Sunday, February 24, 2008

Juan Usle at Cheim & Read

A recent series of paintings by Juan Usle on view at Cheim & Read reveals the artist's interest in transferring personal experience into visual constructions. The paintings conversate with one another expressing unique characteristics based on color, line and pattern. They vibrate with blissful shouting, as if color emerge on their own accord and organic form coordinates them into systems of vibrant environments.
Upon entering the gallery the viewer is struck by their immediacy and overwhelming presence. The uniformity between them is not created by the instruments used and the artist intention as much as their ability to create an environment of clarity, spontaneity, organic compartmentalizing, and sinuous grids. The contradicting formal elements of each work make Usle much more than a Greenbergian formalist, he is rather, an AbEx expressionist thats been cultured by the conventional wisdom that is Modernism.
Usle's use of instruments to execute the textile patterning of each stroke crates a static and uniform surface that is contradicted by the movement and fluidity of the curves and shapes they create. In La Escena Perdida, which translates to "The Lost Scene", flat black chords striped by a mark making tool intersect each other, uniting and dispersing in free movement without reference to coordination or choreography. Each strand is a member in this spontaneous dance, spiraling in and out to infinity. The minimal use of color in this painting seems to create a dissection that stalls or amputates each stroke. The ambivalence and allusion, the multi-defining within each painting is also contradicted by the precise and clarity of color, the smoothness of surface, the uniformity of the grid. In Aislados, or "Isolated", a consistent brick pattern spreads throughout the canvas, none is equal in siye to the other, they stand alone and independent forming a crowd of identical difference. Allusions of shadow and three dimensionality makes room for 2 white feather like strokes to reast on the 2nd tier of squares, members isolated from the rest of their group, standing, or laying, or being, in peace, or rather, in paranoiac loneliness. The freedom of interpretation makes the artist intent indeterminate, but the title of each gives a slight clue into the realm of these non-figures, a reflection of the artist's personal experiences and surroundings.
Standing at the center of the gallery, the viewer will easily notice the triptych of square grids on one side, and on the reflecting wall 3 painting of swirly shapes and lines. Its as if these opposing works are 2 identities of 1 form, the duality created within this setting makes for an almost schizophrenic impulse, grounded on non-conformity and ambiguity.
The irony in Usle's paintings is reflected again in Sin Desenlace, "Without Outcome", with its overwhelming layering of form, pattern, and color. Loops, lines, perpendiculars, stripes, patches, all these forms gather, as if at war with each other, fighting to conquer and overtake the surface of the canvas to no avail. The painting is chaotic, an overload of lines and colors that is too disorienting to absorb. But the clarity and smoothness of the surface bring the forms together and comforts the viewer with the safety of the line between us and "them".
The dichotomy that rests in the works of Usle is ingenious in their randomness, in its unplanned multiplicity, and the absolute ambivalence and conflict it creates in the viewer. It is spontaneously a refreshing and flabbergasting experience.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

John Morris at D'Amelio Terras

A series of intimate paintings by John Morris on view at D'Amelio Terras, consisting of obsessive details in the shape of swirls, dashes, dots and lines. Mostly in white made translucent by a layer of wax, these small abstract works are ethereal, repetitive, organic and serial. Each painting on board focuses on a particular motif, repeated in differing shades and sizes, overlapping, underlapping, crossing, and chaffing each other as if in conversation. The narratives created are completely up to the imagination of the viewer and they are subtle in message.
Each pattern creates a world of its own, they are deceivingly simple, revealing an intertwined network of channels, of forms, of delicate energy.

Hans Haacke at Paula Cooper

A mini-retrospective of works by Hans Haacke at Paula Cooper, minimal and scarce in number but enough to create an environment that is diverse in medium, concept, and subject.
The strongest and most emotionally influential is Wide White Flow from 1967 which consists of large white fabric dreamily billowing by a few fans. Each corner is fitted to the floor preventing chaotic stormy movement. The fans create waves of movement, an energy in constant flux, but steady in tone, serene in attitude. Its all encompassing size is contradicted by its closeness to the floor, as if stunted, limited in its freedom to expand and billow into infinitum.
His controversial and signature photographic conceptual piece, Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, is on view in a separate room, a line of buildings stationed on the wall, an unforgiving simplicity attached to its concept of political and social significance. Not very easy to digest, or perhaps too easily digested without proper chewing, this series is often dismissed for its lack of formal aesthetic but this is precisely what the artist intends, making the viewer struggle in finding a meaning behind all the closed doors. The data gathered comments to a social system based on ownership, power and manipulation, as the rich get richer thus kicking out the less fortunate from their forced state of comfort.
A more recent work consists of a dilapidated couch, torn, stained and ugly on which is planted an embroidered pillow quoted with words by George H.W. Bush and a torn paper flag, its other half still in its frame above the couch. The message is clear, perfectly rendered with simple everyday household goods.
Each work in the show deals with a level of consummation, consuming culture, politics, property, beauty, art viewing, etc. They all reflect current concerns specific to America, of fear of change, obsession with real estate, and the growing promiscuity of the art market.

Mike Cockrill at KENT gallery

A series of works on paper by Mike Cockrill is on view at KENT gallery, a follow up on a recent show on paintings. Both shows cover the almost redundant theme of naiveté, adolescence, sexual curiosity and exploration. They are soft, dreamy and effeminate, with image of pretty girls, butterflies and airy colors. The girls engage the tainted and pedophilic impulses in the viewer with their taunting come hither glances, pleasure driven poses, scanty clothing. They act innocently, we react pornographically. The watercolors are thinnly painted but the result is rich, especially when using colored paper creating a monochrome background making way for a more fantasy driven narrative. The amount of violence imbedded into the narrative is disturbing and leaves the viewer at unease, jumbling pleasure with pain, admiration with repulsion. This ambivalence
Not as successfully affective or intriguing is a series titled from Stations of the Cross. A numbered series of watercolor on paper works picturing various protagonists as Jesus going through the process of life and death and resurrection. In one piece Jesus is a black man, in another Jesus is a series of youthful flirtatious women out of the 50s. Neither convincing nor relevant in its attempt to create a successful fantasy narrative concerning condemnation and regurgitated life lines.
Overall, the works of Mike Cockrill is straightforward in its content, disturbingly beautiful in its formal elements, and unfortunately, dismissive.