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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: Carolyn Swiszcz at M.Y.Art Prospects, NYC

Essential Americana. Much in the spirit of the Coen Bros. and Fargo, this is both a fond attempt to capture the essence of the Midwest as it is a subtly stinging rebuke. In her latest US show, titled Minnesota Miracle, Carolyn Swiszcz’s intricate technique and craftsmanship make a vivid contrast, sometimes amusingly, sometimes pointedly, with the deceptive simplicity of her subject matter. The tire tracks left behind in the show define this exhibit, and they’re everywhere, meticulously etched into the parking lots and driveways at generically anonymous buildings like the 3M Headquarters in St. Paul. Hope Lutheran Church points ludicrously to the sky, its parking lot empty of traffic but full of evidence that there were believers there earlier. The best of all of these depicts a Fashion Bug store (where the overweight shop) and its characteristically empty lot: the store is hastily and simply rendered, cartoonishly bright, the tracks in the show before it a maze of subtle inflections and painstaking work by Swiszcz. Midwesterners especially will resonate to this, but just about anyone will get it if they allow the images to sink in. Through May 23 at M.Y. Art Prospects, 547 West 27th St., second floor, open Tues.-Sat. 11-6.

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April 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: Anthony Pontius at 31grand, NYC

There’s a lot to like in Anthony Pontius’ oils on display here through May 24. This series centers frequently goofy, cartoonish, anthropomorphosed animals onto dark, nebulous, out-of-focus forest backgrounds for a feel that is Simpsons and Twin Peaks simultaneously. A two-headed dog chases its own face, a guillotine looms beneath the dripping trees, a killer’s goofy, fuzzy-bearded face leans in from a stick-figure body. These paintings are surreal, psychedelic as hell and the more compelling the more you stare at them, the backgrounds especially. Playful yet eerie, the visual equivalent of a mix of the Ventures’ minor-key hits. In the back room Pontius also has several wry, Edward Gorey-esque pencil sketches on display. Yet another rousing success for 31grand, a welcome addition (some might say antidote) to the neighborhood.

[postscript – 31grand Gallery is sadly now closed – one of their curators went on to join the similarly edgy Black and White Gallery in Chelsea]

April 25, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: Andrea Cukier in Midtown

Shows like this are why we live in New York. This is someone who will be creating important and emotionally impactful art for a long time, the rare artist whose work will send you flying out into the street afterward with an elevated pulse and renewed passion for being alive. Argentinian expat Andrea Cukier’s work is defined by subtlety, yet packs a potently visceral intensity. To say that her collection of nebulous yet riveting oil paintings – on display at the Consulate General of Argentina through April 30- is captivating is the understatement of the year. Many of these works are pensive and stark, yet rich with emotion and sometimes longing. The artist has a special affinity for the port of Buenos Aires, several views of which are featured in this show.

Cukier’s unique vision makes liberal use of lush textures, subtle earthtone shades over a signature grey background. Another of her signature devices is to situate her point of view looking in from the shadows or somewhere hidden, whether it’s from behind clouds or in a thicket. At its best, Cukier’s work is quietly transcendent. When these paintings are representational – not all of them are – the view is jaggedly hazy, out of focus. Her clouds are thick with shades of white and grey, rather than opaque: they get in the way, or provide concealment. Ships’ masts rise, thin and frail, through the mists concealing what’s below. Vertical and horizontal lines snake their way through washes of shadow: is it barbwire, or the view of a town along the shoreline? Cukier has stated that she wants the viewer to be able to feel the humidity and the smell of the water, a goal whose ambitiousness is not as farfetched as it might seem (New York artist Pamela Talese does the same thing with brutal New York summer heat in her landscapes of industrial wastelands). It is impossible not to be drawn into the remarkable depth of these paintings, with their seemingly endless layers and minute variances of shade. In the distance, barely discernible, the ghost of Turner nods approvingly.

Overall, what is most impressive about this show is that as good it is, this isn’t even her best work – wait til you see what’s on her website. An appropriate soundtrack would be the eerie ambience of Jehan Alain or Radiohead. Or A Salty Dog by Procol Harum, at leat as far as the harborscapes are concerned.

Cukier also has a series of green-themed, Chinese-inspired watercolors here, mostly pondscapes, seemingly painted by an entirely different artist – they have absolutely no resemblance to her oils. While demonstrating a good eye for light and reflection and an ability to assimilate a very stylized technique (which also calls on the viewer to feel the heat and humidity), it’s been done before and just as well many dynasties ago.

At the Consulate General of Argentina, 12 W 56th St. through April 30, free admission Mon-Fri, 11 AM – 5 PM.

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Latest Williamsburg Salon Art Club Show

A pleasant reminder that group shows – this one fills two spacious floors at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center – are the ideal lazy person’s way to discover exciting new work. There’s a tantalizing abundance of that here on display through February 24.

Three striking, large oils by the most likely pseudonymous Bienvenido Bones Banez blend 1960s-style psychedelic imagery with South Indian iconography, in a blazingly colorful style that recalls the best concert posters from the Fillmore West. Heads morph into two and three, viens bulge and bones are visible as in an x-ray. The two on display here, Asian and Harlot Playing Beast are an excellent representation. His related solo show runs through Feb 10 at Amarin Café, 617 Manhattan Ave. between Driggs and Nassau in Greenpoint.

One mystery star of the show – there was no indication on the wall who this might be – contributes a dollhouse in the style of an Old West brothel, an action figure sheriff leveling his gun at the back of the oversize doll atop the structure, a sign advertising “Vote for Honest G. W. Bush for Dog-Catcher” affixed to a side wall. There’s also a similar plastic sculpture featuring small plastic doll figures posed somewhat eerily in the windows and on the landing.

The most impressive work on display here is by Argentinian-American Andrea P. Cukier, who’s someone to keep your eye on. The two oils in this show are a good representation of her otherwise powerfully captivating paintings, many of which peer out from the shadows at an illumination whose source is never visible. The two on display here layer white over an obviously meticulously prepared, dark underlayer, perhaps barbwire as seen through a mist.

Lower East Side artist Carla Cubit has two very gripping mixed media sculptures assembled from found objects. The first is West African style, mostly in wood, depicting a widow with her babies, threatened by a spider and lizard. She holds a scroll unwound to a small portion of text: “I am no queen, I sit a widow I kan not walk my journey may end here…”

Brazilian surrealist painter Karla Caprali has three large oils on display. The best shows a woman diving headfirst from what appears to be the roof of the Sistine Chapel into the wild blue yonder of outer space. In another, a Latin woman (possibly the artist herself?) gazes with some trepidation out from behind flowers as jellyfish hover behind her, with an American flag, and then distant industrial towers looming further back.

Jeffrey Berman contributes two brightly sinister, somewhat photorealistic, psychedelic oils. The first depicts a skeleton onstage – at Altamont, maybe? – holding a melting Stratocaster guitar; the second seems to be a scene at a street race, the runners’ faces menacing and distorted, perhaps zombified.

Carol Quint, one of the organizers, is a proponent of recycling and reconstruction. Her sculpture here is macabre, death-obsessed and impossible to turn away from. There’s a skeleton in a lotus position, sitting in a rocking chair, and a skull with markedly messed-up, broken teeth sitting in a chair, with what appear to be fish vertebrae combed over its head like Rudy Giuliani’s hair. The third is a skeleton in a white puffy dress.

Japanese-American surrealist Junichiro Ishida’s complex, somewhat sci-fi oriented oils seem to be loaded with symbols from Asian mythology. On one of his pieces here, a flock of orange fireballs descends against a weird, nocturnal background, with an inscription below: “The world is always burning, burning with the fires of greed, anger and ignorance. One should flee from such dangers.” Another haunting painting is an undersea scene, a couple of fish lazing alongside a submerged skull/sea urchin hybrid.

Sam Jungkurth’s two big oils here are sinister floral tableaux, ominous blue/purple interiors whose only illumination is the flowers themselves, overshadowed by the darkness.

From all indications, Jennifer Herrera is an artist whose style is still developing, but one of her abstract paintings – which looks to be oil over gesso, creating a wrinkled effect – is a striking, somewhat ominous blend of lime green and orange against off-white.

There’s also a particularly creepy color shot by photographer Scott Weingarten – whose solo show here runs March 12-April 30 – superimposing a tree branch over a shot of a misty night in the woods, creating the effect of a ghostly child-face leering out of the background.

The show is on the second and third floor at 135 Broadway (corner of Bedford) in South Williamsburg, J/M/Z to Marcy Ave. or take the B61 bus which runs on south on Driggs toward Brooklyn Heights and on Bedford north through Williamsburg to Long Island City. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6 PM and by appointment, 718-486-7372.

January 21, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Art Review: Little Annie Bandez at Rapture Café and Books, NYC

Noir cabaret singer Little Annie Bandez has seen her a considerable and well-deserved resurgence in her music career lately, with a cd featuring Antony and an upcoming European tour. She’s also a painter, and a terrific one. 9/11 was her defining moment, an ever-present, haunting theme. Bandez’ paintings, like her music, carry the weight of a legendary survivor, the persona she was probably born for and has grown into over the last few years. Her earliest artwork is a charming amalgam of Frida Kahlo and graphic 60s psychedelica. Her latest paintings, on display at the Rapture through January 20 are part of her ongoing Urban Saints series. The unifying theme is spiritual but nondenominational and is a marvelous demonstration of how her unique vision has grown over the last two years. Drawing on pre-Renaissance Italian religious portraiture (Giotto especially comes to mind), Bandez situates her saints in a surreal and quite threatening current-day New York. The menace is tempered by her use of color – vivid magenta, aquamarine, purple and orange – as well as media which create a three-dimensional effect.

Perhaps the most striking of the new paintings, Mary Full of Grace shows a striking blue-robed madonna with three faces surrounded by brightly gritty city scenes, embellished with beads and painted feathers. Bandez’ signature boxy tenement buildings loom in the background. Another very compelling new work, And He Shall Live Again centers around a heart rising from the ashes of 9/11, a pieta to the right. The skeletal remains of Tower One, and the bones of the victims hover above. Angels, a virgin and a silver Star of Bethlehem complete the picture. Several other very compelling works are also featured. This time around, Bandez has victoriously reclaimed the iconography of another repressive era and breathed new life into it for all the survivors. Gripping, emotional and impactful, to say the least. Rapture Cafe and Books is at 200 Ave. A in the East Village between 12th and 13th Sts.

January 2, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment