Friday, July 20, 2007

Danielle Lamberti and the resurgence of '80s innocence

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York-- It certainly doesn't bring the term "artist" much to mind, nor does it bring much of anything to mind other than the best pizza you can find in the tri-state area, the wildest World Cup celebrations, and all the grottos you could ever find in a 1 block radius (I had a friend in college inappropriately term them "Virgin Marys in a bathtub.")

But out of this backdrop emerges a talented artist truly obsessed and quite knowledgeable of 1980s Saturday morning cartoon culture, Danielle Lamberti
(see montage of work at left, including "Shy Me" (in Velma-worthy eyewear).

Danielle's paintings are irreverent reworkings of sentimental faves that us early 30-somethings grew up with, such as Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, and the Care Bears.
But there is nothing cute about this imagery, except for the colors and fashion-influenced backdrops.

There is a strangely dark quality beneath her candy-coated pop-culture surface.

Take, for example, the suffocating affection shown by this polar bear, in her work, "Beastiality."

With only one eye visible, the bear is attacking the pretty young thing from behind, and with a title such as this, she is no innocent little lamb, but perhaps a cunning young thing who just happened to get in over her head.
But there's something about the way Lamberti paints the eyes of her characters.

In this case, they seem to have a pleading quality to them-- "Help me," uttered in baby voice or a soft feminity that's far from a shout, but a hoping someone will hear her.

Besides the overt sexuality at play here, there's something else afoot-- specifically a tongue-in-cheek nod to global warming, and perhaps the bikini-clad girl represents humanity enjoying its' fun effects ("Woohoo! Let's go to the beach!"), while the polar bear is literallly swimming for its very survival.

Interesting take on a serious subject, blending a comedic setting with a dramatic flair.
Next, let's try being buried alive with "Dig Me Deeper," below.
Certainly the aspect of that is no "day at the beach."

We all loved taking our pails and shovels to the beach as children and started digging a moat, in hopes of protecting our castle or finding buried treasure.

Our friends are there along with us for the ride-- but every once in a while, we have to give up control, and let the Alphas of the group take over.

In this scenario, it certainly looks like the burial victims are having second-thoughts-- the "digger," in this case, also seems a bit confused as to her next step.

It almost has a sorority-initiation feel to it, or a hazing ritual.

Disturbing-- and those turned-up noses remind me of Miss Piggy mixed with Nancy and Sluggo (always scary cartoon characters).

Here, again, is Mr. Polar Bear with his BFF, in "Shrug if Off."

Truly he's Bella Karolyi, egging his young protege onwards, ever onwards.
(Now everybody, in your best Eastern European accent, "You can do it, Kerri!")
But again, I'm not sure about how the girl feels about his over-obsessive tendencies.

He's like the jealous boyfriend who keeps calling to check in on your whereabouts and will kick any guys' ass who looks at you.

Truly creepy polar bear!

I'm including a few more images, just for their sheer beauty of color and depth.
I like how Lamberti has made these works with such high gloss, giving them an oil-based quality, but each of the works displayed here are all acrylic.

She has an unusual style, and utilizes texture and depth much more effectively than the standard Superflats of Murakami and his Anime/Manga disciples.

The show, entitled "The Rainbow Room," is up through August 4th at Merge Gallery, an adorable little gallery space located in the heart of Chelsea.
Owner Cass Zielinski has a great enthusiasm for his artists and his space and definitely stopping in was a highlight of my afternoon.
Merge makes it a priority to highlight the work of some very interesting emerging artists.
Definitely check them out, and while you're at it, have a coffee at the equally fantastic Cafe Grumpy across the street-- it's a definite afternoon of enjoyment and fun.
205 West 20th Street New York.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11-6pm.
More sad polar bears and fun below... Enjoy!

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