Eozen Agopian at the Greek Consulate (New York)

by Jonathan Goodman

Eozen Agopian, Nicholas Space, 2018
Eozen Agopian, Nicholas Space, 2018, acrylic, thread and fabric on canvas,
100 X 90 cm (39.37 X 35.4”)

Of Armenian descent but born in Greece, where she now lives (with regular visits to New York), Eozen Agopian was educated in the United States – at Pratt Institute for her master’s degree and at Hunter College for her bachelor’s of fine arts. Her recent show, expertly curated by the art historian Thalia Vrachopoulos, The Fabric of Space, at the Greek consulate in New York City, enabled visitors to experience her highly worked art, dependent on cloth and thread, nearly as luminous as a Russian icon but also dedicated to the complex vectors and planes of modernist painting. Agopian is an artist of unusual skill, being someone whose textural surfaces are as involved and intricate as embroidery. Her artisanal vision will inevitably tie her to artistic craft, but that term will not do justice to the jewel-like, but completely art-oriented, work she makes so well.

Eozen Agopian, Presently, 2016
Eozen Agopian, Presently, 2016, acrylic, oil and thread on canvas, 100 X 80 cm
(39.37” X 31.49”)

In Presently (2016), Agopian creates a surface of extreme density, helped by a rectangular set of banded threads that frame two small abstract images. Outside this construction, we see a variety of colored planes–mostly blue, green, and gray–taking up the rest of the space. The density of the image’s architecture is remarkable and creates a space that is of strong interest in its variety of textures. Crowded with forms that fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces, the composition comes close to exploding beyond the confines established by its frame. Fine art like this relates historically to collage — in particular, the work of Kurt Schwitters, the German founder of merz art. Its impact is derived from the contrast between one form and the next within a relatively small space. This happens on a regular basis in Agopian’s art.

In Nicholas’ Space (2018), the lines take over the entire space of the composition, with forms lending complexity underneath. It feels like an allover composition, with attention being paid to texture. The rhythmic emphasis brought about by the rows of strings also structures the image, which is complex and self-contained. A word of caution might be said about the relentless modernism of Agopian’s vision — some viewers might say the work looks backward too often, relying on a sense of the past that is no longer energetic as an outlook. But this is highly formal work whose manufacture is done so well, we can only marvel at the intricacies of its parts. This is generally true of the artist’s efforts, which are exquisitely put together in ways that remind us of our need to see something well made. As time goes on, and we move further and further away from a sense of craft, Agopian’s art will maintain an integrity that in fact comes from craft, at the same time successfully presenting its high art intentions.

Eozen Agopian, My Departure, 2013
Eozen Agopian, My Departure, 2013, acrylic, oil, painted canvas and thread on canvas, 60 X 50 cm (23.62 X 19.68”)

My Departure (2013), the last work to be discussed, consists of thin canvas folded in a vertical fashion, held together by six bands of horizontal, light-colored strings. The colors of the folded, painted canvases give the work a vibrancy that is deeply satisfying. Maybe texture is the true center of Agopian’s focus, which tends to emphasize the exterior of the image–to the point where it takes on the feeling of a sculptural surface. This work, like all of Agopian’s pieces, is self-sufficient in its autonomous abstraction. It communicates feeling as well as highly considered design. This combination of emotion and facture supports our experience of the artist’s thinking, which is original and achieved in the extreme. We live in a time when a kind of manic expressiveness, triumphalist and egotistical, has taken over in art. Such an attitude leads nowhere, although its inherent selfishness may lead to momentary euphoria. But it does not last. The remarkable thing about Agopian’s art is that it is alive to modernism, that is, the recent past, even as its experience leads us ahead, to an esthetic as yet unknown. Thus, we must hope that this show, and Agopian’s art in general, do not go unnoticed, given as the artist is to forging ahead.

The Cove Pop-Up Exhibition

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Untitled, Raymond J.
Untitled, Raymond J., color pencil on paper

Once in a while I stumble upon an exhibition that really opens my eyes and reorients my thinking and understanding of the creative process. The Cove Pop Up exhibition here in Providence, RI, which includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and utilitarian objects, offers a great number of art works by talented individuals who are dealing with varying degrees of debilitating issues. The exhibition theme is one that should enlighten many, revealing how creative and honest one can be as an individual when unencumbered by thoughts of High Art or fashionable trends. These free-thinking and enlightening individuals are working with the very successful programs offered through The Cove, RHD-RI, Flying Shuttle Studios and edge+end where “adults with developmental disabilities reach their goals” with the creation of some pretty amazing and illuminating works of art.

Walking through this salon style exhibition I am immediately reminded of Adolf Wölfli when looking at the work of Paul A., who manages to find that same sort of “alien” vocabulary of markings and images within an organized composition in one work, then moves toward the brutality of a late Philip Guston in another painting. Then there’s the work of Kevin G. who manages to find that sweet spot where Fauvism becomes somewhat musical or lyrical when lightened by the strategic presence of unpainted surfaces.

Untitled, Paul A.
Untitled, Paul A., watercolor on paper

My weakness is that I can best describe what I am seeing using established art world labels, but I have to say at this point that these labels are simply a way of describing what I am seeing, but not nearly articulating what I am feeling. There is such a sense of the individual here, something that artists strive to achieve and sometimes do manage when they are able to shed all outside influences. That seems to be far less of a problem here with these artists who have directness and a rawness that bleeds passion.

So, I can describe the bold, near Fauve-like clarity of Nissah A. art as having a blend of George Condo’s aggressiveness in how he establishes the features of his figures combined with to heavy application of black contour line that Georges Rouault once championed. That would describe the technique and style somewhat, but not the visceral effect of this small painting, which is unforgettable. On the other hand, Jennifer B.’s Cedar Waxwing Adult and Seeds have a rawness of form and an awkwardness or wistfulness of technique that resonates deep within the memory of any viewer who has experienced the ‘depth’ of ‘reality’ of a natural environment without definitively suggesting the work of another ‘insider’ artist.

Cedar Waxwing Adult, Jennifer B.
Cedar Waxwing Adult, Jennifer B., oil on canvas board

Koury D. records ghostlike harbingers that shutter through space, maybe not so much eliciting fear as much as they remind one of the spiritual aspects of representation. Holly T., who seems to be channeling that late career imagery of Pablo Picasso, injects humor with text in the most beautiful way in her pencil drawings, while Raymond J. shows me and any artist who is willing to look how to utilize a predominately red palette with accents of yellow, green and black to achieve some of the most remarkable transitions of space, form and texture on a two dimensional surface. His approach to his media, color pencil, and his representations of space and perspective are nothing less than miraculous and surprising.

Untitled, Holly T., graphite on gray paper
Untitled, Holly T., graphite on gray paper

By the time this review is published, the exhibition will be closed, however, I urge any contemporary artist to take the time to look at the art that comes from the aforementioned programs to learn just what a contemporary outsider’s mind can produce.

For more information visit www.grodencenter.org/covepopup or follow their endeavors on Instagram @covepopup

The Rich Imagination of Jacques Roch: Sensuousness and Impertinent Play

by Dominique Nahas

Jacques Roch, The Kiss Of The Jellyfish, 1986
Jacques Roch, The Kiss Of The Jellyfish, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 66 inches

The current exhibition at Kim Foster Gallery in New York City allows us to experience the states-of-mind that pre-occupied, and occupied the late, remarkable artist Jacques Roch (1934-2015). In his notes Roch writes: “… I was born with the condition of the wide-awake dreamer…. The drawn line, clear on a colored ground, held the systems of shapes like a luminous net. The slapstick mood and lushness of color rendered less threatening my private bestiary of violent instincts, bawdy manners, diffuse fears, contagious glee, and even, sometimes, serenity…” This extraordinary exhibition, at the onset of 2019, offers the viewer an unparalleled opportunity to see the development of Roch’s range and styles and his openness to experimentation and change. The show presents nine works on view. They include a selection of previously unseen drawings from the 1970’s, four major paintings from the mid 1980’s, two early works from the 1990’s (Ma Jolie and Love Story) and concluding with two small, intense realized paintings dated 2013: Lucky Knight and La Belle Dame.

Jacques Roch, La Belle Dame, 2013
Jacques Roch, La Belle Dame, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

If one were to point to one facet of continuity in his work it would be the remarkable musicality of Roch’s private fantasy-worlds, emerging through a highly structured and rigorously spontaneous art, where a sensuous control of radiantly vibrant tonalities in his paintings seem to glow from within. These tonalities illuminate his digressionary visual cadences comprised of small, intricately detailed pen-and-ink fantasy creatures and spaces whose features and renderings were not so much sung or recited but scatted – the visual equivalency of vocal improvisation of jazz singers using nonsense syllables, improvised melodies and rhythms while using the voice to mimic an instrument. Roch drew and painted his irreverent frenzies, mischievously, as in a reverie. This vision, with all of its unexpected freshness, shows Roch’s profound awareness of the advocacies of chance and the delimitations of the improvisational forwarded by Marcel Duchamp and John Cage.

Jacques Roch, [paper] 1970's
Jacques Roch, [paper] 1970’s
Roch, famously, was a political cartoonist in Paris with deep affinities with the Situationist Movement during the volatile period of civil unrest in May 1968 and beyond. He left for the United States in 1979 making his way to the Brooklyn’s Williamsburg area long before it became a hub of shabby-chic. The artist was innately an elegant and erudite man scrupulously tending to his intellectual and imaginative life by reading and re-reading his well-thumbed, underlined, mark-filled, and margin-scribbled copies of books of the collected works of his favorites: Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Alfred Jarry, Gerard de Nerval and Paul Verlaine, precursors to Dada, Surrealism and the Theatre of the Absurd.

Jacques Roch, The Door, 1987
Jacques Roch, The Door, 1987, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 66 inches

Jacques Roch lived and worked for decades in a gritty, plank-floored, light-and-plant-filled fourth-floor walk-up and floor-through apartment that substituted, with its torn-down walls, for a modest semblance of the converted industrial lofts that were being colonized across the river by the nascent art scene-sters at the time in Manhattan’s once-abandoned Soho area.  In that south-of-Houston Street district, soon-to-be international art stars and their equally prestigious dealers like Sonnabend Gallery, Paula Cooper Gallery, and Leo Castelli Gallery (among many others) were capturing, rightfully, the international news limelight. By contrast Jacques Roch was an early pioneer of the Brooklyn Williamsburg scene, then in its infancy. He was in place there years before Brooklyn became recognized by the media, by the market, by Hollywood, as a vanguard art community. Roch was a Romantic and an Absurdist rolled up into one complex, lovely soul. To complicate/implicate things even more I’d say he had leanings that were temperamentally and oppositionally divided by Arcadian and Utopian impulses. He was a traveler at heart, always on the go psychically, emotionally, intellectually, sensorially. He savored the erotic and the exotic and he discovered these in unlikely places. Roch sought in his own uniquely non-dogmatic way to seek a return to an innocent past and a desire to press forward to a perfected future – a future in which a sensualized heterogeneity and an eroticized heterological co-exist in some space in the mind, where incompatibilities reign supreme.

Jacques Roch loved living in the United States as an expat from France. A true flaneur he celebrated diversity and plenitude, and welcomed incongruities, the unexpected, the non-fitting. These contrarian tendencies were aided and abetted by the opulence and sensuous radiance of his diverse, ribald sign-systems, his often-mischievous forms and his colors. In his paintings meaning risks losing the battle to the unforeseen and to contingency, scattered disseminations, dispersals, digressions and divagations of form and content. Turbulent sensuousness ensues in his drawings and paintings. Roch had a preternatural awareness of digressionary plenitude and was a master player of the impishly impertinent and the metamorphic.

Jacques Roch, Ma Jolie, 1990
Jacques Roch, Ma Jolie, 1990, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 78 inches

In these selected artworks extending over decades we feel from the very beginning that Roch engendered an intense vision of play-filled lubricity and turmoil, topped-off with a mixture of frenzy and sensuous delight. His complex vision, while it entices and charms with its surfeit of jitteriness and pliability, has equal parts smoothness and scratchiness and darkness. His imagery (like gnats buzzing at your face, a thousand little tongues haptically engaging your eyes and mind) offers us something strangely comical, yet insistently askew. His feverish imagery (a lot of encrypted doodles, naughty bits, monsters and imaginary beasts, private formulations pertaining to the insouciant pleasures of voyeurism and the carnal) straddle coherency and chaos, control and dissolution. What is astonishing to experience as a viewer is Roch’s aliveness to that liminal consideration where coherence and incoherence coalesce. His controlled dissolutions suggest sprawling, proliferating mini-universes of marks and lines, engaging the eye with conditions of mutability and alterity. Roch’s manic, zany linear iterations and re-iterations fragment and coalesce in alternating arrhythmia; his graphic and painterly surfaces recall voluble, energetic force fields of automatic gestural graphism and of writing propelled by surges of involuntary memory.

The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, in one of the essays entitled L’invitation au voyage  (Invitation to Travel) that forms part of his 1943 collected essays “L’air et les songes” (Air and Dreams) writes movingly 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 observations that seem remarkably well suited to describe Jacques Roch’s unique aesthetic susceptibility of fusing differences, of exalting the dismantling of a universe as an intricately related activity as the creation of one, of attempting to emerge in a new place, in an unforeseen and unforeseeable place as different as possible from the place you started from.  In this sense it’s perhaps right to legitimately consider Jacques Roch’s aesthetic vision a radiant and exalted ode to visual vagabondage. In this sense the vagrant–like way his mind worked, aesthetically speaking, exemplifies the creative faculty described by Bachelard. The French philosopher writes (as if using Roch a case-study to present his findings):“…Imagination is always considered to be the faculty of forming images. But it is, rather, the faculty of deforming the images offered by perception, of freeing ourselves from the immediate images; it is especially the faculty of changing images. If there is not a changing of images, an unexpected union of images, there is no imaginative action if a present image does not recall an absent one, if an occasional image does not give rise to a swarm of aberrant images, to an explosion of images, there is no imagination…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…”

University of Tennessee, Knoxville Gallery Tour

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Joseph Delaney stands with his painting VJ Day
Artist Joseph Delaney stands with his painting VJ Day (all images Courtesy of the Ewing Gallery unless otherwise noted)

As someone who has kept a sharp eye on the New York City art scene since the early 1970s, I must admit that some of my most memorable experiences have occurred in Tennessee. In 2012, it was the Tennessee State Museum where I saw and reviewed an exhibition of the politically charged, multi-media works of John Mellencamp. Later that same year it was the powerful and moving retrospective of the photography and videos of Carrie Mae Weems at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, both in Nashville.

https://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/30900-skeletons-in-our-shared-closet

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/d-dominick-lombardi/nashville-arts_b_1924180.html

This time around I find myself in Knoxville, as I visit three different institutions featuring four very diverse selections of art and ideas. Ewing Gallery of Art, which can be found on the campus of the University of Tennessee, features Blurring Boundaries: The Women of AAA from 1936 – Present. The exhibition is comprised of art by 54 female members of American Abstract Artists. An institution begun in New York in 1936, at a time when the pioneers of abstract art, and to a much greater extent, their female counterparts were having a near impossible time finding a gallery to exhibit their work.

Blurring Boundaries: The Women of AAA from 1936 – Present begins with few formidable examples of the earliest work from AAA’s archives. Initially, I am drawn to the painting The Red L Abstraction (1940) by Esphyr Slobodkina, an intimately sized spatial narrative that traverses an advancing perspective with active shapes and a sophisticated color scheme. You can just see the artist’s mind working here, wrangling with representation and abstraction in the pursuit of a purer, more universal and timeless aesthetic. Alice Trumbull Mason’s Magnitude of Memory (1962) has a similar feel with far less representation and increased rhythmic transitions that are suggestive of the kind of visual variances one sees on screen at the end of an old color film projection as it breaks free of its reel and quickly blurs into wiggling bands of color.

Esphyr Slobodkina, The Red L Abstraction (1940),
Esphyr Slobodkina, The Red L Abstraction (1940), gouache on paperboard, 8 x 9 inches

From here, the early work quickly moves to the diversity and the vitality of the current day and how well every piece here, despite the various media and messages, all fit together exceedingly well. Susan Smith’s 2 ½ lb Irregular Grid (2012) is a reactive, jazzy jaunt of red lines as she riffs off of a flattened out, crisscrossed fast food container in surprisingly systematic and seamlessly expanding tangents. The wall label lists the media as collage, but I definitely see ball point pen lines and a slightly different color red in the areas surrounding the more obviously printed pattern on the crushed container; both indicating elements of added drawing. The painting Laughter and Forgetting (2017) by Cecily Kahn reveals an odd sort of control somewhere between the chaotic and the meditative. It almost seems as if when making this painting, the artist was moving back and forth mentally between a waking dream and focused frenzy.

Blurring Boundaries: The Women Of AAA, 1936–present, curated by Rebecca DiGiovanna, runs through December 10, 2018

2 ½ lb. Irregular Grid (2012), Susan Smith
2 ½ lb. Irregular Grid (2012), Susan Smith, 2 ½ lb., collage, 9 x 9 ½ inches

The second exhibition is titled Mutual Muses. Here visitors will experience the work and vision of two late-career artists who inspired and complimented each other’s productivity virtually their entire adult lives. Individually, they both are leaders in their chosen fields. Both are living examples of the transition between Modern and Contemporary Art. Mimi Garrard today, is an award-winning creator of videos that feature her beautiful and elegantly choreographed dance performances. James Seawright, her partner, who currently has his ground-breaking, multi-media light based work Searcher (1966) at the Whitney Museum of Art’s exhibition Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965-2018.

For this exhibition, the artists have created a number of collaborative prints that reflect a variety of sources including video stills that fracture and re-form into largely geometric or symmetrical shapes. Comprised mostly of curious marks that almost jump off the surface of the paper, each image represents a cross between organic and mechanical mapping. When looking at prints like Untitled (KY5) (2018) I keep picturing an army of artist/ants controlled by M. C. Escher in the rigorous pursuit of symbolizing a perfect balance between mind and body resulting in incredibly intricate patterns.

James Seawright and Mimi Garrard, Untitled (KY5) (2018)
James Seawright and Mimi Garrard, Untitled (KY5) (2018), archival digital print, 20 x 20 inches

In addition to the optically opulent prints are intriguing examples of Seawright’s more intimately scaled kinetic and light based art and Garrard’s multi-layered videos of her stunningly choreographed dance performances.

Mutual Muses, curated by T. Michael Martin, ends February 20, 2019

http://mimigarrarddance.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Seawright

At the UT Downtown gallery is an excellent show of portraits by Joseph Delaney (1904-1991) titled Face to Face. Most of the work here ranges in dates from the 1950s to 1970s when the Knoxville born Delaney lived in New York City. The portraits featured throughout the gallery come from the time he spent at his beloved Arts Students League or participating in many of the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibits. I am told the subjects that are forward facing were made during his idle time at the Washington Square exhibitions, while the three-quarter and near profile views are most likely of the models at the League.

Delany an accomplished artist who painted numerous city scenes like his wonderful renditions of parades and nightlife despised abstract art. I sense, hearing stories about him, that he felt there is more than enough one can do with representation to expand the critical course of art making, therefore abstraction was an unnecessary endeavor, even an abomination in his eyes.

Various Details, Drawings by Joseph Delaney
Various Details, Drawings by Joseph Delaney

Being an artist myself, I know how my skills and level of concentration can vary from day to day and in these mid nineteenth century portraits by Delaney in a wide spectrum of styles and materials, anyone can see how the media and the mood of the moment can yield such different approaches and results. There is something iconic about the images rendered in charcoal; the overwhelming honesty in the graphite drawings, his distinct flair in the lines he produced with ink and brush; that wispy weariness in his watercolors and that odd sort of awkwardness in his pastels that all the results, somehow, reveal the substance of his subjects and the seductiveness of their souls.

Curated by Sam Yates, Face to Face ends December 8, 2018.

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The University of Tennessee’s graduate student gallery, Gallery 1010, maintains a very vigorous schedule with quickly changing exhibitions. This time around it is Dana Potter’s No Good, Know How, an interactive, mixed media installation that challenges the senses while recording your responses. The basic set-up here is quite impressive as all the elements and states of her art-making process are present for everyone to see. From the computer cutouts that graphically represent artist’s equipment and every-day tools to the multi-layered prints they eventually make, Potter reveals a keen vision layered in mysterious methodology that slowly deepens with most onlooker’s involvement.

Dana Potter, Computer Work Station and Installation View, No Good, Know How, Gallery 1010,
Dana Potter, Computer Work Station and Installation View, No Good, Know How, Gallery 1010, size variable. (images courtesy of the artist)

At the core of the installation is the mapping of eye movements via computer relative to the instructions devised by the artist, a process that results in limitless possibilities as printouts. The way I end up dealing with the stresses of the challenge – the self-imposed anxiety of playing a game on an interactive computer screen is a very effective and somewhat disorienting or reorienting experience for me. Additionally, Potter’s prints create a new sort of edginess to the concept of aesthetic beauty – and one that I can easily live with. I very much look forward to seeing what comes next in the promising career of Dana Potter.

Confluence at The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery in New York City

Keith Kattner, The Four Seasons, Winter, 2017
Keith Kattner, The Four Seasons, Winter, 2017, oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″s

by Robert Curcio

Confluence is an unassuming yet poignant and sincere exhibition featuring Keith Kattner with seven American and Korean artists that are working in parallel only to converge at this moment of exhibition. The exhibit joins together a variety of cultures, memories and traditions with innovation to address underlying personal, artistic and world view concerns.

Kattner’s fourteen paintings are the heightened convergence of the exhibit with seemingly subdued scenes that in fact are energetic interventions of art references, modern life versus an idealized “good old days”, and pastoral mingling with urban. All coming together in Kattner’s structural theme of entropy with its uneasy transfer of imagery in equal measure of disorder and diversity/destruction and creation. Kattner creates a pictorial leveling off of all differences within the painting while falling into a more complex and highly ordered system.

In Kattner’s Thor and the Little Red Rooster, the background is typical Hudson River School trees, a threatening sky and a bolt of lightning, but with a monolithic modern building directly in the painting’s center. Off to the left there is an all-American Hooper-esque house where a woman(?) and cat are on the porch. While in the foreground a municipal work crew at a train crossing is removing a downed tree, complete with chainsaw, truck, safety cones, tree chopper and a few guys standing around.  And the little red rooster, well he’s right up front.

Throughout history artists have painted the four seasons and Kattner’s The Four Seasons are sublime kitsch.  Spring is a bucolic scene of people enjoying the day by a body of water nearby stands a group of farmhouses with some type of modern looking metal contraption. A luxurious day by a body of water is captured in Summer with thick black/reddish smoke billowing from stacks.  Fall is a depiction of a crisp day by a body of water where people gather pumpkins, bundle the harvest and skin an animal while jutting into the sky is a metal tower with a light on top; possibly a cell tower.  The trees are bare and the ground covered by snow in Winter as people by a body of water build a snowman, huddle by a fire, play on the ice and there is a warm glow coming from a home with someone’s red pick-up just protruding into the left of the painting.

Keith Kattner, Thor and the Little Red Rooster, 2017
Keith Kattner, Thor and the Little Red Rooster, 2018, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

The little red rooster is equal to the god Thor’s lightening bolt, an almost identical body of water in each painting, people with no discernable faces, the colors and lighting have a similar tonality and quality throughout all fourteen paintings.  The sense of randomness and order in near uniform extent affects every inch of Kattner’s canvases, as well as our seeing and comprehension of the paintings.

The totem-like sculptures by Hoo Chang Lee are reflections of light representing the illusory nature of visual experience.  Raphaele Shirley’s large photographs from her Artic Lights series documents a light environment where one’s understanding changes depending on the viewer’s position in relation to the work.  Yong R. Kwon’s “paintings” are not seen until the lights come on when hundreds of handmade stainless-steel discs reflect and disperse the light.

The bundled metal shells arrayed in Kyung Youl Yoon’s Cubic Inceptions paintings are metaphors for today’s concerns whether it is global climate change or materialistic goods. Likewise, Chuck Davidson’s discarded pieces of urban life are reassembled constructions reflecting our own contrasting relationships.

Gwang Hee Jeong and Ham Sup begin by transforming hanji, traditional Korean handmade paper, from its original state by re-assembling the paper into a heavily textured support for their paintings. Ham collectively brings an East-West synthesis into his abstraction, while Jeong’s practice brings traditional calligraphy in concert with abstraction into one telling moment.

Confluence at  The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery, 417 Lafayette Street, 7 floor, NYC.  Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm. Confluence runs through December 21

Three New Exhibitions at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Sam Bartman, Majestic Waters (2001)
Sam Bartman, Majestic Waters (2001), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17 inches

With three exhibitions opening at the Hammond Museum, the big surprise is the work of Sam Bartman. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1922, Bartman has spent the last 60 years of his life creating stirring paintings that combine some of the most the incompatible materials. In experimenting with what he calls his “special sauce”, Bartman has somehow tamed a mix of resins, varnishes, motor oil, glitter and automotive paints with oils and acrylics that results in everything from endlessly crackling surfaces and minute swirling storms of color. There are even the occasional brushstrokes that push the variously drying materials around leaving fossil like impressions of battered brush hairs sorrowfully spent in a furious wake of swished paint.

Bartman is an outsider. His unconventional and periled approach to previously incompatible materials could only have come from a place of pure, unrestrained, fearless experimentation common to this type. He scrapes, he pours, he projects his insights and instincts directly onto strange repurposed square surfaces comprised of millions of tiny glass beads attached to a sour yellow ground. In some instances, it all comes together looking somewhere between the more vigorous works of Vincent van Gogh and the paintings by Max Ernst that feature his decalcomania or grattage technique.

 (top) Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890), (bottom left) Sam Bartman, Untitled (2008), (bottom right) Sam Bartman, First Attempt (1998),
(top) Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890) Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Wikipedia image; (bottom left) Sam Bartman, Untitled (2008), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17 inches; (bottom right) Sam Bartman, First Attempt (1998), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17 inches

In reference to, or perhaps in his channeling of Van Gogh, you can see in Untitled (2008) and in First Attempt (1998) a similar heaviness and deliberateness in the paint application between the two artists. Comparatively, where Van Gogh is painting highly expressive and intensely colorful works en plein air; Bartman paints at night, indoors, using artificial light and in the solitude of his basement on a commandeered Ping-Pong table. Surrounded by the wafting waves of fumes and off gases his techniques produce, Bartman pulls from his daily observations filtered through a subconscious that allows all and any twist or turn.

With Ernst, when you look at the techniques he used to create Painting For Young People (1943) you see decalcomania, a transfer of paint onto the surface on the large panel in the upper portion of this multi-segmented work; and grattage, a scraping away of material in the large panel on the bottom. You see similar look in A New World (n.d.) by Bartman, only in Bartman’s painting the resulting appearance of the top, where you have the organic swirls of color, is more the result of a chemical reaction relative to the incompatibility of materials used, than it is the chance blending of a somewhat blind transference of medium. And with both artists, there is the addition of facial features to personify the humanoid forms that inhabit these paintings giving some the impression of a lost soul in a threatening space.

(top) Max Ernst, Painting For Young People (1943); (bottom) Sam Bartman, A New World (n.d.), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17 inches
(top) Max Ernst, Painting For Young People (1943); (bottom) Sam Bartman, A New World (n.d.), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17 inches

Overall, and despite the similarities to artists that have come before him, the art of Bartman is striking and powerful and worth much more attention than he has garnered to date.

In the same room of the Bartman paintings you will find the mood-laden paintings of Laura Von Rosk. Her landscapes are also rather intimately sized, as her intended visions look like they might reside in a cleverly crafted storybook, albethey dark at times, as her representations often beg narration.

In the front room as you first enter the museum is a circular space with six built-in vitrines. Each one of the display cases hold large sheets of paper filled with delicately drawn, subtly abstracted shapes that are clearly informed by nature. In each instance, Randy Orzano offers us his collaboration between himself and the bees he keeps. By placing his completed drawings flat or folded into the very beehives he tends to, Orzano gathers the residue of an orderly and purposeful social network. As the busy inhabitants eat away at and add wax and propolis to the hive and the bordering artist’s paper a new curious design takes shape that enhances the works on paper, while maintaining an indelible link between the artist and the industrious engineers.

Featured in the large main room of the museum is an exhibition titled Arirang Grace – Between Dislocation and Settlement. All of the 16 artists in this exhibition are Korean and all are quite different in their use of materials and intended message. The loan North Korean Artist is easy to spot. Kun Hak Ri’s Rope Skipping (2003) shows a group of five children jumping with joy above a flower laden rope painted in a style that is both ideal in its representations and over-the-top in its positivity.

Bong Jung Kim, one accomplished artist whose work I have come to know quite well, offers a new series of figurative works constructed of fragments common to our fast-paced, ‘everything-is-quickly-outdated’ conditioning. In his longtime quest to project his addictions and obsessions, Kim bares his soul each and every time he makes his art. Additionally, he is showing us that the vast and endless amount of materials that is largely and quickly considered to be junk, can be seen as a treasure trove of inspiration in the hands of an artist.

Myong Hi Kim’s Tea (2004) is a curious piece whereby the artist uses the recently abandoned school chalkboards she finds in rural South Korean towns that have lost students to the migration to cities. Working with oil pastels and chalk, and with the addition of a video of the foliage of the countryside, Kim art speaks volumes about the disappearing traditions of a simpler, more peaceful and rewarding life that is being erased by the promises of the modern era. Conversely, her husband Tchah Sup Kim opens and splays his paper coffee cup every morning in a shape reminiscent of a traditional folding fan and proceeds to paint or draw on them in various ways and in styles suggestive of his inspirations and interests. Both artists blend era and tradition in fascinating ways and both present the ages old discussion that pits the perils of progress against the tried and true qualities of life.

Myong Hi Kim, Tea, 2004
Myong Hi Kim, Tea, (2004), oil pastel on chalkboard with incorporated video, 47 ¼ x 90 ½ inches

All three exhibitions end November 10th.  There are also sculptures in various media displayed throughout the grounds of the museum by a number of artists including Joy Brown, Mimi Czajka Graminski and Tom Holmes. Thanks to the hard work of individuals like Curator Bibiana Huang Matheis, Director Lorraine Laken and a dedicated board led by its President Evelyn Tapani-Rosenthal, the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden has maintained its pivotal position in the arts and culture of Westchester County for over 60 years.

Photo-A-GoGo

Don Doe, Fille Sans Dot, Fille Avec Dot (2017)
Don Doe, Fille Sans Dot, Fille Avec Dot (2017), giclee, 22 x 15 inches

by Dominick Lombardi

Photo-A-GoGo presents art that has photography as an element, whether it is predominant or used as a minor accent, to show how the creative process now parallels or responds to the ubiquitous social digital/exchange mentality. We have the MIME, Instagram, Snapchat, all the ways we express or project our ideas or self-image – so the photograph, instead of being “worth a thousand words” is now as common as a mosquito in July. However, that does not mean that art or the intention behind it or the imagery utilized is, in the end, benign.

The artists in this exhibition are quite varied in style and background – they all use machines, mechanisms or minutiae that are accessible to most – and they all bring something new and fresh to the use and application of the photograph. For instance, Don Doe combines portions of magazine photo-pages to distort representation and fracture meaning. It’s a cubist approach in a way, but more like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) than say Girl With Mandolin (1910) as there is more of an emotional and confrontational content than what one would see as being akin to analytical theory.

Untitled (2018), Limited Edition, Digital Photography
Untitled (2018), Limited Edition, Digital Photography, 20 x 24 inches

Liz Guarracino creates unexpected abstractions by photographing ice at close range. The formations Guarracino captures are similar to those taken with an electron microscope; however, here we see something familiar in a curious context-less presentation. As a result, the trapped air bubbles depicted, as they ascend and form stalagmite-like intrusions in the ice become strange, even otherworldly.

Using abrupt movements and a Polaroid camera Jan Houllevigue creates a haunting image of a cold and calculated world submerged in a thick unyielding atmosphere where feral focus and lingering light breeds unsteadiness in the viewers sense of being grounded. As a result, we get a glimpse of a parallel plane, perhaps the afterlife, where lost souls look for a new home in order to regain full consciousness in the here and now.

Untitled Booklet (a piece from the Book of Debris body of work/series, ca.1995 by Moses Hoskins) (1996)
Untitled Booklet (a piece from the Book of Debris body of work/series, ca.1995 by Moses Hoskins) (1996), assembled including found snapshots/Polaroids combined with scrap, trash, wastepaper & tape, approximately 6 x 5 x 1 inches

Moses Hoskins creates Books of Debris that turn art making into urban archeology. By gathering all the paper and plastic trash that carelessly never made it into our growing landfills and oceans, Hoskins turns us all into voyeurs as we flip through a series of snapshots and Polaroids mixed amongst product packaging, receipts and scented car fresheners.

Janusz Kawa’s photographs can be found in a variety of places including a cover of The New York Times magazine section, as a portrait of Daniel Day-Lewis or in the depiction of the Faces of Rajastan. For this exhibition, Kawa offers one of his works from the Time and Light series where blurred movements dull and disperse the fading forms. A compression of the senses perhaps, which leaves us with a tinge of romanticism in a most mundane moment.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCAC-21 (2018)
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCAC-21 (2018), ink on paper and acrylic on album cover, 12 1/2 x 12 ½ inches

In my new series collectively titled Cross Contamination, I begin with old LP album jackets that feature a photograph. After all or most of the original lettering is painted out I attach hand made ‘stickers’ of variously drawn sizes and styles to suggest parallels between two distinct types of popular culture. By visually upsetting the base image with the current day fad of tagging objects and signs with stickers, I am acknowledging the importance and the persistence of disruption.

Creighton Michael has had a recent partial loss of his sight due to a surgical error that almost took his life. In response to his circumstance, Michael has initiated the Blindsight series utilizing a number of media and techniques including photography as he explores the space between sight and perception. As in his previous work, there are definite elements of interference only this time they are more real than ever.

Claire Seidl, Moon, Light, Swimmers (2013)
Claire Seidl, Moon, Light, Swimmers (2013), Gelatin silver print, 24 x 23 ½ inches

Claire Seidl turns the night into near non-representation as harsh hovering light overruns the composition invading the deepest darks. Here, one may be reminded of a transitional state of awareness where visual stimuli move from one episode to the next. There are also hints of geometry here, combined with a distant landscape, bringing this moment back to earth and out of the twilight zone.

Jill Thayer’s two-dimensional work creates a medley of movements that begin with the photographed details of her installations. Adjustments are made in a variety of ways with digital media programs where colors are enhanced, forms are stretched and comparisons are made. Inhabited with related elements at different angles and measures, Thayer presents compositions that suggest sound, even music, as much as they do space and perspective.

Roman Turovsky, Stadt 48 (2015)
Roman Turovsky, Stadt 48 (2015), giclée, 11×14 inches

Roman Turovsky presents a visceral view of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. To his photograph, Turovsky applies digital filters giving this print its ‘vintage’ appearance. The combination of the current day image of a part of Manhattan that has, against all odds, maintained most of its low profile and old New York feel is both disorienting and profound, while the frayed focus gives us that added feeling of vertigo.

Patrick Winfield mixes several instant print pictures in a grid format in the creation of a ‘portrait’ that suggests multiple views. Not unlike the Cubist, we see many angles and the inclusion of text, however here, there is something between the excess and ritual practices. What will most intrigue the viewer is the beautifully successful arrangement of crimson reds, phthalocyanine greens and off whites in this most alluring work.

Tansy Xiao, Keys (2016) (in Prague)
Tansy Xiao, Keys (2016) (in Prague), found keys, digital print, wood, velvet (mixed media), 14 ½ x 12 ½ x 1 ½ inches

Tansy Xiao gives us a sense of the theatric, as a pair of characters strut across the picture plane in Keys (2016). The mix of photographs at bottom right is both a minor and pivotal element, as it is comprised of a collage of images of keys garnered from the Internet. The two main figures are made of actual keys, and the absence of a third figure (there are three boxes across the lower half of the composition) raises questions about absence, memory and reality.

Photo-A-GoGo opens Friday, October 19 from 6-9pm at SRO Gallery. The gallery is located at 1144 Dean Street in Brooklyn, NY and runs through November 11th.

Where to Draw the Line at OneWay Gallery

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Stephen Cook, My Disease My Infection (2017)
Stephen Cook, My Disease My Infection (2017), charcoal, oil stick and aluminum paint on paper, 77 ¾ x 61 ½ inches

It was one year ago that I first became acquainted with the work of Stephen Cook and OneWay Gallery. Being in Narragansett, I was not expecting to see much beyond the stereotypical sails and sunsets in any ‘art gallery’, so I was completely taken aback by Cook’s versatility and vigor as a contemporary painter. His one-person exhibition featured a number of varied principles and directions, and I instantly read his art as having been created by an energetic and reactive young mind inundated with expressions of socio-cultural information and imagery. So I began to take notes for a review seeing that moment as a great opportunity to get to know the artist and his work.

After the review was published in The Huffington Post, I took a close look at the gallery’s roster of artists and found a contemporary culture that was pertinent and energizing to me in these crazy times. Also at that time, I was beginning to work on a series of curated shows that focus on the powerful presence of line in contemporary art. Line has defined many an art movement: Automatism in Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism; the planes and passages in Fauvism; and what would Picasso’s Guernica (1937) be without the texture and enhanced dynamics that his lines created?

In a few brief emails I proposed my exhibition idea to Cook, incorporating a few of his artists with artists I was considering for the second installment of the exhibition and we quickly found common ground. The series of exhibitions are collectively titled Where to Draw the Line, with the first opening last March at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in New York City.

Cecilia Whittaker-Doe, Two Existing Lights (2015)
Cecilia Whittaker-Doe, Two Existing Lights (2015), silkscreen, oil, mixed media on panel, 18 x 18 inches

For this second iteration of Where to Draw the Line at OneWay Gallery I have selected the art of thirteen artists beginning with the work of Stephen Cook. For this exhibition, my focus was on his mixed media paintings that had the greatest emphasis on line to either suggest form, or in certain instances move the viewer’s eye slowly and deliberately through the picture plane, thus adding the element of time. Another artist in the exhibition is Rebecca Mason Adams. She utilizes a black and white palette to present her near photographic paintings of what looks to be unsuspecting subjects. While capturing those quiet moments of sleep or daydreaming, Adams uses line as a bold pattern adding a graphic element to punctuate the immediacy of the moment. Don Doe offers two works on paper that are heavy with gestural line projecting a very surreal brand of Cubism. By employing obvious references to the painter’s physical process with somewhat kitschy symbolism, Doe shows us the lone creator in the confines of the studio that can corral the body but not the mind. Similarly, Cecilia Whittaker-Doe breaks down landscape painting with a sort of Cubist approach, only here we see more sweeping changes in the emotional or spiritual content. Whittaker-Doe also is sending us a message about the fragility of the landscape, the history of  the changes and the power of that perception with her distinctive use of line.

S. W. Dinge, Justify (201?)
S. W. Dinge, Justify (201?), media, 24 x 18 inches

S. W. Dinge uses line to punctuate any given composition. In so doing, his work speaks to us directly and intensely as it projects its terms and conditions. This personification by way of language gives his work its distinctive quality of animation and movement while the buoyancy of the forms is the first thing that attracts us. Grant Hargates compositions are filled with line. They form shapes, create patterns and define intimate settings with a boldness and honesty that is universally cross-cultural in its references. In a way, his symbolic gestures vacillate between  a complex codex and rapid representation giving his work its timeless immediacy. Tom Huck’s raucous representations are reminiscent of the early days of underground comics like ZAP. As he inks in line with great skill and boldness, Huck brings us to the persistent underbelly of human nature and frailty where the rougher side of reality wreaks with loose libidos and relentless ruination.

Sarah Jacobs, Ethosphere 3 (2013)
Sarah Jacobs, Ethosphere 3 (2013), oil on canvas, 67 ½ x 51 inches

Sarah Jacobs creates art that celebrates the cultural spectrum that covers our planet. Despite trends toward homogenization, gentrification and modernization we can still revel in the fact that we have a wealth of history and heritages that can both blend and contrast as seen in the lines and layers of Jacob’s art. Don Keene’s paintings are bold Expressionistic renditions of a ‘Red Light’ district that lurks in the subconscious. Evading time, place and definition, these vignettes represent a freedom of will from judgment while the colors and lines that portray unabashed passions saturate the composition with frenzied force. In my work I use line by way of one-of-a-kind- stickers to represent ubiquitous trends in popular culture. Each of the stickers are done as automatically as possibly, while their inevitable placement on a subtly over painted vintage album jacket or freshly constructed sculpture is meant to be a sort of crossover contamination.

T. Michael Martin, Myth and Mystery (2017)
T. Michael Martin, Myth and Mystery (2017), oil, acrylic, enamel, glitter, and iridescent pigment on panel, 12 x 12 inches

T. Michael Martin incorporates line in his multi-media compositions in various ways. They might create recognizable shapes, define boundaries or edges or create texture and movement depending on their placement, position or prominence. His work has references to astrology, mathematics, physics and even transcendence bringing a certain level of otherworldliness to the fore. Creighton Michael takes line to a far more physical level in the third dimension, literally making the line sculptural.  Michael is able to expand the language of line in space where shadows create form and volume. As a result, we see line as subject: distinct, dimensional and dynamic. Michael Zansky literally burns his lines directly into paper with a propane torch. Using ancient history and cultures as his guide, Zansky brings forth commonalities that will both enlighten and alarm, while his narrative combinations create mystery, mayhem and an all out assault on the senses and sensibilities of the viewer’s mind and memory.

Michael Zansky, Flatland Series (individual panel) (2015-2018)
Michael Zansky, Flatland Series (individual panel) (2015-2018), burnt paper, 26 ¾ x 40 inches

The Where to Draw the Line exhibition that runs through October 14th at OneWay Gallery will hold an artist reception on Friday, September 14th from 5-8pm. The gallery is located at 140 Boon Street, Narragansett, RI.

The Tale of Auguste’s Brain

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, After the Bath (1888)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, After the Bath (1888), oil on canvas, 25 ½ x 21 ¼ inches, Wikipedia images

by D. Dominick Lombardi

It was probably somewhere around 1987 when I read a quote attributed to Auguste Renoir in an art magazine. I don’t recall the exact passage, but he likened his paintbrush to his penis when discussing why he so obsessed over capturing the erotic aspects of a woman’s flesh. A month or so later I made a drawing, I was in my pseudo Post Modern stage making sculptures that looked like they could have been executed in the nineteen teens, twenties or thirties, and the subject was my interpretation of Renoir’s sensual sentiment about his female nudes. It wasn’t long before I started to carve small pieces of wood, carefully calculating their shape and size so they would fit together without imbalance. After I was satisfied with the shape and length of each section they were painted and lightly sanded before the final assembling.

In a few weeks Auguste’s Brain (1988) was completed. Of course, the penis had to be the centerpiece – oversized and in control and in the end, I had pretty much captured the design in the third dimension. After a day or two of deliberating I decided to show my partner, Diane. Things were going well at the time as I was showing and selling works in New York, Chicago and Cologne during art fairs and in gallery exhibitions and I had hoped to get her opinion on where I should first unveil this new piece. To my surprise, she hesitated a bit then said she wasn’t sure the sculpture or idea made sense – she wondered aloud if I wasn’t “barking up the wrong tree” attacking one of the great Impressionists whose work can be found in every substantive private and public collection throughout the world. Remember, this was prior the Internet being accessible to all and I had no real way of substantiating the quote without doing extensive research in a library and it was very unlikely that I would find the proof I needed.

You also have to remember that this was before the 1990s when the epicenter of the art world in New York City was moving back from the East Village to SoHo, and there was at least one penis proudly presented in nearly every exhibition. This following Mapplethorpe and the Contemporary Art Center of Cincinnati’s obscenity case that ended in an acquittal in 1990 – a case initiated by Senator Jesse Helms against NEA funding practices. Not long after that, in the mid 1990s, the dam of pent up penises had burst and it had become a running joke as gallery goers would say “Penises are in!” as we all had gotten over our collective fear that something would go horribly wrong if an institution exhibited a photograph, painting or sculpture of a clearly rendered penis.

D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste's Brain (1988)
D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste’s Brain (1988), acrylic and paper on carved wood with wire, 10 ½ x 6 ¼ x 5 inches

But back then, in 1988, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place (pun intended). What was I to do? After a week or so of weighing my options I decided to reduce the penis to a harmless nub, not unlike the receiving end of a peg leg. As soon as I made the radical reduction I knew it was wrong but it was too late. The sculpture was securely and irreversibly ‘glued’ together with acrylic medium at all contact points and I would have to completely break down and rebuild each part so it was best to just forget about it and simply move onto the next piece.

 

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS-25 (2018)
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS-25 (2018), mixed media, 21 x 14 x 12 inches

Over the next thirty years I would think about that decision every time I happened upon that sad form of a once proud protruding appendage and think of what could have been. I wonder even today, if there was the ability for me to do an Internet search, if I would have talked myself into keeping the man intact. About two years ago I did do an Internet search, typing in something like “Renoir’s brush is his penis” or something like that, and “I Paint With My Prick” appeared on the site Quote Investigator – it was that easy. More recently, when I was working on one of my new sculptures that featured a toy statue from the 1960/70s with its face buried in the butt of the main figure I decided if I was silly enough to make that connection or placement that I certainly could restore Auguste’s Brain to it original glory.

D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste's Brain
D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste’s Brain (90), cyanotype on museum board, 10 x 8 inches

By mixing papier-mâché with acrylic medium I was now able to carefully rebuild my thirty-year-old mistake using an old watermarked cyanotype print as my guide. Once the bulk of the penis was roughly a little over the desired shape and size it was a matter of some rasping, filing, sanding then finding just the right combination of colors to complete the restoration and voilá, quoting Arby’s: “we have the meat(s)”. As an added punctuation to my newly liberated stance as an uncompromising artist I attached a few one-of-a-kind stickers to reflect of my current-day obsession and the piece was done.

D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste's Brain (1988-2018)
D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste’s Brain (1988-2018), acrylic and paper on carved wood with wire, 10 ½ x 6 ¼ x 5 inches

So here I am, once again struggling with the idea that there is something to be learned by Renoir’s pronouncement when he said he paints with his prick. Or did he actually say: “It’s with my brush that I make love” as stated in the Yale Book Quotations. Either way, I’m sticking with my original design and Diane now likes it too. No matter what he said, my interpretation is the man was speaking metaphorically and his declaration is what my sculpture represents.

D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste's Brain (1988-2018)
D. Dominick Lombardi, Auguste’s Brain (1988-2018), acrylic and paper on carved wood with wire, 10 ½ x 6 ¼ x 5 inches

 

 

Water Over the Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes

Holly Sears, Swimmers (2011), oil on paper
Holly Sears, Swimmers (2011), oil on paper, laminated on board, 20 x 26 inches, Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

 

by Julie Garisto

Considering the scope of climate change, it really begs the question why more artists aren’t tackling the subject.

Fortunately, we’re seeing a sea change. Artists from the Sunshine State (and others) are assuming the mantle for bringing attention to a subject that is as dire as it is censored – heck, the words “climate change” are even forbidden from being included in official documents, a mandate from Gov. Rick Scott.

At the Morean Arts Center, the comprehensive exhibition Water over the Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes displays both accessible and challenging works in a staggering variety of media. Curated by D. Dominick Lombardi of Valhalla, N.Y., and Amanda Cooper, the Morean’s Curator of Exhibitions, it’s a must-see for anyone who cares about supporting visual art and gaining perspective on the environment.

“Contemporary artists can very often be like the canary in the coalmine warning of the presence of deadly gases,” Lombardi wrote in the exhibition’s program. “Artists can bring to light the changes in sea levels, and the industries that contribute to the problem by simply exposing, with visual and written references, a very troubling reality that we are in the thick of a political battle for our very future, and the futures of the animals and plants we love.”

Rieko Fujinami, Invisible Site (2016), engraving on plexiglas
Rieko Fujinami, Invisible Site (2016), engraving on plexiglas, 45 x 60 iches, Photo: Courtesy of Dale Leifeste

Artists helping meet Lombardi’s objective include Kate Helms, Kenny Jensen, Selina Roman, Anne Bowen, Babs Reingold, Carolina Cleere, Margaret LeJeune and Rieko Fujinami.

While some may flinch when invited to a climate change-focused exhibition for fear of a heavy-handed downer experience, “Water over the Bridge” does much more. It elevates the discussion, offering as much that’s life affirming as is foreboding. It provides humor and whimsicality as well as punch-you-in-the-gut pathos.

“If you look at works by Don Doe, Bill Gusky, Scott Hatt, Dale Leifeste, China Marks and Selina Roman, you will see that they are raising our awareness of rising sea levels with a bit of humor,” Lombardi elaborates. “I also believe that we have to be thankful for the not-for-profit institutions like the Morean that will mount challenging shows that raise important issues like climate change. Since not-for-profits do not have to rely on selling the work they exhibit, they can show art that goes beyond saccharine seascapes and landscapes. Living in New York I am no stranger to rubberneck delays on highways. It’s a shame there is such great interest in slowing down to look at the carnage of a car accident across a roadway, while issues about the environment have become a nasty political battle.”

China Marks, Game Day in Oceana (2018)
China Marks, Game Day in Oceana (2018), fabric, lace, thread, colored stone, fusible adhesive, 27 x 34 inches, Photo: Courtesy of the artist

According to her artist statement, Kate Helms calls attention to the “parroted paradise … born of stout St. Augustine grass, primly planted medians, perfectly spaced palms, and gracefully arcing sprinkler showers.” Her works are “united by a desire to question cultural attitudes about the fabricated environments we inhabit and fetishize to the point of precarious delusion.”

Her installation Colony 1 proposes a creepy hypothetical scenario; it foresees the future state of an antique chair in an opulent Florida living room after its been submerged for decades — the chair’s once opulence is reduced to an absurd oddity as realistically crafted barnacles overtake it. It’s both a poignant and humorous look at how nature may conquer us if we don’t stop abusing it.

“I haven’t lost all hope and you shouldn’t either,” Helms said during her recent gallery talk at the Morean, adding that her work is not intended as a death knell but a call to action.  A Stormwater Program Administrator for the City of Largo, the scientist/artist has painstakingly tracked the effects of runoff and expresses no doubt that climate change is human-influenced.

According to her artist statement, Kate Helms calls attention to the “parroted paradise … born of stout St. Augustine grass, primly planted medians, perfectly spaced palms, and gracefully arcing sprinkler showers.” Her works are “united by a desire to question cultural attitudes about the fabricated environments we inhabit and fetishize to the point of precarious delusion.”

Her installation Colony 1 proposes a creepy hypothetical scenario; it foresees the future state of an antique chair in an opulent Florida living room after its been submerged for decades — the chair’s once opulence is reduced to an absurd oddity as realistically crafted barnacles overtake it. It’s both a poignant and humorous look at how nature may conquer us if we don’t stop abusing it.

“I haven’t lost all hope and you shouldn’t either,” Helms said during her recent gallery talk at the Morean, adding that her work is not intended as a death knell but a call to action.  A Stormwater Program Administrator for the City of Largo, the scientist/artist has painstakingly tracked the effects of runoff and expresses no doubt that climate change is human-influenced.

Kate Helms, Colony 1 (2016)
Kate Helms, Colony 1 (2016), resin, cloth, sandpaper and found chaise, 74 x 28 x 35 inches. Photo Courtesy of Dale Leifeste

Babs Reingold’s mixed-media installation The Last Sea mirrors a more current reality, one that harks viral videos of wildlife strangled by plastic bags — a canoe filled with flaccid, nondescript small stuffed animal corpses and strewn with plastic litter. In addition, one of Reingold’s Luna Ladders hangs overboard. From one perspective, it denotes a “jump ship” attitude like those of wealthy people who believe they can just colonize Mars. On the other hand, the ladder could intimate one last hope for survival. Adding a touch of dark humor, the boat’s name, the piece’s title, spelled out in a boat name painted whimsically in a recognizable 1950s-style semi-cursive font. It’s a light touch on a dark piece. Ultimately, The Last Sea offers a chilling scenario, a proposition of the last major body of water on Earth. Its theme, a progression of Babs Reingold’s series “The Last Tree,” takes its inspiration from Jared Diamond‘s 2004 TedEx talk, when he asks, “What was the person who cut down the last tree on Easter Island thinking?”

Babs Reingold, The Last Sea (2018)
Babs Reingold, The Last Sea (2018), mixed media, dimensions variable, Photo: Courtesy of Dale Leifeste

The ideal exhibition to bring teens and tween students to, Water over the Bridge engages and elicits critical thinking and discourse; a highly prescriptive antidote to reactive social networking and comment-board trolling.

“This exhibition does succeed as a kind of protest,” Co-curator Amanda Cooper says in the brochure for the show. “If you ever thought about land conservation and wondered why it was important or whether you should care about it — one only has to look at these paintings to see what we stand to lose. Sometimes a beautifully and lovingly crafted work of art speaks louder than a megaphone.”

In tandem, The Morean Arts Center is also presenting a solo exhibition by an established artist who places an emphasis on the joy and wonder we feel while encountering nature. “Leslie Neumann: Manna from Heaven … and Earth,” shows the trajectory of an established artist and conservationist‘s work over a long period of time, focusing on the beauty of nature vs. our troubling current events.

Arguably the world’s most urgent problem, climate change not only hits close to home on both the figurative and literal level, but offers a number of philosophical quandaries to explore — from the most elemental of human needs to more abstract, complex issues around stewardship of our planet, morality and evolution.

Editor’s Note:

That climate is changing is generally without dispute. The crux of the issue between believers in manmade warming and skeptics of the impact by human activity on the planet, is the extent to which either human or non-human factors shape our environment. “The science is settled” orthodoxy of climate alarmism took a political broadside with the change in U.S. administration. Even with the departure EPA’s Scott Pruitt, the likelihood of returning to Obama-era environmental regulations are slim to none.  At the centre of the debate are the atomic structures that make up our atmosphere. In a recent posting on www.icecapus Steve Graham cites that “Carbon dioxide is a trace gas. Only four of every 10,000 molecules in our atmosphere are CO2 and the amount that human industry could have added over all of our history is only a fraction of one of those four molecules.” Sea levels aren’t rising. The polar icecaps are not melting. Historically we’ve been as warm or warmer in past ages. So go the arguments. Let us know where you stand.  – Steve Rockwell