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A Daze of Roses at Mizuma & Kips

A Daze of Roses, installation view. Courtesy of Mizuma and Kips.

A Daze of Roses

Mizuma & Kips

July 28 through August 21, 2021

Curated by Robert Curcio 

By SIBA KUMAR DAS, August 2021

Originating most likely in central Asia, the rose’s evolution has spanned some 35 million years. A species that has undergone immense diversification, it is hardy and successful and has generated ideas and products in practically all cultures. An expanding symbolic universe with galaxies in many regions has arisen from the rose’s qualities---its beauty, shape, and scent included.

“A Daze of Roses” brings together art works by thirteen contemporary artists. At a time when we are overwhelmed by crisis upon crisis and we struggle for light, the Mizuma & Kips show is a necessary beacon 

Light fills Claudine Anrather’s “Country Rose” as well as Claire McCconaughy’s “Wild Roses Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.” Art history’s children, both paintings respond to the contemporary world by breaking an artificial wall between ourselves and nature. We are nature’s creations and yet when we look at the world, we see it through metaphors and other human creations. This is a mysterious symbiosis, which both artists express through glorious color---the one metamorphosing roses as still life, the other situating them in landscape. 

Judy Mannarino, Untitled PB. Courtesy of Mizuma & Kips.

Judy Mannarino’s paper clay sculpture “Untitled PB” will make you think of the symbol-loaded figure of a woman with a head of roses that Salvador Dali used in several paintings and sculptures. Seeing Edward Giordano Jr’s sculpture “Mediator” with its rose-red head, neck, and shoulders, you may be similarly transported. That surrealism is still alive as a muse is also confirmed by Sajal Sarkar’s “Third Eye.” This blue flower-like eye floating on a roseate biological sea may speak to you of Shiva’s all-knowing third eye or of the Cosmic Rose linked with his consort. A search for solace in a turbulent world: that is what the painting symbolizes. Another quasi-surrealistic painting is Paul Brainard’s “Song for Last Exit” --- truly a riddle. What is that set of teeth, a skull’s remnant, doing in this non-figurative landscape dominated by roseate colors? And that exit sign? Is it beckoning us to an enigmatic, deep space that makes you think of Yves Tanguy? 

A riddle is what Gregory de la Haba gives us in “Portrait of Gabriel,” a homeless person who arrived in New York on 16 March 2020 just as the city was closing. His smile and twinkling eye light up a face scarred by multiple piercings, and he appears to see the world through a veil of street art, the entire picture bathed in red and dark pink. Gabriel should be distressed and downcast but he’s not---a startling paradox. Contradictions also permeate Frodo Mikkelsen’s two “Summertime” paintings, quasi-surrealistic works that allude to pop art and vanitas still-life intimations of ephemerality and mortality. In each, a human skull lurks behind sprigs of roses painted to look as black cutouts---the imagery offset by a roseate depth-producing space. 

Affinity with pop art drives the art of both Michael Netter and John Grande. A self-taught artist, Netter, in the early 1970s, was an Andy Warhol protégé. Seeing his “Artwear Jacket” (Netter makes fashion apparel in addition to video art, paintings, and assemblages) you might discern a Warhol-like effect. In his “Cane” paintings, he strikes out on his own, making us see the mundane rosebush trunk as itself a beautiful thing. In “Kalopsia,” John Grande makes unusual juxtapositions to suggest a conflation of two alternatives. Either the rose is not as beautiful as people think it is or when a rose’s beauty moves you, you are using eyes that are themselves beautiful. Grande’s roses are beautifully painted. When I say that, am I in a state of kalopsia?  

Frodo Mikkelsen, Summertime, 2012. Courtesy of Mizuma & Kips.

Augustus Goertz and Bobbie Moline-Kramer also thrive in enigma and ambiguity, pursuing their separate ways. The former titles his piece in the show “A Rose is not a Rosé is not a Rosé!” but, of course, the enchanting rose-pink color dominating the painting suggests that a rosé is a rosé. Notice how the artist utilizes his trompe l’oeil canvas folds to create a semblance of structure for the dark central area where flecks of rose-pink paint float. Are these flecks rose petals? In “The End of the Beginning” Moline-Kramer creates another world of complex feeling. You may even discern, underneath the lower grey-blue cloud, the memory of a human face. The Japanese-style signature blocks in rose-lacquer color draw your attention to the mysterious crows. Are they omens? If a beginning ends, what comes after? The rose is ephemeral. The rose endures. 

Julia Blume “breaks down the false dichotomy of ‘humans’ and ‘nature’ in her work.” These are Blume’s own words, which signify an affinity with the art of Anrather and McConaughy, who too break the wall, as we have seen. In “The Rose: The Trellis Creeps to the Wilds,” Blume’s plaster and polyester sculpture, the trellis from which her faux silk roses spring has already metamorphosed into a bizarre vegetable that flaunts its flamboyant artificial coloring. Here too ambiguity is at work.  

“A Daze of Roses” tells us that the rose is still a powerfully seductive muse. It is also telling that much of the art it catalyzes lives in ambiguity and even doubt. The surrealists helped us see the mystery of the world. We still need to nourish that sense of mystery. Art cannot solve our problems but it can influence sensibility and give us new eyes. WM

Siba Kumar Das

Siba Kumar Das is a former United Nations official who writes about art. He served the U.N. Development Program in New York and several developing countries. He now lives in the U.S., splitting his time between New York City and upstate New York. He has published articles on artists living in the Upper Delaware Valley, and is presently focusing on art more globally. Recent articles have appeared in dArt International, Arte Fuse, and Artdaily.com. 

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