Lucid Culture


Art Review: Pat Arnao at Chashama Gallery, NYC

“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” One of Pat Arnao’s favorite Faulkner quotes, imprinted on an overhanging beam at the Chashama space where her new exhibit runs through January 2, it fits her new work aptly. Titled simply The Black Paintings, they’re striking, indelibly urban black-on-white images, mostly acrylic and oil on paper. While this collection – a considerable departure for the often fiery (pun intended) artist – is minimalist in the sense that there’s no wasted energy, every stroke being integral to the piece, they’re not skeletal. Many of them pack a wallop. The ravages of time and neglect are inescapable here. There’s a three-quarter view of the boxy skeleton of a house which is either going up or coming down: it could be either one. A view of a telephone pole, seen from below is intense with the absence of any sky or background behind it (Arnao’s use of negative space here is masterful).


Two of the more haunting images illustrate a factory – or some other abandoned, warehouse-like space – with the roof caved in, or a ladder – a fire escape? – hanging precariously from the side of what’s left of the building. Arnao’s Boxes collection is also on display. According to the artist, it isn’t an Iraq War parable, although some viewers might see it that way. It’s a set of small, clear plexi boxes, each about half-full of sand, with various detritus atop each pile: body parts from toy cars (a front quarter panel, a bumper); tires and wheels from toy construction equipment; what looks like a miniature metal mesh blanket used for rock blasting; broken glass, and other gritty/menacing material. Fascinating and disturbing stuff.  


All of these pieces are up at Arnao’s site, although the little images on your computer screen necessarily don’t carry the visceral impact of the actual items: you owe it to yourself to see them in the flesh before the show ends. At Chashama Times Square Gallery, 112 West 44th St. through Jan 2 (closed Dec 24-25 and Jan 1).

December 19, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , ,

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