I recently had the opportunity to see a number of shows in Beacon and in Chelsea. These are the shows that inspired me to write my new colmn.
Hetty Baiz: This Very Body at the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York looks great in that space, which is somewhat angular, of mixed materials, multi-functional, and vertically oriented. Baiz's work (above), which is life-sized, mixed in media, and representative of lone figures, falls somewhere between the domesday look of Manuel Neri's eroded sculptures and the solitude of Nathan Oliveira's lone figures set against stark landscapes. With Baiz, we see a more profound infusion of an individual soul, a definite human presence, despite the fact that her subjects look as deflated as a balloon that lost its air.To get the look she achieves, Baiz often paints her own body and uses it as a printing surface to make imprints on paper, which she later applies alongside or on top of such things as linoleum floor tiles. The floor tiles are placed either face up or face down. When they are face down, the black glue (tar?) that is combed on before the tiles are applied to a floor is revealed, giving the impression of a fingerprint. This brings even more individual identity to the forms, while adding the thought of forensic science.
I like in particular the way Baiz layers her materials with both opaque and transparent stuff, then burns them to char the surface, as in "Torso" (2008). Overall, Baiz's work extols a reverence for human existence, while the rugged edges and the scribbled-upon surfaces add an indication of accumulated knowledge through experiential practices.
Heide Hatry: Heads and Tales over at Elga Wimmer PCC is one of the creepiest shows I've seen in a long time. Coupled with excerpts from short stories or novels, Hatry sets the sample passages next to portraits of the main female character, creating a framed diptych. To make the photographed portraits, she molds clay into the shape of the face, and then covers it entirely with the skin from the face or belly of a pig. Lips are added in with other color-appropriate edible flesh, pig eyelids and eyes are set, the pig nose replaced with fresh skin, a little mascara, a wig, and there you have it. Some of the most disturbing portraits you will ever see.
Despite the difficulty of her chosen media, Hatry manages some incredible likenesses including "Madonna," while other portraits show the artist's hand applying lipstick in works such as "Betsy," which is quite macabre.
Ellen K. Levy: Stealing Attention at Michael Steinberg Fine Art is a smart show that couples low-grade, architecturally oriented computer images with prints of ancient artifacts and playing cards. What I found to be most impressive is the artist's obvious use of over-painting to control the composition. There is no attempt here to make it all seamless, which is quite refreshing. The result of her handiwork leaves us with a world that is one big organism, with technology, biology, history, and architecture all blending into one multifaceted entity. Even the smaller works on paper that hang along the long corridor between the front and back gallery are quite beautiful.
Last but not least in Chelsea is a show titled Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years 1957-1967 at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.
It's an incredible show of moody and magnetic portraits created in amounts of paint that can be more easily understood if measured in pounds or inches thick. And despite all that thickness of paint, the muddling of color, and the sculpted surfaces, Kossoff manages a gentleness, an intimacy, a timelessness that may make some visitors experience something they have never before, the angst of being a painter with a tortured soul. Even though, as a fan of the London School, I was familiar with Kossoff's work, it was such a pleasure to see a room dedicated to this one artist, with each work hung with ample space to breath, and perfect lighting to enjoy and absorb. If you can get there before the show ends, look for the painting that has a bit of aged newspaper stuck to its lower left corner, as it indicates how cluttered with materials and debris the artist's studio must be, giving you just a bit more insight into the artist's makeup and mindset.
Up in Beacon, I found Catherine Welshman: Girls Gone Wild at BAU (Beacon Artists Union) to be a real throwback show of little molded figures and multimedia drawings. I say throwback because the works look Beat, like they were made outside the cultural norms in the 1950s. Works such as "Keith," which has a Francis Bacon-like face, and "Leslie," which remind me of Van Gogh's "Sorrow," ground the art here in what I like to think of as a never-ending conversation between the generations -- past, present and future.
A few doors down on Main Street is the gallery Fovea. The current show, Hard Rain (from memory to history), Photographs by Anthony Suau, is a real gut check. As I have come to know from past press releases, Fovea focuses on what war and oppression really look like before our media outlets sanitize it. The work shown here is always disturbing, powerful, and should be seen by anyone who takes war lightly, as most have never experienced a major military confrontation first-hand and are desensitized by violent video games or impossible action movies. - D. Dominick Lombardi
D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and in Chicago, Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY, and ADA gallery in Richmond, VA; a writer with Sculpture, Sculpture Review, DART, and NYARTS; and an independent curator.