In Its Daybreak, Rising

by Mary Hrbacek

Sarah Cunningham, Sea Change, 2021, oil on linen, 80 x 60.3 x 3.8 cm, 31-1/2 x 23-3/4 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica
Sarah Cunningham, Sea Change, 2021, oil on linen, 80 x 60.3 x 3.8 cm, 31-1/2 x 23-3/4 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica

Almine Rech presents “In Its Daybreak Rising,” an exhibition of eighteen new abstract oil paintings by Sarah Cunningham. The exhibition is unusually focused and pure in its means. The semi-abstract works with representational underpinnings speak for themselves; their surprising immediacy quickly engages the viewer. One is not asked to read long texts pertaining to the show, or to contend with convoluted explanations of current trends that abound from the Metropolitan Museum to galleries in every art district in New York.  Abstract painting comes in many guises; the works are often visually attractive, but ultimately fail to convey meaningful content, which would make them matter more authentically.  Beauty is never wrong if it is authentic, but without an in-depth foothold, it can tilt toward the decorative, Sarah Cunningham’s works have no link to decoration. The psychologically complex works present configurations of thick worked media that create depth, movement, and inner space.  

Sarah Cunningham, Siren, 2022, oil on canvas, 181 x 282.9 x 3.7 cm, 71-1/4 x 111 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica
Sarah Cunningham, Siren, 2022, oil on canvas, 181 x 282.9 x 3.7 cm, 71-1/4 x 111 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica

The loosely built-up, manipulated paint results in a warm relaxing vibe that sets the viewer at ease, while it draws the eye ever deeper into an exploration of the pictures’ elements. The vehicles that drive the works are the intricacies of long, medium and short strokes, thinly glazed areas penetrated with washes and scratched lines, and colors unaffectedly mingled. Beneath the independent, freely brushed strokes there is a vision of a landscape space which provides structure to some of the works in the form of organic natural elements such as flowers, waterfalls, the sky, sunlight and trees.  These primeval elements make the works disarmingly genuine.

While the paintings relate to masters of the past such as the expressionists, El Greco, Albert Pinkham Ryder and even the Impressionists, they present a contemporary universal aura.  Their individuality and originality are underscored by the almost diarist psychological narrative that unfolds progressively as the formats are built up and torn down in moves that stress potentiality and growth. The seemingly casual, surprisingly intuitive yet urgent application of the paint is refreshing. There is little reference to figure-ground in these works; nothing could be less descriptive. In the large triptych “A Wounded World Still Holds Us” (2022) one can realize a landscape dotted with trees, and a forest pathway that appears to have undressed dancers moving in a clearing.  There is a bubble embedded on the left that illustrates a possible shipwreck, with surviving figures on the beach. Most of the works seem to evoke a twilight to dusk light effect, creating a moody, but not especially melancholy ambiance.  The primary colors of slashing, overlapping strokes merge, evoking primordial seasonal intervals and rhythms. 

Sarah Cunningham, A Wounded World Still Holds Us, 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 602 x 3.8 cm, 78-3/4 x 237 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica
Sarah Cunningham, A Wounded World Still Holds Us, 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 602 x 3.8 cm, 78-3/4 x 237 x 1-1/2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica

Cunningham’s use of purple-pink, red, orange and yellow opens up the ochre and blue-green nature inspired surfaces to provide added inferences. Sometimes flower petals dominate a canvas loosely, sometimes the swirl of undergrowth is implied. Lakes are hinted at, but very subtly. What matters is the artist’s character expressed in her expansive inspirations. “River Mouth” (2021), an unexpected work that embodies an exploration of deep pictorial space, is apparently designed with a waterfall in mind. 

In the work entitled “Siren,” colorful butterflies and birds appear to be flying aloft, close to a cleared walkway. Viewers must suspend judgement and relax to allow the paint to tell its story; there is only inherent poetry and imagination to lead one. The piece entitled “Turbulence” (2001) appears to be inspired by an immersive forest fire approaching two trees, which may be referencing recent global forest   conflagrations. Some of the warm colored hues tinge the works with the feel of autumn or sunset, that mediates the role played by blue and green, with their intimations of nature, earth, life and renewal. Red is associated with the life force, with flames, blood, sacrifice and love, and in Japan and Korea with the sun. Yellow symbolizes life, fire and heat. The appeal of this group of paintings is their repetition of related and recreated styles and formats that put the mind at rest while engaging sensory feelings and visual insights.  

The titles are mysterious and thought provoking; they comprise personal poetry that doesn’t reveal much that relates to the artist’s intentions.  Some of the titles refer to machine culture, which is puzzling and enigmatic in the context of these apparently environmental images that unite the artist with nature’s patterns.  Cunningham seems to be playing with the viewer, keeping any obvious interpretations undercover.  “Machine Dreams,” “Dressing in Limbo,” “After-life,” “Folding Is A Kind of Fading Out,” “A Wounded World Still Holds Up,” “In Their Bilious Calling,” “Shrine,” and “Siren,” to name but a few, all present a cross between references to life, and to philosophy, in tension with natural allusions.  There is a significant metaphoric narrative in effect, though underground, non-descriptive.  

Sarah Cunningham, River Mouth, 2021, oil on linen, 130 x 100.3 x 4.8 cm, 51 1/4 x 39 1/2 x 2 in. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica
Sarah Cunningham, River Mouth, 2021, oil on linen, 130 x 100.3 x 4.8 cm, 51 1/4 x 39 1/2 x 2 inches. © Sarah Cunningham, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech, Photograph by Dan Bradica

The blended strokes that merge together overlap potential boundaries, providing viewers an unfathomable consciousness of being inside someone’s head, flowing with the endeavors, thoughts and movements of the artist.  Cunningham’s approach to the picture plane seems to reveal pure exuberance, although there are dark sections at work as well, mitigated by thickly applied warm bright hues that in some instances suggest the dawning light of day.

I find these works to be liberating.  Cunningham doesn’t seem to care to please others; she paints for herself in her unfettered unencumbered style.  Her distinctive moves make the works flow from one to the next to create a unified story of her mind, that expresses itself in freedom of thought manipulated by painterly interpretation.  The paintings are highly sensual and visually engaging without the intercession of weighty conceptual dogmas to interrupt their authenticity. The art is alive; it is enough and it speaks for itself.

Dream within a Dream

by Jen Dragon

A Dream Within a Dream is a group exhibition that mines the unconscious. Each artist derives inspiration from the painting/sculpting process as well as the immersive of a projected installation. Curated by Alan Goolman of the Lockwood Gallery, the painters and sculptors: Farrell Brickhouse, William Gary, Joel Longenecker, David Pollack, Claudia Renfro together with the installation artist and filmmaker Beverly Peterson, explore the expressive edge of the mindful eye. Curator Alan Goolman’s vision echoes the current oneiric theme of the 59th Venice Biennale’s, The Milk of Dreams. Goolman was inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe quote: “…all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”. With this quote as a guiding theme, Goolman draws together artists whose artworks are united by ambiguity, a distinct commitment to form and a certain exuberant gestural expressionism.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles © William Gary 2019, 48” x 108” inches
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles © William Gary 2019, 48” x 108” inches

Starting with the stark, shocked paintings of William Gary, this dreamscape becomes panicked with anguished brushwork. The panic-stricken mark-making sets off alarms startling in their explosive energy. Gary’s fractured, painted planes are ultimately seized in an instant of emergency – and emergence – in a world at once commanding and terrifying.

Three Trees AKA Blue Moon © Farrell Brickhouse 2020, 16” x 16”
Three Trees AKA Blue Moon © Farrell Brickhouse 2020, 16” x 16”

In the next room, the oil paintings of Farryl Brickhouse reel with archetypal narratives worked densely onto canvas. With insistent gestural energy, Brickhouse carves mythic figures with sweeping gestures then deftly knits them back together in a sparkling night world. Brickhouse searches for the color of dusk at the edge of consciousness where the deepest tones meet and match together with the shimmering glitter of stardust.

Dear March - Come in #2 © Joel Longenecker 2022, 24” x 36” inches
Dear March – Come in #2 © Joel Longenecker 2022, 24” x 36” inches

Across the gallery from Farryl Brickhouse, Joel Longenecker creates dense artwork that hovers at the cusp of painting and sculpture. The volumes of churning paint and the harmonics of color dynamics give Longenecker paintings a geologic and climatic power that summons a mighty topography of seething color and form.

Got a Light? © Claudia Renfro 18” x 24” inches
Got a Light? © Claudia Renfro 18” x 24” inches

In the center room, Claudia Renfro’s paintings on paper and cast bronze sculptures propose a whimsical world of carnivals, masks and above all, shoes! The electric atmosphere between her figures and their eccentric environments is consistently whimsical.  In Renfro watercolors, clowns ask for a light, a dancing cactus entertains a tall dandy and a woman in curlers, and a ghost rises from the dead tol tell silent stories of a world where little makes sense. Renfro’s cast bronze sculptures of cartoonish shoes are not only stories of shape and form but also a twisted sense of strange fashion.

Winter Warm I © David Pollack 11” x 15” watercolor on paper
Winter Warm I © David Pollack 11” x 15” watercolor on paper

Nearby, In the abstracted luminous worlds of David Pollack’s watercolors, light shimmers and refracts. The thinnest veils of pigment glow through one another leading the viewer deeper into their hidden hues. The gently percussive brushwork allows for the emergence of a calm glow that promises a better day.

Shaky’s Meadow © Beverly Peterson installed at the Longwood Gallery, 2022 Kingston N.Y.
Shaky’s Meadow © Beverly Peterson installed at the Longwood Gallery, 2022 Kingston N.Y.

A pleasant surprise in the exhibition Dream Within A Dream is the creation of Shakey’s Meadow, an installation by the light artist and filmmaker, Beverly Peterson. This dedicated environment has an all encompassing, almost Virtual Reality space. With projected digitized stars in a recreated night forest, Peterson plumbs the depths of mystery with her illuminated space. This immersive experience envelopes the visitor and invites participation as the outline of a house becomes a vehicle for transformation from one dimension to the next. 

The exhibition Dream Within a Dream is on view at the Lockwood Gallery, Kingston NY through May 8, 2022

Martin Weinstein and Bobbie Moline-Kramer at the Castello 925 Galleries

by Jen Dragon

The Venice Biennale inspires the entire city to host innumerable exhibitions and pop-up art shows from almost every nation in the world. Every street, calle and piazza hosts gallery exhibits of paintings, sculpture, drawing, prints, digital, film, as well as performance art, music and theater. Campo di San’Isepo, located in Castello near the Biennale Gardens, is no exception. Castello 925, with two locations on Fondamenta San Giuseppe, presents two American artists: a solo exhibition of paintings by Martin Weinstein at the 780 Fondamenta San Giuseppe annex gallery and artwork by Bobbie Moline-Kramer as part of a two person exhibit up the street at number 925.

Martin Weinstein Vedute Palinsesti Installation view (left to right)- Venice, Santa Maria, 2 Evenings and Venice, 2 Afternoons at Castello 925 Annex Gallery located at Fondamenta San Giuseppe 780, Sestiere Castello, Venice VE thru July 10, 2022
Martin Weinstein Vedute Palinsesti Installation view (left to right)- Venice, Santa Maria, 2 Evenings and Venice, 2 Afternoons at Castello 925 Annex Gallery located at Fondamenta San Giuseppe 780, Sestiere Castello, Venice VE though July 10, 2022

Martin Weinstein: Vedute Palinsesti

The title of Martin Weinstein’s exhibition, Vedute Palinsesti, refers to the remaining traces after earlier marks are effaced to make room for newer writing in medieval manuscripts. Like the concept of the palimpsest, (Palinsesto in Italian), Weinstein’s paintings are layers of different points in time, with memories of former experiences overlain by more recent visual experiences expressed by luminous, gestural and deft brushwork. 

By painting on layers of translucent acrylic sheets and allowing these layers to re-combine and glow through one another, Martin Weinstein presents different stages of seeing. At first glance, these artworks seem rooted in the landscape tradition however the paintings present perceptions that together become an individual record of space and being. In Vedute Palinsesti, the combined images are painted in multiple sessions of direct observation from Weinstein’s rented studio in the Castello sector of Venice. Painted at different times, different days – and sometimes even years apart – the artworks are always from the same point of view.  The final layer, placed in the furthest back, is an abstract panel that supports the realistic layers above signifying the ultimate unknowability of reality that underpins all perception. These multiple sheets of acrylic record a period of time, experience and memory and acknowledge that all these perceptions are illusory. Richard Vine observes about Weinstein’s unique painting style: “Although the results are deceptively traditional-looking landscapes, the process and the pictorial technique are quietly radical.” 

Venice, 2 Afternoons © Martin Weinstein 2021 11 x 13.5 x 2.5 inches
Venice, 2 Afternoons © Martin Weinstein 2021 11 x 13.5 x 2.5 inches

The 11 paintings in this installation follow the times of the day starting with the soft pink glow of morning light, traveling to the brilliant clarity of mid-day and slowly transforming to the dark shadows of evening punctuated by the sharp, staccato specks of reflected light. Because of the perennially shifting layers within each painting, the artworks belie their small scale, each one measuring not more than 11” x 16.5” x 2.5”  and therefore appear much larger and nuanced. The visual cacophony of diverse watercrafts plying the mouth of the Grand Canal simmers down to a memory in the tiny dancing lights of the night views. No matter the time of day, the heavens never lose their drama as clouds roil across the landscape and absorb bristling towers as well as the soft, rounded domes of Venice. Sometimes, the painted waters part briefly to reveal a second church floating in their waves, other times, it is a tower valiantly pressing against the storm clouds that finds its echo in the depths of the evening sky. 

Venice, 2 Sunsets © Martin Weinstein 2013, 11” x 16.5” x 2.5 inches
Venice, 2 Sunsets © Martin Weinstein 2013, 11” x 16.5” x 2.5 inches

Although Martin Weinstein’s paintings are specific to Venice, the artist uses these historic and contemporary manifestations of this famous city as a catalyst for examining and isolating the layered process of painting.  Rather than hide each painted level surface permanently below the previous layer, leaving the finished layer to sum up and seal the process, Martin Weinstein instead isolates each level of painting, allowing the viewers’ mind to recombine them and amplify the optical illusion of vision.  It is through this spatial illusion that Weinstein reveals his true subject matter – not gorgeous architecture of a beloved city nor the small human activity that scurries about but the slowly enveloping experience of time. 

Martin Weinstein’s virtual catalogue for Vedute Palinsesti can be viewed here.
Martin Weinstein Vedute Palinsesti is on view at Castello 925, Fondamenta San Giuseppe 780, Sestiere Castello, Venice Italy through July 10, 2022

Bobbie Moline-Kramer: Power of One

Bobbie Moline-Kramer Power of One: (left) Religion, INRI, Crown of Thorns and (right) Dame Jane Goodall, 4-3-1939, oil and acrylic paint on wood panel, 12” x 12” each
Bobbie Moline-Kramer Power of One: (left) Religion, INRI, Crown of Thorns and (right) Dame Jane Goodall, 4-3-1939, oil and acrylic paint on wood panel, 12” x 12” each

In the larger Castello 925 Gallery down the street, Bobbie Moline-Kramer exhibits together with painter Antonio Pauciulo. California-based artist Bobbie Moline-Kramer’s exhibition The Power of One is an installation that examines time, space and destiny using the study of constellations as a touchstone.  Employing 16th-century glazing and gilding techniques, Moline-Kramer incises unique sky charts particular to each heroic figure with the same precision that antique celestial maps were prepared and painted by Italian and Dutch Renaissance masters.  Each painting is a portrait of individuals selected by the artist for their courage to make a difference in the world.  The astrological profiles of these various individuals are intertwined with the position of the stars at the time they were born or died (or in the case of a portrait of Italo Calvino, both birth and death are linked together. Another Moline-Kramer painting series depicts a family tree of birds representing the artist’s own ancestry and embedded history. However, Moline-Kramer does not just linger in the past but creates an adjacent installation that employs cutting edge technology to deconstruct her paintings 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 to earth. This paradoxical synergy combines facts with mysticism, mythology with mathematics, and traditional Renaissance technique with 21st century computer printing technology renders this exhibition not only about time and space but most importantly, about being. In the artist’s own words: “The concept of this body of work is twofold: the wonder of our world, and the power of one person to change that world”.

Bobbie Moline-Kramer’s Power of One installation view: left, RBG and right, Al di Là, both artworks created through 3-D printed and hand-molded acrylic plates
Bobbie Moline-Kramer’s Power of One installation view: left, RBG and right, Al di Là, both artworks created through 3-D printed and hand-molded acrylic plates

Moline-Kramer’s artwork is exhibited alongside the paintings of Antonio Pauciulo who places himself as a portraitist at the center of man’s questions about man. By setting himself the task to define himself through the mirror of the other, Pauciulo transposes this awareness of himself into the act of painting.

Antonio Pauciulo (left) Bobbie Moline-Kramer Family Tree (right)
Antonio Pauciulo (left) Bobbie Moline-Kramer Family Tree (right)

Castello 925 presents Bobbie Moline-Kramer The Power of One together with Antonio Pauciulo Artificial Creatures, in Castello 925, Fondamenta San Giuseppe through 10 July, 2022.

Stephen Maine: Typologies

by John Mendelsohn

Stephen Maine, P22-0199, 2022, 30 x 24”, acrylic on canvas
Stephen Maine, P22-0199, 2022, 30 x 24”, acrylic on canvas

“What are we looking at and what are we seeing?” That is a question, spoken or not, that pervades the experience of contemporary art. This is particularly true of the sort of art that specializes in eluding obvious imagery and easy explication. 

In Stephen Maine’s exhibition of new paintings, we are confronted by the residue of process, a material memory of what was once there. Maine layers a series of off-printings from plates made with modeling paste, extruded foam, and glue. This template is charged with paint that is then transferred to the canvas, in a process similar to a monoprint. But in this case, in a single painting the template carries color in successive printings, resulting in an image that appears as if in dimensional relief. 

With their saturated colors, the paintings have a kind of psychedelic, ruined glamour, making a painterly virtue out of the necessity of loss of image’s original source. The paintings play with our continual impulse to seek the meaningful signal in the ambient noise, like making out an image from a stain on a wall, as Leonardo noted in his description of pareidolia.  

Stephen Maine, P21-0810, 2022, 50 x 40”, acrylic on canvas
Stephen Maine, P21-0810, 2022, 50 x 40”, acrylic on canvas

The question of what we are looking at and seeing in these paintings remains the challenge within these works. They rely on our own need for paintings’ intelligibility – to make sense, even as we are immersed in sensuous intensity. These paintings seem to both stimulate and frustrate this desire, through chaos at a remove, a loss of the referent, an appeal to the grotesque. 

When we talk about Maine’s work, we cannot help but see it in relation to Richter’s early scintillating procedural abstractions, and to Warhol’s degraded silkscreen tabloid images. Into the mix we can add the work of Simon Hantaï, and his method of pliage, painting folded canvas, that when unfurled yields unanticipated results. And even further back are artists who used the stratagems of automatism, the surrealist technique used to bypass conscious control in hopes accessing a portal to the unconscious. This approach informed Pollock’s inscribing the evidence of his physical movements at a liquid distance from the canvas.

Stephen Maine, P22 0309, 2022, 25 x 20”,  acrylic on canvas
Stephen Maine, P22 0309, 2022, 25 x 20”,  acrylic on canvas

All of these artists’ work partakes in a kind of drama wherein the authentic and the automatic continually contend. Maine partakes in this as well, while maintaining a kind of optimistic faith in abstraction’s ability to remain the language of sophisticated discourse, even as it evokes a world in flux, consumed by rupture. 

The question of the artifice of art is ever-present in Maine’s work, since we experience a kind of simulacrum of the real, the gesture that is memorialized. The illusion of authenticity persists, as the work appeals to our craving for the spontaneous and the genuine.

Stephen Maine installation view
Stephen Maine installation view

This desire is put to the test by the artist’s work in the exhibition, with three larger and five smaller works. Two of the paintings are from a single template, in changing color palettes. As a whole, the Maine’s paintings here are in contrast to his work from a number of years ago, with their wall-sized scale and floating, anarchic spirit. 

Some of that wildness remains, but a new feeling of organic growth emerges in the branching, linear patterns that structure some of the works. At times, these rib-like elements vibrate in pixilated, buzzing topographies, or alternately devolve into runic entanglements. Also appearing is a new simplicity in a number of the works, with the printed elements announcing themselves with graphic clarity and high-contrast colors on evenly painted grounds.

Stephen Maine: Typologies is at Hionas Gallery, 94 Walker Street, New York from April 21 – May 7, 2022

Passion and Ego:

Robert C. Morgan, Gahae Park, and John Mendelsohn at Studio Artego Gallery

by Thalia Vrachopoulos

Robert C. Morgan, Lissajous 21, 2015-16, acrylic, metallic paints on canvas, 20x20 inches
Robert C. Morgan, Lissajous 21, 2015-16, acrylic, metallic paints on canvas, 20×20 inches

The newly opened gallery Studio Artego in Long Island City evidences the increasing de-centralization resulting from globalization and rising rental costs in Manhattan. Their April show featured a three-person exhibition entitled Passion and Ego: John Mendelsohn, Gahae Park, Robert C. Morgan curated by Soojung Hyun. Through the theme, Hyun examines the synergistic effects of the three featured artists’ individual artistic languages. The formal artistic means geometric forms, consideration of light and line are used as thematic foil to tie the artists’ work together. The title Passion and Ego, is defined by Hyun in the online catalogue accompanying the show, as the “sense of tireless dedication of an artist to his work and resultant spiritual fulfillment.” The latter idea is found in the works of the early abstractionists Vasily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Piet Mondrian et al, who were salvationist in character, and sought a common language in their search for spiritual enlightenment.

Morphologically, the exhibit is flawless in its pristine lines and simple installation that complements the abstract nature of the works. The viewer’s eye is not interrupted by any abrupt changes or jarring elements thus, it moves smoothly around the gallery to absorb the show’s coherence. Although the exhibition contains works in different media such as painting, and paper installations they harmonize as a group. 

To begin with, Robert C. Morgan’s abstract pieces are confined to black, maroon, gold, copper, and silver. In this sense, Morgan like the Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian, minimized his color palette and reduced his forms to their simplest essence. But whereas, the latter used primary colors, Morgan’s are tertiary or mixed colors and metallic shades. Morgan’s circles and squares in their architectonic nature and coloration, are closer the Proun paintings of the Russian avant-garde artist El Lissitzky. Morgan’s forms as seen in Lissajous 21, 2015-16 (metallic paints on canvas, 20×20”) like Lissitzky’s feature shifting axes that offer us multiple spatial perspectives. 

Morgan’s Lissajous also known as a Bowditch curve, refers to a family of curves invented by Nathaniel Bowditch in 1815, that in physics is a graph of a system of parametric equations that describe complex harmonic motion enclosed by rectangular boundaries. Jules Lissajous a French mathematician later sought to develop optical methods for studying vibrations and the resultant waves or ripples/curves they caused. The three artists Morgan, Lissitzky and Mondrian have mathematics in common within their geometricity. While Morgan examines Lissajous curves and their equations, Lissitzky analogized art with the functions and systems of mathematics, and Mondrian used the Golden Ratio to produce harmony and balance in his abstractions. Morgan’s pieces are Minimal as his forms are planned with precision, and immaculately constructed while containing superb attention to detail.

Gahae Park, Music  Drawing – Rhythm and Variation, 2018 , cut paper, gouache, 24 x 30 inches
Gahae Park, Music  Drawing – Rhythm and Variation, 2018 , cut paper, gouache, 24 x 30 inches

Gahae Park also works with geometric abstraction but her media differ from those of the painters Morgan and Mendelsohn. Park creates what she calls ‘cut-out drawings’ that result in two- dimensional sculptures and installations in paper. Moreover, Park engages with a different subject matter than the other two artists in the show. She focuses on correspondences that “deeply connect with the sound and structure of music.” It was the Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky who considered music as the most abstract of all the arts who at the beginning of the 20th century corresponded with the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. Their interests coincided as the latter was an exponent of atonal music and the first an abstract master. Fascinated by music’s emotional power, and being musically inclined Kandinsky analogized color and sound. Park to whom music evokes abstract space, inspired by these correspondences, produced a new type of space, one that incorporates the Eastern philosophical idea of the void in the Yin/Yang symbol of the Tao Te Ching, a Chinese philosophical text written by Laotzi ca. 400 BC expounding on Taoism. The cosmic duality of these two Taoist energies in nature Yin being the female principle and Yang the male, is believed to be both complementary and opposing simultaneously. As seen in her meticulously cut out paper work Music Drawing—Rhythm and Variation, 2018 (cut paper, gouache, 24×30”), Park allows the negative cut out spaces set at intervals corresponding to musical notes, to play with the positive space in order to produce varied and multi-tonal harmonies. 

Gahae Park, Music Drawing-Etude , 2022, cut paper, gouache, 10 x 13 inches
Gahae Park, Music Drawing-Etude , 2022, cut paper, gouache, 10 x 13 inches

Another of Park’s music drawings Music Drawing-Etude, 2022 (cut-paper, gouache. 10×13”) alludes to a piano keyboard while simultaneously to an etude or technical exercise. This idea also corresponds to an artistic experimentation or exploration in the pursuit of resolving a specific formal issue much like Claude Monet’s study of light or Degas’ study of movement. Moreover, Park crosses modalities as her synesthesia produces works that demonstrate correlated patterns that work together through emotional mediation and expression to formulate music to color association.  

John Mendelsohn, Color Wheel 1, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 21 inches
John Mendelsohn, Color Wheel 1, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 21 inches

The third artist in Passion and Ego is John Mendelsohn who is an abstract painter. One might think that the title of Mendelsohn’s painting Color Wheel 1, 2020 (Acrylic on Canvas, 30×21”) tells it all, but meaning is also imbued by the viewer whose reading of it, enriches the artwork. In an interview with David Eichholtz, Mendelsohn spoke of his series’ possible multiple meanings, mentioning among others Walter Benjamin’s “auratic work”, the wheel of life, floral forms, umbrellas, music of the spheres, etc. Formally, his paintings examine shifting visual occurrences and vision’s optical excitation. Mendelsohn’s Color Wheel series demonstrates the interaction of color resulting in sensations of simultaneous depth and movement. 

John Mendelsohn, Gate 3, 2017, acrylic on canvas, silicone, acrylic, colored sand on acetate, 24 x 18 inches
John Mendelsohn, Gate 3, 2017, acrylic on canvas, silicone, acrylic, colored sand on acetate, 24 x 18 inches

Mendelsohn’s Gate 3, 2017 (Acrylic on Canvas, Silicone, Acrylic, Colored Sand on Acetate, 24×18”) maintains viewer interest through its sensuous, painterly surface impasto as well as, its reflective qualities. He accomplishes the latter through his use of varying supports like clear acetate or foil so that, the feeling is analogous to looking through many layers. The contrast between matte and shiny surfaces and painterly, viscosity also help in giving the whole painting an air of mystery. There is also a successful dialogue between the title and the work whose multi -layering suggests a gateway or veiled entryway.

All in all, this show’s success is due to the expertise of the three artists but also to the curator’s choice and immaculate installation technique. The goal of the recent galleries opening outside of Manhattan perimeters is not only to find cheaper rents and bigger spaces, but also to make art available to geographically and ethnically diverse populations. It is worth the extra time to travel from the city if it is to see exhibits such as Passion and Ego.

Passion and Ego: Robert C. Morgan, Gahae Park, John Mendelsohn, Three Person Show: March 15 – April 29, 2022 at Studio Artego, 32-88 48th Street Unit 2, Long Island City NY 11103 www.studioartego.com