Next Post: 18 Solo Projects at Rupert Ravens Contemporary
85 Market Street
Newark, NJ 07102
February 28 through May 3, 2009
text by Lynn Maliszewski
Creative Ebb and Flow
Rupert Ravens has orchestrated an exhibition that proves to be an opus for art enthusiasts who revel in the chance to be overwhelmed. The exhibition, appropriately entitled Next Post: 18 Solo Projects, is composed of 18 artists working individually around the confines (or lack thereof) of the space. Stimulation abounds upon exploration of the three full floors bridging all types of media from light and sound installations to prints, mixed media, and everything in between. The continuous challenge to be accepted upon entry is one to be savored.
Another Brick in the Wall
Cordy Ryman demands consideration upon arrival, beckoning you to his area on the second floor with his enormous wood pieces. Taking up a large majority of the wall space outlined for him, his repertoire of work also extends to smaller collages and other wood manipulations. Tara’s Corner (2004), composed of a tall column of teal and green wooden bricks placed in the corner of the room, is an immediately enjoyable insight into disarray in a simple composition. With several bricks meticulously arranged on their sides, it seems as though the structure may topple at any point. Hauntingly suspenseful yet pleasantly warm and animated, the piece toys with the impulse to adjust the clumsy bricks regardless of its satisfactory state of being. Upon closer inspection these bricks are painted quite sloppily, disregarding whatever internal inclination there may be to perfect the coat on each corner and side. Coil 2 (2008) further challenges the viewer’s restraint. The pseudo-square, wooden composition creates an uncomplicated maze disintegrating into dead ends from every path. The exterior face of the wood is hastily painted white while the interior of the planks are varying shades of green, yellow and blue. The maze spawns immediate curiosities: there has to be a way out, right? The colors promote participation but upon further exploration the ideal is quickly revoked. The maze functions like a rigged circus game, entrancing the viewer and perpetuating an activity inevitably ending in failure. Juxtaposed compulsions are seamlessly translated. Although one may yearn to put the skewed block in place with the others or rearrange the maze to make it more thoroughly digestible, this contradiction between attachment and detachment gives way to an investigation of human impulses.
A Conglomeration of Years
The main floor of the exhibition holds a large majority of the works found on canvas. The work of Fred Gutzeit will immediately embrace those who yearn for 1968, non-objective art, or getting thoroughly lost in an image. With more than a handful of large-scale canvases on display, Gutzeit’s work induces memories of psychedelia with obese swirling patterns, substantial flat expanses of color, and obscure shapes. OTT14 (2004), a standout due to Gutzeit’s guileless use of red and muted yellow, encompasses a tirade of crescent moons and menacing blobs that recede into a swamp-like abyss in the upper right. Painted opaquely and uniformly, he utilizes line and size to create retreating landscapes that are challenging to place. His images are tricky and seductive. A dance across his relentless patterns will ultimately terminate in space. Gutzeit has been an active artist since the late 1960’s, transitioning through a vast amount of media and subject matter. After painting landscapes in upstate New York Gutzeit transitioned into his current series, yearning to fashion more sublime landscapes considering rhythms and tensions that exist as a result of objects placed in nature. Reminiscent of late 19th century paintings based on the newly discovered microscope’s imagery, Gutzeit’s work explores dynamic interactions of energy within space that come to create the patterns he presents. The image resides within the canvas, yet whether it remains flat or seems to move in some direction is reliant upon the force of its internal components. He transforms reality into oblong forms, reacting to and generating vibes that affect the different aspects of his simulated environment. The canvases pulsate with energy, only further reflecting the force that materializes them.
It’s a Crazy, Upside-down World
The most extensive installation by far can be found in the basement of the gallery. Tim White-Sobieski’s Visor’d is a video, sound, and light installation incorporating sculpture that provides a thrill for a majority of the senses. Based on a poem by Walt Whitman, the piece is overwhelming at first but requires relentless attention to every detail. A convoluted metal sculpture in the fetal position lies on the floor at one end of the installation below what looks like an imposing video of a darkened skyline, glistening with flickering lights, mounted on the wall. The sculpture immediately relays feelings of uncomfortability and tension, contradicting the outwardly transcendental video. The bulk of the installation furthermore consists of screens hung from the ceiling projecting video on both sides. The videos blur the line between ephemeral impressions and a warped reality. Flowing water, tides, and bubbles interact with vivid impressions of motion. Super saturated landscapes melt into clouds as seen from an airplane window and blurred amoebas of life. White-Sobieski’s imagery stems from organic forms like smoke, refracted light and crystalline structures. An odd dichotomy surfaces between what can be interpreted as a natural form and what constitutes the artificial.
The screens, hung at what looks like a 45-degree angle from their closest wall, straddle a roughly composed row of sharp metal asteroids on the floor. The contours and corners of these structures are accentuated by spotlights hung at varying lengths above them. These ambiguous objects and their centrality in the piece only further obscure the tangible. The final frontier rests in the hypnotizing light installation at the end of the room in which swirls of cerulean blue and white merge flawlessly in a pulsating, blissful circle of nirvana. Providing relief from the prior confusion, the circle becomes an inevitable abyss. Accompanying this entire experience is a soundtrack of several notes oscillating through the room, inducing a meditative state.
This piece targets perception and how we digest imagery. John Locke preached that perception was the basis of all knowledge, allowing us to process experiences and make connections in comparison. Following perception, our minds have the ability to reflect on the encounters we’ve perceived. White-Sobieski’s piece can be reminiscent, in this way, of one’s transition to sleep. After curling up in attempts to escape reality, retained mental impressions swim around, mingle, and generate bizarre combinations thereof. Surreal or plausible, dreams encompass our thoughts and mesmerize us during our time of rest, a time assumed to be free of mental restraints or worry. Once we enter into sleep, we are no longer responsible for our actions and are able to fall into an unavoidable heavenly state devoid of consequences or repercussions. However, the distorted images in the installation immediately propel the viewer to correlate and unscramble, an impossible aspiration in sleep unless your brain is equipped with a notepad. White-Sobieski challenges perceptive inclinations, inducing a vague outlook in order to spur our own further observation of reality in general.
Subtlety Will Take You Far
Despite the expanse of art presented and the lack of definitive direction amongst the pieces, lacking any outspoken idea or theme to unite even the individual artist’s pieces, it would be unwise to consider these qualities problematic. The space, predominantly open apart from several temporary walls on each floor, lends itself to challenging the viewer. Upon wandering around the space, the energy of each area is unique and potent, relying on the impact of a maximum of ten pieces. Each artist comes out swinging, forcing viewers to pause, meditate, and reflect in order to fully acquire the salient themes beyond non-existent catalogue essays or wall captions. Underlying messages and allegories supplement immediate notions, further motivating comparisons amongst artists within the exhibition and affirming the space as a forum of contemporary inspiration and innovation.
Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: email@example.com http://icpabackstage.blogspot.com
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