"The Best Art In The World"
Sam Tierney, from the "Pan" series, 2010
13 digital photographs on gessoed panels, 3 x 4 in. each
One and Three Quarters of an Inch
Curated by Peter Clough
At The Former Convent at St. Cecilia’s Parish
21 Monitor Street
Greenpoint, NY 11222
September 10 through September 18, 2010
Nestled under the BQE among dreary streets and residential silence, St. Cecilia’s convent was a curiously creepy venue for Peter Clough’s week-long exhibition entitled One and Three Quarters of an Inch. Accompanied by only a map and a palm-sized, flickering flashlight, I was consumed by four floors of twilight. The cavernous labyrinth was an installation in itself, a scavenger hunt for art behind unsuspecting corners. Clough jumped through a fiery curatorial hoop unscathed, bringing together over fifty artists that “resist reduction” in their reliance upon “attitude rather than specific form or content.” One and Three Quarters of an Inch allowed for each work to be valued as an inductive component of the collective mindset.
John Torreano, Dark Matters 2010
Acrylic gems, acrylic paint on flat black acrylic based enamel, Courtesy of Feature Inc
The sheer horror of searching in the pitch-black was eerily engaging and provided a cerebral viewing experience. The exquisite detail and size of some works proposed cursory scans in the darkness, shafted by a consequential viewing in pieces. Untitled Drawing (7-14-10.1) (2010), on the other hand, was a verbose mixed media drawing by Elwyn Palmerton that demanded time but could easily have been skimmed had it not been in the dark. Situating the viewer on the molecular level, Palmerton melded media fluidly and developed a texture heightened by close viewing and the drama of the flashlight’s glow. John Torreano’s Dark Matter (2010) situated quarter-sized black acrylic gems on a black wall. The wall was simultaneously entrancing and frightening, summoning the flickering infinity of a black hole as the flashlight’s beam conversed with the octagonal protrusions. Clough forced the audience to confront the absolutes as an audience member, forcing one to search from calculated angles before they can see.
Elwyn Palmerton, Untitled Drawing (22.214.171.124), 2010
mixed media (watercolor, ink, colored pencil, collage, graphite, matte medium)
The extreme sensory overload was both bewildering and unique. The darkness loomed amid the smell of frankincense, coupled with several resounding notes of electronic fervor. At its zenith, viewers were launched into a singular, empyreal moment. Gold Ghosts (2003-2010), an installation of sound and sand by David Matorin, resided in a compact room at the end of the first floor’s hallway. Blacked-out windows and crinkling wallpaper were props for a ghostly and inescapable sonic paradise. Jennifer Gustavson’s piece, Untitled (basement) (2010), in the basement of the convent was a neurotic playground overloaded with empty jars and make-shift Coke bottle vortexes. Visual mysteries resounded in several rooms, ranging from a paradoxical conglomerate chair formation to a cerebral light within an overturned garbage receptacle. The piece peaked in the kitchen, where suspicious piles of dirt overflowed the sink and devoured the kitchen floor. The oven was illuminated; the cabinets were empty save four bowls placed in perfect symmetry. The viewer sufficed as an unwelcome intruder upon a manic moment. Gustavson confronted all six senses, launching the viewer out of their body to make way for a symbiotic perceptual experience.
David Matorin, Gold Ghosts, 2003-2010
4-channel sound, dirt, gold. Dimensions variable.
The cohesive sensual seduction of the show provided an unabashed insight into Clough’s taste as a curator and his relentless testing of the audience’s aesthetic capacity. He demanded viewers approach works like trees in a redwood forest: portents of a complex legacy yet completely unique beyond simplification. The press release addressed the components of the show as facts, encompassing points too fragmented to pin down to one reading or too simple to be anything other than what they are. Jan van Woensel’s Exit Paintings (2010) physicalized frustration on ten pieces of paper pulled from a sketchbook. Frenzied minefields of bleak charcoal prisms and severe obscurities are interspersed with yelps of “impermanent slavery.” A stoic brick wall and futile cube summoned inadequacy, the downward spiral of a prisoner’s mind. Tyler Rico’s Untitled (2010), on the other hand, was a bit more straightforward: an illegally tinted Cadillac windshield leaning vertically against the decrepit wall. The beams of light were rejected and the intemperance of the blackout was revealed. The pieces were greedy: they demanded attention, they didn’t drop new knowledge, and they pardoned assumptions (read: angry youth or modern O.G’s) that the objects seemed to be transparently referencing. The contrast between van Woensel’s tantric exodus into the underbelly of reality and Rico’s flip-flopped objecthood revealed the impossibility of a single read. Clough assured viewers of truth, authenticating the objects and allowing imaginative links to form from conjured context rather than prerequisite pomp.
Jeremy Olson, Anathema, 2010
Acrylic, styrene, LEDs, paint, lens. Dimensions variable.
The convent itself was intense, pugnacious in its heavy history and aura. Some images were lost in the soaring ceilings and inevitably peeling wallpaper. Sam Tierney’s thirteen 3x4 inch photographs, for instance, were scattered throughout the exhibition, playfully unmarked, and unfortunately overlooked in the grandiose scheme of some rooms. Jeremy Olson’s Anathema (2010) was accessible through a tiny hole in a door in the hallway of the second floor. The miniscule mind-fuck revealed a barren, futuristic, mirrored room reminiscent of the Men in Black’s command center, silent with the eeriness of an overthrown, contaminated science lab. Viewers traveled through instinctual emotions, bouncing between the magnitude of the crumbling church and the sanitary circus in miniature. Jonathan deSimone’s Scaffold (2010) yanked the chain of perception, blending in completely with the decrepitude of the architecture. It appeared useful and practical, intermingling with a large bay window on the second floor. Its flimsy boards and flighty construction was suspect: a self-proclaimed hunk of ineffectual junk. In utilizing such extreme architecture, one must question whether it is the setting or the art that stimulates the flutter of aesthetic lust. Environment may contribute to each piece’s reading, but whether it clouds our sense of quality is debatable. One and Three Quarters of an Inch taunted definition in the modern viewer, challenging the ambiguity of self and the characteristics that triumph over time. Clough embraced the moment, clearing the phlegmy congestion of preconceived storyboards in art history in exchange for a unique viewing experience reliant on utilizing all six senses.
Jonathan deSimone, Scaffold, 2010.
Mixed media, dimensions variable.
Lynn Maliszewski is a freelance writer and aspiring curator/collector residing in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Norman (www.benjaminnorman.com)