Preliminary Conclusions 4, Al Ravitz
RICHARD VAN DER AA - pictures of paintings
JOSHUA HUYSER - Shivelight
SKY GLABUSH - Surfacing
NOEL MORICAL - Friendly Ghosts
On view: March 3 - April 14, 2017
I've been living with the show we just took down for a couple of months now. Sue usually makes the curatorial choices, and although I knew this one hung together, the left side of my brain couldn't quite put things into verbal perspective. Although I can respond to things affectively without the need for language, I like to put things into words – even though it’s usually quite painful:
There is nothing spiritual about any of the work. Rather it’s about non-narrative materiality, which is the kind that appeals to me the most. Non-narrative content is usually what I’m looking for; otherwise I’d rather read a book or see a movie.
I’ll begin with the Richard van der Aa paintings. They look like pictures of defined areas of emptiness, but they are actually densely material representations of a single painting (under different conditions, I imagine). So they are densely representative, like Peter Dreher glass paintings.
Joshua Huyser’s watercolors look as if he is painting the opposite of emptiness. But, he's putting things – mostly empty vessels – into an empty field, drawing out the distinction between something and nothing. So, in contrast to van der Aa, Josh is really painting emptiness, an emptiness that’s highlighted by the intrusion of a thing in an empty field.
The other two artists more sculptural. Rather than creating representations of things in emptiness, they create real things in real empty space.
Sky Glabush’s painted weavings look two-dimensional, but they have texture. This is not a representation of a material thing. It is an actual material thing that is imbued. I'm not quite ready to say what it’s imbued with. I haven't thought about it enough.
Finally, there are Noel Morical’s sculptures. When I sit with them, I’m reminded of Ruth Asawa – only psychedelic, mind expanding. Noel’s work is imbued with tactility and color, and it is suggestive. Almost like a weird experiment to investigate the way material objects with certain qualities can inhabit and transform space. And the shapes of these things allow Noel to work intensively with color in a space impossible to capture with painting.
Both Sue and I love grabbing these sculptures. Their tactility creates a certain kind of comfort. It feels really good to squeeze them. That is an amazing quality for an object to have, squeezability. That's what I mean about psychedelic. It's mind bending.
Preliminary Conclusions 3, Al Ravitz
JOHN MENDELSOHN - Dream Garden
ANNA SHTEYNSHLEYGER - 26 Court
JOHN PHELAN - Seats and Chairs
On view: January 6 - February 18, 2016
I've been a psychiatrist for almost 40 years. I do a lot of different things, but the thing I do the most is work with divorcing families, either as a court ordered custody evaluator, a parent coordinator (someone who helps divorced couples make decisions about their children), or a couples and/or individual psychotherapist. In this capacity, I spend my days listening, talking, and writing reports.
I also collect art – again for about 40 years. As far as I'm concerned, the psychiatry and the art are not really connected. In fact, when I hear people getting all psychological about art and artist, I get bored and sleepy. I want to activate some part of my nervous system that cannot be linguistically characterized. I want to feel something rather than think something. This is what I wrote about this previously: “There is a real but invisible world that each of us uniquely inhabits. Its characteristics are based mostly on chance – genetic endowment; the physical and social circumstances of daily life; history, both personal and cultural; and of course, good or bad luck. When we encounter something that allows us to make contact with that invisible world, the result is a psycho-aesthetic experience.”
Anna's Shteynshleyger’s show, “26 Court,” represents a challenge to my non-verbal bias. I very much like the formal aspects of the exhibit – a bunch of essentially monochrome photos and a few crazy monochrome sculptures. But the work also clearly relates to her experience of divorce, and this is a subject with which I have a great deal of professional familiarity. I see divorcing people almost every day. I listen to them and try to understand them. If I’m doing treatment, I try to help them.
Anna's work clearly derives from the biological, psychological, historical, legal, and socioeconomic complexity of her divorce, but I don’t want to try to figure out what these photographs and sculptures mean, or what they say about the artist. That would be just like going to work – and besides, there is more to the work than the divorce. I want let these things wash over me. She’s taken her experience, abstracted it, and then created a series of objects inhabited by that abstracted experience. It gives me a "nothing is free" feeling, but it might give you something entirely different.
John Phelan’s show, “Seats and Chairs,” just boils down existence into its very simple essence. During my late adolescence I “discovered,” through a variety of activities, that everything is connected to everything else. Phelan's room compresses this “everything is everything” concept into a tight but very familiar loop – asses serve a variety of functions. How lovely. How deep.
Finally, John Mendelssohn's paintings really do resist any verbal narrative. Whereas the other two exhibits are conceptual, Mendelsohn's is purely visual – just color, surface, and material. It's an investigation without words. It evokes a psycho-aesthetic response, especially at certain times of the day, that is exactly what I’m looking for.
Preliminary Conclusions 2, Al Ravitz
GWENN THOMAS - Standard Candles
LAEL MARSHALL - Waiting Room
MICHELE ALPERN - Project Space
On view: November 4 - December 17, 2016
When I wrote about Anne Thompson’s Color-Word Value Index, I said her project resonated with something that stubbornly resists definition, “a real but invisible world that each of us uniquely inhabits … based mostly on chance – genetic endowment; the physical and social circumstances of daily life; history, both personal and cultural; and of course, good or bad luck.” When I wrote about the next show, I thought about the intersection between memory and perception.
The Michelle Alpern drawings in our Project Space reside within a very specific environment – mounted in books on a table, lit with specific table lamps, you have to wear gloves to turn the pages. It’s hard work. The images are tiny – tiny – so small you don't want to bother to look at them because you assume there will be nothing there to engage your interest. It just looks indecipherable. You have to force yourself to sit and open (or empty) your mind, so you can inhabit the invisible world. After some effort the images expand until you can see something, but what you see turns out to be indecipherable, a language without symbols or narrative content. It’s an itch you can’t scratch, so you just have to get used to it. The process is liberating; it frees you to see things in an entirely new light.
Lael Marshall utilizes recognizable domestic materials to create abstract shapes. She suggests a language composed of familiar referents, but she dissects out the meaning. To see her objects you have to let go of your assumptions about both domesticity and abstraction. There is no specific meaning, just a suggestion that there is a wide variety of experience.
Gwenn Thomas’s Standard Candles is in the main gallery. Her photograph and wall paintings challenge our physical perception of the world. Her photographs of windows evoke a feeling of depth, when in fact they are super-flat. Her wall paintings under translucent Plexiglas look incredibly flat when in fact they enclose and therefore influence a series of empty spaces.
It's good to question the nature of the universe. Blah blah blah …
Preliminary Conclusions 1, Al Ravitz
ANDY SPENCE - Friends and Places
ALLAN McCOLLUM - Screengrabs with Reassuring Subtitles
MATTHEW FEYLD - One, Two, Three
On view: September 9 - October 21, 2016
The nice thing about running a space that shows art is that I get to live with the work. This “living with” evokes certain experiences. I form memories of those experiences. Each time I see the work, my perception is influenced by my memory. This, in case you haven't noticed, is an argument for living with art rather than just looking at it, which is an argument for collecting.
Anyway, here is a summary of my experience of living with our last show: I first saw Andy Spence's work in a catalog from 1992. He was an artist who, in some way or another, seemed to create abstract representations of things that existed in the material world – e.g. the metal siding of a trailer, or the shape of the seat of an Eames chair.
Allan McCollum is an artist whose work I’ve followed for many years. He idiosyncratically abstracts the essence of things we classify as art. The experience of his work is disconcerting – it challenges all sorts of assumptions. He said he might have an interest in doing a sort of site-specific project for the waiting room of my psychiatric office.
In our small project space we decided to do a show of paintings by Matthew Feyld, a young artist from Montreal who Sue met on Instagram years ago, and whose work we collect and exhibit.
The shows were hung. Sue and I were satisfied with the way they looked. Six weeks later I'm thinking about the work as it comes down.
First, Andy Spence: His Friend Paintings are self-portraits that are both anonymous and distinct. He repetitively paints and sands each one, until the canvas ground becomes entirely invisible. What is left is an image of a complex psychological construct, made entirely of paint, and made corporeal through the use of a collaged canvas shape. But the corporeality is generic, without specific narrative meaning. All the detail is nonverbal – surface, color, depth, shape, size.
Next, Allan McCollum: In the past he has always abstracted ideas (I think) but the current project, “Screengrabs with Reassuring Subtitles,” abstracts an affective experience. It represents, in180 iterations, both our deepest need – for everything to be okay – and our most urgent fear, that things won't be.
Finally, Matthew Feyld: His work is more experiential than conceptual. While the show was up I periodically sat in the chair in the middle of the room with the three paintings, so I could be with them. I was struck with how the light traveled through the layers of paint, evoking an altered experience every time I sat with these simple white dots. The result was that they always looked a little different than when I last viewed them, which gets back to this whole idea of living with art rather than looking at it.