Art Review

Roz Chast: Theories of Everything... And Much, Much More

our_group_photograph.jpgRoz Chast is funny. Best known for her nearly 30-year stint with The New Yorker magazine, she is the quintessential observer. Let’s say she can best be described in artistic terms as a Situationalist. (You need those ists and isms.) What she takes from her everyday observations, she turns into crisp, clean extrapolations of a given situation, event, or moment, often filling that extrapolation with emphasizing details in curious locations. She can find, and express with wonderful words and images, the confounding and confusing to the commonest of experiences. What I find most appealing about her work is that it is sublimely approachable. Her drawn lines are expressive, yet forgiving. The expressions her subjects bare are subtle yet telling, and her compositions, which are straightforward and true, are filled with wit and humor from edge to edge.

Looking at Mr. Godbar

chocolatejesusSure signs of spring: The groundhog not being frightened by his shadow. Baseball standings showing the Royals, Devil Rays, and Pirates tied for first place. Articles about income tax. Marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies. And Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, denouncing another “attack” on Christianity. This year – and this is not an April Fool’s joke! – the last two are related, because Donohue’s mad about a new chocolate Easter treat, which he claims is “one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever.” He must have very delicate sensibilities and no sense of proportion whatsoever.

What is this horrible assault? Artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s “My Sweet Lord,” a six-foot tall, 200-pound depiction of the crucified Christ made out of milk chocolate.

Lauren Beck: Miasma from the Well of Loneliness

alien_probe.jpgThis show’s title tells you all you need to know about the almost polar opposite elements of morbidity and sexuality that run throughout the exhibition. But it is not so necessary to know or understand the artist’s specific intentions to sense the import of the art offered here. After all, work of this caliber will stand alone, separate from any overall narrative or intention.

Lauren Beck is a wizard with watercolor.

Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz: "Shelter," the verb

wise_heart.jpg Haviland Street Gallery is an oasis, a vintage home turned gallery, with its space originally designed for living, not looking. And I hesitate to say this, but all this welcoming homeyness makes the overall art experience here fun. We get so used to the white windowless boxes we call galleries that one can easily forget that art is being made in people's homes and in distinctive studios. For this exhibit, Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz offers a number of beautifully composed works that are wistful, celebratory, painterly and steeped in objects and symbolism. And, even though the potent content of these art works is rather specific and direct, as the exhibition's title suggests, it takes a good amount of time to fully appreciate these works.

Danilo Buccella: The Sound of Night - Vanina Holasek Gallery

theguest.jpgMilan-based artist Danilo Buccella's paintings feature young women frail, defiant, alone, and old beyond their years. They are iconic, beacons of a new age. At the risk of sounding like my parents, our children, especially the young woman I see in my daily life, are faced with nearly impossible physical goals. The visuals suggest a so-called beauty or desirability, even a cuteness which is relatively singular, and for most, unnatural, and just plain out of hand. Check out his painting on the left -- THE GUEST from 2005 (43 x 63 inches - oil on canvas).

Big Eyes And Babies: The West Coast Comes East

maldonadoTwo young artists from the west, Brandon Maldonado of New Mexico (born 1980) and Sarah Sohn of Los Angeles (born 1984), have landed at the Aidan Savoy Gallery on Stanton Street. I mention their youth because it is so much a part of how one takes them in—the fact that they are still in a formative phase. Maldonado’s work dominates the space, in part because his color palette is so much brighter and more intense than that of Sohn. His works—with their hot colors and bold, even surreal images—catch the eye and demand attention. Sohn’s work is paler, closer to monochromatic, and more aloof in its imagery.

At twenty-six, Maldonado is painting under a number of influences:

Doing Miami, Again

david_bates.jpgWell, it happened. It got even bigger, this Super Bowl of the art world. With some dozen and a half fairs, Miami in early December is Art World. And everyone was there, catching up with art esthetics, theories, and achievements that seemed endless and bright. I quickly became simultaneously entrenched and overwhelmed as I took in the first day and a half with friends Betty (art shipper and curator), Robert (gallerist and projects person), and Carl (artist and dealer). I found Carl the most fascinating, since this year was his first time seeing this fair extravaganza; despite Carl’s newness here, he expressed definite opinions and valuable insights as we bounced from booth to room, from fair to exhibition.

A Piece Apart: Group Show - Aidan Savoy Gallery

a_piece_apart.jpgIt’s always cool to find one of those 1980s, East Village throwback-type galleries. You know, the ones that favor a brutal sort of figurative art that kicks the cobwebs out of the old thinking process. If you are like me then head over to Aidan Savoy Gallery before it closes to catch this potent two-pronged exhibition curated by Jordin Isip titled A Piece Apart. The concept is to have dozens of artists submit one of their more familiar works, plus a separate pair of painted, sculpted, drawn or collaged eyes on five-inch square wood panels. Why eyes? The curator’s uncle runs an eye clinic in the Philippines, where he performs eye surgery on the poor and blind. Part of the monies made from the sale of the artful eyes will go to the clinic.

Richard Kalina: New Paintings and Watercolors - Lennon, Weinberg Gallery

portofcall.jpgI had the pleasure of meeting Richard Kalina at a WAX (Writers and Artists Exchange) Conference in San Antonio a while back. I knew his work from previous shows at Lennon/Weinberg, but was happy to hear his thoughts on contemporary art in Texas as he spoke to a gathered throng. He has a penetrating way about him. He gets inside and outside issues or concepts simultaneously, which makes sense, since that is the way his art appears to be designed. The fields he sometimes creates in his art move in and out, forward and back, like oscillating winds between city skyscrapers - an effect achieved through vibrating color and suggestive line.

Joyce Pensato: This Must Be The Place - Parker's Box Gallery

homer.jpg Walking into Joyce Pensato's one-person show is like stepping into someone else's fantasy where the inhabitants are kindly, funny, and sometimes hilarious. Pensato sets her sights on the likes of Donald Duck, Homer Simpson, Zozo (a 1950s politically correct monkey from France), and the ever-present Bunny. These figures are obviously friends of the artist - studio playmates who dance with her as she wields big strokes of drippy enamel.

Since she only uses black and white paint, there is an overwhelming sense of another age when the cartoon was in its infancy, and when the audience was fresh.