Christy Rupp’s Leaf Litter

by Jen Dragon

Installation view of Christy Rupp: Leaf Litter at the Ildiko Butler Gallery, Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus
Installation view of Christy Rupp: Leaf Litter at the Ildiko Butler Gallery, Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus

Christy Rupp’s latest solo exhibition Leaf Litter at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus is an installation that comments on the environment while creating its own environment. Large printed digital versions of Rupp’s collages cover both end walls serving to expand the width of the gallery while sculptures of indicator species distort space as the perspective shifts dizzyingly from micro to macro organisms. 

Aquatic Larvae, 2020 welded steel and single use plastic debris, each approximately 33 X 13 X 8 inches
Aquatic Larvae, 2020 welded steel and single use plastic debris, each approximately 33 X 13 X 8 inches

One wall-sized collage depicts housing construction in a forest with a three-dimensional sculpture of an extinct Quetzel bird perched above. This bird, once common in Central America, is made of credit cards; a commentary on borrowing from the future at the expense of the present. The other wall features a depiction of an oily mess of broken pipes under water with small planktonic crabs flowing through. A large Forest Newt made of burnt matches is installed above symbolizing the connection between air and water pollution made possible by the destabilized levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Bridging the two walls is an installation of eight enlarged aquatic larvae made from single use plastics representing the omnipresence of micro plastic particles now evident in all stages of organic life. 

Detail views of Christy Rupp’s installation Leaf Litter
Detail views of Christy Rupp’s installation Leaf Litter

Christy Rupp’s artwork has long shown a light on fragile ecologic systems and threatened species. As climate change accelerates, her work has taken on more urgency as she turns her attention to the unseen casualties of disrupted environments from minute larvae and plankton to immense forest and aquatic ecosystems. Rupp also engages the ghosts of extinction such as the Quetzel bird with the implication of possible mass death for other life forms. 

Leaf Litter is an exhibition that is clear and direct yet the installation is infused with ironic humor. The large-scale wall piece on the East wall depicts a nostalgic, cheerful cooperation of blue-collar construction workers together with suited-up architects and engineers while underground pipes leak sewage and towering trees are poised for felling. On the west wall, the whimsy of helplessly floating zooplankton in whirling oil and water underscores the horror inherent in the beauty of these non-miscible fluids. And in the center, a school of eight larger-than-life aquatic larvae stuffed with colorful plastics that permeate their beings swim obediently in formation. 

Detail views of Christy Rupp’s installation Leaf Litter
Detail views of Christy Rupp’s installation Leaf Litter

Leaf Litter coincides with the publication of Christy Rupp’s monograph, Noisy Autumn. This art book is a survey of over 45 years of Rupp’s ecological sculpture and works on paper. Her perceptive message has been consistent throughout her career and becomes increasingly relevant as time goes by. As climate change accelerates, Christy Rupp’s artwork urgently demands that we consider both the seen and the unseen as well as what has happened and is poised to happen – unless we take action. 

Christy Rupp: Leaf Litter on view through February 27, 2022 at the Ildiko Butler Gallery, Fordham University, 160 W 60th Street, New York, NY 10023 United States. The galleries are open everyday from 9–9, except during University holidays. More info: contact@fordhamuniversitygalleries.com


Jacqueline de Jong and Violence at the Border-Line

by Carol Bruns

Jacqueline, de Long, Locked in and Out, 2021, oil stick on paper, 55 1/8 x 79 7/8 inches (140 x 203 cm)
Photo: Tim Doyon. Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York
Jacqueline, de Long, Locked in and Out, 2021, oil stick on paper, 55 1/8 x 79 7/8 inches (140 x 203 cm) Photo: Tim Doyon. Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York

Our culture is permeated with violence. By media or in person we regularly experience violent economics, massacres of children in schools with automatic weapons, relentless assaults on the natural environment, widespread domestic violence, and even violent car driving, movies, games and songs. In an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon the character Tarantino remarks, “It’s even in breakfast cereals” and we guiltily laugh along with children at their absurd and extreme ferocious capers. It seems we’re wired onto its electric horror and excitement, while its production of suffering in real life is staggering and immeasurable, leaving no one unharmed, usually the direct result of policy choices.

Not new but never old hat, painting violence has a continuous historical thread. In Modernism Manet, Beckmann, Dix, Picasso, and Golub, among throngs of others, have roped social brutality and suffering to a wide scope of aesthetic means. Dutch artist Jacqueline de Jong, an important artist of the post-war avant-garde, is now showing paintings at Ortuzar Projects in Tribeca highlighting the violence of the world-wide refugee crisis.

At age 82, the artist has a long and notable past. She was born in 1939 to a Jewish family of art collectors. Soon after when the Nazis occupied Holland, the French Resistance aided de Jong and her mother to escape from Amsterdam to Switzerland while her father remained behind in hiding. In 1947 after the war the family reunited when she was about eight years old.

In 1959 when de Jong was 20 she became romantically involved for ten years with the older Danish painter Asger Jorn (1914-1973), a friend of her parents. He was 45 then and had founded the avant-garde group CoBrA and the Situationist International, both European organizations of social revolutionaries who were anti-authoritarian, radical leftists. She met Debord of the Situationist International, author of The Society of the Spectacle, and in 1960 joined them as one of two women, becoming a central member. She was expelled in 1962 and commented,

“I was in solidarity with (the German branch) Gruppe SPUR. It was very simple. The magazine was on trial in Germany for blasphemy and pornography but, instead of defending it, Debord, Attila Kotányi and Raoul Vaneigem made a pamphlet denouncing the group. They said the magazine was financed by a capitalist, which was absolutely ridiculous because this capitalist was the same big collector that bought all of Jorn’s paintings. And Jorn financed the situationists. I mean, it was hilarious: so totalitarian – and totally hypocritical. I sided with Gruppe SPUR and so did the Scandinavians, and that was that.

Jacqueline, de Long, Sous-Terrain, 2021, oil pastel and acrylic paint on unprepared canvas, 73-31/50 x 96-3/50 x 1-97/100 inches (187 x 244 x 5 cm). Photo: Tim Doyon. Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York
Jacqueline, de Long, Sous-Terrain, 2021, oil pastel and acrylic paint on unprepared canvas, 73-31/50 x 96-3/50 x 1-97/100 inches (187 x 244 x 5 cm). Photo: Tim Doyon. Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York

”De Jong’s next move was to originate, edit and publish The Situationist Times for the five years of its existence from her Paris apartment until it went bankrupt. She said, “The point, for me, was to offer a platform for publishing things that couldn’t be disseminated anywhere else” while Jorn continued to collaborate with SI under a different name. The six issues between 1962 and 1967 had a very lively appearance with colored papers, expressive drawings, and a variety of content such as an exquisite corpse game, an algebraic text, and a composer’s score. It was inexpensively hand printed in a process between duplicating and offset and then bound. She said of this involvement, “What I was interested in, quite simply, was changing the world.”

During the May, 1968 uprising de Jong was active, pasting posters throughout the streets of Paris. It was a crucial moment personally and politically. When the radical humanism of student power was smacked down she reflected, “The Communist Party came out against the students and told the workers not to support them. That was pretty much the end of it. We felt immensely betrayed. It was three weeks of total euphoria – such a feeling of possibility – and after came a huge hangover. Complete disillusionment. In a way, it was also the beginning of the end of my relationship with Jorn; it was the moment at which I realized that he was of a different generation. He didn’t want to be involved (although he did also make posters in support of the students); he said he had already been through the Spanish Civil War.”

Fifty years and a life replete with exhibitions, monumental commissions, and lectures followed.

Recently, during the corona virus lockdown, the artist was struck by news of refugee crises in Idlib, Syria and the Mediterranean. In response, she wove its humanitarian and political catastrophes into a group of new paintings, Border-Line, commenting, “They are about refugees mainly, Syrian not from Afghanistan, because I made work about that not so long ago. Also, there are South American refuges. What I used are mainly newspaper and television images and I just made a story out of them – not my story, but their story via me.”

Jacqueline, de Long, Refugees (Bogota/Venezuela) (Border Line), 2020, oil stick and nepheline gel on canvas, 39-37/100 x 51-9/50 x 1-97/100 inches (100 x 130 x 5 cm) Photo: Tim Doyon
Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York
Jacqueline, de Long, Refugees (Bogota/Venezuela) (Border Line), 2020, oil stick and nepheline gel on canvas, 39-37/100 x 51-9/50 x 1-97/100 inches (100 x 130 x 5 cm) Photo: Tim Doyon
Courtesy of the artist and Ortuzar Projects, New York

Upon entering the elegant Ortuzar Projects gallery, the paintings’ formal mastery lept off the wall. Using oil sticks, pencil, brush, finger, and cloth, de Jong constructed bold spaces on the canvas such as in Refugees (Bogota/Venezuela) (39 3/8 x 51 1/4 inches) where a table and folding screen corral the international crisis into a domestic format with three refugees huddled under the table painted in brown, red, yellow, pale blue and green while an anguished refugee four times larger anchors the right side in pink and magenta. A decapitated head lies on the table and behind the screen a long queue of refugees are roughly indicated in back and white. Her style of drawing repudiates naturalism and convention as did CoBrA artists, the art of the insane, and indigenous art pointing to a truth beyond appearances, one from a deeper place. I imagined de Jong painting with an athletic stance, from the shoulder, using her entire arm to register the deformations of violence in a process of constant invention.

The painting Devils Morgate (55 x 90 inches) seduces the gaze to enter a demonic scene by beautiful color including both pastel shades and primary hues. Set in a crowded imaginary space the figures recline, sit, span foreground to background, while grimacing, grinning, laughing, and emerging from ambiguous places. A toothy grin, scrambled hair, and claws keep the eye focused on savage details that present the viewer with the simultaneous existence of high culture and the barbaric.

Locked in and Out (55 x 80 1/2 inches) employs emphatic drawing to fracture the canvas into areas where some figures are contained within and others escape to the outside of shard-like borders. In the mayhem a skeleton figure reclines. One pink figure is upside down, one painted entirely in shades of green. All the figure depictions are animal-like, agonized, deformed, possibly demented. The palette of purple, black and white zones, yellow ochre, red, the palest yellow, and a primary yellow enchant while the monstrous figures repel. On a personal level this tense situation seems to demand that opposite energies within can be acknowledged and their tension tolerated in a search for the truth, that our hideous and cruel shadows can be transformed. The political arena is ourselves multiplied.

UK public intellectual Terry Eagleton has said that tragic art is a perverse blend of terror and delight, and that because cast in symbolic form, the audience can reap pleasure from it. Tragic art is both an acceptable form of obscene enjoyment and an art form of great moral depth and splendor. De Jong told a New York Times interviewer recently that she listens to Bach while painting in her sky-lit Amsterdam townhouse attic, and that she does not do yoga or exercise. “In the old days I said there are two important exercises: painting and making love.”

Jacqueline de Jong’s Border-Line Exhibition opened November 11, 2021 and continues until January 8, 2022 at Ortuzar Projects, 9 White Street, New York NY 10013

Encountering Exaltation: The Recent Paintings of Margaret Evangeline

by Dominique Nahas

Margaret Evangeline, A Certain Dianthus, 2021, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"
Margaret Evangeline, A Certain Dianthus, 2021, oil on canvas, 48″ x 48″

It’s the sense of exaltation, the sense of revealment (or un-concealment, as Heidegger would put it) in Margaret Evangeline’s work that always triggers a lot of emotions in me. This calling-forth tone indicates. It doesn’t state or designate. Evangeline’s art rests halfway, poised between a point of revealment leavened with a sense of the untold, the unresolvedness of it all. This tone has an undeniable presence to it that is in itself a manifestation that allows a polyphony of feeling tones to emerge from the work.

In his text “The Alchemy of Imagination” Gaston Bachelard refers to “…the law of ambivalence which sets into play the movement of the imagination…[A] matter which does not elicit a psychological ambivalence cannot find its poetic double which allows for endless transpositions. It is necessary…to have a double participation …of desire and fear, …of good and evil, of… black and white- for the material element to involve the entire soul. …In the realm of imagination there is no value without polyvalence…”

This calling-forth aspect of ambivalence is the rapturous aspect of Evangeline’s aesthetic vision. That equivocal vision is sustained in the whorls of painterly activity that suggests the opening and flowering of the camellia-flower that she has used for some time now – as the MacGuffin, so to speak, that lies at the off-center of her work. That off-centering, with its productive fragrance of mystery is not fixed within a point of conclusion. That involuted point turns in on itself.  So much so that paradoxically, as all great work, Evangeline’s art has a sense of inevitability about it; as if, somehow, it could not be any other way. That “way”, as “path” (methodos is the Greek word), sustains chaos and cosmos equally. 

Margaret Evangeline, Dream Series #1 (B), oil on canvas, 16" x 20"
Margaret Evangeline, Dream Series #1 (B), oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″

To that point Bachelard, in his 1943 text “L’air et les songes “(“Air and Dreams”) writes on poetic expression and its grounding in what he calls “…the immanence of the imagination in the real, the continuous passage from the real to the imaginary.” Bachelard makes remarks that go to the heart of Evangeline’s aesthetic. This inclination is that of trying to fuse differences, of exalting destruction as part of creation, of trying to emerge in a new creative place that is altogether indefinable.  We see and feel these tendencies in her paintings such as “For LMG, Yellow Rooms Maker Her Cry, Version Two” (2019), and “Blue Reef” (2021). Bachelard writes: “…Imagination is always considered to be the faculty of forming images. But it is rather the faculty of deforming the images (my italics) offered by perception, of freeing ourselves from the immediate images; it is especially the faculty of changing images. The value of an image is measured by the extent of its imaginary radiance. Thanks to the imaginary… the imagination is essentially open, evasive. In the human psyche it is the very experience of openness and newness…” Evangeline’s paintings such as “Disintegrating Camelia with Pink Aura #1” ((2018), “Disintegrating Camelia with Pink Aura #2”, (2018),  and “Language 1” (2019),  present us with vestiges of an evasive essence.  

Margaret Evangeline, Disintegrating Camellia with Pink Aura #1, oil on canvas, 59" x 75"
Margaret Evangeline, Disintegrating Camellia with Pink Aura #1, oil on canvas, 59″ x 75″

This calling-forth manifestation of newness within Margaret Evangeline’s work is what makes it so seductive. The non-finito energies that course through her recent work reinforces these energies. Paintings completed in 2021 such as “A Certain Dianthus”, “Rose”, “Irises”, “Iris” are good examples of this position of non-conclusiveness. The seemingly unfinished aspect is poignant, reminding us of our mortality. John Berger’s comment in “Once in A Painting” one of his essays in the 1984 collection entitled “And our faces, my heart, brief as photos” is apt.  He writes: “When is a painting finished? Not when it finally corresponds to something already existing… but when the foreseen ideal moment of its being looked at is filled, as the painter feels or calculates it to be. The long or short process of painting a picture is the process of constructing such a moment.”  Later in his essay he calls this moment the “painting’s moment-of-being-looked-at.” Evangeline’s calling-forth energy entices the “painting’s moment-of -being-looked at.” It is advanced through the pursuit of presence of her work and as her work. 

Margaret Evangeline, Greening World #7, 2021, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"
Margaret Evangeline, Greening World #7, 2021, oil on canvas, 48″ x 48″

In Jean-Luc Nancy’s “The Birth to Presence” he sets it right. He writes: “…Consider this canonical definition of the imagination: “the representation of a thing in its absence.” Usually we take it to mean “while the thing is absent, is elsewhere.” But what if we were to understand: the presentation of a thing within its absence, going to the heart of this absence, penetrating into, and abandoning itself unto the infinite hollow of presence whence presence comes?  “Image,” here, means rather the emotion of a coming into presence, coming from no presence, going to no presence.” … Painting presents presence and always, saying nothing, says: here is this thing, and here is its presence, and here is presence, absolute, never general, always singular. Presence which comes, the coming into presence, the coming-and-going, ceaselessly coming and going from its own discreteness to the discreteness of every time that is “proper” to it. …There is no such thing as presence proper, there is only the coming and going of presence…”

Keeping this in mind, Margaret Evangeline’s artistic practice, then, can be understood and experienced as her activity of attempting to go to the very heart of this “hollow” of presencing. As a result, the sensuousness of her mark-making and form-making is as undeniable as its presencing. Margaret Evangeline’s art is a manifestation of the liminal moment of an encounter with absence.  Through that absence we sense a longing for a thing that is the never-to-be-accounted-for thing. Evangeline’s paintings such as “35,001 Roses” (2010-15) and “Heloise and Abelard’s Last Love Letter” (2018) are tinged with wistful irreconcilability. 

Margaret Evangeline, Greening World #6, 2021, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"
Margaret Evangeline, Greening World #6, 2021, oil on canvas, 48″ x 48″

Another vital aspect of Evangeline’s vision is how impactful it is; the art she makes is apparitional. We see and feel this incantatory measure in her works such as “Dream Series #1(a)” and “Dream Series #1(b)” (both 2021), and “Shift #1”, (2012-2016). Gilles Deleuze, in Difference and Repetition, remarks: “Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter.” (Deleuze’s italics.) Deleuze points out that an object of recognition is a re-presentation of something already in place. By contrast encountering in itself operates as a rupture in our usual habits, those that serve to confirm our subjectivities. The encountering presence itself offers affirmation of being in the world, of the world, differently, without an a priori, as a not-known.  Deleuze’s insights here seem to be echoing his philosophical progenitor Maurice Blanchot. In The Infinite Conversation  Blanchot writes : “This means that to think the unknown is in no way to propose it as “the not yet known,” the object of a knowledge still to come, any more than it would be to go beyond it as “the absolutely unknowable,” a subject of pure transcendence, refusing itself to all manner of knowledge and expression…research relates to the unknown as unknown…this relation will not consist in an unveiling. The unknown will not be revealed but indicated.”

Margaret Evangeline, 2021, The Bare Sea, oil on canvas, 60" x 48"
Margaret Evangeline, 2021, The Bare Sea, oil on canvas, 60″ x 48″

Margaret Evangeline’s excursions into her floral motifs are a fine placeholder for those who cannot help themselves in wanting to identify the recognizable. These shape-shifting floral traces of identification allow Evangeline cover, so to speak, as she enters into her worlds of poetry. The artist’s “Red Resurrection” (2010), “The Clementine Vulgate” (2019), and “Lady Macbeth” (2021), for example, lead us to experience mark-making, forms and colors where cosmos with chaos intertwine.  We sense pursuit of an encounter with presence that is the never-to-be-accounted-for, some-thing un-knowable. Such a brush with presence eludes detection, prevents its very identification as some-thing certifiable. An elision between the seen and the unforeseen, the saying of it and its muteness. All of this is part of the dance that sustains Margaret Evangeline’s aesthetic vision. Convergence and dissolution, chance and change, are key players in her work. A state of grace maintains her work’s force and direction.

Exhibitions Past and Future: Fleshy Oily Deep and Dense – Paintings of Margaret at Elizabeth Moore Gallery, Hudson NY, May 24, 2021 – June 26, 2021 and A Light Between Leaves – Recent Work by Margaret Evangeline at Erin Cluely Gallery, Dallas TX, August 28 – October 2, 2022

A Photographer In Her Garden: Featuring Sandi Daniel

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Installation View
Installation View

The pandemic has had an incalculable effect on so many lives that it’s hard to think life will ever be normal again. Culturally, creatives have had the trajectory of their careers, their way of thinking and processing drastically altered in ways that we may never be able to fully process or understand until years from now, when we can look back and analyze the related output. One such artist, Sandi Daniel, whose usual approach to her craft has been completely altered by a lack of movement or travel, leading her to investigate the only option left to explore – her own immediate natural environment – to look for that elusive magic that so often accompanies the act of far-flung exploration.

With the unfortunate addition of a broken printer, Daniel had to find a new path forward to creating prints. The cyanotype, that blue and white, blueprint-type image generated by contact printing with any variety of liquids including cyanide on photosensitive paper was her choice, bringing back to Daniel’s art, a distinctive dreamy quality that has often defined her work.

Weeds (2020), double exposure wet cyanotype, 20 x 16 inches
Weeds (2020), double exposure wet cyanotype, 20 x 16 inches

Daniel’s exhibition at the Coastal Contemporary Gallery is a beautiful, fluid, and fanciful interpretation of indigenous flora that typifies the ages old expression “stop and smell the roses,” as she looks more deeply and thoughtfully into her very own garden of delights close at hand. Leaves and light form lyrical passages that can cascade down a wall as an unfolded, handmade artist’s book or in multiple layers that produce on one sheet, where faux flashes of filtered sunlight come to mind, as best experienced in the wet cyanotype titled Weeds – a look that was more than likely created using multiple layers of shifting exposures.

The Lake, I am thinking, is a bridge work between the previous transfer work and the cyanotypes, and one of the more haunting works that remind me of pinhole photography set into an artist’s book bound with toned cyanotypes. The intimacy, and perhaps the voyeuristic feel of the elusive presentation, gives this object its distinctive visceral affect. 

The Lake (2021), 5 x 5 inches closed and approximately 5 x 20 inches open
The Lake (2021), 5 x 5 inches closed and approximately 5 x 20 inches open

Also striking, are the aforementioned color photo transfers on Sekishu Paper where an even more delicate representation of wittingly withering flowers nearing the end of their beauty cycle actually become more attractive and engaging. It’s not hard to understand when walking through this exhibition that Daniel is pairing the timelessness of nature with a deeper understanding of its predictability as a metaphor for our own time on earth. What we see in nature, if we take the time to experience the subtleties, is so much about being present and never taking for granted the strength there is in its wisdom. 

Purple Beauty #2 (2021), 24 x 16 inches
Purple Beauty #2 (2021), 24 x 16 inches

A Photographer In Her Garden: Featuring Sandi Daniel will be on view at Coastal Contemporary Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island until the end of January, 2022. For more information visit https://www.coastalcontemporarygallery.com

High + Low: A 45-Year Retrospective of the Work of D. Dominick Lombardi

by Eric Nord

D. Dominick Lombardi, “Whistling Bird”, 1998, courtesy of the artist.
Whistling Bird 1998, acrylic, wood, papier-mâché, acrylic medium, flower hair clip, 16 1/2 x 17 x 13 1/2 inches

For nearly 250 years, since the first documented occurrence in London in 1775, the artist retrospective has evolved and grown in significance to become a rite of passage within an artist’s career. Arguably, it is now considered an essential accomplishment for any serious artist, legitimizing their inclusion within the canon of art history, and signaling their arrival to a level of public, or at least academic, acknowledgement and recognition. Unfortunately, this standardized format can often feel stodgy, resulting in dry, passionless scholarly surveys at one extreme, or blockbuster sensations that have the intellectual weight and emotional depth of a greatest hits medley, at the other. However, there are rare occasions when a retrospective is able to accomplish the invaluable task of reassessing an artist’s body of work, and offer a larger context through which to better understand and appreciate the true impact of their contributions. Even rarer still is the retrospective which can demonstrate the influence of entire artistic movements upon subsequent movements and the contemporary artists working within them. Fortunately, “High + Low: A Forty-Five Year Retrospective” featuring the artwork of D. Dominick Lombardi, at the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art, in Colorado Springs, through December 12, 2021, lies solidly within these last two categories.

Installation View, High + Low: D. Dominick Lombardi Retrospective, Photo: Wes Magyar
Installation View, High + Low: D. Dominick Lombardi Retrospective, Photo: Wes Magyar 

Originally organized and curated by T. Michael Martin, and further curated by Daisy McGowan for the GOCA space, the retrospective is comprised of over eighty different artworks spanning twenty distinct chapters of Lombardi’s extensive career. The task of contextualizing these highly divergent styles and aesthetics must have been challenging, given the breadth of the work. The result is surprisingly well balanced between establishing a chronological timeline of artistic development and providing the viewer an opportunity to see the cumulative impact of the artist’s varied explorations. Each distinct chapter of Lombardi’s practice is given a moment of focus, with several examples from each period shown within small groupings. However, for the current iteration, McGowan has also added an overview wall, hung salon-style that features an example of each of the chapters displayed in conversation with one another. This allows the viewer to compare and contrast each style, and discover an elusive but important thread that weaves throughout the entire body of work.

Vegetarian Earthquake (1985), oil, canvas, 36 x 50 inches
Vegetarian Earthquake  (1985), oil, canvas, 36 x 50 inches

Lombardi readily admits that his artistic influences have run the gamut, from Picasso’s “Guernica”, considered by many to be one of the highest accomplishments of fine art, to Zap Comix, the 1960s subversive zine that introduced the world to the irreverent and enormously influential illustrations of Robert Crumb. Evidenced within Lombardi’s paintings and sculptures are myriad stylistic prompts, from Daliesque surrealist figuration in his “Cyborg Sunbathers” from 1975, to the angular and angsty forms from the 1980s “East Village” period, which for me, evoke the prickly edge of German Expressionists like Ernst Kirchner and Otto Dix. Among the sculptural artworks from Lombardi’s “Early Sculptures” and “Vessels” of the early 1990s, are assemblages of ready-made and found objects reminiscent of Raoul Hausmann’s “Mechanical Head” from the 1920s. While more recent three dimensional cartoon-like creations from his “Post Apocalyptic Tattoos” and “Cross Contamination” periods, though disguised with smooth and bulbous painted papier-mâché surfaces, contain hidden armatures comprised of random objects that are equally eclectic.

Il Pagliaccio 1990, wood, bowling pin, traffic sign, metal, 28 x 18 x 18 inches
Il Pagliaccio 1990, wood, bowling pin, traffic sign, metal, 28 x 18 x 18 inches
Head #1,030 2004, India ink, acid free paper, 14 x 14 inches
Head #1,030 2004, India ink, acid free paper, 14 x 14 inches

Subsequent chapters in Lombardi’s career experiment with and exploit an array of pop culture currents, among them graffiti, tattoos, and stickers. I say currents rather than trends because these particular types of artistic expression were initially subversive undercurrents, born from counterculture. Their ascendance to pop culture status occurred gradually, across multiple generations, perhaps from the shear pervasiveness of their imagery and our very American fascination with anti-establishment individuality. But what is the thread that ties all of these divergent stylistic explorations together?

Blue Boy (bust) 2001, acrylic, gesso, rags, laundry soap bottle, wood, papier-mâché, acrylic medium, 22 x 12 x 8 inches
Blue Boy (bust) 2001, acrylic, gesso, rags, laundry soap bottle, wood, papier-mâché, acrylic medium, 22 x 12 x 8 inches

The addition of the overview wall, which developed as a result of adapting the exhibition from its original home at the Clara M. Eagle Gallery, at Murray State University, to the configuration of the GOCA space, is perhaps an essential element to the exhibition’s success, allowing the viewer to grasp an important constant among the stylistic chaos. While engaging with this assortment of artworks, I began contemplating the physical work behind the objects. Lombardi’s artistic process, his utilization of materials, and his choices of technique, include assemblage, collage, and scraffito. What emerged was the idea that Dadaist and Surrealist philosophies were literally “at play” within this body of work. My assumption was further confirmed after listening to the talk Lombardi gave at the UCCS campus, in which he described challenging himself to approach his paintings with an entirely new style each day, like an Exquisite Corpse exercise, or Automatism.

Street Urchin #36 2011, sand, acrylic medium, objects, electric light, 27 x 26 x 21 inches
Street Urchin #36 2011, sand, acrylic medium, objects, electric light, 27 x 26 x 21 inches

But how are two early 1900s European artistic movements, prevalent in Lombardi’s artistic practice, relevant to American culture in the latter half of the Twentieth Century and into the new millennium?

I believe that Dadaism and Surrealism may have been appreciated as foreign artistic movements, but they remained primarily irrelevant to American culture for several decades. The excess of the 1920s gave way to the Great Depression and then the Second World War. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan, the U.S. experienced tremendous economic growth and new found optimism. Concurrently, Abstract Expressionism was being aggressively promoted and exported by the U.S. government as a distinctly American art form. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 70s, following America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement exposing the hypocrisy of freedom and equality, that American society possessed the skepticism and subversive edge to fully understand what these movements were about. The anti-war and pro civil rights youth culture of the period gave rise to new artistic movements that aligned with these rebellious philosophies. And while they may not have been directly connected, they shared a similar psychological baseline, and spawned artwork that resonated. Lombardi’s artistic output over the past forty-five years epitomizes a dichotomy within American culture. It aspires to the highest of artistic ideals, while mischievously expressing its distrust and disdain for established institutions.

Witness Against Logic 1987, oil, canvas, found carved wood, 43 x 39 x 3 inches
Witness Against Logic 1987, oil, canvas, found carved wood, 43 x 39 x 3 inches

Eric Nord is an artist, curator, and writer. He received his degree in Art History from the University of Denver. He previously worked for Sperone Westwater Gallery, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and was the Executive Director of the E. E. Cummings Centennial Celebration while living in New York City in the 1990s. Currently he is the Executive Director of Leon Nonprofit Arts Organization in Denver, Colorado.

American Earth Landscape

by Christopher Hart Chambers

Alan Sonfist, American Earth Landscape, 2019-2021, Primal Earth sealed on canvas, 10 x 15 ft. (3 x 4.6 m.)
Alan Sonfist, American Earth Landscape, 2019-2021, Primal Earth sealed on canvas, 10 x 15 ft. (3 x 4.6 m.)
Alan Sonfist, Mud Slide California, 1991, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Alan Sonfist, Mud Slide California, 1991, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)

Legendary earthworks artist and forerunner of the movement Alan Sonfist rarely mounts gallery exhibitions. However, this fall his showing at Shin gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is truly brilliant. It features a brief overview of his thought process since the early 1960s via tangible indoor pieces, most hanging on the walls in a variety of media. Saliently, one large new work (10 by 15 feet) consists of native soil and sand samples adhered to a rectangular flat surface in a map formation of the 48 contiguous United States, plus a bit of Mexico and Canada – demarcated not by borders but by the areas those samples are naturally indigenous to, and looking a bit like a topographical map. Sonfist’s work is essentially an outcropping of minimalism, so therefore one might not expect a lot of sensuality. Yet particularly, this new tour de force is simply lovely to behold with its brown and tan tones smoothly transitioning from passage to passage, or field to plain; mountain to valley. Other pieces include canvases featuring monochromatic native dirt(s) with branches attached. As the artist has often commented, “My work is about the history of the land.” There are photographs such as a diptych that depicts his hand held to resemble the shape of the tree leaf on the corresponding panel, and bronze sand castings of various natural forms. Sonfist is arguably the original progenitor of the ever expanding genre of conceptual land art which becomes increasingly popular each passing decade in tandem with our growing acknowledgement of the damage our species is perpetrating on the environment; and its ultimate purist. It is an unusual pleasure to view his efforts indoors at a Manhattan art gallery as the majority of his efforts are in the field and spread about the planet in monumental projects. 

Alan Sonfist, Leaf Met the Paper in Time, 1974, mixed media on paper, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.5 cm.)
Alan Sonfist, Leaf Met the Paper in Time, 1974, mixed media on paper, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.5 cm.)
Alan Sonfist, American Earth Landscape installation view
Alan Sonfist, American Earth Landscape installation view

American Earth Landscape at the Shin gallery in New York City, October 26 to December 4, 2021

Bobbie Moline-Kramer: The Power of One

by Jen Dragon

Bobbie Moline-Kramer’s solo exhibition The Power of One at Lichtundfire Gallery is an installation that spans both time and space using the study of constellations as a touchstone. The artist begins with the unique position of stars relating to various leaders during specific historic moments over a geographical point on earth. These “heroes” are individual subjects selected because of their courage to make a difference in the world. A chart of the heavens upon the birth of Greta Thumberg is the subject of one painting, as well as the moment of death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg is depicted by another.

Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Washington D.C. 2020, 2021, oil, acrylic, gold on wood, 24 x 24 inches
Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Washington D.C. 2020, 2021, oil, acrylic, gold on wood, 24 x 24 inches

Dolly Parton’s contribution to the development of a Covid vaccine earned her inclusion and the moment of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is the subject of a more somber, clouded painting. 

Moline-Kramer immortalizes these individual portraits as constellations in their own right, shaped and guided by the astrological forces that brought them into being. Using 16th century glazing and gilding techniques, Moline-Kramer incises these sky charts with the same precision that antique celestial maps were prepared and painted by Italian and Dutch Renaissance masters.  The luminosity of Moline-Kramer’s cobalt blue layers recreate the light and depth of the starry night with the shadow of a portrait of the subject hovering among their specific constellations.  

However, the artist does not just linger in the past but creates an adjacent installation that employs cutting edge technology to deconstruct each constellation painting into 3-D computer printed layers. Each layer of this installation is suspended from the ceiling and appears as ephemeral, variously hued flakes of sky floating down.  

Al di Là © Bobbie Moline-Kramer 2021 computer 3-D printed sculpture detail and installation view for Bobbie Moline-Kramer: The Power of One at Lichtundfire Gallery
Al di Là © Bobbie Moline-Kramer 2021 computer 3-D printed sculpture detail and installation view for Bobbie Moline-Kramer: The Power of One at Lichtundfire Gallery

These magical, translucent forms invite the viewer to not only become part of the fabric of the artworks but to feel their own involvement in the unseen forces that guide us all in relationship to one another. This paradoxical synergy combines facts with mysticism, mythology with mathematics, and traditional Renaissance technique with 21st century computer printing technology that renders this exhibition not only about time and space but most importantly, about being.

Bobbie Moline-Kramer
Bobbie Moline-Kramer

“Bobbie Moline-Kramer: The Power of One” at Lichtundfire Gallery 175 Rivington Street, New York, New York  on View Through October 30, 2021. General Gallery Hours: Tuesday — Saturday, 12 — 6 pm. More info: Priska Juschka at 917.675.7835, info@lichtundfire.com

Winfred Rembert: 1945 – 2021

Fort Gansevoort, New York City – October 8 – December 18, 2021

by Christopher Hart Chambers

We are animals. We do cruel things to one another. Indeed large galaxies engulf smaller ones. It’s physics. That doesn’t excuse horror: it exists. As an art critic, social justice is not my forte. I write about Winfred Rembert‘s artwork because of its unique graphic sensibility, tactile sensuality, and rhythmic musicality, regardless of its poignant social critique and the obscene hardships the artist endured. 

Winfred Rembert, All Me, 2002, dye on carved and tooled leather, 25.25 x 25.25 inches
Winfred Rembert, All Me, 2002, dye on carved and tooled leather, 25.25 x 25.25 inches

Inarguably this is folk art for the sincere, unschooled naif figuration. These paintings on tooled leather almost fall into the category of bas relief for their meticulous textural quality. Three dimensional modeling is sometimes achieved by pressings into the leather and outlines are burnished into it. The intricately repetitive patterning is reminiscent of surface and textile design. For the most part the colorful dyes are applied in flat, hard edged sections, although here and about a little brushwork remains evident.  Formal perspective and color theory are completely ignored; horses, human figures, and other organic elements are the same size regardless of where in space our common sense tells us they must reside. These aspects amount to remarkably charming compositions, full of joy and light despite the awful story of repression and abuse they manifest. The work is original and genuine. In fact, Rembert learned his skills from a fellow inmate while doing time in jail down south during the shameful Jim Crow era of American History.

Winfred Rembert, Picking Cotton with Boss Man, 2007, dye on carved and tooled leather, 58.5 x 30.25 inches
Winfred Rembert, Picking Cotton with Boss Man, 2007, dye on carved and tooled leather, 58.5 x 30.25 inches

I never liked the highbrow term, “outsider art.” Insider in this context only means one studied a particular set of directives set forth by an agreed upon body of others. We all use what is at our disposal to the best of our abilities. Winfred Rembert‘s art is not endearing and appealing because of formal schooling or the lack thereof. It is likable and very good because of the artist’s natural talent, unique vision, and persistent hard work.

Fred Gutzeit: Deep Nature Unfolded

A Retrospective, 1966-2021 at theCatherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center in New London, CT  from September 23 to November 13, 2021

by John Mendelsohn

Fred Gutzeit exhibition installation view
Fred Gutzeit exhibition installation view

To create a retrospective exhibition of an artist’s work is to tell a story. It embodies a desire to shape the raw material of work made over many years into an inevitable, convincing narrative. The challenge is to not tell a tale so intriguing that it becomes more compelling than spirit of the art itself.

In the case of Fred Gutzeit: Deep Nature Unfolded at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center in New London, CT, the narrative focuses on the artist’s fascination with the visible world and the invisible mathematical structures that lie beneath it. Seeing the world as an energic matrix is described as an animating motivation for Gutzeit. But equally, when looking at the art, we intuit the artist’s need to make something that looks like the mind at work. His art is an immersion in the swimming, propulsive movements of both nature and human nature, with all their contradictory impulses on full display.

Barbara’s Falls Fred Gutzeit (1999) Acrylic on canvas (composite of 15 canvases) 108” x 168” Courtesy of the artist and The Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center, New London CT
Barbara’s Falls, Fred Gutzeit (1999), acrylic on canvas (composite of 15 canvases) 108” x 168.” Courtesy of the artist and the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center, New London CT

The exhibition covers 55 years of paintings, drawings, and prints, beginning with a series of fifteen finely executed watercolors of the wild environment – rocks, trees, and waterfalls. The same scenes are also depicted in Barbara’s Falls (1999), a similarly formatted grid painting in oil, whose disjunctions of time and perspective are incorporated into the composition. Not in the exhibition are the artist’s meticulous paintings of sidewalk pavement from the mid-1970s and portraits of dogs from the early 1990s. All of this work has a keen sense of close, almost obsessive looking, along with a compulsion to record it.

Lee Waves Binary Fred Gutzeit (2009) Digital Vector print laminated onto aluminum, 17” x 17” Published courtesy of the artist and The Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT
Fred Gutzeit, Lee Waves Binary (2009), digital vector print laminated onto aluminum, 17” x 17.” Published courtesy of the artist and the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT

A curious, momentous realization for Gutzeit in the early 2000s was seeing into nature’s visually rhythmic phenomena, such as rippling water and the bark of an oak tree, and reimagining them as graphic patterns that resembled the waves and distorted grids of Op Art. Simultaneously, two more factors were influencing Gutzeit’s paintings: mathematical representations of space/time, and the digital processing of images. The mathematical models that intrigued him were of Calabi-Yau Manifolds, representing folded space, whose properties apply to theoretical physics, particularly in superstring theory. These forms appear in the work as vortexes of energy, bulging, twisting, and reforming in constant flux.

Viva Calabi-Yau Binary Fred Gutzeit (2009) Acrylic on paper on canvas, Diptych 72” x 144”
Published courtesy of the artist and The Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT
Fred Gutzeit, Viva Calabi-Yau Binary (2009), acrylic on paper on canvas, diptych 72” x 144.” Published courtesy of the artist and the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT

Gutzeit’s paintings in the exhibition’s largest gallery have this quality of manic transformation fully revealed. Digital images of unfurling geometric patterns are bent and deformed as if slow moving plasma. The original digital outputting has been tiled and affixed to the canvas, and made into a continuous image. However, Gutzeit is not content with the complex elegance of the original geometry. Rather forms are often mirrored, but with unexpected shifts from one side to the other, and with fractal-like repetitions appearing at radically changing scales. 

Additionally, the artist displays in his paintings a range of realities of representation: computer-aided alteration of liquid geometry, painted areas that are then scanned and outputted, and painting directly onto digitally printed surfaces. The result is a kind of delirium of perception, a conundrum of what is actual. In his use of computer graphics in his art, Gutzeit shares with a growing number of contemporary artists an interest in melding digital technology with the analogue tactility of painting.

Otter Falls #13 Fred Gutzeit (2004) Acrylic on Canvas 50” x 50” Published courtesy of the artist and The Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT
Fred Gutzeit, Otter Falls #13 (2004), acrylic on canvas, 50” x 50.” Published courtesy of the artist and the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT

In the most recent works in the exhibition, Gutzeit uses the signature of individuals writing their initials as the basis for drawings and paintings. The signatures turn into multi-colored arabesques, arrayed against flooding watercolor or intensely patterned fields. While capturing something of each person who has provided his or her initials, we sense that individuality is being subsumed in a coloristic spectacle, the self is lost to abstract transfiguration. Larger grid paintings combine many of the signature pieces in miniature, and overlaid by linear tracery, with the individual joining a mass of impersonal energy. The eccentric play in these works is central to Gutzeit’s infatuation with permutation and perpetual making that is its own reward.

There is a sense in this artist’s paintings of a consciousness at work, revealing itself through the warping of form and feeling. A joyous, driven quality of over-muchness expresses itself in these paintings. The ordered and the organic, the grotesque and the elegant, anxiety and a kind of high-spirited humor all go hand-in-hand. These poetic works constitute a waking dream: geometry dances with wildness and the self is reunited with the natural.

Future Life PC Fred Gutzeit (2021) Acrylic on paper on canvas 72”x72” Published courtesy of the artist and The Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT
Fred Gutzeit, Future Life PC (2021), acrylic on paper on canvas, 72”x72.” Published courtesy of the artist and the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery, New London CT

For all the evocations in this exhibition of folded space, multi-verses, and deep nature, we are finally left with the paintings themselves – personal, emphatic expressions in whose art is an intimation of human mysteries beyond ordinary apprehension.

Bounty

A Virtual Exhibition at Rhombus Space

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Jean Rim, August (2021), mixed medium and dried flowers on wood, 36 inch diameter
Jean Rim, August (2021), mixed medium and dried flowers on wood, 36 inch diameter

I have been asked a number of times to write a review of a virtual exhibition, and have never felt quite right about it. In the past, and certainly prior to COVID, I would cover an exhibition that I witnessed in person if it inspired thoughtful contemplation. I never saw that as a possibility in the virtual world, but I never closed the door entirely, as the pandemic seems to be as stubborn as the folks that are choosing to forgo getting vaccinated. So here we are – my first attempt.

Bounty, the current virtual exhibition featured at rhombusspace.com is designed to offer “the fall harvest, the fruits of earlier seeds planted” as it relates to the time spent in the studio these last 18 months. The exhibition wonders, what were artists thinking before and during COVID, what changed or didn’t change, and how did it affect an individual artist’s studio practice. There, I’ve already done something I rarely do, I read the first paragraph (after the artist’s names) of the press release before I started writing. I usually prefer to just go by what I see and not read the press release prior to my writing, unless I have had some sort of forewarning that I really need some background before I view the work.

Getting back to the exhibition – there are eight artists: Enrico Gomez, Rachael Gorchov, Adam Novak, Jean Rim, Corrie Slawson, Karla Wozniak, Holly Wong, and Etty Yaniv. Since I am only familiar with a few of these names, I will limit my commentary to the works in the exhibition, and not speculate on any changes due to COVID unless it is obvious in the work or titles.

Enrico Gomez, Cuervo IV Redux (2020) charcoal on paper, 11 x 11 inches unframed
Enrico Gomez, Cuervo IV Redux (2020) charcoal on paper, 11 x 11 inches unframed

Enrico Gomez’s two drawings are from the Redux series. They feature somewhat complex geometric forms that bleed out, as if over-saturated in charcoal pigment and swept, or, are they sucking in errant medium like metal shavings to a magnet? You know, like those Wooly Willy toys with the little metal shavings behind the plastic barrier where you can guide with a little magnet, to add hair and a mustache to Willy’s hairless face. On the other hand, if you look at that directional dust as movement, it gives the work a feeling of weightlessness, while the areas left untouched adds more than a bit of finesse and control in these otherwise, curiously formed compositions. Rachael Gorchov’s two acrylic paintings on panel are comprised of multiple layers of thinly applied washes and bold brush strokes. Again, like Gomez, movement comes to the fore, while here, we see somewhat obscured faces in both, resulting in a sort of crossing out of any representation with forceful non-representational brushes of abstraction. Perhaps this is the change the press release is referring to?

Adam Novak, Run1 (2021), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches
Adam Novak, Run1 (2021), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches

Adam Novak’s two oil paintings, Run1 and Run2 feature the word ‘RUN’ from the title, atop and amongst very loosely suggested bodies that move through the picture plane. The simplicity of the content is complicated by the elusive approach to word and form, while the energetic painting techniques brings excitement to the eye. Jean Rim offers two multi-media works that utilize a variety of techniques including collage and assemblage. I am particularly drawn to August (2021), for its obsessive and meditative approach to the content, while the overall composition, which is in a tondo format, keeps the eye moving and one’s interest piqued. 

Corrie Slawson, Blue Footed Boobies are endangered; Harlequin Toad, now extinct. Rabbit is distraught (2020), oil and mixed media on plywood, 24 x 48 inches (Corrie's work appears Courtesy Shaheen Modern and Contemporary)
Corrie Slawson, Blue Footed Boobies are endangered; Harlequin Toad, now extinct. Rabbit is distraught (2020), oil and mixed media on plywood, 24 x 48 inches (Corrie’s work appears Courtesy Shaheen Modern and Contemporary)

Corrie Slawson has strong concerns for the state of the world. Using oil and mixed media on plywood, Slawson shows the influence of James Rosenquist, and his signature Pop Art panoramas. Conversely, while Rosenquist focused primarily on popular culture and advertising, Slawson broadens the range adding extinct animals and the sadness that ensues, as with Blue Footed Boobies are endangered; Harlequin Toad, now extinct. Rabbit is distraught (2020). Karla Wozniak’s paintings are more in the Paul Klee and Adolph Gottlieb realm. Patterns, colors, textures and shapes all compete for our attention, as light brings hope in Fire, Shapes, Silverware (2021), and night brings dreams, as in Egg + Shoe (2021).

Etty Yaniv, Terrestrial 8 (2020),  acrylic, ink, stucco, graphite, flashe, gesso, plastic, paper on canvas, 8 x 8 inches
Etty Yaniv, Terrestrial 8 (2020),  acrylic, ink, stucco, graphite, flashe, gesso, plastic, paper on canvas, 8 x 8 inches

Holly Wong’s beautiful mixed media works immediately brought to mind Frank Stella’s prints from the early 1990’s that were inspired by the cigar smoke rings he blew, captured, computerized, then turned into 3D renderings. In both instances, with Wong and Stella’s compositions, there is this seemingly endless level of movement and gesture that is clearly amplified by attention-grabbing color and graceful line. Etty Yaniv’s two painterly canvases also have indications of organic forms, only in this instance, the mixes of media and the turbulent techniques are much more mesmerizingly tactile and demanding of our attention. Utilizing a number of curious materials, including the application of bits of plastic, we are witness to a wild ride through the spiritual essence of the natural, as opposed to the literal representations of one’s first impressions.