May 132024
 

“A beautiful figure without a tongue”, 2024, oil and pencil on canvas

“A beautiful figure without a tongue”, 2024, oil and pencil on canvas (detail)

“Open Season”, 2024, oil and pencil on canvas

“Open Season”, 2024, oil and pencil on canvas (detail)

“Where our love once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew”, 2023, oil and pencil on canvas

“Where our love once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew”, 2023, oil and pencil on canvas (detail)

A sense of foreboding looms over the paintings in Sanam Khatibi’s exhibition We Wait Until Dark at P.P.O.W gallery. In the details are smaller skeletons, ritual objects, and dead animals blood soaks the ground. Life and death are personified in both the figures and the natural surroundings. Flowers bloom or wilt, bones are scattered, a hummingbird shares a moment with a skeleton in one painting while a dead bird lies on the ground in another. Khatibi’s works have many potential meanings, like their art historical predecessors, and leave it to the viewer to come to their own conclusions.

From the press release-

…People who devote their lives to art can often cite an event that placed them on their destined path. Among the earliest memories Belgian artist Sanam Khatibi recalls is the day she discovered a book on Hieronymous Bosch left out on the table by her mother. She was five. That one might advance from consuming the rapturous reproductions of The Garden of Earthly Delights at such a young age to painting expansive, primal scenes of a troubled Paradise is one excellent example of artistic “fate.”

In Khatibi’s paintings and sculptures, the veil between desire and restraint, life and death, and the natural and spirit worlds proves thin. Again and again, the artist returns to t­he figure of a nude goddess navigating a verdant, savage land beyond the protective scrim of “civilization.” In the absence of technology, politics, bills, e-mail, and even clothing, she exhibits her most feral qualities for survival: devouring, eating, attacking, killing, and hunting. Khatibi’s subjects are perennial (desire, seduction, domination, submission), and her references to allegorical forms are extensive (17th-century Dutch still life vanitas, the motif of Death and the Maiden, antiquarian amulets, and anthropological relics), all channeled into displays of human folly and erotic obsession.

Paintings by Khatibi are full of expressions of voracity: for sex, earthly delights, experience, and transcendence, and what happens when you tempt the devil. In Where our love once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew (2023), a fey skeleton seizes a beautiful maiden by the hair under a lightening blue sky –– a grotesque quid pro quo that recalls Lucas Cranach the Elders’ The Ill-Matched Couple (1553); or even Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Hell Courtesan (1831–1889). Decrepit and aging, his skull sprouts strawlike strands of hair, the last indication of vitality. In Open Season (2024), an Amazonian goddess places an intimate offering of amulets and animal sacrifices before a pool of water. There is a sense of reckless abandon: a human skull, a pomegranate cracked open, blood spilling over the cerulean earth––a feast for ravenous souls.

Khatibi’s Eden is repeatedly transformed into a Bosch-like tale of passionate, potentially fatal encounters (a locus amoenus turned upside down into a “locus terribilis”). In A beautiful figure without a tongue (2024), the skeletal personification of Death reappears. A maniacal grin spreads across his decaying face as he slinks away, clutching an ornate vase to his chest. Are these the spoils of Death to be hoarded in a cavernous underworld?

Throughout the exhibition, Khatibi faithfully intertwines two genres of painting (figurative landscape and still life), leaving seemingly ancillary details from one scene to reveal as sharp memento mori in another––as in Overnight Black Aphids Appeared, growing on the tips of the Sophora Sun King (2023). Here, the reappearance of skulls, amulets, and small creatures sans personnages gives the impression of a romantic sojourn set apart from the larger narrative. Each of Khatibi’s objects pulses into realism with near-scientific observation, appearing magnificent and fragile, possibly even forbidden. Placed against a velvety black ground, they fall into shadow as if pulled amorously into the afterlife. –Lola Kramer

Also included in the exhibition are several smaller works, like the one pictured below. In these darker paintings the details stand out against their black background, but the mystery of their meaning remains.

 

“Overnight Black Aphids Appeared, growing on the tips of the Sophora Sun King”, 2023 oil on canvas

Mar 292023
 

Hew Locke, “Listening to the Land” room view

“The Relic”, 2022

“The Relic” 2022 (another side)

“Raw Materials 3”, 2022

“Raw Materials 3”, 2022 (detail)

“Raw Materials 3”, 2022 (detail)

“Jumbie House 2”, 2022

“Jumbie House 2”, 2022

For Hew Locke’s exhibition, Listening to the Land, at P.P.O.W. he has created intricate sculptures and paintings that are fascinating in person.

From the press release-

Locke is known for exploring the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, and the symbols through which different cultures assume and assert identity. Furthering the themes explored in his celebrated commission The Procession at Tate Britain, and his concurrent installation Gilt on the façade of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this exhibit engages with contemporary and historical inequities while reflecting on the landscape and history of the Caribbean. The exhibition draws its title from a poem by Guyanese political activist and poet Martin Carter which situates itself between two opposing forces of the landscape – sea and forest. Locke’s show features new sculptures and wall works with recurring motifs of stilt-houses, boats, memento mori, and share certificates referencing tensions between the land, the sea, and economic power. Reflecting on these links, Locke notes, “The land was created to generate money for colonial power, now the sea wants it back.”

Translating to ‘land of many waters,’ Guyana and its physical, economic, and political landscape serve as one of the primary sources for Locke’s work. Having spent his childhood in this newly independent nation, the artist witnessed first-hand an era of radical transformation. Now, the country teeters on the precipice of an oil boom and is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Juxtaposing personal meditations on the climate crisis with political commentary on the history of a globalized world, Locke contemplates the ways in which colonies were exploited to accumulate capital, and observes how Guyana’s economic future lies in the exploitation of its waters. Locke’s new boat sculptures The Relic and The Survivor embody this broad worldview as the two battered wrecks drift through time and history. Evoking the fragmented and diverse legacies of the global diaspora, the boats’ patchwork sails are interspersed with photo transfers of 19th Century cane cutters and banana boat loaders, while their decks are loaded with cargo that could allude to colonial plunder, trade goods or personal belongings.

Based on an abandoned plantation house, Locke’s newest sculpture Jumbie House 2 features layered images that unveil the spirits that haunt this colonial vestige. Presented alongside are a series of painted photographs of dilapidated vernacular architecture across Georgetown and rural Guyana. Constantly under threat of being washed away by storms or rising sea levels, these crumbling structures echo anxieties surrounding climate change and historical erasure. A new series of mixed media wall works, Raw Materials, is derived from antique share certificates and bonds. Locke richly decorates the appliques with acrylic, beads, and patchwork to draw attention to the complex ways in which the past shapes the present. The image of an 1898 Chinese Imperial Gold Loan behind painted Congolese figures connects the global economy at the height of Empire to current Sino-African trade networks. In another work, a painted representation of a Nigerian Ife mask, alongside an image of David Livingstone, is layered on a French-African Mortgage Bond from 1923, connecting exploration and exploitation of African land, to current conversations surrounding the repatriation of artifacts. Taken together, the works in Locke’s Listening to the Land echo William Faulkner’s adage “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

This exhibition closes 4/1/23.

The Procession, mentioned above, can now be seen at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in Gateshead, England until June 11th, 2023.

Gilt, also mentioned above, is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art until May 30th, 2023.

 

Feb 212023
 

For Adam Putnam’s recent exhibition Holes at P.P.O.W gallery in New York, he takes the visitor on a multimedia journey into the self.

From P.P.O.W’s press release-

Through the building up of imagery by means of photography, drawing, sculpture, film, and performance, Adam Putnam continues an ongoing exploration of the boundaries between architecture, nature, the physical and the internal self, often using one as a stand in for the other.

A single, hand-carved wooden finger beckons the viewer toward a labyrinth of 365 “visualizations.” Initiated during the long months of lockdown, this mass of miniature drawings takes on an elusive arrangement, like an archaic diagram of the unconscious mind, with patterns emerging and dissolving as the visitor weaves through the space. Accompanying this accumulation are a new series of drawings and photographs, depicting architectural inversions and other implements such as a crumbling brick column and a rusty sword.

The labyrinth ultimately leads to a shadowy monolith vibrating with light, smoke and bubbles. Based on a 2022 site- specific, multi-sensory work commissioned in response to the experiential interests and preferences of a small group of people with Profound Mental and Learning Disabilities (PMLD) living in Midlothian, Scotland, the tower, which can be viewed alternately as a lighthouse, clocktower, steeple and sundial, aims to connect through touch, scent, light and sound. As we enter a post-pandemic world, Holes offers an opportunity for collective experience and contemplation of the otherworldliness imbedded in the everyday.

Putnam’s Instagram is currently private, but you can check out his Tarot influenced artwork here. He was giving Tarot readings throughout the duration of the show using his handmade cards.