Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Thomas Lendvai at Winkleman

Contruction Worker #1:
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.



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/


Hungry Hyaena said...

"Tomi from Ronkonkoma," huh? I gotta start calling him that.

You sure do hail the installation, Oly, but your praise is not unwarranted. I've told Tom on several occasions that I hold both his work and his process in high regard, even if I struggle to write about them intelligently.

The most interesting aspect of your review is the focus on anonymous labor and achievement, for I feel this is a critical component of Tom's doings, whether working on one of his own ideas or crafting (read: actually making) another's. There is little pretense involved and no conceptual jerry-rigging; as a result seemingly simple sculptural installations whisper volumes. There is more to this installation than a tracing of the existential pendullum's arc.

fisher6000 said...

It doesn't bother anyone that the beams weren't set into the drywall a little bit?

Just to preserve the optical illusion?

To tuck in the beams, even a quarter of an inch, would make it a really nice work of sculpture. But to have that gap there between the beam and the wall, over and over again...

...it changed the meaning for me.

I agree that it was all about labor and "fit"... it became a very large jewelry project for me.

Anonymous said...

"Great exhibit with possibilities of legendary historical proportions."

Huh, what?

I guess you did say that you don't get to Williamsburg much...but if you had, you would have seen this show already. Like 3 years ago. By the same guy.

The work is charming visually but not really interesting beyond that.