Art Review

Borderline

Counterpoints to the Narrative
Lichtundfire Gallery, NYC
May 31 - June 30, 2017
The exhibition is jointly organized through Lichtundfire and Katharine Carter & Associates, D. Dominick Lombardi, Curator.

The concept of walls and borders has been tossed around with such frequency of late, and with such politically charged implications, it seems almost anticlimactic that artists would address this notion within a primarily aesthetic context. Counterpoints to the Narrative curated by D. Dominick Lombardi, features a group of artists exploring ideas that are simple, yet provocative, visuals of this complex subject matter. Sparky Campanella, Mark Sharp, and Martin Weinstein, two painters, one photographer, whose work, seen in combination is much more than a contrast in method and style; rather, it is a meditation on visuality and viewership. These artists are creating work that explores some of the ideas Rudolf Arnheim has put forth regarding the contrast between "seeing into" a work of art, and "seeing as."

A Summer Breeze...

Ting Lui: A Breeze Comes From ‘Meng Bana Xi’ 
Paris Koh Fine Arts, NY
May 16 - 26, 2017

The exhibition, A Breeze Comes from ‘Meng Bana Xi,' displays recent oil on canvas works whose quirkiness and individuality are rare in an era of globalization, when standardized ideas take on a generic identity that reveals few personal hints about the artist who creates them. The twenty-four paintings on view provide a glimpse of purity undiluted by outside contemporary influences. Ting works in a small isolated village in South China, near the Myanmar (Burmese) border, separate from the hip and the trendy burgeoning yet government “guided” art centers of Shanghai and Beijing. These works are rife with messages and feelings that seem on the brink of exploding. Her demonstrative approach, which harks to the era when both the German Expressionists and Edvard Munch gave voice to their dark feelings of foreboding and anxiety, is viewed by local Chinese authorities with suspicion. Ting fails to follow the official lines whose boundaries determine acceptable styles and content for contemporary art in China.

The Moviegoer

Robert Longo: The Destroyer Cycle
Metro Pictures Gallery, NYC
May 3 - June 17, 2017

Looking at the career of the artist Robert Longo can be a philosophical meditation on style. Style, as opposed to stylization, is a key to understanding Longo’s importance as an artist, both at the beginning of his career with the Men in Cities drawings, through his large charcoal drawings of guns, to his blue-chip Abstract Expressionist paintings, and into this recent, powerful exhibition at Metro Pictures.

Watching With My Ears: The Improvised Paintings of Jorgo Schaefer

For the past 17 years, painter and graphic artist Jorgo Schaefer from Wuppertal, Germany has been an artist-in-residence at the New York Vision Festival, one of the world’s premier festival’s of avant-garde jazz, dance, poetry, film and visual art. 

Steve Dalachinsky Can you explain a bit about your process and becoming an artist?

Jorgo Schaefer: My career as a professional artist started in 1970 at the Werkkunstschule (WKS, School of Applied Arts) in Wuppertal. At this time, the WKS was a highly regarded institution with a long tradition. It was not an art academy but arts were a key element. Artistic skills were taught as well as philosophy. Our freshman class consisted of 15 students and we were hanging out together day and night, influenced and inspired by the political and artistic movements of about 4 good years. Plus: Amsterdam was just around the corner...

Wide Awake in America

C. Michael Norton: When Paintings Awake
David&Schweitzer Contemporary, Brooklyn
April 14, 2017 - May 7, 2017

There was a time, over a century ago, when the idea of a purely abstract painting, one which referenced only the means of its creation, was a far-off goal, a seemingly unattainable dream. In the following decades this idea was tested, tried, worked, and re-worked until the project engendered many and various permutations. Post-modern, appropriational, deconstructed -- the list of approaches to this idea is legion; yet there endures some compulsion, some drive that seems hardwired, to create paintings of pure visuality. Just when we think we have come to the end of this story we find new characters waiting in the wings, new gladiators wanting into the arena. In C. Michael Norton’s current exhibit at David&Schweitzer Contemporary we see that this project still has viability. Indeed, Norton seems to open new fields of exploration.

Transubstantial

Dona Nelson: Models Stand Close to the Paintings
Thomas Erben Gallery, NYC
Through May 6th, 2017

Dona Nelson is showing new paintings at Thomas Erben Gallery. There is no other artist in America that is a "modern painter" in so many different ways without losing her centre.

Trying to subvert its meaning seems to be part of the definition of what modern art is. There doesn't seem to be an accurate way to define an activity that is made up of a system or interelating systems that has occasional contradictions built into it, But art doesn't seem the worse for it. Modern painting in particular is like a series of interconnected temples where people are constantly entering and trying to knock down a load bearing pillar to see if it still stands or if it's now something else. It's quite often a sign that that particular approach is thriving.

Spring Is Nearly Here

Taegyu Lim: Blurry Scene
Gallery d’Arte, NY
March 1 - 15, 2017

The exhibition “Blurry Scene” presents atmospheric landscape works where wild pristine nature is shrouded in falling snow and low misty clouds hover over the horizon, establishing a sense of silence and solitude. While Lim’s touch with ink on paper is steeped in the tradition of the Asian masters, his art is linked as well to the landscape tradition of Western artists whose longing to be one with nature strikes a cord with Lim’s vision. In many cultures, mountains are said to represent the spiritual forces that inhabit the landscape where earth and heaven are believed to merge. Cézanne’s preeminent connection with the iconic Mont Sainte-Victoire parallels Lim’s attraction to the vertical sweep of the mountain in his snowy vista (“Dong River,” oriental ink mounted on rice paper with sealed white porcelain powder, 2016) that dwarfs a small figure by its majestic towering tiers.

Hard Times

Julian Schnabel: New Plate Paintings
Pace Gallery, NY
Feb 24th - Mar 25th, 2017

I'm not going to write a bad review of Julian Schnabel's show of roses painted on smashed plates up at Pace Gallery. I don't believe it matters what I think of them. The parameters that embraced what was good and rebuffed what was bad are mostly no longer in place. The people who will buy these paintings for $900,000 are as far from me as the people who built the pyramids were from those inside them.

The Beauty of Portraits

Dong Yeoun Lee: Project Room
Gallery d’Arte, NY
2/28 - 3/14, 2017

Dong Yeoun Lee's series of female portraits features standing and sitting young women in traditional Korean dress who display a range of technological devices. Although the scroll paintings elicit a definite Asian sensibility (oriental coloring on oriental paper), they are reminiscent of the art of Thomas Gainsborough who produced sympathetic portraits of female subjects, which penetrated their social "masks" to reveal the truth of their character. Lee’s works are shorn of site-specific ornamentation; they hone the essence of solitary or dual figures situated on empty formats, which accentuate their faces and poses.

The young women exist in isolation within the confines of the vertical design as they quietly assert their presence. The figure in "Clear Girl" displays a contemplative smile, mysterious and inward, not unlike a "Mona Lisa" smile in its enigmatic purity and elusiveness. The girl in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" (2012) dresses traditionally but her preoccupations appear to be thoroughly modern as she listens, presumably, to music with headsets, wears a digital watch and seems to be using a Bluetooth device with her cell phone. Her Hanbok garment signifies the ability to participate in the customs of historical eras as well as present day trends. The girl's modest reserved demeanor might suggest that she is "old-fashioned" apart from her display and use of contemporary devices. The subjects are out to communicate on whatever level they are functioning on at the present moment.

The communication tools infuse a narrative element into several of the works; the females in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 1," and "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" convey the impression that they experience no strife or conflicts, but accept the intersection of past and present, navigating diverse cultural expectations in a hybrid life.