Whitehot Magazine

“Possibly Painting”at Five Myles

Roger Loft: Portraits, 2016 – 2023, epoxy, dynel, fiberglass, wood diverse sizes.


Five Myles is a Kunsthalle located in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, Run for years by administrator and performance artist Hanne Tierney, the space, quite expansive in size, is offering a three-person show of artists whose work hovers between relief sculptures and more painterly effects. The three men, who include Miguel de la Cruz. Roger Loft, and Isaac Paris, work with traditional genres –portraiture, still life, and landscape. De la Cruz creates wall-mounted, three-dimensional reliefs embellished with found material (plastic bottles and other refuse materials), while Loft works with what he calls “negative effects”. The pieces are made of wood and figuratively examine the late 19th century: Loft creates his work by carving wood portraits and figures of the sort one might find in Europe at that time. The last artist, Paris, a dedicated and gifted environmental artist, works with leaves, painting and displaying them to emphasize an increasingly diminished nature no one can do anything about–except, perhaps, make the most of it. The works we encounter in this fine show are textured by nature, even the leaves highlighted by Paris. The exhibition’s title then makes it clear: neither fully sculptural, nor entirely painterly, these works embrace an area in which the cusp combining them both serves as a context and, more or less, an artistic presence in its own right

Miguel de la Cruz: The Door before the Heaven, 2020, acrylic on plastic and canvas, 38 x 48”

De la Cruz’s low relief painting, titled Road to Go and Come (2020), consists of acrylic painted on acrylic and canvas. It is thoroughly rough in its design and surface, with the suggestion of a figure on the painting’s left side. Most of the tonalities are dark, and coupled with the coarse, mostly abstract forms; the work might be better understood as a sculpture (this happens often in de la Cruz's art). Another work, The Door before the Heaven (2020), uses the same materials as Road to Go and Come. It is filled with objects dark in color, making them more than a bit difficult to read. Again, figures seem to be present, but they are hard to make out. The titles of the two works both suggest a spiritual orientation, but de la Cruz doesn't make that clear. Instead, he assigns spiritual value to complex arrangements of found objects that can lean toward a non-objective reading or a figurative one, as you decide. The aura of these pieces rely on a poetry of the streets, which given the toughness of the neighborhood in which Five Myles is located, makes sense.

Loft entered into sculpture from painting, but this work, only three inches thick, is more a low relief bordering on a painting, The work, titled Portrait of JG (2018), depicts a man in conservative attire (a brown suit), whose demeanor matches his clothing. So do the walls–just about everything is given a dark brown color, even the wooden chair with an open back. We don’t know anything at all about the life of this seemingly distinguished person, but it is worth noting that it is a conservative image set in a neighborhood that is climbing out of the depths. The increasing gentrification of Crown Heights serves as a backdrop for an artwork whose class associations are high. TS (2016) is a life-size portrait of a woman’s head. Her face is narrow, with engaging, slightly whimsical eyes. Her hair is brown, and the piece ends at the bottom of her lower neck, The feeling is one of considerable sensitivity, likely belonging to a woman from the upper classes. In fact, it matters little what sort of background these figures have, What counts is Loft’s treatment of their demeanor, which is highly successful.

Isaac Paris: Princess/Emperor Leaf #16, 2024, Laptop Box, 8.75 x 12”

“The Princess/Emperor Collage Series,” conceived of and made by Paris, consists of different framing materials surrounding the leaf. Their remarkable presence as examples of natural beauty contrast sharply with the art of the other two artists. But the leaves maintain a startling presence as a reminder of fragility, at a time when nature seems to be permanently disappearing. This work is the most refined of the three artists, but de la Cruz and Loft both have excellent comments to make on their own visual contexts.

To finish, “Possibly Painting” proves that all artists are individuals particular in their taste and factor. It is hard, then, to compare one to the other. In a show such as this, the title guides us into a gray area where the images lean toward, without fully committing themselves to, an art of independence and beauty, no matter their place socially in life. For that insight alone, “Possibly Painting” is an excellent show. WM 


Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications. 


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