• Transforming Visual Territories

    Date posted: November 23, 2009 Author: jolanta
    Experiencing life feels like inhaling fresh air. It’s not like you take a book, read a chapter, and you’ve gained this or that.

    Suzie Walshe

    Milena Jovicevic Popovic, Sugar Free 1. Mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

    A stunning group exhibition, Politics, Practices, and Emotions was one of Broadway Galley’s highlights of the year. Featuring an exciting group of extraordinary international artists, and curated by the visionary Basak Malone, Politics, Practices, and Emotions included Darren Jones, Joseph Farbrook, Andrea Cucchi, Jordi Aguilar, Dilek Ozmen, Milena Jovicevic Popovic, Igor Zaytsev, and Maria Luisa Imperiali. Each artist utilized the gallery space as a forum to explore, focusing on the construction and deconstruction of communication. In this multidisciplinary show, the creative act was explored through a variety of sources, from landscape and body, to sexuality and gender. The exhibition employs each artist’s own fluency in multifarious forms of discourse—from sculpture to photography and painting. In this conceptual exhibition, the artists open a visual dialogue that consciously conceals the borders between art and life, fiction and reality, private and public. With self-established behavioral instructions and rituals, they transform daily life and experiences with a series of works that form a basis for their shrewd and penetrating cultural assessments.

    Andrea Cucchi aims to capture the mood, nature, and ephemerality of place by exploring with life’s subjects, events, moods, and day-to-day trivialities. Informed by an interest in the place of the individual within society, Cucchi is an unusual observer free from the restrictions and stereotypes of many lesser artists. An audacious graphic artist, Cucchi has created a body of complex Surreal and geometric compositions that combine the influences of Cubism and Futurism. Cucchi’s approach to the exhibition is through his poetic contemplation of beauty—in his wood and ink engravings. His exotic vision of exaggerated perspective, with its lines in strange escorza, forms an expressive narrative within the print. Using a limited number of striking colors, Cucchi’s works turn the human figure into a composition of simple, angular shapes, which in more recent work appear overlaid in a strong organic grid of cultural motifs and repeated imagery. Resonating with an unmatched spiritual force Dilek Ozmen’s visionary oil-on-canvas images combine figurative skill, abstract compositions, and geometric design, demonstrating the artist’s obsessive attention to detail. Ozmen’s Universal Solitude floated within the gallery space like a cloud, transporting us from the conscious to the unconscious, the earthly to the celestial, inviting us to transcend our daily experiences. Ozmen’s unusual work exhibits a personality and aesthetic that is diagrammatic, invented, historical, and romantic all at once. His work captures all the energy and spectacle of portraiture, while presenting a subversive world that is personal as well as impersonal. Also working with paint and canvas, Igor Zaytsev creates lovely canvas drawings, such as Element and Muse, bringing forth a compelling, but ambiguous and dream-like image, at the same time depicting an almost renaissance-style composition of intertwined figures, opulence, and emotion. While a larger partially silhouetted figure stands central, his masculine pose draws the viewer into the scene. The juxtaposition of pencil, oil paint, and canvas adds a deconstructed, transgressive element to the work, propelling painting and classicalism toward a contemporary discourse. At the opposite end of the gallery Jordi Aguilar’s abstractions done in pigments, colored gessoes, and recycled print letters are transient and urban, capturing a sense of eternal utilitarian grace and purity. The diaphanous works evoke the immateriality of poetic space through their finely textured and hazey surfaces, achieving a sense of peace, longing, and wonderment.

    Another artist working with paint, but in a more socio-political context, recognizes the painting’s potential to transgress the limits of the canvas edge toward a startling experimental wall sculpture: she rolls, tears, and folds different materials onto the canvas in order to maximize its natural qualities. Popovic who is based in Montenegro, is clearly attracted to attitudes and situations that provoke an extreme visceral answer. She is interested in developing and capturing the potency of the paint versus the subject—which is exactly what the paintings on display do. They hold up a mirror to both the banality of urban life and solitude of glamour, giving order to the barrage of mass media images and information that confront us daily. In Popovic’s fairyland, enchantment and disenchantment coexist. These paintings are really vanitas, made from uninflected slicks of bright inks and paint—giving them a hermetically sealed, impenetrable perfection. While Popovic’s paintings have always emphasized their luscious surfaces and simplified forms, the Sugar series on display possesses a strong melancholic beauty.

    Retaining the surface quality, political element, and the flat economic language, the works on display in Politics, Practices, and Emotions highlight a subject matter broadened to incorporate dramatic imagery. Mirroring a similar social commentary to Popovic are Joseph Farbrook and Darren Jones, who highlight the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and flamboyant methods by which life is experienced and observed.
    Both artists provide a new way of looking at and thinking about the American landscape—connecting the verbal with the visual. Rather than play around with visual ideologies Farbrook utilizes himself within the exhibition as a conceptual artist. The artist’s electronic wall peice was richly decadent, combining visual motifs from the social world with imagery suggestive of domesticity and fundamental emotions.

    As the exhibition evolves from photography to innovative sculpture and installation that are intended to fly in the face of aesthetic convention, the emotional limits of both the artist and the viewer are tested. Malone juxtaposes materials to reveal tensions—between the natural and the man-made, the city and the suburbia, class and culture—creating a record of our desires, obsessions, and excesses. Twentieth-century art move­ments such as Assemblage, Surrealism, and Arte Povera are revisited and updated by the curator high­lighting each of her artist’s capacity to express humor, poetry, and great­ness through humble means. Maria Luisa Imperiali creates bold and powerful sculptural statements that demonstrate the artist’s excavation of secret memories and hidden stories. Her monumental sculptural installation What’s the Reality? is composed of a life-sized creature, suspended on the wall in an abject fashion, which closely correlates to another unknown flesh-colored creature stationed on the gallery floor. Such imagery evokes not only the secrets of shame some of us carry through our daily lives, but also projects a political tone, reminding us of the horrors of genetic modification and animal testing.

    All in all, Politics, Practices, and Emotions demonstrates Malone’s overarching vision that nature can provide humans with a space of reverie and contemplation, as well as being a source of peace and spiritual motivation. The works on view were a compelling mix of technical approaches, all of them speaking to dreamlike and liminal states. At its core, the exhibition characterizes the timeless subject of practice—from the emotion art can create, to the conceptual and theoretical act of the artists’ vision. The exhibition explores unseen territories within contemporary art, juxtaposing Formalism, biography, and psychoanalysis. The works explore how personal politics help us dig deeper into our own selves, allowing us to know ourselves better, and to find the answers within us. In the same way artists take time to reflect and respond to their medium or environment, the viewer does also. With this collection of artists Malone shows us how wonderful it is to explore the art of both emotion and creation.

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