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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



Once again, Richard Timperio and his seemingly endless corps of talented associates have brought to birth the annual monumental group show at Sideshow in Williamsburg (through March 24). This year, it’s called “Sideshow Nation VI: The Greatest Show on Earth!” and for those of us who treasure the fine art of painting, it is all of that—not least because it enshrines this art in a becoming context of timeliness and humor.

As always, the general level of accomplishment is high, and I mean no disrespect to those artists whose names I don’t have space to mention. If I had visited another day, I might have made a different selection,...

Because let’s face it, folks, no one observer can hope to take in the entirety of a show whose 21-page checklist includes a total of 518 works by 476 artists – and I’m willing to bet that this is not everything or everybody that’s in the show.

In all, I have singled out approximately 75 works by almost as many artists to mention, and as this is going to make for a humongously long column anyway, I hope I will be forgiven a) for not mentioning more artists and b)for not making longer references to anybody.

About 35 of the works I will mention are abstract paintings, drawings or sculpture, and about 30 are representational works in the same media (including some photographs).

The remaining dozen or so I have classified as “other”—meaning kinetic, conceptual, or what-have-you. I haven’t a clue as to whether this represents an accurate cross-section of the exhibition or merely my personal preferences.

I plan to try and add a few extra words about each of the 45 newer works on my list, created in 2017 or 2018, but a lot of earlier works are also worthy of mention, even though I won't often go into detail about them…

So the earliest work I want to mention is the Late-Netherlandish portrait of David Daio by Phyllis Herfield, even though it dates from 1993.

The most recent are two pieces done this year, including the antic “Rosebud” by Steve Gerberich, whose tiny toy sled graces the gallery window opening onto the street, and the untitled site-specific patch of lettering that adorns the ceiling of the gallery, just over the entrance, by Richard Kostelanetz.

What would a contemporary art show be without a site-specific piece?

For that matter, what would a contemporary show be without some interactive art, so we have “Obfuscator,” by Ed Potokar, made of steel, wood and electronics…..how it works, I don’t know, but I’m sure it works….

And of course, given a season when 90 percent of my Facebook feed is political, we simply cannot have a contemporary art show without political art works.

It’s a good thing Holland Cotter isn’t going to review this show, because he would complain there weren’t enough political works. For me, art is best when it gives pleasure, not pain, so the half-a-dozen political art works on view was just about the right amount for me.

Especially this is true when the artworks verge on the scatological, as they do with the pieces by Robert Buchan & Jim Klein (the former hanging his black, white and grey American flag on the door to the toilet and the latter giving us a bedpan with President Trump’s face inside of it and a turd on top of that face).

Felicity Faulkner’s conceptual piece, a white panel with “Twit Twot Twat” lettered on it, is less provocative and maybe a little wittier, but the political piece that I liked best was the oil on linen by Scott Williams.

Painstakingly done in a somewhat photorealistic style, it shows a Manhattan side street blocked with barricades and police impedimenta.

I took it for a view of one of the streets around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where the President sometimes stays when he dares to enter town, and which is often besieged by protesters and hence always ringed by a heavy police presence.

However, the title of Williams’ picture is “Wall Street,” and it was done in 2016, so it is evidently a relic of earlier protests…..a painting that has outlived its inspiration, and remains still valid today.


From here on in, I am just going to list those works that stood out for me, wall by wall. I begin at the west wall of the front gallery, which backs upon the street, and moving in a clockwise direction.

First, I was most taken with “Happy New Year,” a large and happy celebrant created through assemblage by Edward Herman, complete with hat, champagne glass & bottle;

I also noted “Unfinished Universe,” a galloping white combination of aluminum sheet and synthetic resin stuck high up in the left-hand corner of this wall by Marco Polli.

Among smaller works are a small self-portrait by Paul Resika, abstracts by Willy Timperio & Sue Kovacs, a bosky forest interior by John R. Cunningham and a sensitive watercolor of a reclining female by Susan Taverna.

Also here are the gleaming Brancusi-like bronze head by Brandt Junceau, and the small dark-blue and gray abstract by Vicki Pacimeo with its iridescent sheen, to say nothing of Peter Bonner’s “Chrysanthemum.”

Standouts on the north wall include Jamie Rauchman’s park interior; three women’s heads by Deborah Masters; and “Migratory Thing,” by Vera Vasek.

But I was also taken by the delicious little ceramic seated peasant woman, wearing a babushka and reading what looks like Pravda, by Dasha Basanova; and the delightful little silvery-gray abstract by Randy Bloom, with its four eye-like circles (1 red, 1 blue, 2 yellow).

Also on this wall there are four more works that appealed to me especially. They are the two-paneled abstract by Mariano Henestrosa, one half on a pink field, one on a teal field; and “Snow Day Puzzle,” a triangular abstract by Molly Herman that reminded me of early Klee.

Third in this group is a semi-surreal portrait of a man and a woman in a forest by Drew Curtis; and fourth is “Mapping/Intersect” and “Fireweed,” twin abstract panels by Judy Thomas with fields of contrasting colors.

Shifting my attention to the wall facing the street, I noticed two nice pictures of women, one by Irene Buszko and one by Alix Bailey; also a blue, black and red abstract suggestive of a volcanic eruption, by Torild Stray.

Jim Kogel is represented by a picture of a spooky-looking woman outlined in tones of grayish blue; it was based on a photograph made by Germaine Krull (1897-1985), the pioneering German activist.

Also on this wall: a seascape with pleasure craft by Barbara English and a good-sized and likeably smeary acrylic abstract by Tim Casey, done in apricot, cream and purple.

Next comes the wall that is immortalized in the photograph illustrating this review. It’s the south wall of the front gallery, with the counter and desk of the show’s impresario – and with that impresario, Richard Timperio himself seated at it.

On the counter, over to the left, you may just be able to make out the two doll-sized figures by Cari Skoczek that illustrate the leitmotif of this entire show, being as they are circus figures.

The he-one is entitled “The Ringmaster,” the she-one is “The Bearded Lady,” and the he-one bears a definite resemblance to Timperio.

At the left end of the desk is another provocative sculpture: “Magi,” by Jerelyn Hanrahan. A shiny grey pearlized ceramic set on a granite base, it’s a plump and to me gender-neutral figure – with ruffles at its wrists and a tail behind, it could be a human or it could be a god or an animal—take your choice.

Another yet more abstract sculpture is the sinuous “Children of Light, II” by Tony Moore. Also on its own pedestal, it’s made of ceramic, porcelain, glass and steel.

Among the many entertaining works gracing the wall behind Timperio, I noticed particularly Sam Thurston‘s double portrait, “Avery & Carinthia;” the small snow scene by Gene Benson; and the two impish watercolors of two skateboarding skeletons apiece by Maria de los Angeles.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, considering that Timperio is himself an abstract painter, the part of the wall closest to his seat is also perhaps most closely decorated with abstracts.

"Sunbirth, Forest Floor” is an abstract impasto oil, by Barbara Laube; the flatter and more geometric abstraction, “Neighborhood VIII,” is by Liv Mette Larsen.

Anne Rusinoff’s gestural abstract, “Green Space,” lives up to its title by combining black with yellow oils; Donald Groscost's “Second Nature, No. 11” is an abstract that employs smeary pink, white and gray oil on black.

Dee Solin shows an acrylic on linen that reminds me of both abstract and representational, with white dots (snow flakes?) and branch-like navy blue shapes.

One trio, close to Timperio’s head, tickles me particularly. Below and to left and right are two small abstracts, both nearly all-over works.

The hot-colored one to the left is by Chang Shen Tan, made of satin interior paint, plus a concrete patch and wood. The cool-colored one to the right is by Larry Poons, made with nothing more than his customary acrylic, board and wood. They complement one another perfectly.

But high above them both is a totally different vista: a large, beautiful color photograph showing a wide open space: “Coal Mine Canyon, Arizona” by John McNulty.

As Timperio spent a good deal of time in that part of the U.S. in his youth, it becomes a way of saying, let us not forget where we all come from…..life as well as art.


Entering the back gallery, I was struck first by two of the freestanding works on view, those of Howard Kalish & Ann Walsh. Kalish’s resin sculpture, “Punch and Judy” shows two happy-go-lucky figures from the famous puppet show merrily dancing.

Walsh’s "painting," entitled “Yellow Left,” is a simple, elegant abstract panel made of vinyl on Plexiglas and composed of three gracefully curving-upward shapes in blue, mustard and lemon.

How far this artist has come from when Sarah Greenberg (not yet Sarah Greenberg Morse) showed her work at the Greenberg-Wilson Gallery! And it has all been uphill, in more than one sense of the phrase…

Also worth noting, on that wall to the left, is “First Review,” by Ronnie Landfield. Although three years old, it’s fresher than later work by Landfield that I’ve seen, if only because it refuses to resolve itself into a landscape, and remains resolutely abstract.

Not far away are two fine representational paintings, by Cara London & James Monte, plus five floating little abstracts in yellow trim, with accents of brown, green and blue, by Yvette Cohen.

On the easternmost wall of the gallery, Lauren Olitski is represented by two little accretions of acrylic and metallic pigment on Masonite. One is a “work in progress;” I preferred the completed one, “February Electric.”

Norma Greenwood contributes a likeable little oil of a man and a woman in the subway, while Sasha Silverstein shows a polished & electric port scene,”Galinhos Harbor, Brasil.”

Marjorie Minkin gives us a gracious acrylic abstract, “Cycles.”

The line drawing by Willy Hartland of the MoMA sculpture garden, and all the typical people in it, is an oldie but goodie. Theresa Ellerbrock has a variegated little geometric collage with textural interest.

“Gizmo,” by Paula De Luccia, is an interesting collage made of paint and canvas. Fran Kornfeld gives us one of her delicate floral-like compositions of handmade paper, and Eleanor Steinadler offers a reprise of a photograph from Truro MA.

Leading into the narrower portion of the back gallery, we have a tall, handsome Francine Tint, in black, lime and rusty pink. We also have a good-looking small Arleen Joseph, similarly and wisely limited in its color range to rust, greens and blues.

Besides an intriguing conceptual piece, made with acrylics and a Sharpie, by Guinevere Cameron, there is a somewhat surrealistic view of nymphets in sporting outfits eating pizza, by Amy Hill, and a grand soft-focus photograph of the street celebrations on “Three Kings Day” by Nancy Wechter.

Most dramatically on these south walls, we have “Greenspeak” by Jim Walsh, made with his signature materials of molding paste and pigment. A powerful green downward sweep on the left circles back into an upward sweep on the center right, then with a big blob hurtles down on the far right.

Not far away, we have a fine portrait study by Fulvia Zambon, one of our most talented realist painters, a political digital print by Elise Engler, and two poetic landscape digital prints by Andy Romer.

The west wall of the back gallery is a smaller area, but it has its quotient of worthwhile works. Among those definitely worth mention is “Near Kingston,” a landscape by Michael Goodwin with a cloudy sky and a feel of the Hudson River School about it.

Here also is “Summer,” another salute to nature by Philip Gerstein but dedicated to abstract “all-overness” with spring colors of pink, mint, maroon, yellow and brown.

Nancy Manter has created a nice little abstract, “Edge of Night #6,” using Flash color sticks and charcoal on Yupo paper. The graphite drawing of trees by Claire McConaughy has its own modest magic.

Last but by no means least, Sara Galkin provides “Everything I” and “Everything 2,” two teeny but piquant faintly Asian-looking oil-on-canvas abstracts.

Congratulations to all hands!
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