Jun 072024
 

It was great to see new work by Keya Tama and his partner Isolina Minjeong at Court Tree Collective in Industry City. I last saw Tama’s work in Los Angeles in 2019. The woven and ceramic pieces they have created for Defender are charming and reflect their personal backgrounds. The couple have also kept the prices low to encourage younger collectors.

From the gallery-

Court Tree Collective proudly presents “Defender”, a duo exhibition by Isolina Minjeong and Keya Tama. These two young artists work by blending the old with the new and by infusing their cultural heritage into their creations. This new body of work breathes fresh life into traditional art forms. Their work is a vibrant reflection of their identity and experiences, enriching the viewer with diverse perspectives and narratives. The title “Defender” is for upholding traditions in a modern world. The exhibition features folklore history through ceramics, paintings, and tapestries. Combining traditional art forms, while incorporating elements of pop culture brings to light the protection of the past. Exacting the moment of when history becomes relevant in both the past and future.

Playing off each other’s strengths has unified the work as something special. Not only as two artists in pursuit of creating together, but in working in the present to bring a unique perspective on art history.

“Defender” is an exhibition of their collaborative language. Through tapestries, paintings, muralism, and ceramic sculptures, Keya and Isolina protect each other’s hearts. This is their first duo exhibition in New York.

This exhibition closes 6/8/24.

 

May 252024
 

There are many little stories within Sascha Mallon’s lovely installation for Wolf Tales, on view at Kentler International Drawing Space. It includes sculptures and drawings, with pieces emerging from the walls. Each little section captures the imagination.

The press release below includes a poem by Erich Fried, as well as a more detailed discussion on the artist’s motivations and process.

WOLF TALES

“It is madness
says reason
It is what it is
says love
It is unhappiness
says caution
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It has no future
says insight
It is what it is
says love
It is ridiculous
says pride
It is foolish
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love.”
– Erich Fried

This installation synthesizes the artist’s engagement with drawing, glazed porcelain, and mohair silk crochet yarn, bringing all these elements into one monumental work that flows around the edges of the space. For Wolf Tales, Mallon is going back to her roots of drawing after being actively engaged with molding, firing, and glazing porcelain objects. In this exhibition she is primarily a draftsman on a quest, mirroring the main heroes of the story as they go through transformations. Going back to drawing in this more monumental format signifies for Mallon her long-cherished wish of making this method more dynamic, forgetting its static nature, and allowing drawings to flow.

The titular wolf is an ambivalent embodiment of spirit and energy that is at first at odds with a human presence of a girl and then goes through a series of spiritual and physical changes, inner and outer shifts. In his newly published autobiographical book, Japanese author Haruki Murakami devotes significant attention to how a narrative of a novel shifts when characters are presented indirectly versus being contemplated from within their own mind-frame. In her drawings for this exhibition, Sascha Mallon likewise changes the degree of her engagement with the heroes and heroines whom we see. Themes of belonging, sustainability, mistrust, loneliness, and connection are based on narrative points presented through figures of a human girl, a wolf, a raven, and others. Yet Mallon uses her subtle drawing skills to connect disparate parts of the narrative so that we can subconsciously see the connections and let the story unfold in our own time. The tale we see is one that stays with a viewer long after they leave the space. Drawing in motion is what this presentation underlines, tying all the elements together in one mandala directly drawn on the wall by this practicing Buddhist. The drawings are airy, frequently working with and playing with a negative space.

As do many artists, Mallon creates narratives based on issues she faces in her life, and as a Buddhist she thinks often about one’s perception of reality, how we create reality, how we can make a better world by changing the mind. She is fond of questioning rather than responding, leaving spaces for stillness and freedom for the viewers. Mallon’s body of work does not develop from project to project, it is one big story that keeps changing and transforming itself. To an observer, it is more of a conversation that she continues having with herself by visual means, artistic practice presented as a gestational thought process. You do not know where it starts and where it ends; it is fluid and dynamic.

As a story, Wolf Tales also develops on multiple planes and in multiple temporal frameworks. It is not a fairy tale, but rather an artistic representation of ideas and feelings, thinking through the poem by Erich Fried, which has occupied a special place in Mallon’s life for many years. Out of all of these narratives and feelings, she weaves characters and stories in the way that fairy tales do. There are no solutions. It’s about what is happening with our lives and our emotions, and it is complex. In the seminal analysis of fairy tale structure that Vladimir Propp published in 1927, the author outlines seven main characteristics important for a fairy tale (Zaubermärchen ): miraculous helper, miraculous spouse, miraculous adversary, miraculous task, miraculous object, miraculous power or gift, and other miraculous motives. In our time we need to emphasize the importance of miraculous, which could be understood to mean harmonious, compassionate, human.

Mallon is not a research-driven artist, as what we see on the walls is transmitted (or unearthed?) through sitting still and reflecting upon dharma talks and her work as a resident artist at The Creative Center at Mount Sinai Hospital. Working with people who have limited capacities affects Mallon, bringing an existential degree to her contemplation of humanity, anger, attachment, and suffering. A native of Austria, she studied art therapy, but ultimately developed her own intuitive technique of drawing and sculpting in order to perfect what she needed to say. This self-taught quality and a certain remoteness from the official and often overtly commercial art system creates a space for honesty, deep engagement, and compassion in Mallon’s works. Being informed by the understanding of larger and more painful experiences influences one’s ability to look at life. Mallon’s life informs her works and vice versa. Even with her patients she tries to find the healthy part and work with it.

Miraculous is an element of the drawings around us. Sascha Mallon offers to bring each of us home, just as a wolf and a girl who are tied in an ambiguous, but ultimately symbiotic relationship are able to do. What is the alternative if we turn away instead of looking into each other’s faces? Compassion is an essential part of Mallon’s work, a quality that we see less and less of in the polarized society of today’s United States. For the artist, an enemy that is initially perceived on the outside turns out to be an enemy on the inside. In this story, the lines get blurred, become vague and nonessential: you don’t know any more if it’s describing a girl or a wolf. Yet the hope of the artist is that through her heroes we are able to move toward peace rather than confrontation.

—Nina Chkareuli-Mdivani is a Georgian-American curator, writer, and researcher living in New York.

This exhibition closes 5/25/24.

May 192024
 

Ann Schaumburger, “Silver Moon in Darkened Sky House”, 2023, Flashe on wood

Ann Schaumburger

Ann Schaumburger

The three exhibitions currently on view at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn all focus on homes in unique ways. In the first gallery, Ann Schaumburger’s paintings of houses for New Work continue her exploration of color.

From the gallery-

For over fifty years, Schaumburger has used the house as a basic structure—a scaffold—for exploring how colors interact with one another. Schaumburger builds her houses with blocks of four pigments, using stencil brushes and tape to fill each house with modular forms. Influenced by the theories of Josef Albers, Schaumburger’s approach to color is meticulous yet playful. Different colors dazzle and dance when placed in proximity, creating a sense of surprise.

The paintings in this new body of work depart from Schaumburger’s earlier explorations in one key detail: the houses are now mounted on wheels. This choice was inspired by Schaumburger’s reading of the biography of Henry David Thoreau, whose family had attached wheels to their domicile, allowing them to transport the house across different sites in Concord, Massachusetts. “The idea of taking a solid house, attached to the ground, and letting it roll away,” Schaumburger says, “seems both comical and deeply suggestive of our times.”

Schaumburger has described her color choices as an attempt to “solve an aesthetic problem.” Yet the work is not entirely abstract. Titles like Forest House Under Summer Sky and Moonscape Moving House gesture toward the fact that certain color relationships become evocative of different seasons, places, and times of day. All of the paintings in the exhibition feature a crescent or small globe in the upper left or right quadrant. Sometimes, this globe is rendered in metallic gold or bronze, recalling the sun. Other times, it is a lunar silver. The round shape of the globe mirrors the house’s circular wheels. Just as the earth rotates around the sun, the wheels rotate around their own axles, allowing the house to move.

The wheeled house becomes a spirited metaphor for Schaumburger’s practice. Dynamic rather than stationary, it embodies the liveliness and energy of Schaumburger’s color choices, as well as the open-ended nature of her process.

Roberta Dorsett’s photos for Sleepwalking explore isolation and uneasiness in her family’s suburban home.

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

From the gallery-

Dorsett’s Sleepwalking is a series of photographs examining isolation in the suburbs and how a sense of danger often accompanies seemingly idyllic environments. The work depicts three women, Dorsett’s aunt, her cousin, and Dorsett herself, occupying the shared space of a suburban home in Connecticut. Tension arises from the camera’s interaction with the women. The camera acts as an intrusive person, an interloper, and a voyeur as it captures the women in moments of discomfort and vulnerability.

In Dorsett’s previous work, she took on the role of family historian, photographing moments of in-betweenness that result in candid and uncontrived images. Her obsession with taking photographs of her family is driven by their lack of extant family albums or other visual documentation. Because of the family’s socioeconomic status, photography was considered a luxury and only done for special occasions. Moreover, Dorsett’s mother had to leave behind her family’s photographic history when she immigrated from Jamaica to the United States.

Dorsett initially intended Sleepwalking to be a straightforward documentation of her aunt and cousin’s experience as first-time Black homeowners. But she found herself drawn into the project’s narrative and began photographing her family in a more constructed and story-driven way, drawing inspiration from slasher and horror films. Dorsett captures the visceral thrills of these types of films by continuing to utilize her family to explore the concepts of voyeurism and anxiety. The single-family home, once a symbol of milestone achievement, now becomes a surreal site of both safety and terror. As she stood behind and in front of the camera, registering the uneasiness and distress of these three women inside their home, Dorsett dreamed up a distorted reality and asked herself, “Am I awake or sleepwalking?”

Finally, Denisse Griselda Reyes multimedia installation for Did you have a hard time finding me?  explores home and identity using a combination of original artwork and family archives.

Denisse Griselda Reyes, “Did you have a hard time finding me?

Denisse Griselda Reyes

From the gallery-

Featuring short films and familial ephemera alongside a new body of paintings, this exhibition humorously meditates on questions of self-formation, reparative representation, and archival preservation, inviting us to dwell in the absurdity these ambitions unintentionally generate. This is Reyes’s first solo exhibition in New York City.

Presenting what Reyes has called a “maximalist constellation of memory,” the exhibition juxtaposes materials from their family archives with paintings and multimedia projections within an installation space that recalls, yet does not perfectly reproduce, the domestic interiors of Reyes’s family. Anchoring this exhibition is a short film that ties together two threads. First, the border crossings of Reyes’s grandmother Anita that were necessitated by the peril of the Salvadoran Civil War, and this history’s impact on Reyes’s mother. Second, the queer dating life of Reyes’s indignant and savvy alter-ego, Griselda. Part-narrator, part-drag-persona, part-survival-strategy, Griselda offers Reyes a means to dictate the terms of their own representation against the expectations that constrict queer Latinx artists in the United States. Still, Griselda is also beholden to identitarian demands. Reyes allows their avatar to straddle the line of spectacle, flirting with failure, acknowledging that self-formation might be an impossible endeavor. By juxtaposing Griselda’s exploits with the narrative of their grandmother, Reyes interrogates whether familial, social, and historical processes have the final word on what generates a self.

Reyes has produced Griselda as a mediating figure—one who negotiates their own identity between femininity and non-binary gender, and who personifies the absurdity of any singular narrative of origin. In its plenitude and play, the exhibition exceeds the ostensible facticity of the familial and historical archive. Featuring new paintings that hazily recreate family photographs, a vitrine full of childhood teeth that parodies genres of museal presentation, screens that toggle between home videos and the simulation of archival footage, and striking blue-green walls that recall the past domestic spaces of Reyes’s family in El Salvador, the exhibition transforms processes of preservation into acts of mythmaking. The exhibition is less a recreation of the artist’s family’s domiciles than a space of critical reflection and ambiguity. Guests are invited to join in this meditation—and may find their own notions of selfhood implicated as a result.

These exhibitions close 5/19/24.

Apr 122024
 

“Erika”, 2021, VCT, shotgun shells, and drink stirrers

“Duke the Fisherman’s High Quality Fluke Rigs Made in the USA™”, 2022, Found tampon applicators, fishing line, fishing hooks, nail polish, peg board, card stock

Detail of “Monument to Five Thousand Years of Temptation and Deception V, VI, VII”, 2022, Salvaged plastic, paint, fishhooks

The images above are from Duke Riley’s exhibition DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash, on view at Brooklyn Museum in 2023. The artist’s inventive fishing lures, made from discarded plastic items found around waterways, are engaging to look at but highlight the grim reality of how much garbage is polluting our natural environment.

From the museum-

In DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash, Brooklyn-based artist Duke Riley uses materials collected from beaches in the northeastern United States to tell a tale of both local pollution and global marine devastation. Riley’s contemporary interpretations of historical maritime crafts—such as scrimshaw, sailor’s valentines, and fishing lures—confront the catastrophic effect that the oil, food, and beverage industries have had on the environment through single-use plastics. The works are presented in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jan Martense Schenck and Nicholas Schenck Houses, alongside a selection of historical scrimshaw from our collection, directly connecting environmental injustices past and present.

In his contemporary interpretations of scrimshaw—ink drawings etched into bone by sailors—Riley replaces the medium’s customary whale teeth with repurposed plastic containers, detergent bottles, toothbrushes, and other waste. The works incorporate the maritime imagery traditional to scrimshaw, but expand it to portray international business executives that the artist identifies as responsible for the perpetuation of single-use plastics. Also on view are Riley’s fishing lures and sailor’s valentines, similarly created with detritus found on northeast coastal beaches. The exhibition juxtaposes corporation-driven pollution with new short films by Riley that highlight New York community members working to remediate plastic damage and restore our waterways.

Erika, the mosaic pictured above, depicts the 1999 shipwreck of MV Erika which, after splitting in two during a heavy storm, released thousands of tons of oil into the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Brittany.

In the video below, Riley gives a brief tour of the Brooklyn show.

Some of the work from this exhibition is currently on view at Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg as part of their exhibition, The Nature of Art.

 

Feb 232024
 

Wadsworth A. Jarrell’s Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971, spotted at Brooklyn Museum in 2020, is based off of a photograph of the activist.  The colorful painting includes words from her speeches and actual bullet cartridges.

From the museum about the work-

Wadsworth Jarrell’s Revolutionary (Angela Davis) is one of the most recognized paintings associated with the Black Arts Movement, a cultural manifestation of the Black Power Movement. Artists of this movement sought to create uplifting images that called upon Black people to harness their collective power. The power of communal action is here expressed through a chromatic swirl of individual colors that coalesce into a unified image of the radical activist and intellectual Angela Davis. Davis’s militant clothing—complete with bullet cartridges—was modeled after the Revolutionary Suit designed by artist Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth’s wife. An icon of Black Power, Davis continues to lead the prison abolition movement today.

Jarrell, along with his wife, is part of the African American artist collective AFRICOBRA, formed in Chicago in 1968.

Below is part of a statement about the group from their website by another of the founders, Gerald Williams.

AFRICOBRA began very loosely in 1968 as an association of visual artists. We decided to commit our selves to the collective exploration, development, and perpetuation of an approach to image making which would reflect and project the moods, attitudes, and sensibilities of African Americans independent of the technical and aesthetic strictures of Euro-centric modalities.  Jeff Donaldson, who spearheaded the movement,Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and myself, Gerald Williams opened the lid on what we called AFRICOBRA – African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists.  It was an original name that came to identify our place within the broader context of Black art.

Our mission was to encapsulate the quintessential features of African-American consciousness and world view as reflected in real time 1968 terms.  For months, beginning as early as 1967, we examined and talked about the forms of expression and images produced by previous generations of artists.  We came to the realization that there was not the existence of a consistent, unequivocal, uniquely Black aesthetic in visual arts as there was in other disciplines, notably music and dance. Many of our contemporary artists, at the time, generally said that they “were artists who happened to be black”, or held the view that their work was expressing universal ideas or concepts that were not tied to such a narrow category as Black art.   The notion of an intrinsically Black view point, expressed in characteristically “Black ways”  was a relatively alien idea for the most part.  That notion begged the question as to whether it was possible to create a style or approach to art that at its core could be identified as African-American or Black, notwithstanding  the presence of Black imagery or subject matter.  If imagery and subject matter were the sole criteria then the question was moot.  One could conclude, thereby, that Winslow Homer or any number of artists produced Black art when they painted Black images.  After numerous brain storming sessions where such topics were discussed, after test projects and critiques,  the five of us mapped out the core principles that became the foundation of AFRICOBRA.

 

Dec 222023
 

José Parlá’s majestic paintings, pictured above, are from his series CICLOS: Blooms of Mold. They are currently on view as part of the Brooklyn Museum exhibition, Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls. The other artists included are Maya Hayuk, Kennedy Yanko, and the late Leon Polk Smith.

From the museum about the work-

In his monumental compositions, José Parlá layers and scrapes paint to obscure, reveal, and abstract both text and narrative, creating landscapes with textured gestural skies interwoven with a unique code of writing to reveal a new horizon with a universal line. Parlá’s abstracted text visually recalls underground mycelium formations, complex and mysterious fungi communication networks he references that interconnect everything on earth through a web of life. The five newly created paintings on view draw upon his youth as a Cuban American in Miami in the 1980s, his world travels, his almost fatal battle with COVID-19 in 2021, and his survival and recovery.

While in a three-month-long coma after contracting the virus, Parlá experienced dreams that carried him through his healing process. While recovering in the hospital, he transformed these visions into acrylic on paper drawings and, once back in the studio, into these powerful, otherworldly paintings that evoke natural landscapes. Their distinct horizon lines and internal, precise, psychological geographies remind us of our shared humanity.

Blooms of Mold, this new body of large-scale paintings, was inspired by what the art historian Simon Schama, in describing the art of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, once called “blooms of mold,” which one encounters on decaying urban and natural landscapes.

Parlá chose the subtitle Ciclos (from the Greek Kúkos, meaning circle) to refer to the life cycle and the function of the mycelium. It connects to ecosystems, providing nutrients and information to trees, which, in turn, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, providing critical support for the respiratory systems of humans and all other living beings. Without mycelium, there would be no life.

The exhibition will be on view until 7/28/24.

Nov 082023
 

The image above is Boris Anisfeld’s Clouds over the Black Sea-Crimea, 1906, from Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Monet to Morisot: The Real and Imagined in European Art which highlights European art from the 19th and early twentieth-century from their collection. The exhibition “focuses on a period of significant societal transformation, when artistic techniques, subject matter, and patronage underwent profound changes”.

About the painting from the museum-

Boris Anisfeld’s canvas presents a vertiginous view of the Black Sea from the top of the Ayu-Dag mountain in southern Ukraine. The viewer has the sensation of being placed in midair, looking down through billowing clouds at an expanse of blue water, in the midst of which is a small boat. Although the scene represents a vast space, the artist’s complex composition challenges the illusion of depth in traditional landscapes by flattening the elements-cloud, land, and horizon-onto a single plane.

This painting was included in the 1906 Salon d’Automne in Paris in the Russian galleries organized by the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, for whom Anisfeld designed stage sets and costumes. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the artist came to the United States, and within a year the Brooklyn Museum hosted his first American one-person exhibition.

This exhibition closes on 11/12/23.

 

Sep 122023
 

 

Above are two of the works from Athena LaTocha’s The Remains of Winter (Battle Hill, East), 2022, currently at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

From the cemetery’s website about the work-

Athena LaTocha creates large-scale works inspired by her close observations of the natural world, from the deserts and mountains of the Southwest to the Great Plains. She often incorporates elements of these environments, including soil, sand, bark, and rocks. Recently, she has been particularly drawn to trees, considering them as record keepers that bear the markings of time.

Inspired by Green-Wood’s centuries-old trees and its legacy as a place of remembrance, LaTocha has created The Remains of Winter. She cloaked the remains of two massive European beeches on Battle Hill in thin sheets of lead, a material that has been used for centuries in coffins to slow the decomposition of the body. By hand-forming this malleable metal onto the trees, LaTocha captures the unique details of their shapes and forms, even as they slowly degrade beneath the lead.

All around these sculptures, the Cemetery is in a continuous cycle of transformation. Felled trees are turned into mulch for new plantings, earth is removed then replaced for each new burial, and even the stone monuments themselves slowly erode. Through The Remains of Winter, LaTocha memorializes these shifts and changes while also raising profound questions about what we choose to commemorate and mourn—whether it is what we can witness before us or that which, like the movement of continents and land masses, unfolds over lifetimes.

The sculptures will remain on view through September 2023.

Sep 042023
 

Brooklyn artist Ken Rush’s Poolevator is one of several works located in Industry City– organized by The Collision Project.

From The Collision Project about the work-

This installation represents both the reality and fantasy. The reality is depicted in the inspiring monumental architecture, while the fantasy emerges in the joyful addition of a swimming club with a celebration of swimming, sunbathing, recreation and play. For Rush, the work is a homage to Impressionist painters like Monet and Suerat, and the way that they depicted urban and rural pleasures. This is a group project between Rush and three of his students from High School Visual Arts at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights.