(C)overt, the group show recently on view at Synchronicity Space on Heliotrope and curated by 5790projects (aka Catlin Moore and Matthew Gardocki) left me vexed. In my rush to arrive to the opening on a rainy night from a figure painter’s open studio nearby, I forgot to use my aesthetic wiper blades (someone should pitch that product to a venture capitalist) to make a clean hole for my visual, intake valve. After dodging other reception cavorters in an effort to see the paintings, I thought, “What can I value from this not so overtly covert four person show?” A friendly war of aesthetics was being fought. I just needed to figure out if I believed the premise and to choose a side. The news release asserted that “…each artist grapples with (an) equilibrium of the hidden and unveiled—both aesthetic and conceptual attributes are strategically divulged, annihilated, obscured, and intimated.” While that description sounded open ended and apt, I wanted the how, the blood and guts of each artists’ mission. I emailed each artist that same question I asked myself when I encountered the works during those critical first moments of entry to the intimate, gallery space. Can we receive anything from looking and seeing art other than temporal terrors, slow burns of visual bliss or something neutral and leveling in between? Are those “psychological associations” something valuable? As a 6 year old I know likes to tell me, “Nothing IS something.” Three of the four artists graciously responded to my query with unique statements on where they stood on their art production and what they hoped viewers would see and gain from looking at their contemporary art spawn. Their words abetted my initial trepidations and stoked my thoughtful curiosity even more.
What would Greenberg say or think? If he had a sense of humor, he would laugh that we still consider “pure abstraction” as something tenable to art making. Haven’t we advanced since the 40’s? Or even 1935 when Picasso said in an interview with Christian Zervos, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” Personally, I’ve decided to banish “pure” and “abstract” from my vocabulary. Purity reminds me of religion and abstract has been a catch all for coping out of being specific. As if saying “I am an abstract painter” has any weight and validity. But, as one artist friend tried to explain to me, “You CAN find specificity in abstraction.” I merely want a better explanation. What does “pure abstraction” even look like? Different opinions are commonplace so there can be no rule established. But, I admire the tenacity of the curators for bringing four artists under one, small roof to duke it out–the abstractionists versus the enigmaticists. They face off and the result is fascinating. Manifesting this much time contemplating values of painting in the present and being able to see the works visually connect and separate in real time has left me confounded but not unwilling to continue to make sense of the resilience of so called abstraction in any current art form.
Inside the gallery on wall one we saw Becca Shewmake and Andy Kolar flying the AssocioPsychoAbstractoPurist flag. APAP!-–a new movement! Together they reduce, conflate, dissolve and build back up space into colorful conglomerations that necessitate no language nor recollection of the past. That IS the point of pure abstraction right—to leave the viewer floating in some emptied out, wordless head-space? What makes Kolar’s and Shewmake’s endeavors (g)anew and valuable for my perception is that they use generic forms as a spring board and serve us with associations. Their titles generate my questions; “What makes those cucumber shapes Tall Boy(s) and what in that centralized, mound of condoms is the Gift?” Humor is added like a material and the results are refreshingly non-academic—poster than post-Greenbergian reduction.
On the back and right walls, Annelie McKenzie and Jason Ramos fortified our cravings for romance and with good stories to puzzle together and imagine. On the one hand McKenzie’s works obliquely bring together and honor contemporary artists Veres and Vliegher with the more familiar Baroque, heroine painter Gentileschi. Double Rainbow is an altar of fan mail in the form of painted reproductions and rainbows that addresses sacred portability and the indefatigable monumentality of memory. Ramos’ lovingly gestural portraits are more enlarged than McKenzie’s tighter compositions and therefore our associative response time is quicker. Ramos is also inspired more specifically as he targeted the American cinema vérité pioneer John Cassavetes by painting Gena Rowlands who was also John’s wife. We are left to gawk and wonder whom or what the actor is so beholding with her awestruck gaze. Ramos has possibly sought to magnify and to eternalize the widow’s existential longing for her late husband’s presence and cycle through her emotional states captured on film.
The problem with homage is convincing the viewer to care. We may be sis boom bahed into seductive submission with formal color investigations, rainbows and dreamy rendering. And in the end someone will join your tribe, make you their leader and you will be able to hire assistants to make your art. It’s just a matter of time, dedication, social schmoozing, and palm greasing. If every artist and painter uses context as a medium to their advantage, they will have a leg up against their competitors. Site has become the battlefield to entice viewership. Environment and adaptive locations are vital to understanding work that is deemed worthy to be remembered and sought by the hegemonic forces–whomever they are. With 5790’s ultimate 2012, roaming show at Synchronicity Space, the curators left us with much art fodder to chew on through the holidays until the next season of shows inundate our perspective and time.
I salute the very young and more emerging artists in (C)overt to achieve art world success and fruition. As a group the foursome tank roll us with their brave minimalism and mindful remembrances. Utilizing big and little formats the artists force us to focus on their altered inspirations, varietal consciousnesses and corral us to cheer for their own fictions. I will wait in eager anticipation to see more of each artist’s development before buying my club badges and faction patches.
(C)overt was on view at Synchronicty Space through November 30. For more on the show, check out 5790 Projects website. They’ll be announcing information about their February show soon.
At Top: Becca Shewmake’s Growth, 2011. Mixed media on canvas. 24 x 30 inches.