Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: An Excellent Short Summer Group Show at Black and White Gallery, NYC

Black and White Gallery’s current exhibit is characteristically relevant, cutting-edge and well worth a jaunt over to the western fringes of Chelsea. Michael Van den Besselaar provocatively addresses denial and in so doing takes a casual slap at pop art shallowness. Softly photorealistic portraits of vintage television sets from the 70s – two of Asian manufacture, one European – project images of terrorist activity (a hijacked airliner, a helicopter and a trio of Mercedes 240 series sedans) from their grainy black-and-white screens. Eerier still is a set of six Weegee-esque dead womens’ faces. Bonnie Parker, Marilyn Monroe, Mother Teresa, Evita Peron and Rosa Parks are smaller in death than life; the Anna Nicole Smith portrait pans down on her, puffy and lifeless in the purest sense of the word.

Most striking of all is Van den Besselaar’s Lethal Chamber Series. Whether or not these are actual depictions of the rooms where American executioners paralyze and then inject convicts with caustic de-icing chemicals, they’re impossible to turn away from, the curtained white rooms with their gurneys and straps radiating a brutally sarcastic soft-focus light.

Also on display: all-white, lifesize gas masks by Konstantinos Stamatiou; starkly strange cross-stitch-on-canvas figures by Alicia Ross; hip-hop inspired black-and-white collages by Elia Alba and a characteristically devious trio of pitch black “fur geese” sculptures by the irrepressible Jason Clay Lewis (the guy responsible for a recent series of sculptures made out of D-Con rat poison), which might be characterized as the most disturbing items in the entire exhibit

On opening night, the gallery also featured live black-and-white art. Pesu methodically painted a stylized Asian-tinged portrait of a dragon with what appeared to be smiley faces on its back. Those turned out to be scales. To his right, Fernando Mora created a raw, striking, possibly gunsight-view tableau that started out convex and then as he embellished it became just the opposite. Getting your perspective turned inside out after mass quantities of wine is great mind-melting fun – and serves as a vivid reminder of the arduous physical labor that is so often part and parcel of creating first-class art. More galleries should be doing things like this. The current exhibit runs through August 8. Black and White Gallery is at 636 W 28th St., ground floor, hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM and by appointment.

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July 21, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tamara Kostianovsky – Actus Reus at the Black & White Gallery, NYC

The phrase “actus reus,” meaning the physical commission of a crime, in combination with “mens rea,” the mind to do it, equate to criminal liability in a court of law. For her New York solo debut, Israeli/Argentinian artist Tamara Kostianovsky has created a series of mostly lifesize sculptures of beef carcasses made from used clothing. The show has all the subtlety of a Mack truck hitting a brick wall at 100 MPH, but sometimes that’s what you need to do to prove a point: these works are impossible to turn away from. The colors are bloodless, the reds muted admidst the pink, beige and white of cowskin, fat and sinew, which makes them all the more powerful: the stuffed animal quality almost makes you want to cuddle these dead animals and reassure them that everything’s ok. Of course, it’s not.

The slaughterhouse includes a quartet of “beef” sides, each in plastic bags with their own individual tag (which looks suspiciously like a recycled airline baggage label); a sink full of “blood” (knitted or embroidered), “blood” seeping all around it; several carcasses, some on hooks, others not, shown from the the underside of the ribcage; and the most striking cow of all, who hangs from the ceiling by a single leg, the other limp, the skin of her belly peeled away to reveal an intricate network of veins. The realism is striking, as is Kostianovsky’s remarkable prowess as a seamstress. As agitprop goes, it doesn’t get much better than this (is Kostianovsky a vegetarian? One would think so). If all else fails, she can always become the house artist for PETA. But the equation isn’t that simple. Most of us eat meat. Only a tiny fraction of the carnivores of the Western world actually kill what they consume. In tackling this cognitive dissonance head-on, Kostianovsky takes on the difficult task of trying to give these animals some dignity in their ugliest possible state and succeeds brilliantly. Through May 24 at the Black & White Gallery, 636 West 28th St., west of 11th Ave., Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM and by appointment.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: Francesca Lo Russo: Cumbre Vieja at 31Grand Gallery

Drop whatever you’re doing. Now. There’s an art show you need to see. Cruelly, it’s only up through March 15 (the gallery has had it up for weeks, but we are obscenely late on picking up on this). If you’re distraught over the way New York has been turned over to the effete sons and daughters of the ultra-rich, if you’re disquieted by the thought of the apocalypse occurring in our lifetime, get your ass down to 31Grand Gallery (incongruously located on Ludlow between Rivington and Stanton on the west side of the street) for Francesca Lo Russo’s exhibit. This is the most powerful, intense, relevant show we’ve seen all year long. In typical fashion, we discovered this on the spur of the moment, having showed up a few minutes early for a Linda Draper show at Cake Shop (more on that later).

Self-taught Francesca Lo Russo really has it in for trendoids. In her paintings – mostly oil on masonite – they lounge nude at the bar texting each other, dos a dos, by the light of their cellphones, sip martinis at a bar that looks suspiciously like Max Fish while balancing their children on their laps, and make videos of volcanos of burning chemical waste while toxic chemicals spill on their oblivious feet. In these paintings, Lo Russo instantly vaults to the absolute pinnacle of the most spot-on satirical artists of our time. There’s a graphite-and-watercolor grey-and-white work here that perfectly capsulizes her vision. In the background, boxy, geometric apartment buildings – perhaps she’s been inspired by Little Annie Bandez? In the foreground, some random guy making a skull out of the debris of the tenement in the background, bricks and children’s toys scattered around, with a brand-new luxury apartment building immediately adjacent to it. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call it Brueghelesque: her characters sprawl and take over every inch of space they can cover with a sense of entitlement that makes you want to shoot them all.

There is so much in this show to fire your pulse and give your trigger finger extra itch. A post-Katrina New Orleans scene, skeletons everywhere, climbing the ivy, while the whole city drowns. Another with a band tuning up and playing knee deep in water while someone in an adjacent bed is visited by Death himself.

From the press release for the show: “Lo Russo completed the vast majority of these new works in an intense three month period of isolation in an attic in Texas. She is self taught as an artist and lives in Brooklyn. NOTE: Cumbre Vieja is a massive volcanic ridge in the Canary Islands. So fractured by previous eruptions, it could break off completely with any new activity. And though it’s real threat is hard to determine, some scientists say the breakage could cause a megatsunami that would could destroy major cities in Europe, Africa, and the United States’ East Coast.” See this show. You will leave validated. And ultimately richer whether you have the means to purchase anything here or not.

[Postscript – after a vibrant run on Ludlow St., 31Grand Gallery shut its doors in 2009. One of the owners moved on to the reliably edgy Black and White Gallery in Chelsea].

March 8, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment