Review: Artists in Whitespace’s “Fictional Geographies” explore imaginary spaces and places
September 5, 2013
By Stephanie Cash
Italo Calvino explores the imagined possibilities of cities and the mind in his novel Invisible Cities. A similar idea pervades “Fictional Geographies,” at Whitespace gallery through September 7, an exhibition featuring Heidi Whitman, Ann Stewart, Joseph Burwell and Robert Walden, who is also the curator. Read More.
Space is the Place
By Stephen Maine
The stalwart Brooklyn nonprofit Smack Mellon Gallery, which recently relocated to the former Gair Company boiler building at the corner of Plymouth and Washington Streets in the borough’s DUMBO district, is now hosting a summer group show titled “I Can’t Quite Place It.” Organized by the energetic Elizabeth M. Grady, the exhibition choreographs the efforts of 17 artists whose works variously examine the provisional nature of our relationship to our surroundings.
The open space of the new venue is perfect for an installation that pursues notions of fragmentation, disruption and dissolution. Spectacular in a ramshackle way though the old space was, that former spice warehouse on Water Street somehow rarely accommodated the heightened dialogue between individual works that propels this show.
For instance, Monika Goetz contributes Horizon, a stark, glowing line of light that slants across the rear wall of the space. Roughly cut into the sheetrock and backlit by fluorescent lights, the work converts a matter-of-fact postminimalist investigation of process and materials into an eerie gateway to some technological unknown.
Another reference to landscape can be seen nearby, where Jennifer Urso has placed a large rectangular patch of dirt on the floor in front of her fragile ink drawings on yellowing newsprint, which hang in a row on a drooping line on the wall. Titled Fractured Thought, Urso’s pseudoscientific diagrams purport to depict things like “lightning,” “broken glass” and “thoughts,” as if to combine Richard Tuttle’s poetic researches with Robert Smithson’s investigation of entropy and decomposition.
In Robert Walden’s exquisite, graphite-on-black-paper Ontological Road Maps, tiny, tight grids signifying urban
centers segue into the nesting curls of tract housing and the meandering trails of exurbia. Steven Millar surrealistically evokes suburban sprawl with Lookout Mountain, TN, a brokeback oak table, all blackened and charred, that assumes landscape proportions with its population of house-like blocks. Fawn Krieger brings a rough- and-ready touch to the tradition of the architectural model with Brasilia , a five-foot-tall stack of scraps of
sheetrock and wood slats surmounted by a wallpaper crown.
Two very different contraptions evoke natural processes. In the elaborate Underground Parallax, Megan Michalak uses multiple mirrors and fresh sod to suggest a wormhole escape below the surface of the earth. The volume of steam within Jung Sun Oh’s hulking, boxy Fog Wall II might be a paradigm of technology’s clumsy efforts to shape the environment.
Several of the works in the show include sound, and, perhaps inevitably, they overlap in an aural montage. As the viewer navigates the space, the scrambled subway public-safety announcements that are one component of Vibeke Jensen’s If You See, Something Say blend with Grady Gerbracht’s sound installation, Sympathetic Resonance, in which the ambient noise of the gallery’s cavernous interior (shaped by the rumbling train traffic on the Manhattan Bridge) is amplified and replayed.
A paradox peculiar to the well-curated show applies here, as the most convincing works render the thesis irrelevant and compel us to confront them on their own terms. In Landing, Graciela Fuentes projects a video of flickering, aerial views of a section of Mexico City onto a small pile of dirt on the floor. The course, sandy soil is the perfect, anomalous backdrop for the few frames of footage, as it tantalizingly degrades image quality while lending gravitas.
A dim, cramped rear stairwell houses Patrol, a video installation by Ofri Cnaani, a young Israeli artist working in New York. Projected on the low ceiling are shadowy silhouettes, as if seen from below through translucent plastic, of people moving about, dropping things, and speaking to one another in indistinct tones. While their actions and intonations are not especially threatening, the illusion Patrol affords of hiding or being trapped triggers the anxiety and paranoia centers of the viewer’s brain. Not recommended for the claustrophobic.
The show also includes engaging efforts by Lynne Harlow, Richard Garrison, Avantika Bawa, Amanda Mathis, Tom Kotik and Roy Stanfield, whose untitled, found-Plexiglas prop pieces, staking out territory near the entrance, remind the visitor that the specter of post-minimalism is still at large.
STEPHEN MAINE is an artist and writer who lives in Brooklyn. ©Artnet.com
Open Studios Everywhere
November 21, 2007
By Andrew Cornell Robinson
Making one’s way through the maze of art produced and exhibited in our time and in our city while trying to form an opinion can be a challenge to say the least. This week I thought I would step around the white cubes of New York City and plunge head-first into the artists’ work by going straight to the sources, their many open studios. In many cases, this involved going to Brooklyn and beyond. This turns out to be a great way to see art for yourself. Mind you, it takes some effort, especially with so many studios to visit and the occasional brooding artist on the other side of the door awaiting your entry, with cheap wine and old cheese on paper plates. But that is the price to be paid for seeing something new. In the end, though, there are abundant opportunities to look at and talk about art.
It’s my favorite way of doing so.
There were more than 100 open studios during Brooklyn’s Annual Gowanus Artists’ Studio Tour last month, and along that parade were potters, painters, sculptors, stained glass makers, and more. A high point on this tour was seeing the ceramic sculptures by Pamela Sunday, whose work is reminiscent of Saint Clair Cemin’s playful organic, plastic, and ceramic forms. Sunday’s work taps into natural symmetries, and she produces stunning objects to behold. Elinor Dei Tos Pironti’s simple and methodical paintings project an alchemist’s sensibility in the way she approaches color layered and drawn out across the canvas.
There are also some great art spaces just off the canal. One of my favorites is the Reanimation Library, at Union and Nevins Streets, a small independent facility that is building an anachronistic collection of resources made available for creative inspiration.
This past weekend there was some great art to be seen at the Crane Street Studios Artists’ Community in Long Island City. It is hard to miss this colossal graffiti-covered building just opposite MoMA’s PS1 Contemporary Art Center. This open studio offered a bounty of incredibly talented and ambitious artists. Painter Ben Beshaw had some amusing realist paintings. His works often have a male protagonist – in fact, a lighthearted self- portrait in most cases. In one painting, titled “Rainbow in the Dark,” the artist stands with a steely gaze while he cradles a doe-eyed rainbow tinted horse. In the background, according to the artist “is a laser light show in the sky, celebrating the rescue of the rainbow horse.” It was hard not to laugh at the sheer audacity of the artist whose talent and sense of humor are terrific. Maia Anthea Marinelli, a fascinating young Italian artist, has developed some powerful knit and sewn sculptures as well as a series of devastating photographs. In one series titled “Gretta’s Journal,” closely cropped photos capture the scarred bodies of young girls forced into prostitution. Another series called “Fear of Love” is a meditation on female sexual and emotional identities. Reminiscent of Sophie Calle’s enduring social narratives, and David Wojnarowicz’s acid poetic imagery, Marinelli’s work navigates soulful human commonalities with a sense of engaging mystery. Other artists of note include Cair Crawford, whose monumental oil paintings abstract semacodes and labyrinthine patterns. Robert Walden’s ontological road maps are a mesmerizing exploration of maps and meditations on the grid. Photographs by Anne-Katrin Grotepass contain compelling created and captured moments, reminiscent of the sculptural orchestrations of Sandy Skoglund, but there is a restraint in her work that makes for a more contemplative effect.
In the idiosyncratic context of the artist’s studio, all sorts of wonderful things are available to see and understand. Everything is laid bare. There you can see what leads to decisions before the work of art is wrenched out of the artist’s lair-and with any luck you can talk to the creator too. The next big artist-run happenings will be the Arts in Bushwick’s “Open Spaces” a one-day art festival on December 2.
Visit Crane Street Studios at cranestreetstudios.blogspot.com and the Annual Gowanus Artists’ Studio Tour at agastbrooklyn.com. Artists mentioned in this review can be accessed online as well: Ben Beshaw at benbeshaw.com; Anne-Katrin Grotepass at annekatringrotepass.com; Maia Anthea Marinelli at maiamarinelli.com; Pamela Sunday at pamelasunday.com; and Robert Walden at robertjwalden.com.
Reading Between the Lines
August, 10 2003
By Catherine Fox
The only pleasure I’ve ever gotten out of urban sprawl is Robert Walden’s pen-and-ink drawings, which he calls “ontological road maps.” Only an obsessive could make the fictive mazes of nodes, meandering roads and dead ends at Marcia Wood Gallery. The lines are no wider than a pinpoint, denser in the center and falling off as they spread outward toward their precipitous end.
The New York artist calls them, with a touch of irony, “New World city grids.” They are also metaphors for the unruliness and illogic of life. Through Sept. 6, 2003
©2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Aljira’s New gallery Emerges as a Fine Display Space
Sunday, June 1, 2003
The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ
By Dan Bischoff
“Dancing in the Dark (Part 1)” is a bit of a make-up exhibition for Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, the downtown alternative gallery that last winter opened its new street-front gallery and offices at 591 Broad St. in Newark.
The 50 works of art here are from 18 artists who had enrolled two years ago in the center’s “Emerge2002” fellowship program, which teaches career skills to artists just beginning their professional lives. This exhibition had been scheduled for a date the galley didn’t make because its new space wan not yet ready.
The rehabbed Chock-full o’Nuts store certainly makes a better art gallery then Aljira’s previous incarnation on the third floor of a former bank just around the corner. Flooded with light from its glass-fronted street entrance and big enough to accommodate a 10-foot-tall collage of photos with pins by Nancy Goldenberg (“talflower”), Aljira can be much more of a presence in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center neighborhood. And the fresh artists in this show are getting a mush classier presentation.
The downtown district needs the kind of diversity of opinions and aesthetics that an alternative art gallery can represent. “Dancing in the Dark” is a kind of survey of ambitious, determined artists, some young and some not so, but all at the beginning of their professional careers. There is a lot of sincere chest-beating in this show, a lot of identity-formation and exploration, which all young contemporaries have to do. But the artists are disarmingly human in the way they do this, not at all slick or impenetrable.
Some of the most charming pieces are the simplest. Manhattan artist Elise Engler shows three strips pf paper, each a foot wide and 3 to 5 feet long, on which she draws an everyday container and then each of the dozens of things she found within, all in colored pencil on a tiny scale. Engler is a cartographer, part of a broad spectrum of contemporary Conceptualists with some technique. Below a refrigerator, for example, she has drawn keys, Redi-Whip cans, magnets, and on and on.
Josh Jordan, a New Yorker from Ohio, catalogues too. He shows 33 torn bits of sketching paper sporting wonderful, anime- influenced pencil drawings of “The L Girls—33 of the Most Beautiful Girls I saw Riding the L Train.” Timothy Hutchings is showing an HDTV shipping box cut and painted to look like its contents (“Widescreen”) – without any contents.
Then there’s simplicity of conception that looks devilishly complex in its execution. New Yorker Robert Walden takes a road map and cuts out the land with an X-Acto blade to leave net of paper roads, each little wider than a thread (“Untitled: FoldedB landscape.”) Brooklyn-based Nicole Agbay Cherubini examines the gap between growing up in an Italian-American household that she describes as “Kitschy” and “over-decorated” and being a fine artist in the pure milieu of New York’s art world. Cherubini shows a couple of C-prints on aluminum, one of a girl in blue jeans lying on a couch with what looks like a Renaissance Madonna tattooed on her bare back. On the floor in front of the color prints is a strange fetish object, made of ceramic, wood, fake gold and silver jewelry, chains, fur and gilt, that represents all the décor excess of Cherubini’s youth – it’s called “G-Pot with Gem and Fur.” Think of it as Michelangelo’s ashtray.
There is art here that is engaged with other art, such as Michael Eade’s egg tempra and gold-leaf “Volcano”, Patty Cateura’s whimsical acrylics in high-contrast color and Gema Alava-Cristomo’s all-but-invisible “Tres Nudos (Three Knots).” But a brittle intimacy is more common.
Photographer Megan Maloy looks right out at you from some of her prints, as do members of her family. It’s hard to read what is staged and what is not in Maloy’s work, especially since the family portraits (“Grandma and Maggie,” “My Mother’s Family Portrait”) seem very dry in feeling, and the posed ones (Maloy on a motel room bed with a beer in one hand and a Gothic- looking guy in a T-shirt behind her) deliberately chosen to contrast. But the stark, pristine, and dogmatic quality of the pictures, with their true-to-documentary feel, is meant to force the shape of life into art.
Take Kew Gardens artist Mike Child’s “Newark Floats,” a large acrylic painting that looks at first like a plaid pattern painting until you realize you recognize the façade of an International Style building levitating in the middle of the picture field, like the insurance towers and office complexes nearby. Or Jim Costanza’s “Datemap 2001.2,” a digital photocollage documenting the anti-war movement that briefly flowered before the Iraq invasion, drawing on photos of demonstrations by the artist himself as well as images on Web sites like (www.bushwacking.net).
It isn’t like these points of view are going to shout down the movie marquees and talk show hosts of commercial culture. But every big city should some stage for alternative expression, some venue where emerging visual artists can strut unsanctioned points of view. It’s not about the artists themselves exactly, but about the city, about its own voice and what it sounds like.
©2003 The Star-Ledger
Disconnect: Atlanta/New York Connection misses mark by a mile
April 10, 2002
By Felicia Feaster
Anyone expecting a taste of the great Atlanta artist migration to Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs will surely be dis-appointed by the tepid representation of work on display at the Swan Coach House Gallery. Read More.
It’s Up to you, New York, New York
March 29, 2002
By Jerry Cullum
Every year, more Atlanta artists move to New York. This is simply a fact, unlikely to change so long as New York remains the capital of the American art world. So it makes sense for curator Marianna Lambert to offer this baker’s dozen of Atlanta émigrés, some of whom left only recently, others whom moved a quarter-century ago.
Interestingly, these artists have remained independent of New York’s most fashionable currents. (A seeming exception, Allison Shockley’s new abstract paintings, owes as much to California and Europe as to New York.) Apart from John Hardy and Patti Hansen’s realist paintings of New York architecture, there is little to identify these artists’ geographic location.
Indeed, Beth Bogla’s work could easily seem to reflect the country rather than the city, though “Yellow Circle on Black” reveals the abstract underpinnings of her brilliantly exact rendering of flowers in “Tansy.”
Jill Corson is the only artist whose Atlanta and New York images are juxtaposed, and it is uncertain whether there is much difference. “Earth Angel” is a color photo of an Atlanta store window, featuring romantic lushness combines with subtle wordplay. In the New York “Crosswalk Cross-section” a disconnected-looking pedestrian’s reflection in the glass is overshadowed by meticulously clad mannequins.
Robert Walden’s, “excised road map” (titled “Landscape, 2002”) is the most experimental work in the show and one of the most beautiful pieces as wall. The lacelike pattern formed by cutting out the street network of a city map is mounted in reverse. Thus, only fragmentary text from the back is visible, rather than the street names that would make obvious what this delicate filigree really is.
A comprehensive survey of ex-Atlantans would require a much bigger gallery. But this is enough to focus attention on just how many once local artists have embraced the advantages and pitfalls of the Big Apple.
©2002 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nov – Dec 2000
By Susan Richmond
The curatorial approach in Take A Second Look (Spruill Center gallery, June 16—August 19) bodily disregards qualitative judgments in favor of a generous thematic consideration of artists who use recycled materials. The result is an uneven show that, nonetheless, provocatively bridges conventional boundaries between high art and kitsch, fine art and folk art, installation and object, scared and profane. It is an exhibition that potentially appeals on some level to everyone’s taste, and in a culture increasingly defined by its conspicuous consumption, not to mention waste, the issue of recycling is timely for the visual arts. The reconfiguration of found media inevitable conjures up the passage of time. In her sculptural assemblages, Mary Deacon Opasik incorporates family history, alluding to the cycles of life through the literal use of old clock faces or through the creation of portraits of great-grandparents from pieces of wood. The latter, transform the graceful lines of antique furniture into elegant and reverential formal portraiture. In Pandra William’s work, it is not the implied history of the found objects, but their reconstruction into goddess figurines that refer back to the earliest extant examples of visual representation. Offering an updated version of Paleolithic fertility sculptures, Williams creates “Venus” figures that link modern day obsessions with female beauty to sacred and profoundly mysterious icons of the distant past.
In much of the work in this show, animate form emerges out of the creative combination of inanimate material. In Y2Kitty, Bobby Hansson reshapes yesterday’s discarded tin cans into a playful creature for the new millennium. Richard DeWalt likewise fashions lighthearted, colorful figures out of painted tin, steel and wood. He then adds titles that pun on the resulting forms and coyly poke fun at Southern and African American cultures; Georgian artist Mary Engle encrusts ceramic figures of dogs and humans with glass, buttons and other pocketsize objects. Like the richly textured and colorful “memory jars” of old, Engle’s figures are further replete with personal and symbolic significance, effectively embracing spiritual and aesthetic concerns.
For octogenarian Hawkins Bolden, the reuse of material grew out of economic necessity in the tradition of self-taught Southern artists. Bolden has been making objects all his life from refuse he scavenges from alleys, gardens and vacant lots near his home. Blind since age five, he relies upon touch and memory for his inspiration, creating simple yet powerfully evocative, anthropomorphic forms. In contrast, Leonard Streckfus, who has also constructed animal forms for the past 20 years from found objects, consciously invokes the aesthetic tradition of Picasso’s relief assemblages. Paradoxically, however, it is the austerity of some of Bolden’s objects that the expressive power of Picasso’s work finds a worthy legacy. Streckfus’ animals, while imaginative in their own right, seem overly deliberated in comparison.
For Atlanta viewers who recently viewed Virginia Kollarik’s installation of eviscerated stuffed animals in the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center Show “Here Kitty Kitty” earlier this year, the reappearance of these disemboweled toys in “Take A Second Look” offer a slightly different experience. Gone was the anthropological display of the bizarre creatures, neatly lined up along shelves like clinical specimens. Here they spilled haphazardly out of their natural habitat–a child’s toy chest–at once evoking tumultuous, domestic histories of love and abuse at the hands of young owners. Domestic associations also inform the work of Sally Mankus. In Tower of Pans the artist evokes rituals of cooking and serving food in a sculptural installation of charred and rusted bake ware combined with a sound recording of kitchen activities. Mankus also incorporates photography into her work, transferring images of people onto pot lids, or manipulating portraits with rust carbon lifted from used pots and pans, suspending the images from roughly fashioned clotheslines. The multiple layers of her work elicit comforting memories, whether real or imagined, of daily sustenance served by familiar hands.
Home is the title of one of Robert Walden’s wall pieces, which consist of city maps carefully cut apart to leave a spidery configuration of streets and nothing else. Home in this instance is both a literal site one can potentially locate in the intersection of roads and an abstract entity delicately suspended within a network of cultural configurations. The sheer fragility juxtaposes with Linda Armstrong’s cumbrous and claustrophobic installation, Loon, clearly the most ecologically oriented work in the show. Consisting of Tibetan prayer flags, stuffed birds, deflated balloons and strands of rubber tubing evocative of beach debris, and featuring a soundtrack by Dick Robinson, Loon recreates a tragic environment where nature loses out to industrial waste.
While some of the work is easily forgettable, offering eye candy and little more, most of the 18 artists represented in this show leave a lasting impression on the viewer. But in either case, kudos to all of these artists for exploring the creative potential of materials hastily discarded by the rest of us.
©2000 Art Papers
Found Objects: Everything old is new again
July 21, 2000
By Jerry Cullum
“Take a Second Look: Art From Recycled Materials”
The verdict: New work from notable Atlanta artists, and a survey of other possibilities, make this show worth seeking out.
The practice of making art from found objects has two independent sources: Trained artists of the early 20th century, from Marcel Duchamp to Pablo Picasso, who saw the sculptural possibilities in bottle racks or bicycle handlebars; self-taught or folk artists around the world, who have had to use whatever materials they could get.
This show illustrated both strands, through its self-taught Southern artist Hawkins Bolden whose work most resembles Picasso’s famous bull’s head made from a bicycle. Bolden’s coffeepots, pierced with holes to represent eyes, are strange, haunting portrait heads. They have a stark simplicity that far outstrips Leonard Streckfus’ baroque animal figures, which take their cue directly from Picasso. Lonnie Holly and Thornton Dial Sr. are represented here by strong but more symbolic combinations that evoke rather than represent their subjects.
More traditional art-making achieves its own powerful effects. Sally Mankus’ portraits on pot lids, when combined with her “Tower of Pans” with recorded kitchen noises, are a memorable testament to humble acts of domestic heroism. Jim and Mary Deacon Opasik, in their separate bodies of work, turn creditable handsome and evocative re-creations of form from everyday utensils. Chicago artist John Garrett creates vivid wall pieces from shredded soft drink cans or wallpaper samples.
Robert Walden, a New York artist educated in Atlanta, contributes some of the most astonishing work in the exhibition in the form of fragile wall pieces in which street maps have been reduced to just the pattern of the streets themselves; the rest of the map has been cut away, leaving a delicate, lacelike network of
interconnected thin lines.
At the other end of the spectrum of solidity, Mary Engal’s familiar dog sculptures, encrusted with found objects in the way Southern memory jars are, faces off against Virginia Kollarik’s skinned and eviscerated stuffed animals in a confrontation that is at once comic and poignant. The vulnerability of Kollarik’s creatures is echoed in Linda Armstrong’s installation of reshaped debris from the beach at Cumberland Island. Armstrong’s “Loon,” which features a soundtrack by Atlanta composer Dick Robinson, combines taxidermied birds, deflated balloons and great chunk s of inner tubing painted to recall strands of seaweed. Tibetan prayer flags, the only items not likely to have been washed up on the shore, apparently form a votive offering to a desecrated landscape.
Curator Susan Loftin has assembled a varies show, in which the other successes range from Matt Schwede’s elegantly formal waxed paper with cigarette burns to Bobby Hansson’s functional sconces and lunchboxes made from antique and contemporary printed metal, such as olive oil cans. She has given us a number of surprises while illustrating the range of the impulse to create fresh art from discarded materials,
Jerry Cullum is an Atlanta write and the senior editor of Art Papers, a magazine of contemporary art. ©2000 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution