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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

THE ONCE & FUTURE SHOW

Once again, Richard Timperio has mounted his show of shows at Sideshow in Williamsburg. This year, the 13th in the series, it is entitled “Sideshow Nation II: At the Alamo,” and includes work by more than 550 artists (through March 3).

This year is perhaps more classic than in recent years, in that the only mechanized work (by Steve Gerberich, "Free Range") is installed in the window facing the street, and the goofier sorts of conceptualism are at a minimum. But if your taste is for pure art, representational as well as abstract, and expressed in painting, sculpture, drawing, prints and photography, there is more than enough here to pleasure the eye.

Last year, I did an article on Timperio and this show for artcritical.com, in which I likened the show to the huge group Salons mounted by the French Academy back in the 19th century. However, I added, there is one cardinal difference, which is that with Timperio, a consistently high level of quality is maintained.

Somehow that cardinal difference got ironed out in the editing, and, like a fool, I didn’t insist that it go back in. Hence I am reiterating it this year: although “Sideshow Nation II” is as comprehensive and densely hung as those 19th century Salons, the average quality is far, far higher.

One of the artists in the show, Jeffrey Collins, interviewed Timperio and published the interview on You Tube. In this interview, Timperio made a couple of good points: first, that what he displays is work by a (rather large) group of artists, most of whom know many of the others, so that together they constitute a close-knit community or nation. That is why the show is called “Sideshow Nation.”

In addition, the show is democratically hung, with celebrities’ work hung side by side with mid-career artists, esoteric ones and youngsters barely into their exhibiting careers. Timperio explained that the artists, curators and enthusiastic hangers-on who assist him in actually placing the work on the walls simply start with the biggest pieces, then fill in the empty spaces around the larger works with smaller ones--fully aware that size and degree of renown do not equate: indeed, more often than not, the biggest names are represented by the smallest pieces.

As for the show’s subtitle, “At the Alamo,” Timperio explained to me to that it referred to how older buildings all around him are being torn down to make way for new condos—many and maybe all of which got tax abatements to encourage their owners to build them—but also that these abatements mean that the owners of the original buildings in the neighborhood (and their tenants) have to pay more in taxes to make up the difference and as a result, are being driven out. That is why he feels surrounded by hostile entities, just like those Texans in the original Alamo in San Antonio, back in 1836, surrounded by besieging Mexican armies.

In addition to the community and democratic ties that bind together this disparate assembly, as in previous years there are other common traits. Most of the show is full-time artists, but it also includes some at least as well known for their editorial talents as for their artistic ones (Robert Morgan, Mario Naves, Phong Bui); other contributors at least as well known as gallerists (Janet Kurnatowski, Ellen Rand, Pauline Lethen); and contingents bound by family ties, whether we are talking spouses (Walsh/Walsh, Poons/DeLuccia, Liz-N-Val), siblings (Christensen, Diamond, Timperio), or parent/ child (Landfield ).

But enough of generalities--now to specifics! In such a large show, there are always many more worthy works than I can mention; each year I try to make a selection varied as much as possible from the last.

Last year, as I recall, I divided all my mentions up into categories. This time, to vary my presentation, I will present my plaudits in the approximate order in which I saw them—starting (to the best of my recollection) with the south wall in the front gallery (behind the reception desk), and progressing from there to the right (the wall backing onto the street), and so on.

I first became aware of the handsome 22-inch-square, untitled abstract by Larry Poons, executed in 1981, and the nice, loosely poured black-and-lime abstract by Jan Mulder, entitled “Nachtbaum” (2010). Lauren Olitski contributed an undated, thickly-impastoed semi-abstract nude, seen from the back and entitled “Sleeping.” Hidden away, not too far from the floor, was Fran Kornfeld’s delightful little abstract drawing, “Leger Demain I” (2011), with its cloud of finely drawn lines made with ballpoint pen and wax crayon on paper.

Next, my eye was drawn to the half-dozen or so works hanging from the ceiling. Robert Hickman was responsible for a glittering globe that reminded me of those mirrored ones that hung from the ceilings of discos in the 70s, visible only in the quick bursts of strobe lights (though I understand the details on Hickman’s work are more sophisticated). My favorite in the ceiling group, though, was a Calderesque sculptural abstract composition of thick aluminum wires by Andrea Kuo, done just last year.

On the wall backing onto the street, I noticed first four hyperrealist close-up head shots of 3 guys and 1 gal, painted in oil by Meeli Salumae; next, 5 geometrically-shaped paintings with gentle colors by Yvette Cohen. Next came a gently limned etching of the Watteau’s famous Pierrot . By Thaddeus Radell, it conveyed much of the wistful charm of the original painting (in the Louvre). Amy Hill contributed two strikingly small, dark portraits of rough, tough biker types in a 15th century Flemish style.

Also on this wall, Paula DeLuccia departed from painting with a collage, but not a literary one, with newspaper clippings; rather, in the painterly tradition of Esteban Vicente (?) she combined purely visual curved strips of smooth teal, blue, maroon & flesh-colored paper, mounted on a field of roughly-textured, burlap-colored paper. Nearby is a big abstract by Paul Resika, “Pond #12” (2011); at least, it looked like an abstract to me, though it carries a representational title & Resika himself is far better known for his representational work.

Next came “Flock” (2013) by Cheron Tomkins, an abstract acrylic and collage on silvery paper, with pale watery swoops of pink and a central “figure” composed one-half of a vertical blob of midnight blue and one-half of a field of little semi-transparent crescents. The last piece on this wall that stood out for me was a large, appealing, somewhat impressionist oil of the rooftops of a characteristically European town. By Xico Greenwald, it’s entitled “Lisbon, Principe Real” (2013)

On the north wall (facing the reception desk), I noted the cute little watercolor of woods and a horsie, reposing horizontally in an open black, plastic-foam-lined box. This one was by Margery Mellman, and was called “A Tree Fell” (2013). Kim Uchiyama had a sweet, simple little watercolor on paper, entitled “Glide” (2013). Composed of 5 softly curved, horizontal bands of color on a white field, it aptly illustrated the wisdom of that old saying, “Less is more.”

High up on this wall hung “Cowgirl Richelle T” (2011) by Claudia Emilyn Schwalb. Done in loosely-brushed, grisaille oil on engineering paper, it depicted a very generously-endowed, bare-breasted babe in a cowboy hat. Thomasina Webb, meanwhile, showed an extremely detailed and precise watercolor “Insect Study”(1980).

Standing in the middle of the gallery, each on its own pedestal, were four smallish sculptures. The one which came off best for me was the strictly-ordered pile of blue-on-blue painted wood cubes by Tadashi Hashimoto, aptly entitled “Cubic Field” (2013).

Moving on the east wall of the front gallery, I was struck by “Corben” (2013), the large, strong oil by Fulvia Zambon of a dwarf seen in the nude. I also went for the small, shell- or ashtray-shaped, untitled but hydraulically-press stainless steel sculpture done in 2012 by Bernard Klevickas. Scott Williams is also seen to good advantage in his hyperrealist harbor scene oil on linen, called “New Town” (2011). If that isn’t New Jersey, with the Big Apple’s skyscrapers seen in the distance, I’d be surprised.

In addition to a clever little bit of erotica by Liz-N-Val, “Pink Obelisk” (2013), this wall also boasts an ambitious, sizable acrylic abstract with many curved lines all over it by Daniel Rosenbaum, “The Other Side of the Drain” (2013).

Moving on to the back (second) gallery, my attention was captured first by “Blue Horizon” (2012), by Naomi Blum, a small and delicately finished, ice-colored abstraction (or so I took it to be, despite the representational title). I was also amused by the tiny, piquant standing figures, projecting out from the wall, by Alexandra Limpert. Made of steel, they were entitled “Female Figure/Male Figure” (2006)

Then I turned my attention to the north wall of this gallery, where I first espied “12-12-12” (2013) by Randy Bloom. Measuring (as the title suggests) 1-foot-square, this moving little painting had the simplest of compositions, but rich & varied colors. Near to it hung a larger and more ornate untitled canvas by Jim Walsh, dated 2012 and combining many, many colors with Walsh’s signature surfaces, foaming up, down & around as only molding paste can do. Also here is an attractive small, multicolored but pale abstract painting by Philip Gerstein. From the artist’s website, I learned that he was born and raised in Moscow, and is now based in the Boston area.

Finally, on this wall was a small but hilarious painting entitled “Buffalo with Pipe” (2013) Tony Geiger. Another painting done in the dark, literal style of 15th century Flanders, it lightened up its mood by its cheerfully bizarre subject (a bison smoking a pipe).

On the first part of the east wall in this gallery was displayed a 4-foot long, elegant abstract by Francine Tint, entitled “Flurry” (2013): mostly luscious blues with accents of lime and cerise. Not far away was “Naked” (2011), an interesting assemblage by Tracy Henneberger: it combined a rugged piece of driftwood in the center with a surrounding bed of shiny little light brown balls, shellacked till they positively sang.

Also surprisingly effective here was “At 3:00 am,” by Norma Greenwood. A 20-inch-square oil on canvas, it depicts nothing so much as a pillow in a pillowcase, but the paint application is succulent.

Turning the corner to the first part of the south wall in this gallery, I saw Peter Reginato’s 4-foot-wide enamel on canvas, “Barnum and Bailey” (2013). Reginato, of course, is better known as a sculptor, but this was his most impressive painting yet. It was learned. The dominant fields were red and aqua, but with spatters of contrasting colors, and two quotations that I recognized. In the upper left-hand corner were a few ellipses of the kind that Larry Poons used to paint in the late 60s. On the right and bottom right-hand edges of the canvas were narrow strips of framing color similar to the framing elements used by Jules Olitski during the same period. It’s not appropriate to speak of “influence” here, as these quotations were so obviously and consciously intended. Rather, I think we may see this as a form of homage to two grand masters.

Next, I came to the second part of the east wall of the second gallery. It’s a tribute to all the wonderful people who helped Timperio hang this show that I was able to find works worthy of comment all the way around the gallery. In this rather narrow area, I related strongly to Jessica Hollander’s portrait of a woman entitled “Jessica Pavone” (2012). It reminded me very much of some portraits by Alice Neel, but minus the acid.

Carol Salmanson delighted me with her small “Gesture Drawing 2” (2010): it isn’t really a drawing at all but a panel on the wall combining a hair-like or plant-like series of sprouting vertical threads with little glowing sparkles of light shining at regular intervals. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to list the materials incorporated into it: LEDs, wire, plexi & mylar.

On the second part of the south wall, I noted especially the pencil-and-watercolor self-portrait of Yoshiko Kanai, showing her in a striped sweater and done in 2013. Next, I was all but overwhelmed by the large & masterful figure study in oil by Sasha Silverstein of a male torso, seen from the back, and titled “Victorious” (2011). I would have liked it better if it hadn’t been hung diagonally in the corner of the gallery, bridging the south & west walls. Silverstein is such a strong painter that she doesn’t need to resort to gimmicks.

Rounding back to the west wall of this second gallery I saw one of the few shocking images in the show. Entitled “Donna Absoluta” (2005), it was a photograph by Renan Dario Arango, showing what looked like a drunken bag lady carousing in front of a vodka street poster. The only thing that kept it from being appalling was the haunting thought that it was just too melodramatic, and that therefore the photographer hadn’t discovered this tragic conjunction but rather chosen to pose it.

On the same wall are further contrasts between abstract and representational. Among the abstracts is “Pink Dots December” (2013), by Dee Solin. A combination of oil and acrylic, it provocatively combines mostly grisaille geometric shapes with ten moon-shaped discs, each with a segment of magenta. Not far away hangs another combination of oil and acrylic by Ellen Rand, an untitled diptych done in 2013. It’s a semi-abstract grisaille study of gracefully female nude torsos seen in profile.

Dominating everything else in this back gallery was the centerpiece of it all, by Ann Walsh. Entitled simply “Sound” (2013), it was one of the latest of Walsh’s works made by covering Plexiglas with acrylic and vinyl—a technique that achieves clear, pure colors & a wonderfully crisp, fresh look. As is so often the case with Walsh, the work hovered tantalizingly somewhere between painting & sculpture, being in this case a flat, two-sided panel, longer than it was high and colored with concentric rectangles of white and blue. As it stood on its own pedestal, it was hard not to see it as a TV and/or computer screen, but the small blue rectangle at its center made it seem more like a picture instead of an appliance, or at least in addition to one. Whatever it might be, it jauntily commanded the space like a living thing.


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