Whitehot Magazine

October 2009, Jonathan Van Dyke @ Scaramouche

October 2009, Jonathan Van Dyke @ Scaramouche
Jonathan Van Dyke, ASYMMETRICAL RELATIONSHIP, 2009, Cedar, cotton webbing, cast plastic, and paint dripping from two points, 86"W x 75"H x 5.5"D, courtesy of Scaramouche Gallery.

Jonathan Van Dyke, The Hole in the Palm of Your Hand at Scaramouche c/o Fruit and Flower Deli 
53 Stanton St.
New York, NY 10002
12 September through 1 November, 2009

Jonathan Van Dyke's recent works rely on a trusted set of variables to give voice to the preoccupations and aspirations of their author. Usually mid to large size wooden sculptures, these constructions cleverly integrate materials belonging to the vocabularies of both standard and high-end furniture design. As we get accustomed to the basic qualities and physical presence of the sculptures, we discover how the surface appearance of their seat-like canvas webbings, polished or mirrored surfaces and exquisitely constructed structures is regularly (and subtly) disrupted by incongruous materials and details. Cleverly integrated and apparently necessary construction elements such as cheap masonite panels, swinging chains and plastic inserts seem to betray a lack of integrity. The mechanisms that they hide, and not so much their appearance, are what really endangers the rigorous structural and aesthetic balance that we might initially perceive as the foundation of the objects' very existence.

In a slapstick manifestation of the stigmatic image suggested by the exhibition title, the visible or hidden, large and small holes puncturing Van Dyke's surfaces reveal themselves as the conduits of fantastically colored, slowly dripping fluids of mysterious origin. These drippings slowly build up, affecting the sculptures by directly staining them in multicolored poodles and trickles of gooey color. This bleeding substance probes the visitor's comfort zone by literally flowing under his or her feet, reaching for a silent, sometimes involuntary (and often unnoticed) point of contact and contamination. Carried around by the visitors' feet, color stains the tiles of the -appositely redone- gallery floor, its presence echoed by a myriad little marks, random testimonials to Van Dyke's silent, quirky magic.

The number and size of pieces was a little overwhelming for Scaramouche's compact exhibition space. The general atmosphere reminded me, ...well, of a second hand furniture shop basement. I have a specific place in mind: a huge, multi-floor antique store on Atlantic Avenue that's been advertising its own going “Out of Business” since the first time I visited it, years ago. In that basement, the moldy smell of dimly lit, flickering neon tubes wraps around a myriad rotten sofas, lounge chairs and cabinets. There are no sounds, even the pipes are uncommonly quiet. Here and there, the muted whoomp of a fallen cushion, a distant creak from the retro Danish desk (buried beneath two other retro Danish desks) and its reverberation in the solid air are there to remind you that, when the lights go off, that furniture will still be there. Day or night, they will be performing a gradual transformation that is synonymous with decay and devaluation for someone, and the essence of their desirable “Vintage” status for others.  

Although tempting, reading Van Dyke's rationally designed yet lurid, sexually charged and even funny living sculptures as queer reminders of Modernism's failure would be like kissing them with your eyes open. These perpetually climaxing avatars of decay and corruption have much more to say, and most of it seems to be hidden inside their skillfully constructed bodies and beyond the quirky exuberance of the small color streams that many visitors seem to be so superficially amused at.

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Marco Antonini

Marco Antonini is a New York based independent curator and writer. He has collaborated with some of the most reputable organizations in New York, including ISCP, Elizabeth Foundation, LMCC, ISE Foundation, Japan Society, Triangle Arts and the Dumbo Arts Center.

A freelance educator/lecturer at MoMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA PS1 and 3rdWard Design Center, his articles, essays and interviews have been published on Flash Art International, Cura, Whitehot, Museo, BMM, Contemporary, AroundPhotography, Arte&Critica and NYArts. He has lectured on various topics for the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Japan Society, ISE Foundation, City College of New York/CUNY and the Rhode Island School of Design.

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