The chances of seeing a storefront in midtown Manhattan converted into a blank canvas for an artist to create an automatic, abstract work of art is pretty slim, given the real estate values in the city these days. But the Lab Gallery has been doing such outside-the-box thinking for some time. I had the good fortune of being associated with this progressive approach as a curatorial advisor through January of this year, so I like swinging by now and again to see what is going on at the Lab.
This time, it was that very abstract expressionist painting I mention above -- a work which encompassed the windows and floors of the space. Mark Wiener had been working there for just over five days by the time I got in town to see it, and the space was transformed. The windows were painted, with clear spaces here and there for peeking in and through to the interior, so anyone could look inside -- day or night -- to see the changes. In the interior space, Wiener created a symphony of lines, drips, splashes, and spills in black and white -- just the way one might begin an under painting on canvas. But in this instance, the next layer of color and fine lines that would normally be applied directly on top of the under painting, was applied to the outside edges --in this instance, the windows. The result reminded me of that Rachel Welch film Fantastic Voyage, where the characters are shrunk down small enough to enter a man's body though his blood stream. It is as if you could enter the painting and see the inside of the work, experiencing the inner thoughts of the artist. And it was that sense of scale and perspective that made the whole project so successful. But it is all gone now, the entire thing scrapped off the windows and painted over -- making the space ready for the next performance or installation.
However, there is a second show of Wiener's works in the lobby of the Roger Smith Hotel that will be up through September. These are the easel paintings of the artist, works created with those same automatic lines and gestures. In fact, the show is titled Gestures; a Timeline, and I assume it shows the artist's approach and progression to this type of expression over a period of time. If so, the one big flaw here is that none of the works on the price list are dated, so you can't unravel the timeline. Perhaps this is the intention of the artist, to show that when something is done matters little. What is most important is what is being discovered, and how what you find works visually and viscerally. - D. Dominick Lombardi
Mr. Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY; a writer with Sculpture, DART, & Magazine and NYARTS; and an independent curator.