Gudjon Bjarnason employs chance, relying heavily on a very extreme form of controlled chaos. At the core of this exhibition are variously mangled minimalist metal sculptures that he fabricates and later destroys, either by dropping them from great heights or blowing them up with dynamite. Extreme, but Bjarnason is from Iceland -- a land that tends to suggest extremes, from the immensely various amounts of available sunlight through the year, to the strangeness of the glaciers and volcanoes that dominate the landscape.
Yes, in Iceland, nature is the boss. So these sculptures -- the dynamics of the damage created by the violent methods -- make perfect sense to me. I am thinking specifically of his art as a reaction to the forces of moving glaciers, erupting volcanoes, wind and weather that so thoroughly erodes the terrain of Iceland.
Bjarnason's two-dimensional works, which are photo-based abstractions, have a different sort of control issue where the artist's hand is suggested more clearly. However, I found these works just a bit too distracting for a show in this particular gallery, which is more or less a series of multilevel spaces tied together with long, high walled ramps. Maybe the sculptures alone would have been a stronger show. I say this because the power of the sculptures needs more clear space around them to expand. Shown in a cleaner space, viewers would have a better chance to project and expand the implications in the work.
On the other hand, the loud and looping video that shows one sculpture being exploded definitely adds something. And there was one more component to the exhibition. For the opening reception, there was a performance by two dancers, Karen D. Peters and David Sasha Tonn. They offered a modified tango around, over, and through the dangerous edges of the mangled metal while the artist videoed and simultaneously projected the captured moving images of dancing legs and feet on one main wall of the gallery. In this instance, the seductiveness of the dancers, their gliding and writhing forms, made both a wonderful contrast to â€“ and an echo of -- the sculptures. - D. Dominick Lombardi
The exhibition remains on view through October 26th at the Amelia A. Wallace Gallery, State University of New York at Old Westbury, Long Island, NY. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday between 1 PM and 5 PM, and by appointment.
On October 16th at 3 PM there will be a panel discussion with Lilly Wei, art critic and independent curator, and Jonathan Goodman, art critic and lecturer at Pratt Institute.
Photo credit: An Xiao Mr. 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.