I've been happily surprised then, as of late, to see so many young artists returning to landscape in order to raise questions about our human standing, particularly as it relates to our environment. The series I'm currently working on, so far seen by only a few close friends, is very much in step with this tenor. Although the "capital 'P' painter" in me yearns to be ahead of the curve, I find the issues so important, I'm thrilled to have company.
All three of the shows mentioned below tap into this line of inquiry in some respect, with mixed success. (Note: Earlier this week, a good friend told me I'm too "harsh in my critique," while another claimed I'm "fickle." To that I say, I ain't claiming to be an objective critic. I'm an artist and I feel strongly about most of what I see. If anything I write offends other artists or the dealers and collectors who support those artists, so be it. It's not my intent to offend, however...I just call 'em like I see 'em. Furthermore, if I change my mind down the road, so what? That's life. No one ever said it's supposed to be clear.)
Metal collage on wood
9 x 8 3/4 inches
Lennon, Weinberg: After I navigated through the tony crowd, giving each of the metal collages a once-over, all I could muster in the way of a response was, "Dear Lord." "Within," Tony Berlant's current exhibition of colorful hotel art gone terribly wrong, makes my tummy ache. Described as "hallucinatory work...[plumbing] the unfathomable realities of nature, consciousness...perception...and time," these nailed, sheet metal landscape and floral works sound exciting to me. Unfortunately, the distinctly forgettable collages are more confused than hallucinatory and they do little to encourage a mental mining of the universe. My gallery hopping partner looked at one particularly bright, floral disaster and said something to the effect of, "Collage is so overdone now." I'm afraid her statement is essentially accurate, despite my feeling that our contemporary condition demands communication via pastiche, meaning and "originality" arrived at via assemblage of the already extant. (It's all so bloody postmodern, man.) At any rate, this collage doesn't make the cut, even for those of us who appreciate a good clusterfu*k. (Note: The gallery staff on hand was unable to provide me with a press release, but they explained that the .pdf was available online. The tree-hugger in me likes this policy, but I really wanted to make some notes then and there. They should print them on request, at least.)
Acrylic ink on mylar collaged onto watercolor paper
37 1/2 x 40 1/4 inches
Clementine Gallery: I really liked Kurt Lightner's mylar "paintings" included in PS1's "Greater New York" show and I also enjoyed his Wave Hill installation - at least in reproduction. Furthermore, reading the press release associated with his latest outing at Clementine, my suspicion that Lightner is a compatriot was confirmed: "Lightener's collages are inspired by nostalgia for a childhood spent exploring the five acres of woods and farmland that surround his family's pig farm." Given my admiration for Lightner's previous work and my being endeared to the artist by what little I know of him, I was shocked to find his current exhibition totally unsatisfying. Perhaps I need to give the work more time - it was an opening, after all - but my gut tells me Lightner is approaching - and maybe postponing - a transition. The works hanging at Clementine represent a period of wheel spinning, a muddy (or slushy, at the moment) business. Such trough periods are healthy - much good can and usually does come of them - but, as one friend remarked to me, "[Lightner's] show fails, but not spectacularly enough." Here's to hoping his current hibernation becomes a metamorphosis. I'm always rooting for my fellow bumpkins!
Color pencil, graphite and collage on paper
7 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Derek Eller Gallery: The latest exhibition of David Dupuis's paintings, drawings and collages is a mixed bag, but some stunning works are included in the selection. As unimpressed as I was with the three large portraits on display, I was very taken with four of the smaller pieces. "Glacial Blossoms," "Flower Power Glam Rock," "Madrid Memory," and an untitled work featuring an orderly mountain range all manage to marry psychedelia to nostalgia and more traditional modes of representation. Plus, they're just damned pleasing, which despite the opinion of many Art World colleagues, isn't something to be ashamed of. Most impressive, though, is the large, mixed media landscape, "Promontory." Stepping back about eight feet, the viewer grasps the transcendental, heroic impulse Dupuis taps into. The two, sculptural heads - one collage, one graphite - planted atop a central, receding ridge line encourage us to ponder the temporal nature of all human endeavor, but also recall the poem, "Anecdote of the Jar," by Wallace Stevens, in which the poet's placing a humble jar in the "wilderness" contextualizes the surrounding, "natural" world, providing a focus for the human eye and, in effect, taming the "wild." Approach the work, however, and the landscape breaks down into colored pencil craziness; the aggressive scribbling runs counter to traditional notions of classical landscape as a bucolic "window on the world," and reminds us of how absurdly hopeless the human desire for control is. Eventually, everything built, written or conceived will be erased by the fury of geology and time, and therein lies a hell of a reason to cherish our short time here and approach all life with respect and sensitivity.
Color pencil, graphite and collage on paper
60 1/2 x 44 inches
Photo credits: all images ripped from the respective gallery websites; thanks!