Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let's wrap up the loose ends, shall we?


Here at the Musings, I must say, I've been a tad bit busy as of late.

In just the past 3 weeks, I believe I've been to 19 openings and visited somewhere around 30 galleries and completed one one-on-one artist studio visit.

I'm accumulating so many art cards, press releases and gallery photos on my Cannon Powershot Digital Elph, that maybe I should call in a professional organizer-- maybe one like the creator of my fave piece of the entire past year-- found entirely by accident while walking the streets of Williamsburg.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Emcee C.M., (AKA Colin McMullan) and his interactive "Neighborhood Junk Drawer," a part of the just recently completed Conflux Festival.

I laughed my ass off with this one.

Truly, deeply, I love it.

And apparently the neighborhood does as well.

Buried inconspicuously into the plywood fence around yet another "abandoned lot," the drawer fits perfectly and can be slid in and out quite easily.

The items in the drawer are finding nice new homes throughout Williamsburg.

People give and take-- a nice yin and yang.

Let's check out a few of the current contents:


Lifesavers, anyone?
Need an extra spoon?
Here's your opportunity.

If anyone knows Michele, you might want to tell her where her I.D. has ended up.

For more info on Colin's hilarious undertakings, I implore you to check out his website.

He's got to be one of the best things I've ever seen in art today in terms of humor and true creativity.

http://www.emceecm.com/

Check out his "moving" movies and "corner library" pieces as well.

Anyway, so, though I'm finding it a bit difficult as of late to keep up with regular highlights on the blog, I wanted to share with my readers as best I could some of the top Billyburg choices for viewing over the next week.

First up, a group show I mentioned a few posts back, "The Fall Season," at Jack the Pelican Presents.


I'm including for my readers what I consider to be the two best works in the show.

This work at left created by Chinese artist Li Wei is a photo that is so immersed in peril, I can barely describe or look at, given its subject material.

There's such panic and rapidity of motion through this work.

In many ways this classic horor movie staged piece reminded me of artist Charlie White's prefabricated alternative realities shot in an almost documentary format.

But instead of a pitifyingly tragic creature like "Joshua," Mr. Wei inserts this figure that's eternally between a rock and true impossibility into each of his pieces.

Fatalistic, and definitely nightmarish.

It's not often that a piece brings such a lack of control into focus-- something I think more artists should focus on, rather than trying to FORCE viewers into a fairly unhealthy lectured-to environment.

This just needs no explanation, and is what it is.

Moving to the next piece, and this just took my breath away.

Artist Graham Guerra here does a nice dissection of the modern human-- in terms of the realities of sexual "freedom," modern technology, brutal physicality and looming skies of doom all around us.

A show with a very nice take on where we currently find ourselves.

I believe the press release stated just that-- how the burgeoning gentrification of Williamsburg/Greenpoint puts it all into play, of how "the walls are literally crumbling around them."

It says a lot about the times of excess that we find ourselves in.

We are now in a retro Gordon Gecko-Dynasty laden reality on one side; "Mean Streets" redeveloping on the other.

Who will win out in the end?

Falling can be literal-- and certainly is at the forefront in each of these works-- but can also be figurative as well.

For the rapid rate of condo-ization mixed with abandoned lots around Roebling and Driggs, we are failing to keep development in check, yet with each new construction, we lose a piece of history and ourselves.

The back and forth of luxury condos being built directly next to public housing is truly maniacal-- and seems so forced.

I like that Jack the Pelican is trying its own version of a commentary on the situation it now finds itself in.

By the way, I also felt that the syringe and champagne glass are a great juxtaposition to include.

The exhibit runs until October 7th.

For more information, go to:http://www.jackthepelicanpresents.com/

****
Changing gears here, how about we get ourselves a nice cup of tea?

After all, it was 4pm on a Sunday afternoon from whence this visit came.

(again, hint to readers, Williamsburg galleries are open on Sundays. You CAN sleep in and still get up to see some great work)

Above, "Park Seed Mystery," acrylic on canvas

Take a look at this beautiful, glorious light infused piece by Wanda Taylor Remington at Ch'i Gallery on Grand Street.

Her stunningly beautiful exhibit, "Tall Tales and Love Songs," achieves so much in terms of bringing the viewer into her pieces, letting you experience such tranquility and lush detail.

Gorgeous flow and color here-- it brings to mind the most detailed tapestries of the orient, and/or a floral arrangement that I could find in the sunniest of sun rooms.

I liked this work because it was so simple and decorative, almost like a late summer's garden in England.

When did art stop being about beauty, anyway?

This is a nice throwback.
Great piece.

I believe Ms. Remington's pieces also have such a calm nature to them, and she reflects that her grandchildren have been a great inspiration to her as well.

Though the art at Ch'i certainly tends towards the conservative, and my own personal tastes usually do not, I just loved every bit of this show.

Take a look at this closeup of the intricacies and patterns at play...





For more information, go to:

http://www.chicontemporaryfineart.com/

The exhibit is up through October 8th.

***

Next, let's go to the Hogar Collection gallery, and some nice paper sculptures with unique color combinations.

This is artist Michelle Forsyth's first solo exhibition in New York.

In many ways, almost an origami-like abstraction; in others, I feel like this could be a trophy on a pedestal, or more aptly, the Golden Snitch that flies through Quiddich games, tempting the persuer onwards, always onwards.

Victory certainly awaits Ms. Forsyth, and rightfully so.

Her pattern making and earth tone combinations are a great team here-- and in many ways, the dimpling of the piece reminds me of a soccer ball.

Perhaps the World Cup is still on my memory's surface, but I really liked the angles achieved here.

I also loved the mosaic tile inlay patterns in the wall prints.

Fantastic detail here.

Once again, let's just say I enjoyed this exhibit as well, because-- lo and behold-- it brought beauty back into art.

Now, don't yell at me just yet for stating that art "should be about beauty," because I know it serves a much greater place in today's world and rightfully so.... but truthfully, well-made "statement" art is getting harder and harder to come by.




And I also have noticed how many of the pieces I've reviewed over the past 10 months have been primarily "statement" based.

But honest to god, what is wrong with art that is well-made, requires great trade skill, is colorful, sensual, lovely, quaint, eye-catching and there's that word again-- beautiful?

I say, NOTHING.

So there.

None of these works addressed societal ills, abandonment, protest, complacency, or the far-reaches of iced over hearts, but man, did my face light up when I saw them.



For more information, please visit:
http://www.hogarcollection.com/

The exhibit will be up until October 15th.

I found Hogar to be quite a charming little space, very off the beaten path, but well worth the venture.

A day in Williamsburg can certainly be life-affirming, in terms of getting one back into what art is all about-- seeing as much as possible, and learning as much as possible from your experieces.

**

On a much different note is artist Mark Stillwell's takeover of Front Room.

Now, I won't say much here-- because I've seen exhibits similar to this before, but any man who can make a living, breathing, darling robot out of a box of KOTEX has truly won my heart.

Maybe I've lowered my standards, (I always vow to not like "garbarge art") given that this has about as much to do with my previous choices as liver and strawberries, but hey, diversity is the spice of life.

As much as the previous artists I've mentioned in this post have been about letting go of control, intricacies of pattern and a sheer forray into beauty, this exhibit is all about fun.

Take a look at just a few of the whimsical creatures and world of miniatures that Stilwell has created.

Even his name (Stilwell, like the main Beach Road) conjures up imagery of fantastic weekends spent at Astroland amusement park at Coney Island.

If you go, check out the water bottle centipede-- it's truly creepy.

Now, if only little American boys grew up with Excellence, by L'Oreal, army tanks of mass destruction, the world just might be a better place.

After all-- how much harm can it do?

Make your hair have extra shine, body, and brilliance?

I say sign me up for this brigade pronto!

And who wouldn't want to go for one more ride on the Wonder Wheel before Thor Equities changes the Coney Island we've all loved through the ages for good?

For more information, go to:
http://www.frontroom.org/

Friday, September 21, 2007

Art as statement and functionality

Mechanical engineering on display in the art world?

Alas, you say, can it be?

Currently showing at Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery in Williamsburg, kinetic sculptor Mark Andreas utilitarian "sculptures" that mix agricultural need with scientific functionality and brings to mind issues of instability.

Experimentation is the way we have learned so much regarding technology-- The Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, even Leonardo... the list goes on and on.

But before an inventor can reach the level of mass production and manufacturing, in each case throughout history they have had to experience multiple failures to get to the point of a working model.

I'm thinking that Mr. Andreas must have gone through many different designs, crashing and burning, before he finally found one that worked to his liking.

After all, I can't image it's an easy task assembling a 400-pound mass of steel, dangerous blades and springs, all while lying flat on the ground, hoping against hope that this time it wil work.


I couldn't help but think of the Model T by Henry Ford and its crank engine when I saw this exhibition in Williamsburg.

Other things it brought to mind-- a mechanical Grim Reaper, a harbinger of a gothic death watch; a design model that is truly part science project part agricultural innovation.

Let's take a closer look at the "Seed Spreader."

This piece initially creeped me out.

It reminded me of those spider creatures in the Matrix, for instance; or just a big old walking stick come to animated life.

The creature has even been given feet.

Andreas has rigged this machine to whirl around like a helicopter's blades at just the right moment in time.

A small twig is placed in the "engine" contraption, after a physically laborious "cranking" by the artist.

The pressure of the cranking weighs down upon the wood, which absorbs all the pressure, and eventually upon reaching the treshold of its own strength, snaps.

Upon the snapping of the twig, the contraption, which has been loaded with grass seed, then lifts up, and helicopter blades spinning, equally distributes in a circular fashion.

It is perhaps a science project each of us has at one time dreamed of creating...
'Let's see... if I do X plus Y-- will this equal Z?"

Though truth be told, it's not often that our own projects worked out that way.

How many parents intervened at the last minute when our volcanoes didn't spew their vinegar and baking soda lava, or our bug collection fell off its pins?

The thing I liked about this exhibit was Andreas' obvious devotion to perfecting his project.

I can't imagine how many countless twigs and ice cubes (to say nothing hundreds of bags of sand) he must have gone through before knowing if these experiments would "work" or not.

This is not to say that they are continuously successful now.

This work, "Transcendence," with its three armed/legged appendages that are supposed to collapse upon the eventual sand in the central "hourglass" depository shifting of the object's weight by the sand depositing underneath-- just might go before its time.

Given the object's inherent instability-- especially of the sand-- I noticed how any weight shifting, by a viewer stepping even close to the piece, upset its precarious balance.

You could hear the vibrations in the metal, and walking upon the sand made you feel as if you had worn high heels to the beach-- you were sinking into the gallery's floor.

I hoped against hope that I wouldn't mess this project up by watching the pieces fall over due to my own clumsiness, so I took an immediate step backwards.

It certainly is not be goal to be a "part" of an art project, but I couldn't help but be concerned regarding that cardinal rule of "You break it, you buy it."

At right is another interesting piece, "Hanging in Balance," powered by an ice cube.

Again, the cube is placed in the contraption's central motor to balance the piece and absorb the pressure.

Of course, the fleeting nature of ice does not a reliable construction component make.

Eventually, going back to its H2O form, the sculpture's arms and legs collapse upon itself.

I like what Andreas is saying here with this project.

Though as humans we're always talking about issues of safety and security, nothing is ever a sure thing.

Everything eventually degrades and breaks, no matter how strong we build it, or think it's stable (buildings, countries, armies, marriages, political systems).

It's a nice take given we are immersed in a time of U.S. history when our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us and we run so scared into the night, obsessed with terrorists, celebrity, and the boogeyman coming instead of the real issues under the surface.

Very cool project indeed-- though I wouldn't recommend it for a collector who's not a brave soul or of the faint of heart.

These things will poke your eye out!

For more information, go to: http://www.damstuhltrager.com/

Or Check out:

http://www.artcal.net/event/view/2/5491

Monday, September 17, 2007

Anna Druzcz: The Makings of New Lifeforms and Constructions

This past Friday at Like The Spice Gallery was the launch of a new exhibit, "Endemic Constructions" by artist Anna Druzcz.

It is in many ways not just a new show, but a new forray into an uncharted realm.

Over the past 15 years, digital art has taken a strong foothold in the art world, but most have been the usual suspects-- CGI, explorations into video art, mechanical, and/or basic photo manipulation.

But in this case, the artist, who possesses a strong background in painting as well as photography, combines the two into one-- creating, if you will, new landscapes previously undiscovered to the human eye.

At Like the Spice, Ms. Druzcz's combination of multiple disciplines-- painting, photography, set design and, yes, the power of Photoshop-- blends so well, that at times you cannot believe you are simply looking at a C-Print.

In fact, many viewers will need to do a double-take to make sure that these are indeed not paintings, or light boxes, given their luminescent quality.

Much like Mary Shelley, Druzcz is producing her own Frankenstein monster through intricate combinations of natural and mandmade worlds.

Her unique choice of multiple image overlays collaged from previous on-site photographs she has taken on the outskirts of Rochester and Toronto appear almost seamless in their combinations.

I'm enclosing above a detail of her work in magnification.

Druzcz starts each piece by painting on canvas, which she then photographs and manipulates in Photoshop, replicating layer upon layer, until the correct level of underpainting is achieved.

You can also see little tears and threads attached to each piece of fabric.

The backdrop now being set, from here she begins to choose which pieces she will combine to create her work.

Druzcz is particularly engrossed with the unique processes in which humanity takes to control the organic.

Nurseries cover or protect their product-- trees, shrubs, flowers-- and envelop them much in the way we blanket our own newborns.

Saplings under wrap in this piece seem to appear as if they are mummified, or ghost-like in appearance.

In an artist talk she gave this Sunday in Williamsburg, she noted how she believes what distinguishes us between the animal world is our use of "tools," and how we "construct" new worlds and identities through our control over nature.

Her "constructions" are built from the ground up, taking elements of her photographs of rural nurseries, lily beds, bales of hay, portions of highway construction and topiaries, juxtaposing them into new realms of the underworld.

With the advent of industrialization and subsequently the power of globalization at a moment's notice we can go down to our corner flower shop and purchase plant "hybrids"-- for the power of modern science and horticulture has let the process of natural selection go by the wayside, as we create new living beings.

Even though science has now found out that there can be no "black tulip" (it is inherently impossible), somehow we doubt this, given the advancements of technology.

It brings to mind genetically modified strawberries; crops with inherent immunity to certain pests; new species that will be the edible future of our ever-growing population's need for sustainable harvesting.

Our actions as residents of planet earth are having a direct effect on changing how nature operates on a daily basis; Druzcz' s works only emphasize the rapid pace at which we currently are operating.

As well as a direct commentary on humanity's ability to alter nature, these pieces also appear as if in a whimsical, dreamlike state.

We never really can truly remember our settings of dreams; (We combine strange lands that we know we've seen before, but when we awake we realize that they do not exist.)

In many ways, Druzcz is a cinematographer of new possibilities.

Each piece confronts us as if it were a still frame of a motion picture.

I feel a strong pull in many of her works that leads me to a comparison of a "Wizard of Oz" land of imagination and wonder, though with a strong evil undercurrent much like "The Matrix."

In the work above, I could imagine a flying monkey, or two, or three, if not Trent Reznor greeting me as well.

Or perhaps this is more of a nod to mystical lands of Tolkien, where the hulking Treebeard comes out from hiding and starts speaking to us from inside the frame, not unlike the hallowed halls of Hogwarts' portraiture.

The most interesting part about this image of "gigantic" trees and their massive exposed root systems is the fact that they are actually close-up photographs of bonsais digitally manipulated into large scale.

I found this to be one of the biggest surprises about the artist's mastery of space, manipulation of scale and how perspective can be dramatically altered by the digital realm.

Druzcz in many ways is playing "God," in the creation of worlds that do not exist, but we almost wish they would.

I'm enclosing this Hieronymous Bosch work, "The Last Judgment," for comparison in the way Druzcz also seems to have such a hierarchical structure in her works' makeup.

A feared underworld lurks below-- the skies opening to the heavens above.

In the image below, Druzsz' work is again quite Boschian in its makeup-- a feared underworld lurking beneath; a heavenlike dreamstate above.

The Dutch master was perhaps centuries before his time in many ways-- much like I believe Druzcz is as well.

Throughout art history there has been such separation in imagery-- the color fields, if you will, of Rothko-- where the horizon separates from the earth; above and below.

Yet Druzcz's imaginative piece seems to float in mid-air over the burial ground plots-- or more than likely trenches being dug for new plantings.

What's so interesting about this work, though, is how each and every piece has been painstaking crafted by Druzsz, then photographed in isolation.

Only upon her choosing its new location, (small conical structures she made in her studio, then photographing them, manipulating their light and texture), and thereby adding layer upon multiple layer of pristene lawns, winterized burlap fields and topiary plantings, does she showcase these elements of beauty and despair.

The evergreens seem to take on a new life, reaching new heights in her golden backgrounds.

The sepia tonalities of each image gives an almost antique quality to her work.

Here, we see the combination of roadside concrete drainage pipes juxtaposed with an endless horizon of bales of hay.

Much in the way of her previous topiary works, Druzsz again takes the route of multiple terracing.

Though Druzcz is referencing how man continues to exert control over nature, there is a stark dark element that is at play, but does not completely envelop the work.

When I first saw this work at right, I couldn't help but have my own preconceived notions of what the image stood for.

The tree wrapped in its "protective" blanket, if you will, sheltered from the elements, instead takes on a far sinister presence, looking quite similar to a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is not an image to be taken lightly.

Again, the star-scape backpainting gives it such a dream-like quality.

The cool-white light envelops us much in the way the blanket wraps itself around the nature.

As Druzcz mentioned in her talk, she is "Very comfortable with breaking those boundaries" of the everyday and commonplace and combine very unusual elements into something new.

With this exhibit she certainly has accomplished that, and much, much more.

For more information, go to http://www.likethespice.com/

The exhibit runs until October 7th.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Williamsburg Roundup-- Part 1 of 2-- The Misses

Here at the Musings, I've never claimed to be a hipster, or defender of the Williamsburg kind.

In fact, though I call Brooklyn my home (and have now for the past 4.5 years), I have rarely ventured to that 'nabe where all the "artists" or "galleries" be... why?

A little something known as I don't like commuting an hour and a half just to go somewhere in my same borough.

(Thank you, Mr. Turn-of-the-Century subway designer who made sure I had to go to another island to go back to my same one. Makes sense, don't it?)

And that literally is my main reason-- it has nothing to do with me being anti-hipster; or because it's always hot there and there's no trees or shade; or because it's really polluted; or because there's always construction; or because the few darling little brick buildings they have, they knock down; or because there's more investment bankers there now than artists; or because there's only 1 place I can get good Pierogis by the L train; or because I'm a non-smoking girl who prefers the taste of fine wine over PBRs and Camels.

NOOOO.

Anyway, I don't claim to know how many of you might be fans of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," but I certainly hope you will enjoy my version of Guillermo's always fabulous, "Hollywood Roundup."

Instead, my take is, "Williamsburg Roundup."


Billyburg roundup
Billyburg roundup
It's my.... Billyburg roundup.


Of course, above were the many reasons I don't go to Williamsburg very often-- and let's just add the current show at Parker's Box to the list.

Skulls.

Artist Fabien Verschaere has a fascination with cartoonish expression mixed with political statement.

Black and white.

Yeah.
Huh?????

SPPPPOOOOKY?

Should I be scared or laugh?

Is this supposed to be about "black oil," primordial ooze, death, destruction, the onslaught of the apocalypse-- or, is this an aversion to the skull scarf fashion trend that Lohan and the Olsen twins started in Spring 2006???

Okay, from skulls, to clowns.

Yes, CLOWNS.

Stephen King, "It."
Right?



Fangs, blood, disembowelment... Demon spawn.
Frustration, drippy-dippy.
Pseudo-surrealism in flat format and full length of room "Last Supper/Guernica" format.

I'm hot for you.
Let's do it.
I'm on fire.

Zombies.

Mickey Mouse LSD trips.

Commercial capital-- we are capital-- we are capitalists-- we are consumers-- we are consumerists... this will destroy us.

I get it.

OOOOOOhhhhh.... and I think somewhere in that scene I see a heart-appliqued Robot.

BOXES.
Death.
Impailment.

If the goal of Verschaere is to have me go into a visually-induced LSD trip, he's doing well.

At the front of the exhibit lay black protest signs with gel pen statements propped against the wall with various sarcasms stated from the art parade earlier in the day.

From whence we came, we want back into the womb.

Oh, dark soul, fulfill me.

I will say this once and only once more-- PLEASE, dear artists of the world, realize that black combined with white does not necessarily art make.

And clowns do not, will not, and have never been a good choice as artistic subject.

They're not funny, never have been, nor will ever be, and people have phobias of them.

Does Verschare really want to have my friend go into shock?
Literally she has a debilitating phobia of them, and for good reason.
I just may never enter Parker's Box again for fear that I will be eaten by a black and white clown.

Parker's Box, do you have no shame????

Can we just agree that this exhibit has absolutely no focus, the artist has too many things on his mind, is trying to say too much, and by doing so ends up saying nothing about anything?

NEXT!!!!

Jack the Pelican Presents.

A completely forgettable front room solo show with some dude... oh, yeah, Matt Hansel (no Gretel in sight), "Youth is Wasted."

I agree, Mr. Hansel-- so is your talent.

The show has something to do with hipsters rediscovering nature in blurry-painted forests, clad in Brooklyn Industries hoodies and Chuck Taylors-- juxtaposing nature and modernity; wistful appreciation for a land too far away to visit daily, yet bringing to mind each and every day what we're missing out on; and FALL, glorious FALL, with leaves.

Needless to say, people stepped all over Hansel's installation of painted paper leaves and human cut-out form, 'cuz no one knew it was a piece of art and last Friday's opening was too crowded for people to realize where they were stepping.

Below, disaffected youth blowing smoke.


Mr. Hansel's background is his strength, but if he is trying to connect the viewer to his subjects, they appear just as directionless as the rest of the L train.

Part 2 shall come next, "The Hits."

The very same gallery-- Jack the Pelican Presents-- Back room-- THE SHOW OF THE SEASON, "The Fall Season," with two of the best pieces I've seen all year long.

Also, Capla Kesting's fantastic showcase of Travis Lindquist, and Like The Spice Gallery's TRIUMPH of a solo show in digital czarina Anna Druscz.

Until next time, keep reaching for the stars, and stay away from hoodies and clowns.

For more info on these shows, or to see them yourselves... (remember, my opinion is just that, an opinion), please visit...

http://www.parkersbox.com/

http://www.jackthepelicanpresents.com/

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A peek into the split personality of Jim Torok at Pierogi 2000

Some days I find myself looking in the mirror and thinking, "Hot damn. God, I'm gorgeous. Just look at those lips. Lucious, full, plump; just the right tonality of pinks mixed with fleshy earthiness. Why, with those big green eyes and raven hair, I could pass for Ms. Jolie's sister, right? Right?????"

Rigggggght.

The very next day, the same mirror looms overhead, and I think, "My God. Look at you. Why do you even try? Your days are numbered. You're past it. There's no hope. Why go on? No one will ever see the things in you that you wish them to see."

It's that very duality of thinking-- the yin and yang, manic depression, or polar opposites that puts the drive into Jim Torok's "Recent Work" exhibit, which just opened in Williamsburg at Pierogi 2000.

I was immediately floored by Torok's honesty and extreme openness about the mental anguish that he deals with on a daily basis.

Success-- just what does it mean to us, as individuals, or as artists?

To each, it can take on a different meaning.

Does it mean hobnobbing with the Mary Boones or Jeffrey Deitches of the world, a vodka tonic with Tom Sachs, a Roberta Smith review, or does it mean having our friends beside us as we celebrate our work, and hopefully sell enough to maintain representation, and get just enough press coverage to maintain or pique interest.

In this case, with Torok, he has the devil on one shoulder, and angel on the next, and they're locked in a caged deathmatch like Ann Coulter and Maureen O'Dowd with no exit till blood has been spilled.

In Pierogi's front space lies the "negative" thinking mode of Torok.

All the self-doubt and frustration you could ever imagine is there for our examination in hilarious cartoon, or comic strip format.

Very pop, very now, very "cutesy," very in fact wrong.

Many days we all feel the same way about ourselves.

"What's the use?
Why go on?
Do we really matter?"

We see our efforts falling by the wayside in terms of making a real difference in the world.

There seems to be a daily barrage of "bad news," or factoids, snippets of how useless our little humanoid specs of matter are to the big picture.

With so many faces and bodies gathered at the front, I thought-- "Well, this is it. This is all there's to it."
Little did I know what lurked around the corner.

As such, I've seen this type of work before-- and many artists right now are bringing up the issue of "Just what is our value" in the greater scheme of things.

I'm thinking of William Powhida's great take on creating his "ArtStar" alter ego at his Schroeder Romero show last Spring.

But with all the focus on Pierogi's front room, it's actually the back room where Torok's true talent lies, exposing brilliantly executed small drawings and paintings of his subjects, including a stunning self-portrait (not shown here).

In many ways I felt a great kinsmanship with Torok's delectable sarcasm, wit, and failure to connect on a greater level that he highlighted with his "cartoon pieces."

But the fact of the matter is Torok is a genuinely gifted and talented artist.

The cartoon imagery does not reflect the steadiness of hand and eye and skill that true "art" has always represented throughout history.

Torok's hyper-realistic sketches and paintings (quite small pieces), are filled with such great detail, sense of color and luminescense, that I could barely believe that this indeed was the same artist.

And here is where the duality of this show can be negatively construed.

Does Torok's exposing of his inner doubt take away from his ability as an artist, or is it merely a self-expression needing to take root and blossom?
I'm unsure.

I find that the very layout of the exhibit at hand is what bothered me, because in this case, the doubt has triumphed the talent.

Self-confidence is a huge factor in the success of an artist, or any individual.

It truly does not matter how much nacent ability you possess, what school you went to, or how many names you can drop if you do not believe in your own abilities.

This is something that Torok must work on in the future if he is to continue to prevail.

This is not to say I certainly didn't enjoy these pieces of self-immolation to a huge degree, but there's a large portion of this exhibit that left me with unease.

In a sense, I'm absorbing the artist's exposed nakedness here, as are all the viewers.

What qualities in ourselves can we change so that we do not relegate our greatest works to the "back room" of our lives, or the galleries we contract to?

Some quite serious issues to consider when we put ourselves out there for judgment, or in this and other artists' cases, literally "for sale."

Torok has taken a big risk here, and I salute him for it.

BUT I do hope that he eventually conquers these doubts that are so in the forefront of his mind, and continues to do the work he is so skilled at-- bringing to life these images of acquantances and subjects.

I truly felt at any moment that these tiny people would leap off their paper or boards and start speaking to me.

With such an amazing ability to capture the human essence of his subjects' personalities as well as physical trailts, one can only hope that he continues on this path instead of navel gazing despair and self-deprecation.

The exhibit runs until October 8th.

For more information, go to http://www.pierogi2000.com/

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Thomas Lendvai at Winkleman

Contruction Worker #1:
"Yo.
Ya hoid' about Tommy?"

Construction Worker #2
"Yeh. I hoid' about Tommy.
He's going places, I tell y'ez.
Pass me an Amstel. Gonna need one for this job."


Many will view Thomas Lendvai's new exhibition at Winkleman Gallery, "Between Pain and Boredom," as strict textbook minimalist art mixed with optical illusion, or merely inventive modern installation, but I beg to differ.

That would be woefully underselling the magnitude of what this exhibit says about our culture, our own hearts, and our own thought processes (or lack thereof) when relating to our surrounding support structures (both literally and figuratively).

Sure, Lendvai wears his influences on his sleeve, echoing such greats as Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd, and the earlier work of Richard Serra, but that's just the tip of the iceberg for his exciting Fall 2007 Chelsea premiere.

You see, Lendvai is more than just your typical artist-- he is a worker at his core with an old world ethic to match.


Not driven by a need to create and self-promote like far too many of his contemporaries, Lendvai instead has had visions of lumber, table saws, and power drills pulsing through his veins since his birth.

A product of a family encsconsed in the construction industry, Lendvai has been raised from little on to understand its inner workings.

While most boys his age were still playing with their Transformers, Lendvai was sitting atop the eaves of homes in Eastern Long Island, assisting his father and learning to master his craft.

It is of no surprise, then, that with his studies and higher education, that he has developed into a "sculptor" of a different realm-- one that continually surrounds us, but yet doesn't come immediately to mind as your standard "art form."

With this exhibit, Lendvai combines "architect" with "construction worker."

For too long, one has reaped the benefits and accolades, while the other languishes in obscurity.

In the process of working full-time and pursuing his art career, Lendvai has mastered balancing a duality so few can pull off-- establishing a well-earned reputation as an art installation/crater and contractor, as well as continuing his own quest into breaking the boundaries, and perhaps the walls, of our perceptions of what is real and what is "constructed."

For many gallery-goers and collectors, with the advent of the Fall 2007 season upon us, the fresh-hewn seams of newly formed walls pass us by with barely a notice.

"Was that there before?," we ask with puzzled faces, as each gallery looks "different" with each launch of a new exhibit.

Though Lendvai holds a Master's degree from SVA, his true secondary education has come about in the trenches of the art world.

When you see the work in many of Chelsea's top contemporary galleries, though you may be viewing the artist's initial vision, you are more often than not the worksmanship of Lendvai himself.

I will not name names, but there are several artists who currently are getting major reviews who owe Lendvai a huge thanks for not only "assisting them" with their installations, but creating much of their works from their initial conception to completion.

But now it's time for his work to take front and center stage.

This is the exhibit of the Fall 2007 art season, and I make no qualms about my own cheerleading here, for the real reason I love this work so much is because there is so much heart and soul of the artist himself put forth into his creation.

Taking the skeletal framework of a "new room" created specifically for this exhibition at Winkleman, Lendvai has made it appear that the walls (or perhaps ceiling in this case) literally cave in on us.

Feeling as if you must duck to avoid total annihilation, wooden beams jut out at perfectly spaced 16-inch intervals, much as a pitchfork through a bale of hay.

Making it appear as if a battering ram has come through Winkleman's 27th Street headquarters, the teeth of each wooden beam violently pushes forth, arching out and over as it makes its way into the gallery's main space.

In many ways, it appears Southwestern in its appearance, not unlike the exposed beams that are common in the pueblos of the desert southwest.

http://images.jupiterimages.com/common/detail/93/16/22811693.jpg

http://www.fostertravel.com/nmarts102web.jpg

But references to a certain style of construction is just part of this exhibit.

Lendvai does not sketch his structures prior to their building, nor does he call Autocad a close friend.

Instead, he utilizes the same methods that his Hungarian father taught him from childhood.

He carefully analyzes the weight-baring capacity of each stud in the walls' framework utilizing plumb bobs, and makes adjustments accordingly to the exact location of where the beam will rest.

Each measurement must be completely precise to leave no space or portion exposed.

Much in the way that Gehry's buildings create waves of movement, so, too, does Lendvai's work-- with each raising and lowering of the beams crossing the viewer's path, a sense of motion is created.

Of course when standing amidst the work, your own perception is relative.

Whichever stature nature has blessed (or cursed) you with, you will view this exhibit differently than the next.

This is what makes the work so unique.

In many ways, art today is a given... "THIS is what the artist means here. Here's the DEFINITION of this piece."

I have to say that I feel fraudulent for even trying to interpret this work, but it's simply something that I feel I must do.

Lendvai, a great fan of Arthur Schopenhauer, is specifically referencing humanity's different states of being.

Are we currently in a mode of "boredom," (distraction, inactivity, rest, complacency, squirminess, 'meh) that eventually will swing the pendulum right back to "pain," (anger, frustration, misunderstanding, entrapment, cultural ennui, or loss) that is essentially the eternal calling card of the human condition.

A bit unsettling to think about, given the heavy beams overhead, (or under arm) but truly a nice play on philosophical thinking mixed with the reality only a solid mass such as this could bring.

The last thing I will touch upon for this exhibit is the anonymity of those in the field of construction.

For every author, painter, filmmaker, or actor, there is a name left for historical reference.

"Here lies XXX, writer of XXX..."

But those who toil in construction are anonymous authors, if you will; innovators whose greatest creation lies on the inside, forging a reality the mad creations of the Santiago Calatravas of the world, molding the hidden skeletons that support us every day.

From the 22nd Floor of our Manhattan skyscrapers, to the basement hidden below Winkleman's terminal warehouse trenches, to the third floor of the 100-year-old oak framed Victorian bedroom where I now type, we rarely acknowledge what actually goes into making our least thought about ally-- a "support system," that continually props us up while at rest, in thought, at play, in love, or in a moment's passion.

Who were these men and what were their stories?

We tend to forget when we look upon the Empire State Building, in this case, or the great Pyramids, and call them the "Wonders of the World," as if some magician came along, or greater being waved his hand and said, "Thy Will Be Done."

Perhaps with the mountains, land or the sea, but in the case of structures, it is all manmade.

In this case, no Allah, G_d or Jehova created this, just "Tomi from Ronkonkoma."

Great exhibit with possibilities of legendary historical proportions.

The exhibit runs until October 6th, and opens tonight, September 6th, from 6-8PM.

For more information, go to http://www.winkleman.com/