After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Tag: Brooklyn

Embodiments

by Paul D'Agostino

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Embodiments: Exquisite Corpse
Exhibition essay by Paul D’Agostino for M. David Studio Residency

The culmination of weeks of planning and a ten-day, intensive on-site period of residency in Brooklyn, Exquisite Corpse will amount to a collective installation of works by Deborah Kapoor, Winston Mascarenhas, Bonny Leibowitz and Francesca Schwartz, all of whom find inspiration in various understandings and expressions of the body, and of bodies. This is a subject they examine and represent with marked abstraction, in visual terms, and conceptually as something internal, external, protean and interactive — and as the means for and locus of invasion and trauma, healing and recovery, stillness and grace.

The layout that curator and residency director Michael David currently envisions for this exhibit of ambitious new works by all four artists is based to some extent on counterbalances and junctures, perhaps not unlike certain aspects of bodily structures themselves. This should be considered in material as well as conceptual terms, not least with regard to how the four artists’ works will be spatially though somewhat casually paired: two artists will be installing their pieces primarily in the gallery’s front area, the other two toward the back. On the one hand, the idea is to create two separate spheres of bodily or meta-bodily expressions; on the other hand, it is to see what kinds of unexpected equilibrium might be attained as a result.

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Filling in and encircling the gallery’s front space with airs of dynamism and spareness will be projects by Deborah Kapoor and Bonny Leibowitz, who have been working with one another’s pieces in mind without necessarily reacting to them. Working now in a minimalist, whispery palette, and with a set of materials somewhat new to her, Leibowitz will complete a sequence of sculptural works hanging from the ceiling. Delicate, airy and slightly astir, Leibowitz’s works will suggest internal tissues and physiological networkings, or perhaps extra-bodily transplants or spiritual emissions. Kapoor, meanwhile, taking cues from birds’ flight patterns and readings thereof, is planning to complete an array of small, variably abstracted, heavily mixed-media wall sculptures intended to surround, perhaps somewhat scavenger-like, Leibowitz’s pendant pieces. Small individually yet imbued with material gravity, Kapoor’s works will cohere with one another visually as a circling flock of abstract objects, or as a composite body composed of an array of bird-like bodies.

Francesca Schwartz and Winston Mascarenhas will present 2D and 3D works that explore notions of the body in ways both far more literal and markedly more abstract. In an extensive suite of variably sized mixed media paintings on handmade composite panels, Mascarenhas will encourage viewers to look at and consider not a body, but our bodies, hoping to communicate how so many of our corporeal and identity-related trappings make us all quite the same, while also individuating us within the very same sameness. In other words, he’ll be creating a series of textures and hues suggestive of our organs — large and small, internal and external — such as our hearts and, primarily, skin. As a retired physician, Mascarenhas certainly knows a thing or two about how we’re all made of the same stuff, and about how our hearts, the things that truly make us tick, were never designed to house the harmful biases that we might harbor in our minds. A practicing psychoanalyst, Schwartz certainly knows a thing or two about how and why we come to greater or lesser understandings of ourselves as individuals, and about how experiences of pain, trauma, anxiety and grief can inflect, inform, confuse, inhibit or enhance these same understandings. Although Schwartz brings a wealth of clinical expertise to the planning of her works, she tends to eschew any imaginable clinicality of style or approach in her assemblage-heavy pieces that incorporate photographs, texts, textiles, and a range of drawing and painting media as well as — since she’s also trained as a butcher — bones. Schwartz will present several manifestations of all such types of work.

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A great deal of new art is being made for Exquisite Corpse. A great deal more has yet to be made. Soon it will all come together in the same space to be completed, tweaked and reworked. We’re all eager to see how the envisioned counterbalances and junctures take shape as an exhibition. And of course, we’re very eager to share all of these results with you.

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This essay was composed for Exquisite Corpse, an exhibition produced by M. David Studio Residency. It was on view from 9/28/2018 – 9/30/2018 at 56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn, New York City.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

Scrims & Blurs

by Paul D'Agostino

RU-Collage

Scrims & Blurs: Theresa Volpp, Mads Lindberg, Kinu Kamura, Julie Leidner
Curated by Paul D’Agostino for Residency Unlimited

Hosted by El Museo de Los Sures, and featuring current Residency Unlimited artists Kinu Kamura (France), Julie Leidner (USA), Mads Lindberg (Denmark) and Theresa Volpp (Germany), Scrims & Blurs presents a navigable pathway of paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, photographs and partially site-specific installations. It’s an exhibition that invites visitors to look at, into and through a variably interactive array of objects while pondering notions of blurry translucence, reflective transparency, dematerialization and rematerialization, and self-refraction and self-discovery. In ways active and viewer-activated alike, the carefully considered surfaces of all of the works — layered materially as well as conceptually — serve as sieves and concealers, revealers and obscurants. Behind their textures, filters, scrims and screens lie clues, secrets and discoveries.

Broad and expansive like a sprawling tapestry, Theresa Volpp ‘s multi-panel mixed-media painting on transparent vinyl is an amalgam of gestural, energetic, and at times frenetic marks and layered applications involving household paint, ink, glitter and spray paint. Her treatment is thin yet chunkily abstract in formal ways. Her palette is deep yet punctuated by vibrant yellows. Transparency lies beneath her materially complex surface, but it’s all but hidden. Your act of seeking it out then becomes exploratory; locating its ulterior surfaces is thus excavational.

Hidden in Mads Lindberg’s sequence of mixed-media paintings, meanwhile, is neither transparency nor translucence, but rather various forms of representation. What Lindberg hides, in other words, is paintings or other kinds of imagery that he finds and repurposes, intervening with his own additional marks and forms. These already somewhat hidden works are then hidden even further behind scrims, as it were, of not only resin, but also an additional ‘outsourced’ layer of a different sort: plastic shopping bags. Lindberg’s implicit commentary on the cyclical nature of the trappings of commerce thus runs from the surface to the core of his works.

Julie Leidner, working in parallel on two interrelated bodies of work featuring a common protagonist — a possibly timid, possibly audacious, possibly fearful, possibly fearsome, perhaps even feral young girl the artist identifies as ‘Pebbles’ — has created a series of small paintings on canvas and a suite of larger paintings on paper. Both bodies of work involve not only overtly differentiable layers of paintings, but also of cultural and historical interpretability. In the smaller works, Pebbles is identifiable behind visual sieves of text that that read, to various extents and in various forms, “Dirty ain’t I?”, a cryptic question that seems as if someone wrote it with a finger into caked-up dirt on a car window. Here, Pebbles peers out of the paintings to see not only the ‘filthy’ messaging, and not only her real and implied ‘viewers,’ but also herself. In Leidner’s other body of work, “I Come Creeping,” one large representation of Pebbles crawls across and atop several large sheets of glossy paper, each proportioned like Playboy centerfolds, and each featuring — behind ‘pieces’ of a ‘creeping’ Pebbles — a very differently formal oil rendering of a rural landscape. Here, history meets mystery, and Leidner’s bodies of work look back and forth at one another while we, the viewers, become an additional ‘scrim’ of complicit voyeurs.

Kinu Kamura’s work is all about additional scrims and layers of looking. Inspired by levels of clarity and blur in our own acts of seeing, and by ideas of experiential and spatial reproduction, reflectivity and transference, Kamura has created an ultimately site-specific, multi-piece sculptural installation that invites visitors to look at, into and through it. Her broadly scaled and spatially expansive objects, to some extent a ‘bridge’ between the front gallery and the back, are composed of various types and formations of plexiglass and other reflective, refractive, sight-altering surfaces. Viewers thus see themselves as they look through such pieces, while seeing also manifold layers of reflections of the works in the room. The room, of course, becomes an active part of the work and ‘act of seeing’ as well: it is the site, and it is also ‘in sight.’ The frame-within-a-frame modality of Kamura’s work doesn’t quite end there, however. She incorporates choice photographs and photocopies as well, some nodding directly at the space itself, and others to other works in the show. Residing in our eyes for a time, Kamura’s labyrinth becomes infinite in our minds.

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The above text was composed for Scrims & Blurs, an exhibition produced for Residency Unlimited. It was on view at El Museo de Los Sures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from 19 to 28 July, 2018. More information about the show can be found here. Photographs by Paul D’Agostino.

Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

David Byrd: Flicks, Bouts, Blocks

by Paul D'Agostino

Balcony With Screen, oil on canvas, 16″ x 21″, 1955.

 

Flicks, Bouts, Blocks

Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, curated on behalf of The David Byrd Estate in Sidney Center, NY, and hosted by Studio 10 Gallery in Brooklyn, features a chronologically and geographically particular selection of works in painting, drawing and sculpture by David Byrd, an as-yet lesser-known artist who passed away in 2013. Byrd’s personal story and, for so many decades, nearly ceaseless artistic activity form an inspiring testament to the unforeseeable turns one’s life might take, and to the many virtues of maintaining one’s creative drive.

Born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1926, and worker of all manner of odd jobs both before and after serving in the Merchant Marines and Army during World War II, then eventually finding fixed work as an orderly in the psychiatric ward at the Veterans Administration Medical Hospital in Montrose, New York, David Byrd lived a long, experientially rich, consistently difficult yet ultimately quietly, solitarily fulfilling life that made it neither easy nor obvious for him to even desire to express himself through art, much less become an almost astonishingly prolific artist. Yet artist he was, from his youth until his final days, and although he spent the vast majority of his creative years working in obscurity, he did have occasion to savor a few moments of fame and success thanks to a suite of exhibitions that were mounted in the months prior to his passing. Intending to build on Byrd’s budding legacy by exposing his work to a much broader public is David Byrd: Ten Stops, a multi-venue, bicoastal sequence of ten variably themed exhibitions to be mounted between July 1st and September 30th, 2017.

The Brooklyn installment of this ambitious series of shows is Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, a set of works culled together not merely to familiarize a New York City audience with Byrd’s artistic practice, but also to suggest that his many years spent living in Brooklyn, for a time as an adolescent and later on as a young adult, might well have imbued his creative sensibilities in notable, enduring ways. Notes of captured happenstance, for instance, and almost theatrically staged settings—of neighborhood encounters, of acquaintances and strangers in the streets, and of movie-goers, cyclists and Coney Island locales—are everywhere to be found in his paintings produced during and long after his Brooklyn days. One sees such tendencies as well in his many drawings of boxers throwing blows and lovers embracing, and in his now quickly, now meticulously executed sketches of individuals or situations he seems to have simply found strangely intriguing or peculiar. Many of these aspects of Byrd’s early work remain readily identifiable throughout the rest of his œuvre.

Unlike the paintings and drawings in Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, the one sculpture in the show does not date back to Byrd’s time in Brooklyn. However, the piece does seem to imply a later contemplation of the borough’s characteristic front stoops that must have been of certain importance to the ever-curious young artist—given all the people-watching they facilitate, all the variably lit staging they furnish, and all the visual cues they provide for structural delineations and physical forms. Also included in the show is one of Byrd’s earliest paintings, a piece that dates back to the artist’s period of study under Amédée Ozenfant, a noted French painter whose insights and mentorship would prove to be lasting fonts of guidance and inspiration for Byrd. This held true even several decades later, well after he had retired from his job at the hospital and retreated to his hand-crafted home and studio in upstate New York. There, mostly alone and at quite a remove from quotidian interactions and conveniences, Byrd was finally able to devote all of his time and energy exclusively to art, his most reliable conduit for self-expression and creative zeal, and his long-trusted mode of palliative distraction from painful memories of the many challenges life had dealt him.

Nevertheless, Byrd did manage to reserve some time and energy for one of his other great enthusiasms: bottle-collecting. Indeed, the long bottled-up artist who kept so much of his existence and so many of his struggles under wraps was also an avid collector of bottles. A fine one of those is included in this show as well—it too, like Byrd himself now, uncorked.

Toy Store, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24″, 1959.

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The above text is my essay for Flicks, Bouts, Blocks, an exhibition I curated at Studio 10 Gallery on behalf of The David Byrd Estate. It is on view from July 20th to August 6th, 2017. In addition to this exhibition, David Byrd: Ten Stops includes exhibits in Peekskill, Delhi, West Point, Franklin, Cooperstown and Seattle, as well as a large exhibit and a number of special gatherings at the seat of The David Byrd Estate in Sidney Center, New York. Detailed information and maps, along with a brief and charming video of the artist discussing his life and work around the time of its revelation to the public, can be found at www.davidbyrdestate.com

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Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More information about him is available here, and you can find him as @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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