores. But artists have always challenged the wisdom of a business model in favor of experimentation. So, a constant migration to affordable space is part of the process. ODETTA is a project that can move around if necessary, and I will continue to develop satellite opportunities for artists’ works to be seen by wider audiences.

 AIB: The country has gone through a political quake. Will that affect your art program or your own artwork?

EHF: For our current show, the elegant black works of Thomas Lendvai, Janet Passehl, and Esther Podemski transmit a funereal hush to the exhibition. Our upcoming show River Woman has a strong message of healing the earth and one another. As we continue through 2017, every exhibition is directly offering messages of hope and loss as the artists themselves experience the ramifications of this new administration’s tactics.

AIB: Where can we see your work next?

EHF: I will be showing my work at A.I.R. in an exhibition titled Space Craft, curated by  Liz Surbeck Biddle, featuring works by Tomoko Abe, Liz Surbeck Biddle, Ellen Hackl Fagan, and Jackie Welsh. Opening reception Friday March 17, 6-8 pm. This exhibition runs thru April 16, 2017.

April 4- June 29, 2017, What Does Blue Sound Like?, solo exhibition featuring my web based phone app, The Reverse Color Organ, at the New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library Windows. Artist dialogue with guest artists Joseph Celli and Hap Tivey, April 29, 2017 fromj 2:30-4:30 pm.

Ellen Hackl Fagan 

Into the Blue Again

Real Art Ways

Hartford, CT

November 17, 2016 – February 19, 2017

David Borawski, Curator

 

 

‘Cracking Up, Breaking Down’ Alludes to Angst, Excess and Emptiness

Cracking Up, Breaking Down (December 11, 2016 through January 08, 2017) was a group show at The Parlour Bushwick located in south Bushwick on the border of Bedstuy. Featuring New York-based artists Ben Pederson, Jack Henry, Nicholas Cueva, and Alex Yudzon, this body of work alluded to themes of angst, excess and emptiness. The show, recently closed, was curated by Rachel Phillips and Janice Sloane, both of whom are artists. Phillips works in a Surrealistic style, allowing the unconscious to guide her practice. The shapes in her drawings and paintings oscillate between abstract and recognizable forms. Sloane utilizes photography, painting and found objects to construct works of art that suggests themes of aging, sexuality, and healing. 

Cozy couches lined a thoughtful selection of eccentric work dynamically arranged in two rooms on the first floor of a townhouse on Bushwick Avenue. Mirrors decorated the walls, and beautiful crown molding adorned the doorways, arches, and ceilings. This setting created an intimate and endearing atmosphere. Using diverse materials and divergent techniques, this body of work suggested a precariousness and unease that reflects the collective state of mind of our generation.

Ben Pederson’s colorful sculptures exude a frenetic quality because of his use of overlapping, bright and contrasting colors, the irrational placement of tiny dots, and the inclusion of uneven, tilted elements. When these elements are combined, they invoke the sensation of being on a precipice. Hollywood Nights is composed of cardboard, plaster gauze, and Epoxy clay. Pederson uses acrylic and vinyl paint to create the brightly colored base, which has solid black triangular structures that jut out from it. In Both Times at Once, it appears the sculpture is trapped inside another work. The surrounding bars are painted black at the bottom and vibrantly colored at the top. This work is more suggestive of architectural elements than of an otherworldly form, contrasting to Hollywood Nights. As viewers walk around these works, colors shift and forms re-shape as if they have caught them in a state of transformation or transition. Is it growing or shrinking, contracting or pulsating, transmuting or putrefying? The sculptures suggest organic and synthetic elements, something of this world yet far beyond it.

Ben Pederson, Junkfood Trees, 2015

Also on view by Pederson are tiny bronzes, dubbed Junkfood Trees. They have hand-painted pieces of food at the edges like pizza, chicken wings, ice cream and other fatty foods. These works suggest the success of the fast food market and the excessiveness in which we consume and unconsciously waste.

 

 

These themes also could be discerned in Jack Henry’s sculptures, column-like structures composed of rebar, Hydrocal, ink, and found objects. A contemporary scavenger, he collects items that are man-made from buildings, ripped billboards, and the side of the road. He collects cultural debris from the places on the peripheral—the places people see but never truly look at. By utilizing the discarded and banal, Henry’s work suggest issues of mass consumption and Post-Industrial America.

Jack Henry, Untitled, 2016

Henry’s sculptures appear to be in a state of deterioration akin to a dilapidated or abandoned building. For the works in this show, the artist assembled dried flowers, straw, plastic tarp, and other pieces of detritus to construct human-size monuments reminiscent of tombstones. The shape alludes to ancient Roman and Mesopotamian burial shrines, calling attention to how the past informs the present and how objects come to stand in for memories. The sculptures are described in Henry’s artist statement as “monuments or memorials to cultural disaffection.” A sublime beauty is found in the castaway, things that no longer serve a purpose but have a past akin to people.

Jack Henry, Sheer 1, 2016

Nicholas Cueva uses a traditional medium to express a contemporary mindset. His oil and acrylic paintings utilize gestural brushstrokes to create playful abstract shapes that contrast to the areas of raw, unpainted canvas. This technique refers to how we create our own narratives about situations and must fill in the gaps when missing information. Cueva often uses still life and portraiture as a departure point. In American Une, some objects can be discerned; for example, a bent hand in the upper left, a green parrot with a gold chain in the upper right and a glass of wine in the bottom right. An eye and a shape of a face appear to be at the center of the canvas, although the artist has scraped oil and acrylic paint off to make a large void at the focal point. It’s as if the face has been effaced by time like a torn advertisement on the street.

Nicholas Cueva, Pick Nick, 2016

The voids are important elements in Cueva’s work and function as psychological and emotionally charged spaces. In Pick Nick, the perimeter has recognizable objects like a bowl of fruit, bananas, glasses, a vase, a table, and the middle has been unpainted or erased. The scattered gaps in form and voids at the center become portals, allowing viewers to navigate through the surface of color. The paintings thus become a vehicle for contemplation. The breakdown of the picture plane into fractured shapes suggest the fragmented nature we perceive reality and recall memories—the splintered way we see the world, ourselves, and how we choose to remember it.

Alex Yudzon’s photographs are meticulously arranged and draw inspiration from Classical compositions by Old Masters. Yudzon studied painting and art history. The latter informed his artistic practice. He was most interested in iconography, 16th and 17th Old Master paintings and still life, particularly the vanitas paintings. The artist explains the genre “combined semi-rotting food with symbolic objects to emphasize the ephemerality of sensual experience.” He often stages fruit and objects, arranging them in front of a backdrop of hand-painted scenes or reproductions of works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. He then photographs the installations straight on. This juxtaposition of the present and past show how the two are inexplicably intertwined. Yudzon’s photograph is a contemporary work of art now—but in time they will be viewed as work of the past. His art will be situated within an art historical context and he will become part of a genealogy of artists. Unlike the human body, works of art and artists can be immortalized; they do not ossify and deteriorate with time.

Alex Yudzon, Papaya Mountain, 2016, Edition of 6

Yudzon creates centralized, triangular arrangements of objects in his photographs. In Campfire, burning candles are staged in the front of a woods scene. The dark, smoky background recalls the Renaissance technique of sfumato. In the foreground, the wax has melted into a sticky web that is repulsive yet mesmerizing. In Papaya Mountain, the semi-rotting fruit is arranged in a pile on a plate that sits on a brilliantly patterned cloth. It is displayed in front of a mountainous backdrop and the shape of the fruit mimics the form of the mountains. The vehement pink-orange color of the papaya contrasts to the subtle blues and grays in the background. He typically photographs an excess of objects as exemplified in Papaya Mountain and Campfire. The artist described his work as having “an anxiety of collapse through overabundance.” The excess thus becomes a means to the breakdown. In Cocktail, Yudzon places a lobster arm into a cup. In this work, he chose to focus on a static, singular object, instead of creating a mis-en-scene of objects in a transient state akin to the aforementioned photographs. Light dramatically shines on the lobster vase positioned in front of an endless, faded background. The objects the artist chooses are ephemeral or in a state of decay. The decomposition of the things alludes to the fragility of our body, the entropic nature of life, and the transience of each moment.

Cracking Up, Breaking Down is a stimulating show that touches on contemporary issues and collective anxieties related to an unstable American sociopolitical climate. Several galleries in the area, such as Underdonk’s Sister Outsider or Knockdown Center’s Nasty Women, have had exhibitions of work that directly allude to the uncertainty and vulnerability our community feels after the shock of the 2016 election results. Social trauma lingers–a term coined by Mary Kelly when discussing difficult experiences and feminism during the 1970s-80s; however, she had come to find a rupture in the continuity of feminism and the avant-garde. This chasm correlates to the social division that both Democratic and Republican parties face within their organizations. This show is particularly important because it a poignant reminder that only after things fall apart can we begin to build something new. The fractured pieces of ourselves will not be the same size nor fit in exactly the same place, but it will be come together and be more durable, stronger, and resilient. Some say there is beauty in the breakdown, but, as I see it, there is a greater beauty in what lies ahead—what we cannot foresee or fathom yet, what is just out of sight.

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Whorl, Being-in-Emotion at SRO

SRO GALLERY, a  new exhibition space located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, features works by Ashley Garrett and Zach Seeger, two artists with long ties to Bushwick. AIB interviewed the two artists before the upcoming opening of their exhibition.

Zach Seeger, EYE, Oil on canvas, 28" x 36", 2016
Zach Seeger, EYE, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 36″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, PTK, Oil on canvas, 12” x 9”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, PTK, Oil on canvas, 12” x 9”, 2015

AIB: How long have you been working in Bushwick?

Garrett:  I joined Bushwick-based artist-run collective Underdonk in 2014, and I’ve been frequenting Bushwick often for shows and studio visits with Bushwick-based artists since 2013. I had a solo show and group shows around the neighborhood.

Seeger: Although I no longer work in Bushwick, the impetus of the current exhibition at SRO began at 117 Grattan, where I started using the eye motif a year ago. I have participated in shows in Bushwick and for BOS in 2013 I set up work on the street, and in my parked van in front of 117 Grattan. I also hung a fifteen foot un-stretched painting off the roof of the Active Space.  There is a contagious energy for painting in Bushwick and I feel a kinship to many artists there.

AIB: What drew you to Bushwick?

Garrett: Bushwick was the first community of artists I got to know after I moved back to New York; everyone was welcoming and friendly. After graduating from SVA in 2008 I moved upstate, where I rode and trained horses professionally for three years. Bushwick helped orient me to my new situation. It was great to see and meet so many different kinds of artists with serious practices, from a variety of generations. I met there a lot of the friends I have now, and artists I respect.

Seeger: I was first drawn to Bushwick in 2010 when a friend moved to the neighborhood. I started visiting spaces, studios, and people and spent a lot of time at Wayfarers with the group of artists working there. In 2013 I was thrilled to be introduced to the community of artists at Life on Mars Gallery, where I felt an affinity and closeness to the painterly approaches, attitudes, and images.

AIB: What is the genesis of this two person show?

Garrett:  It came out of the studio visits we did and our discussion of the relationship between my ribbon and Zach’s eye series of paintings.  Zach was engaged in a practice of investigating eyes as I was in seeing and articulating the ribbons.  At RISD, Zach installed this show as pairs of ribbons and eyes with lots of space around them. In SRO, Cecilia Whittaker-Doe and Don Doe’s unique space, we installed a kind of swirling constellation.

Seeger: The affinity to one another’s work was instantaneous. We read each other’s work with an intuitive eye, and understood what each other was trying to do in the work. It was a great pairing and we really didn’t need to talk much over; it was an obvious choice.

 Zach Seeger, EYE (turkey), Oil on linen, 20" x 26", 2016

Zach Seeger, EYE (turkey), Oil on linen, 20″ x 26″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Lightfoot, Oil on canvas, 20” x 10”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, Lightfoot, Oil on canvas, 20” x 10”, 2015

 

AIB: In this show each of you presents a distinct body of work which reads to me like a series with an underlying theme. Did you work on them with a mutual theme in mind?

Garrett: This series of paintings is based on ribbons I won at horse shows from when I was eight years old until recently. The ribbons represent judgments made by the world of a particular performance. However, the actual experience is less literal and more complex than the color of the ribbon: sometimes last place is a great accomplishment, while first place can be a disappointment. The ribbon paintings break down traditional understandings of winning and losing to see into the wealth of complex and often contradictory emotions within the specificities of remembering a particular place, time, and what happened there. Each ribbon may be a synecdoche or metaphor for the physical performance and the skill levels demonstrated through the struggle with and against oneself. They represent  anxiety, hope, achievement, recognition, failure, loss, weakness, power, sensitivity, resignation, embarrassment, shame, joy, and love. I am interested in holding the memories of each ride, win and loss, as I make each painting, to see and feel the whole range of experience and being-in-emotion.

Seeger: The series of eyes I have been working on is a formal motif to frame images and forms within a peripheral context. The paintings are intended to be simultaneously read as interior and exterior; of the body and looking out through a body. I think of them as psychic objects clumsily camouflaged with paint.

 Zach Seeger, Cyclops, Acrylic on board, 18" x 18", 2016

Zach Seeger, Cyclops, Acrylic on board, 18″ x 18″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Goblin, Oil on canvas, 14” x 12”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, Goblin, Oil on canvas, 14” x 12”, 2015

AIB: What can you tell me about your thought process when you started working on these series?

Garrett:  This is a body of work I began in the summer of 2014 in upstate New York.  I was working on a previous body of work of small still life paintings based on Christmas ornaments that I had made as a child and I was looking for another form for that kind of personal object, related to individual qualities and emotions. When I saw these ribbons I had won hanging on the wall, I thought of the memories they evoked, an accumulation of years of practice, time and care. I began by painting the ribbons as objects with the experiences in mind. The more paintings I made, the less I looked at the actual ribbon and the more improvisation happened.  These paintings are my way of exploring a variety of forms, feeling, intuitions, and situations in connection to both still life and landscape.

Seeger: These paintings are indebted to landscape and place. Many of them literally painted en plein air before applying the eye motif over the image. Painting is how I see; it is how I understand things; it is how I look at the world. I’m not sure if my work is evolving but I am constantly working. It’s like a nightmare where I find myself entering an apartment with bloodstains on the wall and a dead body on the floor. I check to see if the person is ok, but I get blood all over me. In a panic I try to distance myself from the body; I’m not guilty of this crime! But my bloody fingerprints are all over the victim, walls, and surfaces of the apartment. I try to clean up the mess thinking the police will think it is me who did this horror. It is a cycle of staining, smearing, smudging and scrubbing-in the end I make the scene presentable enough.

AIB: How do your paintings relate to each other and how do they differ?

Garrett:  They both involve the reversal of inside and outside spaces within a limited range of formal parameters.  Also both bodies of work are about different kinds of seeing coming from different points of view: Zach’s eye imagery is specific to his experience, and my ribbon images represent my memory of specific experiences as a young child up until a few years ago.

Seeger: The paintings relate to one another in scale and presence. They are rooted in looking. They are not intuitive expressions or descriptions of things, but rather bleak records of memory embedded in our own baroque sensitivities to paint and form. They are similar but arrive at their distinctive image by different modes of operation and paint application.

 Zach Seeger, EYE (computer room), Oil on board, 14" x 20", 2016

Zach Seeger, EYE (computer room), Oil on board, 14″ x 20″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Siren, Oil on canvas, 12” x 10”, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Siren, Oil on canvas, 12” x 10”, 2016

AIB: We live in time of transition-social, political, ecological. Do you relate to that in your paintings, and if so, in what way?

Garrett: I don’t think the political has to have a direct effect on work to have had an impact on an artist. I think a lot of artists are making work or are trying to make work with or in spite of their complex feelings about the drastic political changes ahead and that can express itself in a multitude of ways. Because of my focus on the landscape I have been thinking about landscape as it relates to climate change and how the landscape itself can and will become a kind of hostile actor against us pretty soon, and then our relationship to it will change drastically. I’m interested in how that transformation might express itself in my work as well as the work of other artists.

Seeger: I am not a political artist, but there probably isn’t anything more poignant than the real-time collapse of species and witnessing a complete transformation of the earth.  I can say that I am not an expressionist; I am not reactionary. I am interested in the formal language of paint: recording and painting a formal reality that is my world. In that sense I am sharing, but my work is not about communicating some sort of emotional current. I think painting is a medium that allows a viewer to see the world on human terms through viewing of the work.

Whorl

SRO Gallery 1144 Dean Street, Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY 11216

Ashley Garrett and Zach Seeger

Opening Reception: January 12th, 6-9PM

Jan 12 – Feb 19

 

Precarious Constructs – A Dance with the Maelstrom

American philosopher Marshall Berman rejected the notion of Postmodernism. He believed that we were still in the grips of an ever-growing capitalist system and its rolling ‘creative destruction’. The threads of what others call postmodern, according to Berman, was still firmly nested in his idea of being modern.

“To be modern, I said, is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one’s world and oneself in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction: to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air… To be a modernist is to make oneself somehow at home in the maelstrom, to make its rhythms one’s own, to move within its currents in search of the forms of reality, of beauty, of freedom, of justice, that its fervid and perilous flow allows.”  – Marshall Berman

He critiqued the postmodern framework because he felt it produced a ‘dismal flattening out of social thought’ and suggested that as a result, “serious thinking of modern life was split between two sterile antitheses’: the idolatry of culture – think art star of the later part of the 20th century; or cultural despair, mostly referencing philosophers of the same period – essentially total downers.

The argument of postmodern versus modern is not what I find important here but rather the definition Berman presents. He calls for a kind of subversive festival in response to the tumultuous experience of modern life. It provides a compelling vocabulary to work with for those of us reeling from recent events of a presumably authoritarian regime taking power through unscrupulous means at best. In his book ‘All that is Solid Melts Into Air’ he looks at Paris, Russia and the Bronx as places where people have had to respond to the maelstrom and have done so with surprisingly new-found elation despite the despair. This is the tension Berman was fascinated with and one I am interested in. He saw it as an important way forward because he believed the inherent recursive rolling waves of creative destruction will continue to crash around us.

Subsequent, artist Uta Bekaia. Photo by JenJoy Roybal

This tension came to mind when I recently attended the second show at Venus Knitting Space titled Precarious Constructs, curated by Levan Mindiashvili and Etty Yaniv. As I walked into the room the first thing I saw was a women with long, thick, black hair, ripped in two. She wore very practical black walking shoes. Her hair was swirled across the concrete and she stared into the distance. It was disconcerting to say the least. Upon a closer look a rainbow of goo appeared to be pouring out of the torso and seemed suspended in time. The body was in a mid-melting state. The face painted with glittery gold and rainbow hashes; she just left the party. Her expression is as if she hasn’t realized that her body has been ripped apart or if that realization just passed and she’s now in a deep calm. The figure is beautifully ugly and poetic and sometimes stops, ceases to give –  but it still stays with you. Subsequent is the creation of artist Uta Bekaia. He explains that it represents that moment when you wake up but you are still caught in a dream and are trying to retain that dream somehow, but it escapes you. For me it embodied the morning-after for pantsuit nation.

Unintended Archeology, artist Levan Mindiashvili. Photo by the artist

The next thing that caught my eye was Levan Mindiashvili’s “Unintended Archeology,” a glowing pink sculpture hanging on the south wall. His constructs are derivatives of places he has lived – echos of the rooms and the structures he has come across. Mindiashvili is an artist that migrated from Georgia to Buenos Aires, and now resides in Brooklyn. In this piece beauty is captured with the pink light that delicately cascades up the side of the white pine rectangle and the concrete casting that sits inside. A black square is embedded in the casting as a placeholder for something yet to come – a window? A picture? a memory? That black square carries over into the composition of “Untitled,”  hanging to the right. This one has a veil, a cobalt blue plexiglass that obscures the architectural vignette, embedded in a grey architectural casting, which has  been carefully crafted to mimic found concrete. In our discussion something he said stuck with me, “these days the idea of place is more precisely identified as an idea of displacement”. I thought of his journey and of so many others past and present.

Parallel Topography 6, 2013-2016, Artist Etty Yaniv. Photo by JenJoy Roybal

The artworks adjacent to Mindiashvili are topographic sculptures made from discarded material  by Etty Yaniv. Here we get the chaotic wave that has found some kind of order in a snapshot, or moment in time. Part of the wave has dripped on the floor, scurried to the corner, and up the wall. It is a remnant of a larger body of work that is reminiscent of the plastic patches that are generated in the five gyres found across our oceans. There, large amounts of debris are accumulated through the movements of the currents, they shift and swirl entangling the world’s plastics. From afar they can be grotesquely beautiful, just like these sculptures. However, Yaniv’s work has other hidden treasures. As you get closer there are words and drawings that begin to strike the imagination and evoke narratives and memories from times past. This current whispers to you.

Detail, Parallel Topography 6, 2013-2016, Artist Etty Yaniv. Photo by JenJoy Roybal
Detail of Myofibril IV The Kiss / Qibla, by Alexandra Leyre Min. Photo by Levan Mindiashvili

The topographic-like sculptures continues with Alexandra Leyre Mein’s Myofibril IV The Kiss / Qibla. This artwork grows out of a wooden stool like two white stalagmites and is made of Hydrostone, mesh wire, cloth, metal, paint pigments and varnish. These forms take on a more sensual twists. They are hand built by the artist with material that dries quickly. She says she likes this quality of time as it keeps the unconscious forces closer to the surface. Where one would imagine the kiss to take place are two pristine flat surfaces facing each other. The organic sinewy shape falls short of an actual embrace but the romance is still there.

The most precarious of Precarious Structures are Liz Sweibel’s constructions. Her process is most telling: she builds, takes apart and rebuilds – using wooden material she found over fifteen years ago. She composes in situ. Gravity and balance play a role in the compositions. For one, a mysterious gale compresses the elements, and another looks like a makeshift rutter. The structures are dense with energy and pack a punch even in their small size. Sweibel includes drawings of ghostly, red dashed, rectangular boxes layered under mylar. Their silhouettes are inspired by the shipping containers that got thrown across the landscape like pick up sticks by the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The trauma of disaster echoes throughout the select works.

Untitled works, artist Liz Sweibal. Photo by Levan Mindiashvili
When Businessmen Meet the Conversation Ends in a Conspiracy Against the People, 2010, artist Andrew Cornell Robinson. Photo provided by artist

Finally we have ceramic works from Andrew Cornell Robinson. The title of the first one says it all “When Businessmen Meet the Conversation Ends in a Conspiracy Against The People”. Created back in 2010,  six black glazed ceramic figures surround a red glazed ceramic pear.  Robinson is the anti-hero’s artist. He describes his work as an exploration of the secret lives of impotent radicals, social pariahs, and no-bodies whose stories fall out of the cultural and familial trees unremembered.

A final quote from Marshall Berman, “All form of modern art and thought have a dual character. They are at once expressions of and protest against the process of modernization.” This is no different in this show. We’ve entered into a maelstrom, our modern, our new chaos.

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Precarious Constructs
Venus Knitting Art Space
117 Grattan St. Brooklyn, NY 11237
December 9-18, 2016

 

Bauhaus Babies Spin at ODETTA

Sylvia Schwartz at ODETTA, photo courtesy: Jeanette May

The Bauhaus impacted the way we perceive fine art’s relationship to craft, design, architecture, and industrial material. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, the Bauhaus’ vision was both radical and utopian: a union of art and design into a single creative expression, creating useful and beautiful objects that fit modern industrial life with particular emphasis on designing for mass production; thus paving the way to later 20th century artists. “Bauhaus Babies” at ODETTA brings together three contemporary artists, whose works relate in some way to the Bauhaus spirit; altogether their work is peppered with a 21st century spin on randomness and chance.

Richard Bottwin’s wall sculptures draw most directly upon Bauhaus architecture and functional objects. His reductive plywood surfaces, laminated or painted with acrylic, are configured to invite the viewer to reinterpret the modernist vocabulary of simple constructions. “Blue Beam,” an elongated narrow sculpture stands out. This predominantly blue structure surprises the viewer with unusual angles and stretched form, on the whole evoking a sense of disorientation, floating, and implied physical gesture.

Richard Bottwin, Blue.Beam, 2016, Maple Veneer On Birch Plywood Acrylic Paint, 48x6x8
Richard Bottwin, Blue.Beam, 2016, Maple Veneer On Birch Plywood Acrylic Paint, 48″x6″x8″

Sylvia Schwartz uses a series of hand-made paper sheets to create a fragile yet bold, large-scale composition with an intense color scheme, predominantly rich in subtle red. Her surfaces create a meditative space which is both tranquil and stirring. Schwartz’s wall installation commands the space and at the same time keeps growing on the viewer the longer they spend time with it. Her process is elaborate. She mixed the red pigments together with the pulp and made paper sheets, then she worked with pigmented cotton and abaca pulp that could be layered into silicone molds she had made from seaweed on the beach over many years in her native Australia.  Her molds cast seaweed and clay, capturing finger prints along the way. These textures and color schemes allude in subtle ways to the Australian landscape, its red clay soil, desert and blue-green ocean. “I wanted the piece to ultimately be itself and not about nature, about the balancing act between life told and life lived,” she concludes.

Sylvia Schwartz, Red Plane. 2016, Hand made paper, cast hand made paper, nails and painted fiber board, 124 "x 230"x 7"
Sylvia Schwartz, Red Plane. 2016, Hand made paper, cast hand made paper, nails and painted fiber board, 124 “x 230″x 7”, photo courtesy: Jeanette May

Ryan Sarah Murphy also aims to stay away from direct narrative content. Her vivid collages form “Pages”, a Jazzy wall installation which suggests fragmented architecture and landscape with distinct rhythmic play between shapes, colors and lines. Marked by a horizon line, each image offers an entry point and a sense of grounding. “What I’m interested in is shifting these constructed forms into more unfamiliar territory, where you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at,” Murphy says. For this ongoing series of collages, from about 2014 to the present, Murphy tore out the front and back pages from her collected used hardcover books and pasted the cut cardboards on top. Her collage process is highly intuitive too but unlike Schwartz’s mixed use of hand-made and found material, Murphy exclusively manipulates found objects.

Ryan Sarah Murphy, Pages Installation photo courtesy: Jeanette May

Ryan Sarah Murphy, Method, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 12.5″ x 9″, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy
Ryan Sarah Murphy, Practice, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 10” x 7.25 “, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy
Ryan Sarah Murphy, Practice, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 10” x 7.25 “, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy

“UTA Bauhaus UTA,” an energetic performance by Uta Bekaia, Uta Brauser, with dancers and music, compliments the exhibition, bringing to life Geometric archetypes through movement , gestures, spins, and poses in wearable sculptures. Costumed in sculptural shapes, the performers animate and merge geometry with the human body, counterpointing female and male energies to express the power of procreation.

Overall, “Bauhaus Babies” lays out an elegant, playful and at times deeply engaging array of artworks and performance, tying this group of contemporary artists to the reductive aesthetics of the Bauhaus with an aim to create new dialogues.

UTA Bauhaus UTA
UTA Bauhaus UTA

Bauhaus Babies, featuring works by Richard Bottwin, Ryan Sarah Murphy and Sylvia Schwartz. @odettagallery

 

Exploring Perception in Minimalist Reflections at Fresh Window

Three British Artists in their 70s at Fresh Window featured a body of minimalist work that explores perception, recognition, and spatial experiences. This show was organized by Bartha Contemporary Ltd. for the Exchange Rates Expo and was on view from October 20 to November 20, 2016.

Douglas Allsop uses reflective materials that echo the room where the artworks are placed. Reflective Editor, Two Horizontal Rectangular Holes, Parallel Pattern, Horizontal Division (2010) is hung prominently on the main wall of the square-spaced, white-wall gallery. The four rectangles, each cut in half by a black line, are made of cast acrylic frames. They outline a frameless view—we don’t see a straightforward reflection of ourselves, just the wall on which the work hangs. These angular, linear works show a skewed reality, warping the reflection of the viewer and the space in which they stand.

Adam Baker Mills explores the characteristics of light and shadow, an artistic investigation that he began in the sixties. The works have been meticulously crafted to dupe the viewer’s perception. Their experience of the work changes as the viewer walks from left to right. New colors are discerned, substances are redefined, and shapes are reformed. When viewing Shadowgap 2 (2016) straight on, it appears that two pieces of MDF have been hung parallel on the wall with a gap between them. Upon close inspection, the edges reveal a white paint that gives the illusion that the pieces are cut out. In Red Box (2016), pink and purple tones illuminate from the center. Depending on the viewer’s vantage point, the intensity and tone change as light and shadow overlap, giving life to new shapes of color.

Alan Johnston considers his practice to be a collaboration between art and architecture, as well as Eastern and Western aesthetics. In his Mies van der Rohe Haus Series, the artist utilizes Titanium White acrylic, pencil, charcoal, and beeswax on plywood to create different shapes and textures on black-and-white square panels. The surfaces have architectural references like windows, doors, and walls. Johnston’s abstracted works allow for meditation on line, color, and form.

Though these artists follow in the Minimalist tradition and utilize hard-edged, geometric shapes, they respond to the space in which they are exhibiting and thus transform it. Three British Artists in their 70s is engaging and witty, challenging visitors’ expectations and what they believe they are seeing.

‘Bushwick Tales’ Exhibits Urbanism through Art and Artifact

The group show Bushwick Tales exemplifies a Bushwick urbanism while conjuring up whimsical tales.

Bushwick Tales was a gallery show curated by artist and writer Etty Yaniv, a contributor to this blog, featuring sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, collages and a performance the night of the opening, which was opened at 117 Grattan Street over the weekend of Bushwick Open Studios and closed October 16, 2016.

Yaniv explained that since the show took place during BOS weekend, she decided to go with a large group and diverse work. After several conversations with various artists she selected artworks from Fanny Allié, Nancy Baker, Dasha Bazanova, Noa Charuvi, Jaynie Gillman Crimmins, Ashley Garrett, Michal Gavish, Peter Gynd, Liz Jaff, Amy Mahnick, Anki King, Eliot Markell, James Prez, Evan Reehl Ryer, Bob Seng, Patricia Satterlee, Natalie Simon, Fedele SpadaforaTrish Tillman, Jeanne Tremmel, Brian Wood, Mary Ivy Martin and included one of her own. All these artists are staples in the Bushwick arts community in some way. She said she wanted to avoid a salon style exhibition and made an attempt to provide each artist a distinct presence, “opting for a mélange of sculptural work and wall work to engage the whole space.” 

Attending the invitational exhibition reminded me of morning walks through the neighborhood. One of my favorite paths takes me past the small manufacturing district along Waterbury Street then over to Newtown Creek. When the metal garage doors are open I get a glimpse into the mysterious going-ons of each business. When the doors are rolled down, it’s the remnants along the curbs, the stains on the concrete and the things stuck in the gutters that provide hints about what happens inside. For me, this show captured the industrial-urban essence that surrounds Bushwick, through forms, choice of palettes and overall aesthetics.

For instance, in The Carrier Series, the silhouettes created with black plastic bags, hand-sewn on fabric by Fanny Allié, looked like the familiar and unfamiliar figures carrying their burdens along Morgan Avenue. As you stared at these figures the feelings oscillated between lonely and heroic and then each became dark compositions that engaged one’s sense of structure. Even though pieces were static, a lenticular approach also projected the quality of breathing.

James Prez showcased several sculptures from a larger body of work called Booktures. The artifacts from these artfully composed objects could have easily been taken out of a waste bin from one of the nearby toy distribution centers. Some are fastened atop old books. All of them strike your imagination and random narratives begin to build – or memories of familiar toys, like horses and ducks, quickly flash by. Unlike the narratives implied by Prez’s work, Amy Mahnick manipulates industrial found objects, like tissue boxes and egg cartons, for their design affect. How they are situated in space is also important.     

Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14" x 19"
Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14″ x 19″

 

James Prez, Composites from Booktures, 2016
James Prez, partial installation view
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”

The little ceramic creature, Misunderstood, by Dasha Bazanova lives underneath the bridge at English Kills, between Morgan and Varick Avenues. It is kind and humble and it’s main job is to bless the tiny school of silver fish that swirl in the creek so that they eventually make their way to healthier waters. Go ahead, go out there one early morning and it might grace you with its presence. Not far from Misunderstood is Pompeii on Parade #1 skiing its way down Flushing Avenue in the winter. Elliot Markell creates imaginary characters from found objects. In this piece, the anthropomorphic shape is wonderfully executed with the use of concrete, rebar, paint, old gloves and found wood.

Michal Gavish goes weird science with Nano Portraiture, creating large petri dishes that capture the biological structures of the polluted creek or the composition  that can be found in the nearby oil refinery. That’s not really the case, but it is, when your imagination is walking through Bushwick.

The day of the opening, guests passed an old Christmas tree with two brown boots popping out of the end. At first glance it looked like a prank but then you realized there was a person embedded in the tree. Mary Ivy Martin stared straight up into the sky that night while people mistook her for trash. Her performance and subsequent documentation reflects on the blurred lines between people and nature in urban environments.

Yaniv explains, “She was lying motionless on the sidewalk outside the space in pouring rain, tucked in garbage bags and a Christmas tree. It was quite amazing to see how passersby were mostly ignoring her presence, at times even throwing garbage at her (accidentally I hope).”

16.Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12" diameter (20X20 framed)
Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12″ diameter (20X20 framed)
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”

The paintings by Noa Charuvri capture construction details, material vignettes that are ever present as a result of the rapid reshaping of the urban landscape that is happening in Bushwick. Jeanne Tremel’s sculpture-installation, “Mindful / Landfill”, deals with displacement directly. According to Yaniv, “Jeanne’s ephemeral sculpture embodies, in a poetic way, the very essence of this Bushwick tale. It’s both sad and life affirming.” It was conceived in the artist’s old studio a few blocks away, dismantled and stored when she had to leave, then re-appeared at Venus Knitting Art Space. The sculpture-installation appears to be loosely constructed with a dense amount of debris, dirt, plant material and found objects woven in an empty mattress wire structure. This metal cloud of debris is propped up approximately 24″ from the floor. Scattered below is a light layer of dirt that seems to have fallen from the cloud. 

All these works captured a kind of Bushwick urbanism. Curator Etty Yaniv further explains, “I definitely wanted to establish an underlying sense of place in this show, particularly of urban spaces such as Bushwick. In my own work I am very drawn to the idea of place and time specificity, so that is inherently part of my thought process when I am curating as well.”  

Nature Re-Imagined: Yaniv, Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz

Sirens by Etty Yaniv (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)
Sirens by Etty Yaniv (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)

 

In The Great Wave at Kanagawa, a giant swell rises up, its spray hovering like a claw over tiny boats and clinging fishermen. Mt. Fiji, seen in the background, seems distant and small. The famous print by Hokusai shows nature at its most magnificent and most terrifying, its power far exceeding that of man.

Today the balance has shifted. Over production and pollution have spread throughout the environment. The oceans are no longer pure, the forests no longer pristine. Melting glaciers, rising seas, and mega storms threaten the earth and all forms of life as never before.

As part of the inaugural Art Walk exhibit at the Sheen Center in Manhattan, BOS ’15 artists Etty Yaniv, David Nakabayashi and Jenni Lukasiewicz address these issues, fashioning new art from the very refuse choking the planet.

 

Sirens by Etty Yaniv (photo ©Etty Yaniv)
Sirens by Etty Yaniv (photo ©Etty Yaniv)

 

In her massive installation Sirens, Yaniv uses discarded vellum, photographs, computer print out and plastic to conjure a wild and troubled seascape. Loosely inspired by The Seventh Man, a story by Haruki Murakami about a child swept off by a wave, it conveys the might and ever-shifting forms of water, as well as the debris swirling in it. The many layers and varied materials suggest the specific and the infinite, a single shore and wild, unfurling storms that threaten to engulf entire cities.

 

Sirens by Etty Yaniv, detail (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)
Sirens by Etty Yaniv, detail (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)

 

Its roiling peaks bring to mind the shifting harmonies of Debussy (whose La Mer was said to be inspired by the Hokusai print), the tempests of Turner, even the struggles of Odysseus, whose life was deeply intertwined with the sea. As, in a sense, are all human lives.

Not surprisingly, Yaniv was born in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv. She has a BA in Psychology and English Literature from Tel Aviv University, a BFA from Parsons School of Design, and an MFA from SUNY Purchase. With a wide-ranging sensibility, she is keenly interested in merging drawing, photography and painting into 3D environments that place the viewer halfway between the real and the imagined.

 

Sirens by Etty Yaniv, detail (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)
Sirens by Etty Yaniv, detail (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)

 

Language is also important to her, and she writes frequently on art. Though the title of the piece brings to mind the mythical creatures, half-nymph, half-bird who called sailors to their doom, she is open to the modern definition of a siren being a warning alarm.

There is much to worry about: the splendor of nature versus the call of consumption and human greed. Which do we hear, how do we answer? Are we listening? Worthy questions, gently posed, immersed in swirling forms as beautiful as the sea itself.

Moving upstairs to David Nakabayashi and Jenni Lukasiewicz is like traveling inland from the shore. Partners in life and art, in 2011 they lived on seven acres of forestland in southern New Mexico that made a very deep impression on them. There were elk, deer, foxes and skunks, as well as a trove of vintage objects discovered when fixing up a relative’s house. The sights and experiences changed their creative outlook as well as their thoughts on consumption. In 2013, impressed by the energy and ferment of Bushwick Open Studios, they relocated to New York. But they never forgot the wilderness of the Southwest, which informs Second Nature, their first collaboration.

 

Installation by Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)
Installation by Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)

 

They bring to it different strengths and interests. Nakabayashi was born in Germany and grew up in Japan, Oklahoma, and Texas. A self-taught painter and sculptor, he confesses to a “manic, take no prisoners style.” Lukasiewicz, from South Hadley, Massachusetts, studied studio art at Mount Holyoke College, and bookbinding and paper making in Italy. Her approach is slower and more thoughtful, and the pair admits to occasional clashes.

 

Umbrella Elk by Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz (photo courtesy of the artists)
Umbrella Elk by Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz (photo courtesy of the artists)

 

The collaboration produces an unusual fusion of the familiar and the unexpected. Above their space, a shape suggesting a mounted deer head turns out to be an elk made from umbrella parts. Inside a deer prances on legs fashioned from crutches, with carpet swatch hide (donated by helpful neighbors). A stump was once a laundry hamper, the bough of a tree once cardboard boxes.

 

Deer by David Nakabayashi and Jenni Lukasiewicz (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)
Deer by Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz (photo ©C Kirkpatrick)

 

Their space teeters between two orders. The loosely naturalistic painting of a stricken deer suggests a dying relationship with nature, while the assemblages present a strange, brave new world constructed with remnants of the old. Using junk as “an art supply,” Nakabayashi and Lukasiewicz take us to the Southwest wilderness, reinvented now and seen in the bright light of imagination.

Art Walk runs from September 14 – September 29 at the Sheen Center in Manhattan.

Searching for the Meaning of Art: ‘Thomas Lendvai: 10’ at ODETTA

Photos by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated

For Ellen Hackl Fagan, ODETTA’s gallerist and curator, titling the current sculpture show Thomas Lendvai: 10 was a no-brainer. When artist Thomas Lendvai came up with the title “Ten,” which marks the first time in ten years that the sculptor has been given a chance to show his large-scale sculptures in a New York gallery, Hackl Fagan embraced it willingly. Serendipitously, it also marks the tenth show at ODETTA.

Gallerist Ellen Hackl Fagan and her dog in front of a sculpture by Thomas Lendvai
Gallerist Ellen Hackl Fagan and her dog in front of a sculpture by Thomas Lendvai

 

Hackl Fagan recalls how Lendvai, an artist who also works as a carpenter in a shop near the gallery, has been coming to ODETTA since it opened during Bushwick Open Studios in 2014. When she realized he worked with wood and had access to tools, she asked him to help with small projects, and ultimately last summer, she asked the artist for a studio visit. Seeing his work, Hackl Fagen made a mental note that Lendvai knew how to build large-scale sculpture. She notes, “I began to think that summer would be an ideal time to take bigger risks at the gallery and asked Tom to create a proposal.” Two months later, Lendvai showed her a scale model of the gallery with a sculpture placed inside the space.

Installation view of Thomas Lendvai: 10; photo courtesy of ODETTA
Installation view of Thomas Lendvai: 10; photo courtesy of ODETTA

 

After discussing different editing ideas, Lendvai came back to Hackl Fagan with a final 3D sketch of his proposal for the sculpture. “Close to installation time, I began panicking because I’d never worked with an artist from models, so I brought him back to pace the floors with me and demonstrate roughly how large it would be. That gave me renewed confidence that we wouldn’t have a redux of the Stonehenge debacle in the movie Spinal Tap!,” Hackl Fagan recalls with a wide smile. Having worked with the artist numerous times by then, Hackl Fagan felt she should trust him to use the space as his “residency” at ODETTA. With some help and fully at his own expense, Lendvai built the sculpture on site in two weeks.

Visitors engage with <em>X Never Marks the Spot</em> by Thomas Lendvai; photo courtesy of ODETTA
Visitors engage with X Never Marks the Spot by Thomas Lendvai; photo courtesy of ODETTA

 

The resulting form is striking and ambitious. Lendvai utilizes colossal and boldly tilted geometric forms to create a physically immersive site-responsive installation made of the same materials as compose the gallery walls: sheetrock and wooden beams. A huge structure in the form of a plus sign or the Roman numeral X, sections the gallery space into four quadrants, but upon entering the gallery, a viewer can perceive it only in fragments by walking and viewing it from different vantage points. In the process of navigating their way around the sculpture, visitors are constantly aware of their own body in relation to the structure and in relation to the gallery space at large. This experiential interaction with the work prompts meditation on the relationship between self, art, and architecture. Lendvai says that he wants the sculpture to be architectural but not architecture, a sculpture that references its surroundings: “Instead of a volume of mass, it’s more like a volume of space; it’s the negative space made visible,” he explains.

<em>X Marks the Spot</em> by Thomas Lendvai
X Marks the Spot by Thomas Lendvai

 

Influenced by the reductive aesthetics of Minimalism, X Never Marks the Spot plays with the constructs of space, time, and gravity, yet independent of any particular narrative. Its solid elegance is countered by a whimsical sense of suspended dance-like movement, echoing both an architectural form and a corporeal gesture. Lendvai notes that the internal structure is intentially visible underneath to allow the piece to “flip-flop between abstraction and representation.” This representational detail may read as a Dadaist wink but not exclusively. Lendvai adamantly says that he is searching for the meaning of art and concludes that he sees art as the experience that a visitor takes away after leaving a gallery. As she reflects on her successful experience with Lendvai’s site-specific project, Hackl Fagan is confident that she will offer other artists a similar opportunity in the future. As those who experienced Thomas Lendvai: 10 already know, visitors will benefit from her ambitious decision.

Works on view in Thomas Lendvai: 10 at ODETTA
Works on view in Thomas Lendvai: 10 at ODETTA

 

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ODETTA, located at 229 Cook Street in Brooklyn, will reopen on 11 September 2015 with their eleventh show titled Seeing Sound to inaugurate the fall season