Jun 122024
 

Lubaina Himid’s solo exhibition Street Sellers at Greene Naftali is filled with gorgeous paintings, but there is so much more to the work. Through the experience of sounding out the phonetic signs and reading what’s written behind them, the viewer is given a chance to go beyond the surface for a glimpse of the inner worlds of her subjects. It’s like receiving a beautifully wrapped gift and realizing it was only a prelude to the wonders inside.

From the gallery-

Himid’s latest cycle of paintings affirms the dignity of work through depictions of vendors who ply their wares, elegantly dressed and equipped with the tools of their particular trade. The figures emerge from a rich blend of temporalities and points of reference: from the hawkers that remain street-level fixtures of urban life, to popular prints of merchants and peddlers dating back to 17th-century London as rare documents of the working class. The genre of the full-length portrait—linked to aristocrats and monarchs—is also recast with new protagonists, shown on a grand scale and fully at one with their respective métiers. Asserting the centrality of Black subjects to art historical arenas long denied them, Himid frees herself to invent what the archive lacks: “I paint it into existence.”

Each canvas is paired with a work on paper ingeniously printed to mimic a cardboard sign, embellished with painted motifs and phonetic letters that induce the viewer to read aloud—uttering the sales pitch to lend the exhibition an informal soundtrack. The prints are double-sided, with the backs revealing the sellers’ true thoughts that go unsaid. Often romantic or wistful, those inner monologues betray their attachment to the goods they carry, which Himid renders with lapidary attention to an egg’s speckled surface, the weave of chair caning, the ribbed interior of a cowrie shell. Objects here are charged like talismans—vectors of connection that are meant to change hands.

That intimacy extends to Himid’s paintings on domestic objects: from portrait heads on discarded dresser drawers to miniature vignettes on found crockery. Opening a drawer is an everyday revelation, an airing out of hidden depths, and Himid has described it as an ideal container for “lost or forgotten lives”—a compartment to hold the “memories of people whose names no one had bothered to write down.” China plates and platters are likewise tied to acts of routine encounter, which Himid overpaints with subtle disruptions to their polite decorum. One thrifted ceramic sports a tongue, another a single molar—the first pieces of a planned New York Dinner Service the artist will source locally over time, then emblazon with every part of the human body as seen from inside. Faintly troubling yet also convivial in their nods to communal space and shared endeavor, the works extend Himid’s career-long project of “interrogating narratives about the desire to belong.”

This exhibition closes 6/15/24.

Jun 072024
 


Kurimanzutto is currently showing two bodies of work from Argentinian artist Marta Minujín’s remarkable and varied career. The brightly colored soft sculptures are captivating but the darker pieces provide an intriguing balance.

From the press release-

“Easel painting is dead,” Marta Minujín explained in 1966, “Today man can no longer be satisfied with a static painting hanging on a wall. Life is too dynamic.” This pronouncement on painting’s demise centers a “death v. life” dialectic that propelled Minujín’s artistic experiments throughout the tumultuous 1960s. Her pursuit of a radically dynamic and temporal art that could, in her own words, “register changes that take place minute by minute” turned Minujín into a trailblazer of happenings, performances, participatory environments, and mass media art in her home country of Argentina as well as in France and the U.S.

Such a pioneering trajectory was first set into motion by two bodies of work created before 1965: Minujín’s soft sculptures, known as “Los eróticos en Technicolor [The Erotics in Technicolor]” and her chthonic paintings and assemblages in an informalist style. Together these discrete chapters of her oeuvre form a tensely intertwined conceptual dyad ruled by opposite forces, Eros and Thanatos, respectively. Their common ground—what they evoke as a site registering changes—was the body. Both series generated radically anthropomorphic artworks while implicating the body of the artist, the viewer, and the body politic, too.

For the first time since 1963, when Minujín’s informalist assemblages shared her Paris studio with “Los eróticos”, these two series of work have been brought exclusively together, allowing for their dialogue on the vulnerabilities and joys of the embodied condition to unfold. They speak of crises that go well beyond painting’s purported expiration—houselessness, chronic disease, ailing democracy, and the sexual revolution, among others—and that, though proper to the 1960s, resonate with present circumstances. Yet, by virtue of their Janus-faced nature, Minujin’s early works also suggest the possibilities of community, healing, and jubilant defiance before such upheavals and predicaments.

This exhibition closes 6/8/24.

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 302024
 

Beverly Semmes’ exhibition Cut Paste, at Susan Inglett Gallery, expands on her previous work with new textures and fabrics. A red velvety robe hovers behind a sky blue painting containing a wave of blond curls and a partial eye looking out at you. Two pairs of hands on yellow mirror each other.  Duplicates appear again in the paintings adorning textured vests sewn to a gauzy orange fabric.

The materials enhance the details of their attached paintings, but they also create questions about their meaning. What is the purpose of the robe, the high heels, manicured nails, the fake (or real) white fur – do they represent luxury or the illusion of it?

From the press release-

I begin by drawing and painting on an image from a porn or fashion magazine page. I then use scissors and tape to further separate the image. from this context/environment. A new image is born from these parts, most of which belong to my longtime friend Nikie, who modeled in the early 2000s. The pair of hands, the foot in a shoe, those are all Nikie’s.

—Beverly Semmes

In Cut Paste, Semmes ups the ante in her perennial mixing of mediums, found images, scale and techniques. Early on Semmes brought her roughhewn ceramic pots literally into the folds of regal wall-to-floor sculptures, her signature works, setting them out like buoys in the pooling fabric. Now paintings enter the fray, no longer separate but equal. While several large paintings are presented conventionally, others are treated as accessories to the fabric pieces, where they appear at chest height. Smaller than a breast plate, too large to be a pendant, the odd coupling trades in the artist’s long standing engagement with Surrealism and the absurd. One of the assemblages has a companion piece–a full-size, independent version of the “worn” painting–amplifying the dialogue between historically cisgendered sewing and painting, the one grounded in the here and now, the other conjuring a world apart. The paintings are themselves hybrids resulting from a recursive process of hand painting on iterative hi-res scans of the cut, pasted and taped magazine drawings. But paint has the final word, variously altering, accentuating and concealing what lies beneath.

The group of work as a whole is set to the rhythm of repetition through doubling and Rorschaching. A pair of wall-mounted twins in orange organza, standing shoulder to shoulder like choir boys, wear matching paintings. Doubling down, the small canvases feature a mirrored composite image involving photographic and painted bare legs, red pitchers, a sofa and stripes. The image has then been further altered–abstracted–by its upended presentation as a vertical when it actually reads horizontally. The fluid positionality carries on throughout the exhibition in the way Semmes toggles between abstraction and figuration, digital or painted illusionism and IRL, pitchers and stilettos, dressed and undressed, power and vulnerability. Here Semmes levels the playing field, using her favorite models along with long-coveted fabrics, shapes, objects, and patterns as fodder for an unhinged formalism. Her restless process of cutting and pasting leads the way.

This exhibition closes 6/1/24.

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 242024
 

“The Water-Bearer (Version 20)”,2024, Acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, ink and marker on canvas with collage

“The Water-Bearer (Version 20)”,2024 (detail)

“The Fish (Version 20)”, 2023, Acrylic, colored pencil, graphite, ink, permanent marker and oil-based permanent marker on canvas with collage

“The Fish (Version 20)”, 2023, (detail)

Tomorrow (5/25/24) is the last day to see Edward Holland’s mixed media zodiac paintings, At the Bottom of the Celestial Sea, at Hollis Taggart. The layers of color and the collaged items combine to form fascinating portraits of the astrological signs, while also hinting at larger themes.

From the press release-

Edward Holland’s zodiac painting series, which he started creating in 2014, are inspired by the many dimensions of zodiac signs from the astronomical to the astrological and the mythological. Holland incorporates the linear geometry of a zodiacal constellation in each painting, using this as a kind of framework onto which he collages printed papers ranging from notes from his neighbors and poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti to maps and doodles created by his two daughters. Holland then builds on this foundation with graphite and paint, at times scribbling out the words on the printed papers, and at others layering expressive brushwork – usually incorporating the color associated with the given zodiac – in what resemble fragments of Abstract Expressionist paintings. The resulting works are almost like abstracted portraits of each zodiac, inviting the viewer into a game of excavating their many layers of meaning.

To take one example, The Archer (Version 18), 2024, is scaffolded by the constellation of Sagittarius rendered in purple and anchored by moments of bold yellow, which is complementary of the color attributed to the zodiac. Partially hidden beneath layers of paint are instructions for how to bandage a wounded leg as well as anatomical drawings of legs, nodding to Sagittarius’ association with lower limbs. Peeking through at the center of the canvas is the signature moustache of Frank Zappa, the legendary musician and composer born under the sign of Sagittarius. Each painting contains dozens of such zodiacal associations – some more obscure than others, with certain material so painted over that it is no longer visible to the viewer. While it may seem that Holland would search for such reference material intentionally, he only ever uses materials he finds on the street or which is shared with him by friends and family. This adds a sense of wonder to the works, as the material has come to the artist through serendipity.

For more on the artist and this series, Artnet recently visited him in his studio to discuss his work and process.

 

May 222024
 

Pictured above is Frank Stella’s 1986 work, La vecchia dell’orto, on view at Columbus Museum of Art, part of New Encounters: Reframing the Contemporary Collection of the Columbus Museum of Arta reinstallation of the museum’s contemporary galleries.

About the work from the museum-

In the 1960s Frank Stella began creating paintings with a composition of lines that closely followed the shape of the canvas. These works often resisted any sense of depth, but in the following decade, Stella would go on to create exuberant works like this, composed of brightly painted cones and other shapes that extend beyond the surface of the rectangle behind it.

The title of this work, like others in his Cones and Pillars series, is taken from an Italian folktale in which a mother’s only daughter is kept by a witch as payment for a cabbage she stole from the witch’s garden.

Stella’s practice was always evolving. In his most recent large painted sculptures, currently on view at Deitch in NYC, you can see how he expanded on the concepts he was working with here.

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.

May 172024
 

“Island”, 2024. Acrylic on paper

“Daredevil”, 2024, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, and “L’Observatoire, 2024, Acrylic on paper

Yancey Richardson is currently showing two exhibitions which focus on architecture and city life. Mary Lum’s paintings and collages for temporary arrangements combine elements of city life found on her walks in New York and Paris. Fragments she discovers along the way combine to form dynamic interpretations of these environments.

From the press release-

Lum mines aspects of daily life, vistas of architecture, design, and advertising that could easily go unnoticed. These familiar and often mundane sights are transformed into something more: juxtapositions and layers of random elements, which show both spontaneity and control, perhaps revealing a glimpse into the soul of a city.

The exhibition title temporary arrangements refers to Lum’s journeys though the streets of New York and Paris, observing the fragments of a crumbling façade of a building, a vendor’s pushcart, or a poster for a vernissage, which may have a short shelf life in the urban environment. Lum takes photographs on the streets looking at geometric forms, planes of color, and text. She pulls off bits of advertising posters that are peeling from their bases and collects printed materials – all of which are collaged in her sketchbooks, becoming the basis for her paintings. These elements provide inspiration for Lum, who creates a collision of perspectives and forms that boldly announce the delights of quiet discoveries.

Susan Cross, Senior Curator, Mass MoCA, wrote that Lum’s work “suggests the speed of daily life and the fragmented way in which we encounter language in the world. Language speeds up and slows down, much in the way that when we are walking or riding a bike in the city our pace is determined by what we notice around us. Words come together and fall apart, with each individual viewer making meaning.”

Influenced by Cubism and Russian Constructivism, Lum is also interested in the concept of psychogeography, as practiced by members of the Situationist International movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. Referring to the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behavior of the individual, one may see Lum’s interdisciplinary practice as a physical manifestation of this phenomenon. Lum also finds inspiration in artist and activist Corita Kent’s graphic style and fractured text as well as artist Ray Yoshida’s use of comics, which tell stories with isolated fragments.

Mary Lum wrote, “A couple of years ago I saw a William Kentridge exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. One of the things that kept jumping out at me from that show was the phrase: ’FIND THE LESS GOOD IDEA.’ That painted phrase was repeated several times in various parts of the exhibition, and each time I saw it I got a little jolt of recognition. I’m not sure exactly what Kentridge meant by that phrase (it’s related to his Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg), but to me it meant everything about the way I work. I took the reference to mean finding the things that are in the margins, those things that are on the periphery, those things that are between the lines, that you see out of the corner of your eye. Not through a concerted effort, but by paying attention, looking around, looking the other way. And often, later, you are not sure that you’ve seen these things at all.”

For Lynn Saville’s exhibition Elevated, she has captured NYC at its most peaceful time, twilight.

From the press release-

Twilight in the city, after the sun disappears below the horizon and the hustle and bustle has dissipated, is where Lynn Saville finds refuge and inspiration. For decades, she has documented these fleeting, dream-like moments suspended in time within the urban landscape.

Elevated showcases Saville’s mastery of the city’s natural light. Much like Edward Hopper, who painted the solitude of New York City through its buildings and rooftops, Saville’s photographs transform architectural elements and structures into dramatic geometric forms and patterns through light and shadows. Saville describes the importance of capturing images at twilight, “During this transitional time, the change from daylight to moonlight and artificial light seems to awaken the city’s own dreams, apart from the business and errands of its inhabitants. For me, these dreams are expressed in basic shapes and patterns, as if the infrastructure were communing with its own geometry while distracting details are hidden in shadow. The shifting light brings out forms that may disappear in the darkness of night or remain invisible during the more chaotic visual world of daylight.”

As the exhibition title implies, photographs featured in the show were taken from the elevated platforms of New York City’s mass transit system or from the street looking upward at structures on rooftops. These photographs explore perspectives on the language of the built environment and our perception of the cityscape. For example, Elevated subway platforms offer an expanse of skyline structures such as rooftops, water towers, and upper sections of nearby buildings, which along with the coming and goings of trains become the focal point.

Both of these exhibitions close 5/18/24.

May 142024
 

 

Kris Lemsalu’s sculptures for One foot in the gravy at Margot Samel are well crafted explorations into life and death, using a lot of tongues. There’s a lot of humor in the work, and this levity is nice to see in the galleries- especially in our current times.

The press release is interesting too-

One should acknowledge, with infinite joy, the fact of being alive. We should celebrate our existence and recognize its fragility in every moment. It’s easy to forget, to get distracted by mundane circumstances of our day-to-day life. On the other hand, life’s impermanence may induce panic, an all-encompassing fear that leaves us searching for answers. Still, we are resilient to becoming just another customer at Café Gratitude, its slogan ringing in our ears like a mosquito — What Are You Grateful For? Baruch Spinoza introduced the concept of conatus, which illustrates the internal drive of every being to persevere in its existence. The conatus is inherent to every substance; it is the engine that propels life. However, older philosophies get boiled down to artificially made bite-sized snacks at Café Gratitude — Live Laugh Love — pushing us to habitually flee from quick, feel-good moments.

Celebrating life doesn’t seem to intimidate Estonian artist Kris Lemsalu. Her work emphasizes, with absolute honesty, life and its different stages. This direct form of communication is not new to the artist. In 2019, she presented the work Birth V – Hi and Bye at the Venice Biennale which was an unmediated exploration of cycles relating to birth, life, death, and (fortunately) rebirth. Lemsalu continues her celebratory, inquisitive, and pagan journey in her exhibition at Margot Samel. We are welcomed with a grand altar inscribed with “VITA”, each letter created with an anthropomorphic character that references Baubo, a figure from Greek mythology associated with vitality and renewal, famed for making Demeter laugh in her most tragic moment. This figure often recurs in Lemsalu’s work, appearing with a jaw (or vulva) as a head, wearing a pair of cargo pants with tongues leaning out from its utilitarian pockets.

Tongues multiply in various sizes and formats throughout the space. Sometimes they are raised like the bright flag of a grand country, other times they rest on a rocking chair, contemplating life. The tongue is a familiar symbol in Lemsalu’s work. The artist often correlates the body part to the Hindu deity Kali, a controversial figure, who in the ecstasy of an uncontrolled dance, extended her great tongue to drink the blood of demons, resulting in a triumph over negative forces. Kali’s tongue is a symbol that evokes both laughter and fear, simultaneously bestowing life and death, creation and destruction.

When we enter the world of Lemsalu’s work, our experience functions as a ritual. Each work acts as a rite that celebrates our conatus and the perseverance of our existence, shamelessly celebrating our fragility and the passage of time, commemorating life with flowers, with one foot deep into the gravy.

Enrique Giner de Los Ríos