By JONATHAN GOODMAN, JULY 2018
“Three-Some-Thing” is a small group show consisting of three artists based in New York: Jonny Detiger, an artist making paintings, sculptures, and sound works, originally from Holland; Nevil Dwek, a photographer experienced in manipulating images, active in New York for a long time; and Beatrice Pediconi, born in Italy but working in New York for some time, who takes photographs of paintings done on water. Curated by Brazilian-born, New York-based Flavia Tamoyo, the show offers a small collection of riches, presenting art in a broad array of media: photography, painting, sculpture, and sound. The different genres of the artists attest not only to the pluralism of the people making the work, but also the broad expansion of backgrounds in New York--always a strength of the city, but even more so now. Elga Wimmer’s gallery, traditionally friendly to internationalism in art, once again makes good our expectation that the foreign-born artists in this show (Detiger and Pediconi) would be working in high gear, as well as the American artist (Dwek), known for his technical expertise. While it not easy to fit the work of all three neatly into a single picture, it is fair to say that all the artists are attracted to experiment, but also connect with more conventional ties and approaches.
Perhaps Detiger is the least traditional. Working with markers, he has a couple of sleek studies of interior design, vaguely Hockneyesque in the elegance of their imagery, as well as their orientation toward pleasure. In one, called Peacock (2018), a white peacock with a variously colored blue and green tail stands on the edge of the pool, in which a floats on his back, a coffee cup bobbing in the water on his side. Across from him a woman stands in the water, resting her arms on the edge containing the pool. Inside the glass-enclosed living room, Detiger has included three figures: in the back, a man facing away from us, with a large blue bird on his arm, its wings extended; in the part of the room closest to the pool, a girl ties the shoestrings of her roller blades, with her leg on a simple backless seat; and on the other side, a woman in high heels sits in a chair, her head and upper torso hidden by its side and upper part. Her legs are brown, and she is wearing high heels. A wall of softly curving, pastel-hued nonobjective forms covers the walled background of this drawing/painting. A plant nearly the size of a person, with blue and green leaves, occurs on the left. This simplified portrait of the good life, it would seem in California, feels a lot like a schematic version of a Hockney painting.
Dwek is a photographer who pieces together elements of images on the computer, with results leaning toward a melancholic presentation. An enthusiast of the abstractions of Gerhard Richter, he pays homage to the German painter with Longing (2017), a UV print on aluminum whose dimensions are fifty by forty inches. Large enough to be commanding in presence, Longing consists of overlapping grids, the most prominent set being the one created by dark bars with blurry edges. But we see other linear arrangements: a set of blurred, hyphen-like lines reading a bit like a morse code without changes, also covers the composition, whose green background feels vaguely landscape-oriented (but this is hard to prove from the image alone). A bit of red is found in the left of the print. In another image, Some Might Say (2017), four images, occurring in a horizontal row, are framed by blue wood; from right to left we see: an undressed woman; an abstract, amorphous shape in red, holding its own against the dark background it vies with; an organic set of nonobjective forms, placed behind a wire-like grid; and a street scene on a rainy day, also obscured by a grid. According to the artist, it is up to the audience to make sense of the four discrete images, whose general suggestion is one of both sensuality and sensuousness--albeit occurring in a world of melancholic self-containment.
Detiger’s apparently Californian suburban home is something we can pretty easily connect with (at least in America!), while Dwek’s moody, erotic imagery feels harder to place. The work of the last artist, Pediconi, is truly international; there is nothing specifically Italian about what she does. A formal and technical approach, as opposed to a thematic or cultural view of the art, helps us best understand the art. We are looking at photos and light boxes of paintings made directly on water. Alien C (2016) is an archival pigment print predominantly red in hue; within this fluid field are all manner of effects: splotches of darker, deeper red; curving lines resembling sperm; and an amorphous whitish section in the upper half, in which many of these abstract effects takes place. Alien C is a powerful work that sets the viewer thinkings. How were the effects achieved? Can we call the work an imaged sculpture (despite its two-dimensional nature) or simply a photo? How does the artist maintain the stillness of discrete shapes if these shapes are occurring in the endlessly moving field of a liquid? The answers are not easily forthcoming, so we are left to speculate--but this is to be expected when confronting contemporary art that is hard to make sense of.
The real strength of “Three-Some-Thing” lies in the differences between the artists rather than their similarities. Each pursue their own portion of heaven; Detiger has even built a blonde-wood cabinet for a turntable that plays the word “Love” as found by the artist on various recordings--he is determined to drive the world into our neural wiring. Dwek’s moody imagery reminds us that the sublime need not always be entirely positive in outlook; his imagery culls its mood from a long history of art photography, even as he uses a computer program to arrange the pictures he makes use of. And Pediconi’s unusual craft, seemingly low tech, must be recorded by camera to record the improvised image her audience looks at. In consequence, the show is as much a triumph of idiosyncratic image management as it a record of a fixed tableau. In the case of all three artists, we are encouraged to embrace as innovation--in theme, in historical memory, and in technical ingenuity and exploration. Curator Tamoyo is someone who recognized the essentially unfettered nature of the imagination of each artist’s outlook, which is often brought into visual reality by simple technical change. The surprising, and admirable, aspect of the show is its willingness to sit between high and low technology, and figuration and abstraction. The works remain in mind for some time after they have been seen, making it clear that the artists have effectively communicated the complexities of their thinking. WM
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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