Lucid Culture


Art Review: Leona Christie at Redflagg Gallery, NYC

We need more art like Leona Christie’s playful, trippy, surreal, utterly original ink-and-gouache drawings and etchings. 1960s psychedelic graphic art and album art seem to be a big influence, but Christie’s work is far less stylized. Bulbous, disembodied sepia-toned forms float in space (or seemingly in a microscopic, possibly biological environment: the digestive system on acid?), constantly morphing into one thing or another. They draw you in, make you smile, make you laugh and make you wonder what other influences, wink wink, are at play here. Here are some possible titles in lieu of Christie’s actually far more serious designations: Pedicure in Space; Pixies in the Intestine; Amoeba Space Fighter; Mollusk Tongue; The Baseball Plant Is Sprouting.

A tube emits a gentle bubble as the fetus above looks on with a bemused expression. Two women relax in a misty, spa-like environment – or is one of them on the toilet? A lava lamp blows bubbles, a big bath towel flows from a woman’s face, a lightbulb grows from the stem of a mushroom. Are you smiling yet? The prices are shockingly affordable for art of this caliber of technical mastery and out-of-the-box imagination. The exhibit is up through September 12 at Redflagg Gallery, 638 West 28th Street, between 11th & 12th Avenues, ground floor. Summer hours are Thursday & Friday, 10 AM – 6 PM.


July 21, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: Jason Clay Lewis at 31Grand Gallery, NYC

[Editor’s note – This is the most half-assed art review ever. The review, not the art, that is: it’s great, it’s just that the show is over. We happened on the closing party, drawn in off the street by what was in the gallery window. We just didn’t want to let the show pass by without spreading the word about the work that had been on display – it’s a lot of fun]


The D-Con owl drew us in off the street. A lifesize sculpture of an owl made completely from D-Con boxes. Too much fun. Jason Clay Lewis’ recently closed show at 31grand – NYC’s Edgy Art Cental – featured many more pieces in a similar vein. A series of stylized 70s headshop pinup posters each had a death’s head. There were also a box of candy and a fullsize madonna sculpture created completely from glazed D-Con (now it becomes obvious where the boxes came from. Another Madonna, looking a little downcast, also came to life in striking D-Con yellow and black. But not everything here was surreal gallows humor: a small potted tree took root in an upside-down skull, evidence that all is not completely bleak chez Lewis. What a fun discovery this guy’s work is: formerly personal assistant to Jasper Johns, the Oklahoma-born Cooper Union grad has some pieces coming up in group shows here and in Philadelphia. Watch this space for further info.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Art, 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: Frida Kahlo at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This exhibit, the first major Kahlo retrospective in an American museum in practically fifteen years, commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the great Mexican painter’s birth. Conventional wisdom is that either you’re in the Kahlo cult or you’re not. Not to be disrespectful to Salma Hayek, but more than any major motion picture ever could, this exhibit will shatter any preconceptions about Kahlo that you might hold, especially if you’ve been subjected to disdainful commentary about the artist’s presumable self-absorption. On the contrary, the works on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 18 underscore the universality of Kahlo’s dark, tormented vision. For the uninitiated, it could be a life-changing event.

In addition to more than forty original works on loan from around the world, the exhibit includes a fascinatingly assembled collection of photographs from throughout Kahlo’s life, along with two separate exhibits placing Kahlo’s work in the context of Mexican art from her era. The first including works from the museum’s formidable collection, including the famous, anonymous Execution of Maximilian and David Siquieros’ astonishing Giants; the second focuses on the work of her contemporary Juan Serrano, who died only last year. While this stroke of uncommonly smart, relevant curating is a bonus, it’s Kahlo’s work that everyone is coming out for(early arrival is very strongly advised, the earlier the better).

Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits, blending elements of European surrealism into her overtly traditional Mexican style. Despite being crippled in a bus accident while still in her teens, she was a strikingly beautiful woman, someone who bears only a passing resemblance to the monobrowed, lightly moustached, stoic figure in her paintings (on the other hand, her husband Diego Rivera, an aging, dumpy man whose own work has long since been overshadowed by hers, is always rendered as a pillar of strength). In more than one sense, Kahlo never completely recovered from her injuries, was frequently hospitalized throughout her life and spent her last few years in a wheelchair. The anguish in these works – the iconic Broken Column, depicting her spine as an ancient stone obelisk shattered in many places, and The Two Fridas, one of whom has just ripped her own heart out – is visceral. While most of her work is dead serious, she wasn’t without a sense of humor, as demonstrated by her surreal, green-themed portrait of botanist Luther Burbank as a plant. And she’s nothing if not self-aware: the most riveting, and revolting of all of these portraits depicts the artist as an infant in the arms of a wetnurse, whose breast is rotten and sagging, the tendrils extending from Kahlo’s mouth sucking all life out of it.

There are so many other iconic works here. Without Hope shows the artist on her frequent hospital bed, trying to suck some sustenance out of a funnel overflowing with entrails and fish heads. In a nod to the Mexican votive artists of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth century, the famous The Dream positions a skeleton on the top bunk overlooking the artist below. The exhibit also includes the hauntingly ethereal Suicide of Dorothy Hale, the New York socialite/actress appearing several times as she floats down through the clouds, then bleeding but intact at the foot of the skyscraper from which she hurled herself.

The show ends on a typically dramatic note with the potently feminist The Circle, a nude torso in a circular frame, a splash of flame – or is it blood? Or both? – emanating from behind a shoulder. The self-portraits are all reliably disquieting, including a handful of miniatures rarely seen in the context of a major exhibit.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the critical backlash against Kahlo is her legend itself. Like Sartre, Camus, Joy Division and Nick Drake, she’s someone that American audiences tend to discover while in their teens, a point where those who have suffered young (who hasn’t?) find special affinity for her work. Whether Kahlo is in your own pantheon or not, this is an extraordinary exhibit, one of the best in recent memory, making the cost of a trip to Philadelphia well worth your while. Through May 18 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Tues-Sun 10 AM – 5 PM, Fridays til 8:45 PM.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Art, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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