Monday, July 19, 2010
Second Friday, July 2010
On the second Friday of July I scoped another full slate of openings, encompassing Locks Gallery, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, and just about everything at 319 North 11th. I’ll attempt to touch on everything that I saw, excluding Vox Populi’s Vox VI, which because of its size will get its own subsequent post.
The first floor gallery of Locks, housing Thomas Chimes’ On Alfred Jarry, was vacant of people. His white-washed canvases gave the impression of peering through a bayside fog, or reaching back through the hazy filter of memory. I could not resist the meticulous surface texture of the paint, his almost perfectly regular and parallel brushstrokes stretching unbroken from end to end, which inspired an agreeable hypnosis.
But the second floor was the center of action, for the opening of Whiteout by Nadia Hironaka and Matt Suib. Consisting of both a single- and a two-channel video installation, the black and white visuals are flipped to negative, splashing the walls with an ethereal pallor that is made more vaporous by the fact that they are meant to be exhibited in a lit gallery. White ants scurry against a dark surface, shifting sands cascade down from a dune then reverse back into place again, and a horse rolls on its back in a grove of white birch with color inverted to black. There is also a wall installation of cut vinyl hiding in plain sight, which imitates the ripples of wind- or water-worn sand. The cinematic evocations of the video imagery are intentionally strong: the visuals feel familiar enough to bring to mind certain film classics, while leaving some ambiguity as to their direct allusion.
At Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Mark Brosseau’s Wondrous Spaces lived up to its title. I found the paintings to be enigmatic, playful, and ultimately pleasurable. The media of these works was primarily water-based paints and ink. He paints shapes, serpentine bands, and irregular squiggles of color on top one another, creating bleeds and unevenly applied patches of pigment. These imperfections held my attention the most. I sensed a definite Josef Albers influence, but it was almost as though Brosseau had painted abstract, impossible landscapes where the mind game is to figure out how you could traverse or inhabit them.
Lovetown, PA at Tiger Strikes Asteroid is part of Gene Schmidt’s project of the same name, a multidisciplinary work that defies strict categorization, incorporating performance, video, sculpture, text, and social activism. Schmidt wound a path from North to West Philadelphia placing individually lettered blocks to spell out Paul’s appraisal of love from 1 Corinthians 13. Robert Indiana-imposed Philly “Love” this is not: that iconic piece is a destination, in the sense that one must go to it. With Lovetown, PA, Schmidt finds people where they already are. He integrates the individual characters and neighborhoods on his route, creating an organic narrative that teases out true reflection of inhabitants and places. The work is uplifting and a marvel of execution. My only problem with the gallery installation was that it felt more like presentation of artifacts and relics from the artwork, rather than an integral contribution to its composition, as I believe it was intended to be. The video, photographs, and arrangement of the letter squares, while giving a good overview of the project, came off as strict documentation. Nevertheless, Lovetown, PA is worth a visit as a reminder that love and beauty are all around; sometimes you just need someone to point it out to you.
Rachel Mason’s The Deaths of Hamilton Fish at Marginal Utility, which had opened the month prior, held my interest for a particular reason. The name Hamilton Fish was one I have known for many years, due specifically to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge (also known as the Hamilton Fish Bridge), where Interstate 84 crosses the Hudson River. I have driven on the bridge innumerable times, most recently this past Fourth of July weekend, but never knew the significance of its namesake. Spurred by Mason’s project, which includes original music, video, and installation, I learned that Hamilton Fish was a nineteenth century governor of New York and a United States Senator. Mason fashioned a narrative centering on Hamilton Fish II, the Governor’s son and a politician in his own right, and Albert Hamilton Fish, a serial killer. She begins with the historical coincidence that both men died on the same day—the former presumably of old age and the latter by state execution—and from there weaves a fictional ballad about how their separate lives terminate at a fateful intersection.
Right next door, Grizzly Grizzly offered another historically tinged show with Matthew Craven’s Future Myths. Craven used found images from old book pages, collaged and painted over, such as portraits of uniformed cavalry from the Union army and other assorted military scenes. He either removes or replaces the individuals’ faces, then superimposes geometric patterns painted only in primary colors. The commentary seems to lie with American history, perhaps conquest of the West or Manifest Destiny, but I remain mystified as to what Craven was trying to say.