As always, “Thru the Rabbit Hole” is a convocation of friends, relatives, artists, gallerists and art critics—but with plenty of room for those other free spirits who don’t have any special connection with the gallery, but simply shine with talent.
I am so sorry that – due to my travels in England – I’m not getting to review this memorable exhibition until more than half-way through its run. However, even seeing it that late wasn’t late enough to perceive all its splendors.
By that I mean that in the image Impresario Timperio sent me to illustrate this review, he features front and center an untitled cascade of blue blocks by Tadashi Hashimoto that was only completed in 2017, and didn’t arrive at the gallery until after I’d left it.
It measures only 12 inches in all directions, but looks larger because the camera (or smart phone, or whatever) was so much closer to it that it was to the other works in the distance behind it.
At any rate, in the two hours I spent with this show, I was able to take in and make notes on only 89 of the works in it –about 17 percent of the total.
All I can say in my own defense is that I mean no disrespect to the works that didn’t stand out for me – it’s just that after those two hours, I began to suffer from sensory overload, and became incapable of making further evaluations.
To which I should add that everybody else should go to this exhibition themselves, and pick out their own favorites. There are so many works of art to choose from!
If I had to characterize this show in terms of its previous incarnations, I would say that I was particularly struck this year by the amount of humor in it, and also by what seems like a slightly larger number of mixed media contributions, especially works of art with beads and/or feathers.
Yet this is not to discount the wealth of relatively traditional work. Again as always – it’s so nice to see a show where abstract and representational paintings, drawings and so forth co-exist peaceably, complementing each other instead of arguing
Of the 89 items I list in my own mini-checklist, 42 are abstracts and 42 are representational, with the remainder—from conceptual to kinetic and back again – categorized by me as “other.”
Even 89 items, however, is too many for me to comment on individually, so I have –rather cavalierly, I’m afraid -- decided to limit my individual comments to works done in the past year – i.e. dated 2016.
There are 40 of them -- most of them individual works of art by individual artists, though including one trio of works by the same artist, and one work done jointly by a pair of artists.
The remaining contributions that stood out for me, ranging in date from 1981 to 2015, and including several undated works, I shall simply list by the name of the artist.
I mean no disrespect to these talented contributors, either, but my background, after all, is in the news media, so I am always (perhaps unduly) interested in the hottest news -- what documents the latest developments with the artist.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Here, then, are 42 artists whose works – although undated or dating from before 2016 – impressed me (to one degree or another) with their charm, personality and professional know-how.
I give them in reverse chronological order, starting with four undated works, followed by two completed over a period of time, and then 36 beginning with the most recent (dated 2015) and winding up with the oldest (dated 1981).
They are: Dan Christensen; Marjorie Minkin; Sasha Silverstein; Joanne Pagano Weber; Phillip Gerstein; Edward Herman; David Fratkin; Robert Guillot; Heide Hatry; Caren Canier; Cara London; Mario Naves; Bill Page; Janet Rutkowski;
Also Eleanor Steinadler; Lori Tannis; Robert Otto Epstein; Debra Friedkin; Jayne Holsinger; Jenny Lyn McNutt; Lauren Olitski; Sandi Slone; Mike Sterling; Dominick Guida; Tadashi Hashimoto; Fran Kornfeld; Emily Feinstein;
And finally Robert Morgan; Lee Tribe; Carol Diamond; Tom Warren; Peggy Cyphers; Louise P. Sloane; Christopher Tanner; Bruce Piermarini; Francine Tint; Bob Witz; Ellen Rand; Ronnie Landfield; Thornton Willis; Jean-Michel Basquiat; and Stewart Hitch.
FROM THE HEADLINES – IN THE FRONT GALLERY
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty of those 46 items by 45 artists who (presumably) labored long and hard in 2016 to bring us the fruits of their fertile imaginations. These I am going to give (more or less) in the order that I witnessed them.
This is to say, I begin with the front gallery, starting right around the door leading to the street, checking out the area behind the reception desk, then circling the rest of this space in a clockwise direction, to wind up where I began.
Next, I progress to the back gallery, and view it in a clockwise direction, beginning with the north wall (to the left as you enter that space).
Almost the first painting that struck me was “Tania Peter Lewis,” a powerful portrait of a very individual-looking woman of African descent by Fulvia Zambon. Over and over again, I have admired the paintings of this outstanding realist, which are always not only painted with great style but continue to interest me with their subject matter.
I haven’t always commented on the conceptualist contributions of Loren Munk. But, with his oceans of careful, pastel-colored lettering, detailing one or another aspect of the art world, he continues to offer fodder for thought.
His latest, “Pictures Generation (study)” focuses on successive (?) generations of artists who may (or may not?) have something in common with each other, together with miscellaneous details about them. The title suggests that Munk is dealing with that group of artists from the later 80s known as "The Pictures Generation," but he also features Andy Warhol prominently and Warhol was a star already in the '60s....
Coming myself recently from gall bladder surgery, I was fascinated to learn that the premature death of Warhol followed his gall bladder surgery (and in the same hospital where I was immured!)
High above the front door of the gallery hangs “From Santa Rosa to Minsk” by Randy Bloom. This distinguished abstract painter has most recently been moving slowly away from the painterly and toward the geometric.
This is the most hard-edged effort from her that I’ve seen, but it still retains that breath of life which is so much more common in the painterly and so often absent in the geometric.
High above your heads is also where you need to look to see “Count on Time,” by Ed Potokar. This 8-foot-long, rotating kayak-shaped musical instrument, hung from the ceiling, is made of steel, wood and electronic gear.
It repeats two notes, one after the other, seeming to create the sounds by the use of a plectrum element that plucks strings of steel (?). Arresting.
Behind the desk is a good example of the cozy relationship fostered by this show between abstraction and representation. Surrounding a rather sweet little landscape is a group of abstractions and/or map-like configurations. Among this surrounding group, the contributions of Elizabeth Hazen, Szilvia Revesz, & Liv Mette Larsen stand out.
Nearby is a curiously-shaped but witty little assemblage and mask by Lawrence Swan, entitled “Hungry Ghost;” an Eden-like, idyllic small fantasy by Megan Williamson, entitled “Landscape with Figures and a Female Moose” (!); and “Self-Portrait, Dec. 2016,” by Yoshiko Kanai -- done in watercolor and pencil, this thoughtful figure is shown wearing a pale green dress.
Next to that comes a classically simple comic figure of a chicken, seen from the rear and by Samantha Crohn. It is impishly entitled “What What.” And on a small nearby shelf stands a perfect little vase, glazed in shining grayish black, by Judy Aiello.
High on another wall at this particular juncture is “Tragedy Goat.” An oil on canvas by Sally Eckhoff, this little beastie is done in pink and blue on yellow. Below it, but still high up, is a convivial blue, black and white acrylic on paper by John Berens showing people on a rainy street and entitled “Village.”
Not too far away is a sketchy black-and-white abstract ink drawing on watercolor paper, “Long Store II,” by Lauren Bakoian, plus an appealing spatter-painted abstract by Rebecca Kane. The latter is entitled “Space Candy,” and features yellow on red and blues on greens in mixed media.
Then comes a multiple that really hits the spot with me: three “Voodoo Dolls,” portraying Kellyanne Conway, Melania Trump and The Donald himself (with such long hair that despite his suit he too looks like a girl).
All, in addition to being pinioned to the wall, are stuck full of pins (and it couldn’t happen to a nicer trio).
They are by Carrie Skoczek, and, while I’ve admired her stuffed effigies before, somehow bringing politics into the mix and sticking her trophies full of pins add immeasurably to the final effect.
Below them is a quietly melodic abstract, done in a mix of oil, acrylic and pastel by Fumiko Kitada, a native of Japan who has been living in Brooklyn for the last few decades.
Rounding the corner onto the north wall of the front gallery, we pass a dashing orange-and-turquoise abstract acrylic on paper mounted on linen. It is entitled “Sundown on Gowanus” and is by Jeffrey Kurland.
Close by is a sepia oil on linen by Diane Kepford showing the face of a woman – or is it a man? Aptly enough, its title bears homage to a noted historical gender-bender: “After Leonardo.”
Clayton Mitropoulos is responsible for a cryptic neo-primitive view of 2 white-faced hotties in low-cut green and yellow dresses. There is a tantalizing hint of the 1920s in their makeup and costumes but the title gives away no secrets: it is simply “30-Mar-16.”
Another homage to a star is provided by Ken Butler, with a transparent rip-off of the bronze bull’s head that Picasso cast from a bicycle seat and handles.
Butler’s bright idea is to go back to basics, and create a sculpture using an actual bicycle seat and handles. I’m not sure this is an improvement, but it’s a provocative whimsy.
I’ve praised the photography of Jim Anderson before, but he keeps on coming up with winners. According to the checklist, his contribution this time is tripartite, and entitled “Downtown; Color; Tattoos.”
The photograph I found most impressive achieves magical color combinations. It shows a tan-skinned Latino-looking kid with a baseball hat on backwards and red and white clothing passing two doors on a street. One is a matching red, the other a complementary chartreuse, white and black.
Another Jim – Walsh -- is another artist I always pay attention to, nor does he disappoint this year. His moody acrylic on canvas is entitled “The Sea” and earns its title from its constituent blues, grays and whites (with a vivid yellow blob to set them all off).
But what I found even more piquant was the combination of glossy and matte finishes, plus a thinner application of Walsh’s hallmark molding paste than I have seen in his work in some time. Is this the direction he is going?
“Crustacean Man,” by Ron Richter, shows the artist to be a master of the labor-intensive. His detailed acrylic on wood has an uncannily surrealist quality, being composed as it is out of nautical themes—including a conch shell for his “man’s” head, a giant crab or lobster claw, and a clown riding a fish.
Right at the corner of this gallery, where its north wall meets its east wall, is the handiwork of Ginger Andro & Chuck Glicksman -- a team whose ingenious mixed-media creations I have saluted in previous years.
This year, Andro’s contribution is called “Astro-Turf USA” and Glicksman’s, “Which Came First.” The combination of these two elements is strangely reminiscent of a free-standing birdbath with a nest on top of it, surrounded by images of baby chicks emerging from their eggs….I think.
Rounding out the gallery and returning to its west wall, I couldn’t help but notice a small but delicious untitled, predominantly gray acrylic on canvas by Larry Poons. Although dated 2016, it reminded me of his work from the 80s…..could it be a segment from an earlier, larger piece?? Does it really matter?
FROM THE HEADLINES – IN THE BACK GALLERY
Greeting the visitor on the north wall of the back gallery is a lovely oil on canvas showing what looks to be a musical group in a brick-walled pub somewhere. They range from children to seniors, 14 figures in all.
The style is a quaint, semi-primitive one that suits its subject to a T. The artist is Colleen Deery, and the title (for reasons best known to her) is “A Bag of Spuds.”
Not far away, is “SWAY,” by Ann Walsh, another artist whom I have long considered singularly talented. Though she is still working with brilliantly colored sheets of vinyl (on an aluminum panel), her idiom and presentation continue to evolve.
Instead of the rectilinear shapes that she once favored, she is now seen employing wavy bands of color (here three bands, one each of pink, yellow and red). She has also evolved from freestanding pieces to flat works that – like paintings -- hang against the wall.
Mark Zimmerman is also an abstractionist, but of a very different stripe. I say “stripe” advisedly – his “Dutchess,” a 21-inch square image made with acrylic, graphite and charcoal, is predominantly composed of many neat, narrow, horizontal stripes. They are white, black, silver and pale blue, bisected down the middle of the picture and exceptionally likeable.
Peter Reginato offers “D Zone White,” a shiny enamel gray abstract with a row of circular white blobs that look rather like balloons, clustering across the bottom of the canvas—like balloons whose air has partially gone out of them. My preference might be for these balls to float exuberantly to the top, as though inflated only moments ago.
This effect might have been achieved by hanging the canvas the other way around – but hey, in its way this is still a very distinctive painting, and there’s no accounting for tastes…..
Turning to the east wall in this back gallery, we have a 5-foot high colored-ink on paper cutout of an egg-shaped individual with a cheery smile upon his face, appropriately titled “Humpty” and brought to us by Carrie Beckmann.
Not far away is “The Fourth Refusal,” by Tony Geiger. This 20” x 16” acrylic on canvas depicts a somewhat surreal and pleasantly disturbing out-sized insect (cricket? locust?) being impaled by a sword.
Paula De Luccia, whose paintings I always enjoy, seems in this show to be hovering somewhere between painting and her alternate enthusiasm, sculpture, with an untitled raised plaque and cutout shapes glued to it.
As usual, her colors are luscious, with a yellow field overlaid by apple green, and the cutout shapes yellow, blue and white. This may not be my personal favorite De Luccia, but it is innovative & fresh.
Sticking out from a projecting corner in the east wall, and – as always – commanding its space entirely, is another of those marvelous mechanized kinetic “machines” that Steve Gerberich has become famous for. Again, it is one I cannot resist.
Entitled “Twittering Machine – homage to Paul Klee,” it centers on an antique sewing machine, positioned upside-down at the top of a pole, and festooned with feathers, a mess of what could be bicycle bells and two light bulbs.
When the viewer steps on the foot pedal at the end of a cable to the ground, the sewing machine jiggles, the bulbs light up and little cymbals and/or bells go jingle, jangle, jingle. I don’t what Klee would have made of it, but I found it diverting.
Further along on that east wall is a very nice little landscape by Marianne Barcellona, entitled “Sunday in the Park with Rick.” And standing in the middle of the gallery on its own modest plinth is another delectably realistic fairly little piece of sculpture (16” high).
This one was made of cast ultracal by Harvey Citron, director of sculpture and anatomy at the New York Academy of Art, New York’s most traditional art school, and is entitled “Sketch (maquette for sculpture).”
It could be a study for a “Descent from the Cross,” having as it does many intertwined, almost floating human figures. But are they maybe saints or holy people? Or are they angels resting on a cloud??
Not far away is another one of those bizarre assemblages at which Christybomb excels, complete with its familiar rows of beads and jewel-encrusted cigarettes.
Entitled “Skull and Cross Frogs,” this one introduces a further element that I don’t remember from last year: six glass eyeballs, two in their proper place -- the skull’s eye sockets -- and four smaller ones on its forehead….can this be where frogs look out on the world??
With something like relief one comes back to two relatively small and far more serene abstracts, one a sculpture and the other, a painting.
“Snack,” a brightly-colored, 3” x 5” x 7” rectangular hardwood piece by Bix Lye, stands on its own little shelf attached to the wall.
“Light Study #51” by Kim Uchiyama is an even mellower (though considerably larger) oil on linen built around complementary stripes.
A final foursome, on the west wall of the back gallery, includes a nice small allover abstract, “Sweet!” by Manon Amiot; and an attractive portrait by Don Statham of a fellow artist having coffee in his studio, entitled “Mayor of Williamsburg, Larry Lee Webb;”
Also a crisply precisionist oil showing the Domino sugar factory and other buildings, by Anna West; and last – but far from least – a wondrous assemblage, “The Eye Catcher,” by Cheyenne Timperio, utilizing wood, feathers and leather in a fine free web that comes straight from the Wild West which (one might say) is her heritage….