Press Release: “Para-Verbal Vocab”

“Para-Verbal Vocab” showed in the SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017, in room 2318, from March 1-6.  The show opened Tuesday, February 28th.

The exhibition is curated by Kristen Racaniello.

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Christa Pratt speaking with Danny Coeyman about her work at the opening of  Para-Verbal Vocab.

Original Press Release: 

Meaningful verbal vernacular is dead.  We live in a world of alt-fact, ego-driven, insular-nationalist leadership.  In a parallel history to the progression of American english, artists have developed personal visual vocabularies as mediators between individual self and global identity.  The artists in this exhibition have created an idioglossic language– a vocabulary of alphabet mark which only they can understand and create. These alternate vocabularies can be used to utter interior truths that are otherwise oppressed.

The resurgence of an emphasis on Materiality in art is an attempt to assert presence and existence within a world of ephemerality and fluidity.  The artists included in Para-Verbal Vocab. grasp onto the idea of selfhood and grapple with its complexity through physical repetition, multiplication of form, darkness, and an encroaching, sculptural materiality in their paintings.  These artists include Katherine Bradford, Courtney Childress, Christa Pratt, Eleanna Anagnos, Katie Hector, Lena Schmid, and Mandy Lyn Ford

As technology develops, a crisis of the Self proliferates throughout society.  Our virtual lives performed through social media develop simultaneously and distinctly from our physical, bodily self. Even within social media platforms different selves are constructed; self presentation  is different on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, LinkedIn profiles… the list of virtual selves is endless and distinct.  This phenomena of decentered, socially relational selfhood manifests itself visually and is explored by artists today.

The search for individuality, newness, production, and expression through paint are all attempts to capture the self and manifest its real-ness in solid physical form through developing an interior visual language. The promise of uniqueness and individuality through art; those by-products of Expressionism, Kant and Renaissance Fetishism, is a well maintained illusion.  How can painters explore the creation of “selves” through this physical and historically charged medium?

The application of paint creates an indexical mark and it is in part this association with indexicality that gives paint its association with authenticity.  The materiality of paint therefore acts as an appropriate conduit for the formation of physical selfhood.  Katherine Bradford, Courtney Childress, Mandy Lyn Ford and Eleanna Anagnos take the repetition of form as a point of departure.  Each repeated character is unique, as seen in the jagged ship-shapes found in Katherine Bradford’s work; these rely on the materiality of the mark itself via the painterly index to generate individual charecters. The index is a verification of origin and therefore indicates authenticity through its directness and independence from the maker.  This authenticity is embedded in the work of Courtney Childress, who uses the repeated mark of high pile carpet as a ground on which to play with the repetition of the index as a form of sensory recall.  The audience of her works becomes aware of their own self construction through culturally embedded memories surrounding carpet, paint, crayon, dirt, rules, restrictions, and childhood actions.  Through the audience’s personal projection, Childress as an artist-self is pushed away, hidden from the viewer by the material of her works.

The exploration of a single mark in Lena Schmid, Katie Hector, and Christa Pratt’s work plays a similar role; it is an exploration of the multiplicity of the mark within their own closed visual circuit created through repetition and proliferation.  Lena Schmid uses her finger prints to create an undulating foliage of black-hole space. In the obliterating repetition of this identity mark, Schmid loses the very self she imprints on her surfaces.   Katie Hector repeats the same mark through multiple works using thick, glossy black enamel whose reflective surface causes the audience to confront themselves within it.  Christa Pratt also repeats marks throughout multiple pieces, confronting her viewers with questions about their social perceptions and inherent bias toward blackness as an identity.  By these means, the mark becomes a surrogate for the self: its exploration is a self exploration.Para-Verbal Vocab-6.jpg

The self-constructing nature of the index and mark are not the only elements of these works which will be explored in this show.  The highly physical materiality of these paintings, as seen in Eleanna Anagnos’ work Winter Seance, combats the immateriality of the virtual self and attempts to assert physical presence as a thing. Mandy Lyn Ford pushes the boundaries of the painted rectangle through her oozingly material works which reference both the black screen of modern technology and classical pictorial space.  Yet these dimensional works reek of an absence.  They are simplified in their form-content: here the artist acquires the attributes of the black mirror, turning material fetish into an existential lack.Para-Verbal Vocab-5.jpg

The object-oriented nature of these painterly works serves to assert the veracity of material existence. The works are all related through their explorations of the unknowable fluidity of darkness and light.  In this search to find the essence of form; the forms true self, these artists all show that the realization of a true self is impossible. With the painting as a surrogate self, the imagined true Self of the artist is diminished, hidden inside a complex network of material physicality, and the search for the limits of repeated form.  Instead, their paintings perform as actors within a theatre of identity; generating a vocabulary that shifts and evolves alongside themselves.

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Press Release: “Grow[th]”

This exhibition was on view from June 24th to June 30th, 2016, with the Ess Ef Eff curatorial collective.

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Opening night at “Grow[th]”

Original press release:

Ess Ef Eff is pleased to presentGrow[th], a new group show featuring Eleanna Anagnos, Erin Castellan, Hilary Doyle, Daniela Gomez-Paz, Seren Morey, Dustina Sherbine, and Lena Schmid.

The exhibition is curated by Kristen Racaniello, a member of the Ess Ef Eff curatorial collective and a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY.

Grow[th], is a process of becoming.  This show is intended to focus the viewer on the artist’s use of material and process to create forms that grow by invading the audience’s space and suggesting that they are not yet disconnected from their process and making. Form is anti-complete in the visual arts today; it seeks to jostle the viewer into an interaction with physicality through unexpected fragmentation.  The artist’s selected for this show were chosen because they deal with this question directly: their work answers the pressing need for fractured yet still captivating materiality in art.

The physicality of these works is a product of the artist’s investigation of materiality and their use of the inherent properties of each material to evoke a new experience of material interaction.  These works beg to be touched, tasted, smashed, sat-on; lived with.  The conspicuous use of process gives each work an individual narrative of events, a life, that extends the object-hood of the thing and becomes its own personality.  The individuality and character of each of these works  makes them appear to be in a state of growth.  Through their individual personalities, they become organic: living things, growths with the potential to expand into the new.

The works in Grow[th] rely heavily on history. Historical narrative, personal histories and cultural identity make up the foundations of each individual. Eleanna Anagnos, Erin Castellan, Hilary Doyle, Daniella Gomez-Paz, Seren Morey, Dustina Sherbine and Lena Schmidt all make use of their unique artistic processes to explore their relationship with collective history and individual identity.

 

Identity, the Institution, and Street Art

New Yorkers know: graffiti is everywhere. It is both controversial and comforting; a reminder of humanity and of the desire to smear one’s self-identity across the film of architectural skin which coats this city and shapes our everyday experiences.

Recently my life has been impacted by two different artworks which I have not been able to escape thinking about day or night. The first is an anonymous white rectangle in the uptown ACE subway at Canal street, and the second is a Banksy, deemed Hammer Boy, on the wall of the upper west side DSW.  According to various articles, the Banksy piece went up during his artist residency in New York on October 19, 2013. As of yet, I believe there is no writing about the white rectangle which has made it’s home in the bowels of the subway system and it’s evolution has undoubtedly taken place over a large period of time, which justifies my fascination with it.

rectangle on the uptown ACE at Canal St.

Enamel rectangle with graffiti on the uptown ACE at Canal St.

The first work, an enamel house paint, sharpie marker, spray paint composite piece was originally intended to be a space for posting fliers and advertisements. Today it sits unadorned, bare of its original intentions, fulfilling a new role in the world as breathing room within the subway system’s overwhelmingly maximalist aesthetic of general grunge and capitalist advertisements which coat nearly every other inch of space. Beneath the lacquered top layer of thin white paint various tags and drawings can be discerned, undoubtedly scrawled over a previous layer of paint. The work is placed dramatically in the center of the wall on the opposite side of the stairs, at first glance a beautiful contemporary homage to Malevich’s 1918 White on White. But the sexy, fashionable shine of the smooth white surface represents much more than a reference to bygone minimalism; it represents the gritty conflict for power between individuals and institutions.

In the photo that I took last sunday on my way to the cloisters (you can see my feet and a taxi reflected in the Zabar approved plexiglass which protects this work) a black silhouette of a child brings a hammer down in typical Banksy-esque style. This work has also been covered by authorities but with two crucial differences between this covering and the previous one. First, this cover does not obscure the hand of the individual but protects it. Second, the authorities responsible for coving the work are not anonymous, but proudly state their name and intention with a card in the upper lefthand corner which reads “Help Zabar protect this unusual artwork.” This work, although put up illegally by an anonymous tagger just as the work covered by the white rectangle was, is sanctioned by an institution simply because the individual is identified as an artist.

Hammer Boy, 2013, Banksy on a Wall near the uptown West Side DSW.

Hammer Boy, 2013, Banksy on a Wall near the uptown West Side DSW.

Why bring these two works together? One is an acclaimed, recognized artwork by a well known artist, the other, a totally unnoticed object with multiple contributors to its creation. Yet the connection that I feel for the white rectangle in the uptown ACE subway is inexplicable and far greater than my feelings toward the Banksy Hammer Boy, which represents the stagnation of the artist’s aesthetic evolution due to pressures from the market and Banksy’s subsequent need to be identified as Banksy. This aesthetic flattening renders the actual work on the wall rather inconsequential and instead draws attention to the institutional frame which is around and over it. Yet neither of these works exist within a traditional gallery space and therefore should lack the sacred atmosphere associated with that white cube. The Hammer Boy, however, has regained some of this sacred nature through its institutional plexiglass protection which designates the work as more valuable than any other stretch of wall space.

Both works have political connotations. Banksy’s oeuvre is pointedly political through it’s imagery and its medium. The ACE white rectangle is political because of the imposition of authority over the individual. There are layers of this struggle going back deep into the object’s skin; a layer of graffiti, a layer of paint, another layer of graffiti, another layer of paint, ad infinitum. This one object represents an eternal struggle which has happened throughout time and which will continue to happen simply by nature of societal structures and public spaces.

The shine of institutional material coats both of these pieces in glamour; one concealing, the other revealing. The hand of authority presents itself through this reflective surface, rejecting grime in one even as it glorifies it in the other. These works are embedded with a question that cannot be answered easily:

How do we decide which individuals are allowed to be seen and heard? And who deserves to decide this fate?

RAW WORKS at Salem Art Works

Craig Usher’s work is uncomfortable today because it rejects an impersonal, clinical approach to interpretation. Raw Works effectively summarstilts span craigizes the discontent of the artist within the context of fashion and the capitalist market.  It displays works which seek to reconnect with the lost, forgotten, or ignored elements of life; presence, consciousness, patience, and persistence. Raw works provides an intimate view of the artist and maker; an intimate view which is manifested both materially and psychologically.

The show is on view at Salem Art Works, 19 Cary Lane, Salem, NY

from May 30th – June 13th. The opening is May 29th, 6pm – 8pm. For more info and my full review see: http://www.salemartworks.org/upcoming/

Era VI VII VI: Début

The show Début, currently on display at the trimonthly artist-run gallery space Era VI VII VI, is the first exhibition in the project space featuring all four in-studio artists and founders. In this eclectic show each individual artist’s voice is strong and highly independent. The aesthetic vocabulary in the four artist’s bodies of work reveals conflicting ideals between each of the four founders, yet results in a harmonious oeuver displayed in the space. This lack of cohesion between ideals does not detract from each piece, but highlights the words of Leyla Mozayen in the press release which read that:

“antithetical methods of art making are explored… Era VI VII VI and its featured gallery-artists have much bigger ideas about how to have it all.”

This show does, indeed, have it all.

Début is staged in a perfect first floor space with windows to the street right on the corner of Gates and Woodward Ave in Ridgewood. The monolith given center stage in the gallery is the creation of Hilliary K. Gabryel and is entitled The Eleventh Dynasty. It reminds viewers of the past and present roles of women in society and the arts, composed of voluptuous, rolling furs, delicate pearl pin-heads, crushed velvet, and coconut oil, to name a few of the materials in this distinctly feminine, neo-baroque contraption of brooding space.

The six works of Daniella Gomez Paz on display in Début exhibit a much subtler femininity, yet speak volumes to the power of the word and the sway that it has held over women and minorities. These works are all vaguely anthropomorphic (with exception to My Words Are Worthless Voicing To You, a wall sculpture which is essentially a cascading waterfall of fabric letters which burst from fleshy pink silk) and word based. Nestled in the very corner, closest to the windows of the gallery is a nest like wall piece aptly named Tying Together Your Lies. This work by Gomez Paz is a beautiful example of femininity evoked through hand cut fabrics, biographic language, and intimacy. Although coy and feminine, these works are strikingly bold and challenging.

These first two artist’s works confront the entrant to the gallery space with material presence while the remaining two artist’s works become progressively minimalist, though no less emphatic of their interest in physicality. Blue Moon is a work by Julia Hundley which deals with fleeting images and non-materiality through these images lack of surface clarity. Screen shots of sunset advertisements and “unknown dik” pictures are projected onto a metallic emergency blanket which is draped in a blasé manner across a column-like outcropping. Hundley makes no attempt to hide the fact that some of the materials involved in the creation of her work are generated through clunky technology, namely a projector and simple motor mechanism. Instead, she allows these objects to contrast with the material actions they create; the projector box casts glittering, ephemeral light across an already shimmering surface, while the motor twirls a blue rose in a carefree motion which feels strangely sad in the very back corner of the gallery.

Linda Rucina’s three works deal with only three materials each; the two Studies consist of glass spheres on paper applied with an unspecified adhesive, and her piece Polyphony consists of nylon suede-tex fibers, glitter, and a yet again unspecified adhesive. Unlike Hundley’s piece, the visibly immaterial is here ignored in order to bring out the clarity of materiality. Rucina’s work displays an intense fascination with light, organic pattern, and texture.

In fact, the title of Rucina’s piece perfectly describes the cohesion of Début; it is a polyphony of aesthetics; a conglomerate of simultaneously combined parts, each with an individual melody and yet each harmonizing perfectly with the other. The show is open this saturday, March 28, and sunday, March 29 from 1:00 to 5:00pm. The Era VI VII VI project space is located at 676 Woodward Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385.

Zabar Artist Lecture: Robert Barry & Non-Material Art

On a wednesday night Hunter College students and staff packed into a crowded lecture hall on the second floor of 205 Hudson to listen to the words of Robert Barry, which are physically plastered to the ground level gallery walls below.  Barry is famed for his work using invisible media, performance, and word based “suggestive artworks;” a term coined by Barry himself at wednesday’s lecture.  The exhibition in the 205 Hudson gallery downstairs and in the room adjacent to the lecture hall is a retrospective of fifty impressive years spent making immaterial artworks.   

The exhibition consists of work from the 1960‘s onward and includes a variety of media, from video to painting, drawing, exhibition catalogues, and even to a student run performance which continues throughout the duration of gallery hours.  The physical manifestations of Barry’s work are minimal and word based.  Performers in the gallery are instructed to project words out into space as if these words are objects.  Time floats around each word, cushioning it like the ephemera of air, gas, and light which construct and simultaneously disassociate object/things from space.  Barry has proven himself, time and again, to have a profound interest in the intangible; should he phrase his flippant explanations differently, his work could signify religion, the sacred, and the ineffable.  Yet Barry strives not to place this emphasis on his work.  He is profoundly grounded in nature and the physical. In keeping with many other conceptual artists, Robert Barry rejected outright the label of “conceptual art” (a term supported by critics and the internet at large: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Barry_%28artist%29) when a student put the term forward during the lecture.    

Robert Barry adopted the persona of an artist who easily navigates the art world organism.  He presented his ideas vaguely making statements such as “(I hope) that people might get lost in my work,” and indeed Barry stated that he “kind of liked” when people did not understand his creations. These vague allusions to meaning and viewer impact created intrigue among his audience and made him appear detached and sometimes disinterested in his own work.  This act (if it was one) does no justice to the essence of the ineffable power that his work evokes. 

For the past month, I myself have performed Barry’s timed wordlist once a week.  The experience is gripping in its ability to transport the actor out of themselves through careful, meditative focus on one specific word/object/thing which is then projected outward into the space of the gallery every thirty seconds.    Barry’s categorical explanation of each piece in the retrospective of his career did no justice to the experience of his work; it successfully portrayed him as a likable but detached artist. In my experience, and I suspect many others, the work of Robert Barry speaks for itself.  It is provocative, it has gravity, it creates thought.

The words of Robert Barry are best when left on the wall.

Gagosian’s “Balthus: The Last Studies”

Image

BALTHUS
Untitled, c. 1999–2000
Color Polaroid
​4 x 4 inches (10.2 x 10.2 cm)

What better place to start than with the power house gallery of NYC: Gagosian. This gallery got its start in the 80’s and quickly became the king of capitalist marketing in its SOHO- then its Chelsea- gallery.  Recently, Gagosian opened a new gallery on 976 Madison Avenue which is now the third Gagosian building in NYC.  The opening show?  Balthus, timed neatly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balthus show entitled “Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations” which is open from September 25, 2013–January 12, 2014.  Gagosian’s “Balthus: The Last Studies” takes a completely different look into the work of Balthus, focusing on his preparatory photographic work rather than the controversial content of his paintings.  This show is almost over, however, it has been extended until saturday, January 18th. So, if you’re making the trek to Madison Ave in the next week or two, be sure to check it out!

Balthus is short for the less memorable name Balthasar Klossowski de Rola.  He was born in 1908 in Paris and is considered a classical modern artist who was inspired by pre-Renaissance ideals and painting and who, despite this seeming conservatism, rejected the ideas and conventions of the art world.  He refused to let his work be written about by galleries as he claimed that artwork needed no descriptions and no written legacy; they needed only to be described visually.

Of course, aside from his rebellion and his traditionalism, there is the great debate; was Balthus a mere pederast, fascinated by young, pre-pubescent girls, or was he, was his art, something more than that? It has been suggested that Balthus was a mystic, tragically misunderstood and often rejected.  In the New Republic article reviewing the Met’s Balthus show Jed Perl calls Balthus a mystic; and from this we can say simply that this charged artist is being defended by symbolism.  Many historians and journalists and critics have taken this view; that Balthus was not fascinated with the naked (or almost naked) bodies of young girls but that he was instead fascinated with what they represented to him and the world (for further information on Jed Perl’s views see his article at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115658/balthus-cats-and-girls-met-review).

What Gagosian presents is a view of Balthus as a working, thinking artist who, in his last decade of life (1990-2001) began using a polaroid camera to capture his preparatory moments, as his aging hands were no longer suited to making his previous elaborate compositional drawings.  The show features stark white walls with tinny little polaroids, framed in a beautifully minimalist way.  This stark atmosphere of the contemporary gallery would contrast sharply with Balthus’s paintings, yet his polaroids feel well suited to this alien white space.  They show that in his old age, Balthus was willing to experiment and change mediums.  This show is facinating if only for the fact that it provides a direct access, via photography, to an otherwise extremely elusive mind.

Over all, yes, you should go see Gagosian’s “Balthus: The Last Studies” but only if you know of, and preferably have seen, the Met’s “Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations.”  They are undoubtedly sister shows, and display that the gap between museum and gallery is closing fast.