Nothing Old, Just Reimagined

salle_tennysonI was very excited to hear that Katherine Mulherin and John Pollard opened a gallery in Chelsea. I came to know John from my many trips to Richmond when I was doing crits and lectures for VCU. His Richmond gallery, ADA, has a roster of artists who often favor a hi-low mix of dark humor -- I was delighted to have a show of my paintings there in '08. Mulherin is maintaining her base gallery in Toronto, as she shifts her secondary L.A. emphasis to this new venture in N.Y.C. Her Toronto roster has similarities to what John looks for, especially with respect to palpable art-making skill, though Mulherin leans slightly more to the conceptual. The first show at Mulherin Pollard, Friends & Family, features four artists: two selected by Mulherin, two by Pollard. Seth Scriver offers comical representations of actual personalities from his neighborhood in Toronto. Using the pre-Photoshop technique of stencil and airbrush, Scriver creates wildly exaggerated, colorful caricatures that are as outlandish as they are funny. I especially appreciate seeing an actual airbrush -- combined with lots of slick stenciled edges -- in the hands of someone with excellent ability and thinking. winnie_headWinnie Truong also hails from Toronto. If you like detail with a twist, you will love her large-scale color pencil drawings. One work, "Ornament And Correction," is a three-quarter portrait of a red-haired woman in adult braces and coiffure studded with teeth. The combination speaks volumes of the love/hate (mostly hate) relationship we all have with our teeth. "Ornament And Correction" has a visceral impact that will haunt you for hours. Daniel Davidson paints in layers as he works through a stream of consciousness that mixes the aesthetics of black line drawing with free-wheeling color schemes. Davidson also offers a 200-foot drawing dispenser in the form of an automatic hand towel machine. Brilliant. Jeremiah Johnson’s tour de force is "Mom," a large representation of an eighteen-wheeler surrounded by transcribed stories and anecdotes about a mother he saw too infrequently. Johnson states, "The background is everything I ever knew about my mother since the day I was born. She was a tractor-trailer driver that lived out in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas... There was kidnappings, drugs, cock fighting, and a police chase." "Mom," a mesmerizing slice of Americana that you must see and read. lichtensteinMy next stop was 24th Street to see what was going on in the "big name" galleries. One show everyone should see is Roy Lichtenstein Still Lifes at Gagosian Gallery. Aside from seeing a wonderful array of the artist's paintings and sculptures, you will be treated to the studies the artist made as preparation for some of the works here. I found one particular study, the one Lichtenstein did for the painting "Artist Studio/Foot Medication," to be the most revealing because it shows how he continually changed the composition with precisely cut and drawn additions. Seeing this, one can imagine how he later projected the finished study onto the large canvas surface to lay in his final lines. A second must-see show on 24th Street is David Salle, Some Pictures from the 80s (image, above left) at the Mary Boone Gallery. Even if you are not a Salle fan, it is great to see these many seminal works that so clearly define a good portion of the aesthetics and trends of the period in which they were created. faur_portraitMy next stop was the Kim Foster Gallery to see Christian Faur: The Land Surveyors. The title of the show comes from Franz Kafka's novel The Castle, which speaks of lost promises, greed, and corruption during the Great Depression. Faur, using anonymous photographs from the 1930s, creates portraits, sometimes in semi-panoramic settings using the points of hand cast crayons of specific colors and tones to flesh out his figures. The visual effect of his technique, which is stunning and amounts to 2,200 individual, hand cast encaustic crayons per 15 square inches, reminded me first of slightly garbled and fuzzy pre-cable TV transmissions. Any artist can tell you it's not easy to come up with something that is new and exciting. Faur has managed this feat with class and distinction. dicksonMy last stop of the day was an exhibition titled Rodney Dickson, Paintings at Gasser Grunert. The gallery, which is still very rough and surrounded by construction, worked quite well for Dickson’s moody works. Down a flight of concrete stairs from the street level entrance hangs the heart of the show, comprised of nine eight-foot canvases. One predominantly white painting, which faces the main gallery, wonderfully reflects the multi-sourced lighting. The gobs of white paint, which are often squirted out directly from the tube, ride above a surface of ochre and red that reacts as an iridescence would as it keys off the indirect sunlight from the clerestory windows. Just to the right of this spiritually uplifting white paining is another work done with masses of black and red paint that appears to skid across an undercoat of blue, yellow, and orange. The mix of angles and depths of paint brings to mind anger, frustration, even physical or psychological dissection. In some instances, Dickson uses figurative references within the otherwise non-objective compositions, grounding the work in a more specific time or incident. In one, Dickson employs collage and spray paint garnering an "incomplete" or transient affect. A very retro, "shoot from the hip," type 1980s street-art feel. - D. Dominick Lombardi domD. 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.