Governors Island Wonderful Art Show

Visual Playground 2, Marek Jacisin

Once again, the annual art fair on Governors Island, organized by 4heads has lots to offer. Featuring work by 100 artists from the US and abroad, spread across five buildings in Colonels Row, as well as in the windows of Ligget Hall, and on the lawns between them (like Marek Jacisin‘s piece above), this show contains many, many fine works. Very often the artists are also present, so you have a chance to talk with them.  The styles and techniques are quite varied, so look in each room – even if you haven’t found something you like on the first floor of a building, go up to the second floor – I guarantee you’ll find something completely different. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore this exhibit. Here are some of my favorites:

Royalty, Zeren Bader, 2014, archival print on metallic paper

In Building 404B, Zeren Badar has created a series of 23 imaginative and fun photos, entitled Messing With Old Masters, in which he takes images of old paintings and embellishes them with objects such as eggs, or macaroni, or rubber bands, then photographs the new image, which, by throwing you off balance, makes you look at portraiture in a new way! 

Anna Cone and Zeran Bader

While I was talking with Zeren, another artist, Anna Cone, whose work is in the next building, and explores similar themes, came in to see Zeren’s work. (more about her work later)

Portrait of Shirley Chisholm by the Lower East Side Girls Club

On the second floor, the Lower East Side Girl’s Club was exhibiting prints of Women who Change the World, a mural created on the walls of the First Street Garden in 2011 by teenage Girls Club members and artists who painted portraits of 19 women who inspired them, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Dorothy Day, Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization, Inhye Lee and Hyomin Kim, interactive installation

In Building 405A, the scientific-based art collaboration of  Inhye Lee & Hyomin Kim have two pieces in this show that reference the earth’s magnetic field.  The Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization above consists of about 100 ball compasses inside transparent globes – the black and white on the balls indicate their polarity, mimicking the magnetic files around the earth. (They have a printed sheet with a more detailed explanation). They also have a Magnetic Field Drawing Station which is pretty cool. 

Fire, by Richard Sigmund

On the second floor you’ll find Fire by Richard Sigmund, a series of drawings that are variations on this word.  Richard had been intrigued by all the “fire” signs that are painted on the roadbeds in New York.  On a visit to India, he thought about this word, which can represent purification, death and emotions, and so each day he did a sketch of the word “fire”. 

Pink Collar Worker, Paola Citterio, metal chain with wool fibre

On the porch of Building 406 B, you’ll find a wonderful work in metal chain and wool by Paola Citterio, but it was her Pink Collar Worker inside that grabbed me, having worked many years as a secretary.  Paola made this piece using a baby blanket she found (it made her think of Vivienne Westwood) to which she added the metallic chain and the wool fibre lettering.  Paola dyes her wool, and felts it using a needle felt technique, which takes hours – but for her, the process is part of the art.

Anna Cone installation

On the first floor, Anna Cone has created a version of a salon/drawing room, filled with portraits of Disenchantresses, large scale modern nudes styled as goddesses, set against collaged images from Old Masters paintings, placed in antique-looking frames.  Using her background as a fashion photographer, Anna’s work pushes back against the images of “acceptable” women’s bodies that we’re saturated with, to include others that might be considered more “unconventional.”  Be sure to look at the chairs, which also contain collaged images from Old Masters.

Allison Sommers in her installation

In Building 407A, Allison Sommers has created a room that addresses movements in a domestic household, and the anxiety around house-making when you find yourself suddenly plopped somewhere.  I was not surprised when she told me she’s a military brat.  Allison offered no more by way of explanation of her installation, saying that she wants to leave it open to the viewer’s interpretation.  I confess I found her piece challenging, but I could relate to it on many levels.  Check it out!

Loteria de la Migracion, Tabla 2, Richard Fleming

In Building 408A, Richard Fleming has created a wonderful project, Loteria de la Migracion,  centered on migration from Central America. He has taken the Mexican card game Loteria and re-imagined each of the 54 cards as a series of obstacles and challenges facing migrants fleeing violence,  sometimes changing the images (i.e., a pear in the original Loteria becomes grapes in his version).  This project is based on his experiences as a sound recordist working in Chiapas.

Vornado, HYSTM, acrylic on wood

HYSTM is really two people: the New York-based art tag team of Keith Pine and Rich Zitterman, who work as one.  I spoke with Rich, who told me that either he or Keith will start a painting, then the other will add to it, and they will keep on this way until they think the work is done.  By the end of the process, neither one knows who started it, and often can’t remember which are their own contributions.  Rich said they get their inspiration from what’s around them, whether that’s TV or found images or their own imaginations. 

There’s much, much more to see.  The exhibit is open only on the weekends and only through October 1st.  More information on the ferries to Governors Island here .

Looking towards Brooklyn from Governors Island

Rebel Clay at Cavin Morris

Earlier this month, Cavin Morris Gallery opened a new exhibit, Rebel Clay, featuring some 60 non-mainstream ceramics.  The works were rendered in a wide variety of styles – whimsical, utilitarian, spiritual – with finishes that range from unfired natural clays in browns and grays to highly glazed, brightly colored pieces.  Below are some of my favorite pieces:

Shekinah, Straiph Wilson, 2016, ceramic

The show contains several highly glazed and brightly colored ceramic fungi by the Scottish artist Straiph Wilson.

Black & Blue #15, #13, #14, Kevin Sampson, 2017, porcelain, canvas, wood

Kevin Sampson, a self-taught artist and former police officer creates works that often address issues of social justice and cultural resistance. This piece made me think of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, whose arrivals are the subject of much debate these days.

Untitled, Nek Chand, 1950-1980, concrete over metal armature w/mixed media

Nek Chand is known for his huge environment in Chandigarh, India with its thousands of expressive figures and exquisite architecture. I found this man he created from concrete absolutely irresistible, and so full of energy!

Seated Figure, Burgess Dulaney, ca. 1970-89, clay and marble

There’s something very appealing about Burgess Delaney’s Seated Figure, made from unfired clay from near his home in Mississippi.

Untitled (Head), Kazumi Kamae 2004, shigaraki stoneware

Kazumi Kamae was one of four Japanese Art Brut artists the gallery discovered when they visited the Yanomami Art Center near Shigaraki Prefecture in Japan.

Mask from Nepal, early 20th cent., cow dung, clay, organic materials

On one wall you’ll find five masks from Nepal, created in the early to mid-20th century using cow dung and clay.

This is a small sampling of the ceramics in this exhibit, which will remain up until  October 7th – but don’t wait until then to see it.  Cavin-Morris is located at 210 11th Avenue, Suite 201, in Chelsea.

Hercules, Kings and Cockroaches

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the King of the Cockroaches exhibit at Hercules Art Studio – I am a New Yorker and have my own ideas about these insects.  According to the organizers, this show takes its “title from an ancient Arabic preservation myth:  the king is invoked as an appeal to insects and worms not to nibble on and destroy important books and scrolls.”  Through painting, sculpture, drawing and video, Bill Santen, Becky Brown, Jess Willa Wheaton and Daniel Lichtman address how we deal with the glut of material that surrounds us. 

Safe Keeping, Becky Brown, 2017 mixed media installation

Safe Keeping by Becky Brown is a wry commentary on how we continue to hold on to things that we no longer use and may even be obsolete – where’s the line between preservation and hoarding?

Black and White, Becky Brown, 2017, pencil and collage on paper

Becky also has several paintings and drawings in the show, including Black and White, a pencil and collage that caught my eye.

screen shot from Low Tide, Bill Santen, 2016, HD video, sound

Bill Santeen’s three videos are mostly shot in the area by City Island  in the Bronx, focusing on subjects as diverse as an immigrant fisherman, boat scrappers, and the preservation of waterfront objects.

Sun and Moon Study, Jess Willa Wheaton, 2017 oil on linen

Jess Willa Wheaton’s work ranges from small oil paintings such as Sun and Moon Study

Post Grocery 4, Jess Willa Wheaton, found printed vinyl and adhesive

to large (approx. 3ft x 4ft) collages like Post Grocery 4, assembled from unrelated found images, that combine to create something completely new and intriguing.

There are other works by these artists as well as an installation by Daniel Lichtman.

Hercules Art Studios  is a 5,700-square-foot space containing seven low-cost artists studios, a common area, an industrial kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and a gallery, and space for public programming.  Their artist-run Exhibition Program is currently accepting proposals from independent curators and artists for curated exhibitions and public programming for September 2017 – May 2018. The studios are at 25 Park Place, 3rd Floor, in Lower Manhattan.

King of the Cockroaches is on view until August 16th.  The Studios are open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm to 6:00pm, or by appointment.

Measuring Time at Deutsches Haus

Measuring Time, a charming exhibit at Deutsches Haus at NYU began as part of the Chelsea Music Festival in June.  The show of 20 works by six artists ranges across woodcuts, photographs, drawings and mixed media, exploring themes of waiting, rhythm, and decay.   

Red Wall Owego, Regula Ruegg, pigment ink on fine art paper

Regula Rūeg’s work focuses on crumbling walls, forgotten signs, and lost wall advertisements, which allow us to see how the built environment changes over time.

Platform to Nowhere/Anticipating the Inevitable, Bill Beirne, photo documentation of performance work

Bill Beirne’s work centers on public space and communication.  He’s known for his video installations and public performances, one of which is documented in the above photograph.

There’s more to see by these artists and the other four in the show, which is up until August 26th.  Deutsches Haus at NYU is at 42 Washington Mews, and is open Mon-Fri 10:00am to 8:30pm, Saturdays 10:00am to 4:00pm.  They also offer German language lessons (I’ve studied there) as well as public talks, readings and film screenings.

Fashion Art at Fountain House

Un-Zip, Boo Lynn Walsh, mixed media on wood block

I’ve come across the work of Fountain House artists at the Outsider Art Fair, and finally made it over to their gallery in Hell’s Kitchen for a talk about their latest exhibit, The Art of Fashion , which is closing August 9th.   If you don’t know Fountain House Gallery, they work with artists who live with mental illnesses.  I like their exhibits because it’s art I would be attracted to without knowing the artists’ backstories.

The first speaker was the curator, Kathy Battista, who chose the theme of fashion because fashion affects everyone, it can be looked at from several vantage points, and she wanted to do a fun show. Fashion is also her background – she teaches a class on Art & Fashion at Sotheby’s Institute.  Kathy invited 7 mainstream contemporary artists to exhibit alongside the 37 Fountain House Gallery artists, creating a dialogue between their works.  Once she selected the works to be shown, she then divided them into loose themes, such as celebrities, animals, the paradox of feminism, abstraction, street style, etc. 

detail, If I Wore It, I Wore It With Jeans, Alyson Vega, recycled clothing and other fabric

Next up was artist Alyson Vega, who spoke about her piece, If I Wore It, I Wore it With Jeans.   She’s been making textile art from a young age, using recycled clothes or clothes from thrift stores. When Alyson was young, she had a pair of Peter Max for Wrangler hot pants that she couldn’t bear to part with, so she eventually turned them into a bag. For this work, Alyson started researching clothes from the 1970’s, ’80’s and early 90’s.  The different fabrics – denim, lace, polyesters, flower print cottons – and some patches from those eras are incorporated in this piece.  There are 6 panels in all, but the fabrics are not necessarily in chronological order – rather Alyson assembled pieces that she thought went together well, and then sewed them together.   Measuring 3ft x 10ft, this is her largest work to date.

Beatification (Bushwick, Brooklyn) Elizabeth Bick, archival inkjet print

Elizabeth Bick was a dancer in her teens before turning to photography, which also has several of the same elements, such as light, performance, and movement.  Seven years ago, when she moved to Bushwick, Elizabeth felt like an outsider, so she used her camera as a way of introducing herself, taking portraits of the neighborhood women.  First she finds the background, one that won’t detract from her subjects, but where the light – she only uses natural light – is of a certain type.  She noted that the women are often surprised that she wants to take their picture, as they feel invisible, especially the older ones.   Elizabeth sees them as matriarchs of the neighborhood, and tries to portray them as archetypes, noting that the women have a specific way of expressing their femininity – their hair is done, their makeup is done, they’re well dressed, even when going to the store.  You’ll notice that often her subjects are looking to the side – Elizabeth asks them not to look at the camera, so as to give them an iconic feeling.  She’s taken several hundred photographs, and plans to continue this project until she moves out of the neighborhood. 

Higher Species?, Susan Spangenberg, acrylic, fabric, jewelry on canvas

Susan Spangenberg is a self-taught artist who spoke about how having a studio at Fountain House has made a difference to her life. Susan paints because she has to – she has something she needs to express – and now she has a place where her work can be seen. (She told the audience that when she was growing up, she thought calling herself an artist was pretentious.)  Over the years, her work has changed;  now she is trying to do less self-referential work and instead create pieces that address pop culture or that start a social-political dialogue.  Her canvases in the show are a commentary not only on the celebrity-driven world we live in, but also on the way society views animals, especially dogs, as accessories to be discarded when they’re no longer useful. 

Other works in this show which caught my eye:

Kilt, Bryan Michael Green, enamel on canvas

 

Fashionista, Gail Shamchenko, mixed media on paper

No Law 3, Angela Rogers, scanned drawing

The show is on only through August 9th. 

So hurry over to Fountain House Gallery, 702 Ninth Avenue (at 48th Street).

A Fresh Look at Hungarian Art

Hommage à Albers, Tibor Gayor, 1975, acrylic on wooden board

 

With the Eyes of Others: Hungarian Artists of the Sixties and 70’s, the current exhibit at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery, is a museum quality exploration of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde, reminding us that even under repressive regimes, art can flourish.

Postwar Hungary suffered under the dictatorship of the Soviet Union, whose ideology was hostile to modern art.  Even though the Hungarian regime was a more “friendly barracks,” artists still needed to make sure that any “political” gestures – which included embracing Western art practices rather than Soviet Realism – were not overtly visible to either the censors or the viewing public. 

In this atmosphere, Hungarian artists combined their unique visual language with Western forms such as Conceptualism and Pop Art, to create a  radical new approach to Conceptualism, resulting in art that was, by its existence, an implicit rebuke to the norms of the Hungarian state.  The authorities established three categories of work:  supported, tolerated or rejected, so many of the political pieces use a highly coded language or employ humor to cover or deflect from their  critiques of officialdom. Sometimes the political message was so coded that only those inside could understand it; the wall texts and the gallery’s exhibition checklist are helpful in understanding the context of the works.

In Hungary artists were establishing their own unofficial art scene, in private apartments where they held clandestine semi-illegal exhibitions and performances, leading to a flourishing – albeit underground – cultural milieu. These “flat” exhibits for a few hundred friends of friends allowed artists to transmit current styles and trends.  Even though they were not able to freely travel, artists in Hungary found other ways of engaging with their peers in other countries, especially through the international mail-art movement, sending small scale works via the postal service to avoid censorship. 

Radial Enamel I-IV, Karoly Halasz, 1969, enamel on four iron plates

There are almost 100 works on display, with the vast majority from the 1970‘s, but on the ground floor you’ll find works from the 1960’s in that era’s abstract geometric style, including Károly Halász’, Radial Enamel I-IV.

Wall-Hanging with tombstone Forms (Tapestry), Ilona Keseru Ilona, 1969, stitching on chemically dyed linen

The motifs in Ilona Keserü Ilona’s 1969 Wall-Hanging with Tombstone Forms, reference the iconography of rural Hungarian cemeteries, such as the one she visited in 1967 in Balatonudvari, which contains over 60 heart shaped tombstones.

5 out of 4, I-III, Dora Maurer, 1979, acrylic on wood

The exhibit contains several works by Dóra Maurer, whose oeuvre spans print, photography, films and drawings.  Many of her pieces from the ’70’s such as 5 out of 4, are quite rigorous, combining rule-based compositional logic  and geometric abstraction.  Maurer, who had an exhibit at MOMA in 2015, is married to Tibor Gáyor, whose work is at the top of this article.

SUN-OX-FACE, Imre Bak, 1976, acrylic on two canvases

Pride of place is given to Imre Bak’s abstract geometrics, with their strong colors, and strict, sharp, forms and lines.  Along with lona Keserü, László Lakner, and István Nádler, whose works are also here, Bak was  a member of the Iparterv, one of the leading Hungarian neo-avant-garde groups of the second half of the Twentieth century.  His delightful SUN-OX-FACE from 1976 greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibit.

Landscape Transformation, Imre Bak, 1974, acrylic on canvas

Nearby is his 1974 Landscape Transformation, emblematic of his hard-edged paintings.  In the gallery’s office space, you’ll find a number of his smaller works on paper.

 

Concept Like Commentary 1-7, Geza Perneczky, 1971, gelatin silver prints

The second floor is almost entirely given over to photographs of that era, including two of Géza Perneczky‘s 1972 black-and-white conceptual photographic series. In  Art-Ball (concepts like commentary) he took a tennis ball inscribed with the word “art” and placed it in unusual places, such as  a bird’s nest, or in a bowl of water, or seemingly looking at itself mirror (above).   A second series, Art Bubbles, shows the artist blowing bubbles with the word “art” inscribed on them.  Even though Perneczky emigrated to Germany in 1970 he was  present on the Hungarian art scene and actively involved in the international mail art movement. He publishes his works and writings privately under the pseudonym Softgeometry.

Nouveau Bandage, Laszlo Lakner, 1971, gelatin silver print

László Lakner began his career as a Surnaturalist painter, mixing Surrealism and Naturalism, but in the 1970’s he painted photorealistic objects that had particular meanings.  Because of the political nature of his art, the government classified it as either “tolerated” or “forbidden” which made it extremely difficult for him to exhibit or sell his works.  In 1974, he received a scholarship to study in Berlin, where he continues to live and work.

Lenin in Budapest, Balint Szombathy, 1972/2016, gelatin silver print

Bálint Szombathy took some serious risks with his  performance art, as can be seen in his series Lenin in Budapest, in which he walked around Budapest after the 1972 May Day parade with a photo of Lenin mounted on a placard.  This was extremely risky, because the authorities could have interpreted this gesture as Szombathy parading the head of Lenin on a stick, as I did.

Balint Szombathy, Poetry & Language VI, 1977, ink stamp on vintage gelatin silver print

In 1977, his work took on a more semiotic tone in his Poetry & Language series, in which he would stamp the words Poetry and Language onto photographs, whose images seemingly had nothing to do with either word, but nonetheless forced you to take another look and reconsider them. 

You’ll also find photographs documenting Tamás Szentjóby’s Sit Out/Be Forbidden happening, on which is inscribed – Tous ce qu est interdit est art.  Sois interdit.  (Everything that’s forbidden is art.  Be forbidden).  He wasn’t as luck as Szombathy – instead he was arrested and expelled for his samizdat activities in 1975.

The 30 artists featured in this show employ various media and styles – I’ve covered only a tiny fraction of the exhibit.  You’ll also find photo performances by Bálint Szombathy, Katalin Ladik and Tibor Hajas and other artists, who performed intimate staged events without audiences, often with a political or subversive overtone, sometimes pushing their body to extreme limits, like other performance/body artists in Europe in the 1970’s.  There are also small monitors showing videos created by Dóra Maurer, Katalin Ladik and Ferenc Ficzek.  In addition to works by Budapest-based artists, the show includes pieces by artists associated with the Pécs Workshop, which played an outside role in this period.

The exhibit also features a number of works by the witty Endre Tót – on one wall is his Very Special Gladness series which highlights his wicked sense of humor, especially his photograph of a man reading a book with Lenin’s image on the cover – the photo is entitled,    I am glad if I can read Lenin.  Be sure to look at his conceptual “rain” series in the vitrine.

At All Times 1, Istvan Nadler, 2008, casein and tempera on canvas

Don’t leave without stopping in the small gallery space on the second floor where you’ll find works by Imre Bak and István Nadler that they’ve created in the 2000’s, allowing you to see the continuity with the abstract, geometric vein they were working in in the 1970’s.

With the Eyes of Others continues through August 12th, so before then get up to this fabulous exhibit at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery 2033/2037 Fifth Avenue (126th Street). 

Sculptors Guild on Governor’s Island

This year the Sculptors Guild is celebrating its 80th anniversary with an exhibit in Nolan Park on Governor’s Island. Featuring works by 36 sculptors, this wonderful show is a testament to their skill in transforming materials – steel, aluminum, glass, fabric – into works of art.  Take a look at the on-line exhibit catalogue which gives you insight into the artists, then go see the show.  Here are my highlights:

Plow-Warrior Figure, Eric David Laxman, welded and forged steel, granite, found objects

Eric David Laxman’s Plow-Warrior Figure has presence, not only due to it’s size – 6ft tall – but also the way in which he’s combined stone, steel and found objects, especially the base, which contributes to the Figure’s energy and sense of movement.

detail, Blowing in the Wind or the Invasion of Industry, Lucy Hodgson, concrete, steel pipe, antler, wire mesh

Lucy Hodgson’s  Blowing in the Wind, or the Invasion of Industry refers to the destruction of the natural environment by industrialization. The head of the piece, above, rests on a skeletal frame of steel pipes, giving it a bird-like quality.

Magic Carpet Ride, Thea Lanzisero, steel

When seen from afar, Thea Lanzisero’s Magic Carpet Ride looks charcoal black; however, the closer you get, the more you see the underlying reds and blues, which my camera’s flash has made pop.  I like how she used screws for the fringe.

ZigZags, Janet Goldner, steel

Janet Goldner’s steel ZigZags are part of an ongoing series, influenced by her work in Mali (for over two decades), and reflecting her deep interest in African art.

Counter Action, Conrad Levenson, iron and steel

I especially liked the sense of fun in Conrad Levenson’s Counter Action as well as his use of weathered, rusted steel and iron.  Although I didn’t try to set it in motion, if you do, the saw blades and the disc will move at different speeds, creating tension among them.

Rising Tide, Eve Ingalls, bronze, photographs

I was attracted to the delicate metal overlay of Eve Ingalls Rising Tide, which I had thought was copper, but is in fact, bronze.  The photos are of a game field the artist created on a beach in Costa Rica. She made the shells in the photo from paper, because there aren’t any real shells left.  At the bottom, you’ll find a human shadow…

Knight, Emil Silberman, metal, wood, found objects

Before I knew the title of Emil Silberman’s Knight, my first thought was Don Quixote.  And my first reaction was a smile.  A really fun piece, with ingenious use of found objects.

There’s lots more to see in the Sculptors Guild’s exhibit, and you’ll find art throughout Governor’s Island, so be sure to leave yourself enough time to explore!   This exhibit will be up until July 16th.  It’s lots of fun, so put it on your TO DO list!

Approaching Governor’s Island on the Ferry

Text and Image

There’s a great show at Site: Brooklyn on word-based art, juried by Edith Newhall, the art critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Featuring the work of some 50-odd artists, the  exhibit highlights the intersection of text and image, in many ingenious ways.

History of Flight One, Ian Campbell, mixed media

The title of Ian Campbell’s piece, History of Flight One, is the title of a book whose images form the basis of this collaged piece.  Campbell cut each lithograph, over which he laid one or more pieces of polyester film, and then wrote on them, repeating this process several times. By layering and tiering the lithographs, he’s created an image that has a lot of depth. 

Rorschach, Annette Barbier, modified book

Annette Barbier has chosen to use a book – Breakout, by Martin Russ, about a battle in Korea by the US Marines) as a sculptural material – which could explain the way the figures seem to be trying to escape from the book, as well as the piece’s title.

Is it Working?, Kara Dunne, screenprint on fan

For Kara Dunne, it’s important that her art be seen and that it be affordable, so she often screenprints her work on low-cost items.  She got the idea for Is It Working? from an old hand fan which was filled with patriotic imagery. Dunne updated the image of the woman, putting her in a suit, to reflect that today women work, and changed the houses in the background to a row of brownstones. Dunne also added the words “working away from” after the words “The American Dream”, reflecting her view that this ideal is no longer attainable.

RichardGabriele_Palimpsest_Blue_No3 (image courtesy of the artist)

Richard Gabriele’s inspiration for his work came from two books: “The Lotos Eaters” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the Odyssey by Homer.  In order to “flood the plane with calligraphy,” he painted successive layers of different colors, starting with the background, for which he used watercolors.   Then, using egg tempera, he overlayed it with rows of Greek letters, then turned the paper 90º and wrote in cursive English. I love the way the colors bleed onto the edges of the paper.

Expecto Pantronum, Brooke Jana (image courtesy of the artist)

Brooke Jana created this stag from strips which each contain a spell from the Harry Potter series, and took the work’s title, Expecto Patronum from the spell that he uses to conjure the stag.

Murmuring House, Jung Eun Park, embroidery thread, pencil, paper collage on Korean paper

I’d love to see the front of this piece to hear what the house is murmuring ….  On her website, the artist Jung Eun Park says that these works “are simply the record of my intimate life, but also imply the psychological narratives of human being living in a new environment.”  I was drawn to this piece by it’s simplicity, and the embroidery.

Guns and Roses, Francine Gintoff, oil pastel on paper

Francine Gintoff’s work is primarily large format drawing, combined with oil pastel in pink and indigo, evoking vintage tattoos.  She always includes the title of the work directly in it, seeing it as integral to the piece.  The images have personal significance to the artist, creating her own visual poetry.

Letters from Home, Dare Boles, collage

Dare Bole’s piece links the African and African-American families in this collage, not only through the letters which join both halves of the canvas, but also through her depiction of the role of women in both communities, and the red and white dresses in one half that play on the brick pattern in the other.

L.B.D., Andrew Neumann, vinyl letters, wood and paint

I found this piece, L.B.D. by Andrew Neumann to be lots of fun.

Do see the show before it closes on July 16th.  Site: Brooklyn is in the Gowanus neighborhood, at 165 Seventh Street.

Family Stories at Muriel Guépin

It’s always fun seeing the work of a friend and neighbor.  I’ve known Iviva Olenick  for several years, but her show at the Muriel Guépin Gallery on the Lower East Side made me realize how much I don’t know about her. 

Selfie as Modern Matriarch, Iviva Olenick, beading and hand embroidery on fabric

Most of Iviva’s work is embroidered – very often on vintage fabrics – in a freehand narrative style, illustrating things she’s doing or issues she’s concerned about.  A central theme of her work is relationships – not only hers, but other people’s.  Several years ago, she put out a call for poems about relationships, which she then embroidered.  Iviva also examines the relationships between people and places, especially for people who migrate from one place to another, whether or not voluntarily.  

Portrait as my Grandmother, Iviva Olenick, beading and appliqué on fabric

This show, however, is focused on her family; her pride in being part of their gene pool shines through, especially in this piece, entitled, Portrait as my Grandmother, with it’s elaborate beadwork.  Her work here is more intricate, with more adornments than I’ve seen in her previous embroideries.

Great Grandma Sonja, Iviva Olenick, hand embroidery on fabric

You’ll also find a piece about her great grandmother Sonja, whose escape from Russia to England is embroidered into a lace-like collar.  That’s one feature I really like about Iviva’s work – her ability to incorporate words as structural and decorative elements, while still allowing them to function as words.

wall with embroideries telling her father’s story, Iviva Olenick, embroidery and collage on fabrics

But this show isn’t only about the matrilineal side of the family – against one wall, Iviva has placed 8 small collaged embroideries about her father,  Monte. 

The Story of Monte Olenick, Iviva Olenick, embroidery and collage on fabric

I liked this piece for it’s simplicity and use of white space, which convey the starkness of the Depression, without being maudlin; I thought the red and green Manischewitz’ logo adds a bright, hopeful note. The other embroideries recount Monte’s life: he served in the Army, became a librarian, retired, then, for over a decade, led walks  of senior citizens through Central Park (for which he won a Presidential Volunteer Service Award).  He’s also a very good poet (we read on the same program some years ago)!

Beach, Melissa Zexter, sivler gelatin print, thread

The gallery is also showing work by another Brooklyn-based artist, Melissa Zexter , who overlays embroidery on her photographs, often very subtly – once you look closely, you realize that many of the delicate lines are in fact thread.  She also often scratches the surface of her pictures, creating delicate white lines that add depth to her images.

Lake, Melissa Zexter, C-print and thread

Overall, her work has a textural feel, not often found in photographs.  There’s a family connection too: Zexter’s children often appear in her photographs.

Be sure to see these shows before they close on June 24th!  Muriel Guépin Gallery is located at 83 Orchard Street.

Bodies Electric at Cavin Morris

detail, Untitled, Anna Zemánková, pastel, ball point pen, embroidery, 1970’s

I have seen exhibits of the embroidered works by self-taught artist Anna Zemánková, but was unfamiliar with her body of drawings, so I’m glad I saw the lovely exhibit of her pastels from the 1960’s and 70’s at the Cavin Morris Gallery in Chelsea.

Untitled, Anna Zemánková, pastel, 1960’s

This show of about a dozen works features mainly large pastels and oil pastels on paper (approx. 2ft x 3ft), but  also a group of smaller ones, all with with Zemánková’s singular biological and organic motifs.

Untitled, Anna Zemánková, pastel, 1960’s

Born in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1908, Zemánková drew as a child, but despite showing talent, she was discouraged from pursuing a career as an artist.  Instead she worked as a dental technician;  after she married, she stopped working and raised four children. 

detail, Untitled, Anna Zemánková, pastel, early 1960’s

It wasn’t until Zemánková was in her 50’s that she returned to art, when her son Bohumil, a sculptor, made her a table and gave her art supplies, as a way of helping Zemánková cope with her depression.  She would create fantastical, imaginary plants and flowers in the early hours of the morning, while listening to classical music.  I could sit in her “gardens” for hours.  Having been featured in the Venice Biennale in 2013, I’m sure we’ll see more of her work.

detail, Corpus Linguae, Luboš Plný, ink, acrylic, collage on paper

Cavin Morris is also featuring the work of another Czech artist, Luboš Plný (b. 1961), who began studying medical and psychiatric texts as a way of understanding the diagnosis of schizophrenia simplex he had been given during his military service.  Plný has created collaged, intricate hand-drawn illustrations of the body, layering skin, muscle, bone, veins, cells, one over the other, creating anatomical images that are simultaneously very dense, yet clear, as if you’re looking at someone through a very, very powerful microscope, sometimes from the inside out. 

detail, Double Bind, Luboš Plný, ink, acrylic, collage on paper

Often you’ll find faces in his works, which have been cut out from magazines and then painted over, mask-like, as well as random body parts floating in the background.  Plný’s work is in the current Venice Biennale.

Be sure to see these shows before they close on July 29th. 

Cavin Morris  is located at 210 Eleventh Avenue, Suite 201.