A Matter of Perspective

by Steve Rockwell

A Matter of Perspective exhibition installation view
A Matter of Perspective exhibition installation view

A way to describe the exhibition of work at the Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto featuring Andrew Ooi and Tyler Matheson might be a study in two-point perspective. The viewer will tend to structure the gallery’s “A matter of Perspective” show around a common focal point. If Matheson speaks to the individual and their private journey of discovery, then Ooi addresses society in a holistic sense. Nevertheless, both artists in their own way arrive at a cosmology. 

Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Image courtesy of Matthew Zse
Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Image courtesy of Matthew Zse

The “Oblivion” half of Matheson’s contribution grapples with image and identity of the self in a game of hide-and-seek. There is a sense that the thickly troweled grout elements are engaged in a chase with the reflective looking glass portions of the canvas, motivated somehow by a wish to bury any fugitive reflection, thereby extinguishing or annihilating them. These iridescent islands themselves are effectively a pulverization of the familiar seven colours of the rainbow. Is it this threat of entombment to which the “Oblivion” titles refer?

The tiling grout in Matheson’s “Parallax” series is devoid of reflective properties, but possesses an iridescence that appears to have transitioned or migrated from the “Oblivion” works. The formerly lifeless grey concrete breathes iridescence, a beneficiary of the now departed reflected self. I read this dynamic of pitching one medium against another as a measured psycho drama, not different in kind to the musings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the soliloquy, “To be, or not to be,” apprehensive as the prince was about “the sleep of death” and “what dreams may come” in its wake.

Left: Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Right: Tyler Matheson, Parallax (Red, Blue, Geen), 2020, tiling grout and spray paint on board, 12 x 10 inches
Left: Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Right: Tyler Matheson, Parallax (Red, Blue, Geen), 2020, tiling grout and spray paint on board, 12 x 10 inches

Playing one line of sight against another is the optical law described by “parallax,” the everyday feature of vision that allows for depth-perception. Astronomers use its principles to measure relative distances between planets and stars. “Parallax” brings us to the doorstep of cosmology, the signifier through which our convergent lines of perspective must necessarily pass. Grinding out the etymological derivatives of cosmology furnishes us with enough links to deliver the universe and its order down to the level of the individual self with the words: cosmic, cosmos, cosmopolitan, and cosmetics.

Left: Andrew Ooi, Scale Study, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 15.75 x 15.75 x 2.5 inches. Right: Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches

Ooi’s meticulously obsessive art is a blueprint for something much larger than the less than two by two-foot paper constructions in the “A  Matter of Perspective” exhibition. The artist introduces the notion of scale with his titles without delivering their literal specifications as architects might do in their plans. Each Gampi paper cube, one of 49 in “Scale 2” for instance, is a unit of time and space within which the artist has, in some respects, inhabited quite literally. “Scale 2” is a compressed set of ordered forms that viewers may magnify to an indeterminate size through their imagination, much like the film projection to a screen of a film strip.

Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches (unframed). Image courtesy of Matthew Zse
Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches (unframed). Image courtesy of Matthew Zse

Similarly, the seven by seven cube composition stands in for the 49 days that a wall calendar of seven weeks might represent – a way of storing time spent, and now made visible in the intricacy of its fabrication. As Gampi paper is used in paper screens, windows, and lanterns, its particular sheen and lustre, the 49 cubes serve to sift and reflect their light energy, the ambient illumination displaying the inherent beauty of a Japanese paper perfected over the centuries. 

It is in the making of Ooi’s “Scale” series of art that the finer tissues of meaning are revealed. Ooi’s “anthropology” is holistic in the purest sense – the parts of a whole are intimately interconnected, to the extent that the cubes of its composition are knotted together with cords. In that respect each “Scale” work is a living skeleton held back from potential fragmentation by its sinews, no single cube being independent from the next. This perspective applies broadly to the human condition in that the individual within society interpenetrate their environment, each playing an essential role towards a harmony within the whole. Whether we like or not, each of us are mountaineers roped together.  

Matheson and Ooi, as it might be said of artists generally, address life energy, and how we choose to expend it. Steppenwolf in their “Born to Be Wild” song saw it as “Fire all your guns at once and explode into space.” The boosters of many of our life rockets may already have been spent. As capsules begin their descent, as it did at the launch, their countdown is meted out in seconds. Light years may, of course, separate the landing at a point, somewhere between Oblivion and Kingdom Come.

A Matter of Perspective continues through August 13, 2022. Lonsdale Gallery, 410 Spadina Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5P 2W2. info@lonsdalegallery.com www.lonsdalegallery.com

Hyperphantasia @ Artego

by D. Dominick Lombardi

YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)
YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)

The exhibition title, Hyperphantasia, refers to the capability of experiencing vivid mental pictures. Opening on September 1st at Artego gallery in Queens, NY, artists YoAhn Han and D. Dominick Lombardi will present works that feature some of those visual flashes that often occur during the creative process, where subconscious elements can end up on a painting, drawing or sculpture. YoAhn Han has many sources of imagery, most notably his fluctuating health issues, homosexuality compared with his strict Catholic upbringing, and the fact that he has roots in two very different cultures: South Korea and the US. For most of D. Dominick Lombardi’s career, he has relied on the collective unconscious for guidance and inspiration, resulting in loosely wound drawings, various responses to materials and colors, and visual alternatives received when working. Together, they bring a broad spectrum of what can result with such conditioning, from the powerful and poetic paintings of Han, to the darkly comedic socio-political observations of Lombardi.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25" x 26"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25″ x 26″

With Han and Lombardi, the swings in the content of their narratives are multi-layered and visually complex, wound around a strong pull from the past. Han refers to his paintings, which are composed of a variety of painting media, cut paper and resin as an “intersection of the imagery of my homeland Korea, together with Boston, in my own aesthetical conversion.” Han grew up in Chuncheon, South Korea, and maintains a strong bond with that culture. This results in a tendency to fold into his art, representations of the landscape and architecture, mixed with sexual references such as flowers, phallic symbols and the female praying mantis that consumes its male partner after mating – haunting elements that give his art its otherworldly, dreamy feel. In addition, his medical condition, which often causes temporary paralysis, has prompted Han’s obsession with the limitations of being. As a result of all these prompts, Han is clearly reaching for truth, enlightenment and a place where all of the aspects of his life can coalesce in a beautiful and brilliant dreamscape.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24" x 38"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24″ x 38″

Lombardi utilizes past prompts too, but in a more physical sense, as he often repurposes old paintings and drawings to create his multi-layered narratives. His process includes past life drawings done as classroom demonstrations, subconscious thoughts that inspire the lines of his ‘stickers’, old studies for paintings and sculptures, and previously painted canvases to help him to resolve or reimagine his past. Working often with flashes of shape suggestions, colors and compositional changes, Lombardi is also driven by the fleetness of life. However, what triggers most of Lombardi’s art is reliving past thoughts and experiences through repurposing, the utilization of input from the collective unconscious, and the sway of creative editing. Repurposing also occurs in his sculptures, as all of the objects in his work are found. However, subject to gravity, the structure and result of each sculpture is a bit more preplanned. 

Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”
Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”

The exhibition dates for Hyperphantasia are September 1 – September 30, with an artist reception on Saturday, September, 10. Artego is located at 32-88 48Th Street, Queens, NY 11103.

Shirin Neshat: The Land of Dreams at MOCA in Toronto

by Steve Rockwell

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

Shirin Neshat has super-powers, not unlike those of the DC Comics super hero who fell to earth in a rocket launched from the ill-fated planet Krypton. Like Jor-El, the father in the Superman story, Shirin’s father “saved” his seventeen-year-old daughter by catapulting her to America from the failing regime of the Shah of Iran before it imploded. With the Ayatollah Khomeini subsequently in power, everything changed for Neshat. Cut off from her family and roots, she was made an alien in a strange land.

The changes that Neshat observed of Iran’s political and religious upheaval upon her return in 1990, were both “shocking and exciting.” This new ideology had transformed the country’s culture in both appearance and habit. Her 1993-97 series “Women of Allah” gave expression to the inherent militancy that had infused Iran’s Islamic fundamentalism. This work signified the breaking of the dam of emotion built up from childhood of an inner dichotomy between her non-religious upbringing amid a conservatively religious Iranian town. She recalls having had tea in her garden as a child, and bursting into tears at the sound of quranic chanting.

Shirin Neshat, Rapture, 1999, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Shirin Neshat, Rapture, 1999, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris 

“Women of Allah,” infused Neshat’s work with a power that generated immediate success. At the same time the artist faced a flood of criticism from many sides. To the Islamic Republic it was anti-revolutionary, while the people of Iran thought it supported the revolution. Western critics felt it sensationalized violence, and took advantage of the controversy surrounding Islam. Feeling misunderstood, “Women of Allah” became a turning point for Neshat. It began her journey from an overtly political or religious art to the mythic and allegorical. While retaining its Iranian themes, “The Land of Dreams” exhibition signifies a completion of the transformation of Neshat into an American artist, reflecting her own displacement with those of other cultural minorities and disenfranchised at the country’s margins.

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

“Shiprock,” mountain in New Mexico was selected as the mythic site for “The Colony,” while the actual filming of the inhabitants took place in a power plant. The crew had been scouting for a dark, claustrophobic setting for the paper-pushing bureaucrats, but were delighted with the atomic bomb-facility ambiance of the power plant. Here, rows of lab-coated dream catchers could quietly go about their business of cataloguing and analyzing the dreams of the residents of a nearby town. It took a week to cast and photograph the actual 200 New Mexico residents from which the photo-based component of “Land of Dreams” were drawn.

Shirin Neshat, Portrait detail from Land of Dreams series, 2019, Digital c-print with ink and acrylic paint. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Portrait detail from Land of Dreams series, 2019, Digital c-print with ink and acrylic paint. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

Sheila Vand plays the part of a photographer who plumbs the dream world of the town’s people at the behest of the Iranian authority figure that leads The Colony. In a scene set in a darkroom we see her reflection meld with the face of her subject as it materializes in the bath of the developing tray. Vand’s character has entered the dream of another – a violation that carries with it the punishment of an inevitable loss of identity and the pronouncement: “The dream catcher will go mad.”

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

The “Land of Dreams” project was conceived as Neshat’s response to the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal that came with the transition of US administrations. Trump’s tenure had immediately ramped up hostilities and tension with Iran. The artist felt that “something had to be done.” The shadow of something falling over the world stage with which Neshat is only too familiar has crept in like a fog. Now her dichotomy of alienation is being played out in the country of her adoption, with the scale of the stakes much higher.

If the channelling of the quranic chant of a Muslim woman multiplied a thousandfold lent Neshat an expressive super-power some 30 years ago, how will this energy bottled as myth and allegory play out in America’s vast “Land of Dreams?” As the political pillars of power are being shaken globally, should the chord of polarization snap, it might be good to know where some of that kryptonite is likely to land.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA) Shirin Neshat exhibition runs through to July 31, 2022

Yul Vazquez

by D. Dominick Lombardi

Yul Vazquez and Gwen, Photo: Parker Burr
Yul Vazquez and Gwen, Photo: Parker Burr

There are some of us, who can move from one art form to another and always find footing. Those individuals have a natural ability to respond to the challenges, find those inner voices they trust, and overcome every bump and detour in their journey. One of those genuine, passionate and dedicated individuals is Yul Vazquez, who credits much of his success to his mother, and a childhood filled with spiritual, social, and supportive experiences. Vazquez recalls with fondness those “ mystics and spiritualists” who were his mother’s friends, and he sees Cuba as a most significant part of his being.

At the age of three, Vazquez traveled with his mother, sister and grandmother to America from Cuba, which at the time, would have been an incredibly dangerous journey (this was 1969, after the Cuban Missile Crisis in ‘63, and the Bay of Pigs in ‘61). By the time his family fled Cuba, the Cold War was raging, travel to and from Cuba was forbidden, and the US placed an embargo of all goods flowing back and forth, virtually isolating the island. Growing up, Vazquez was exposed to a rich history of Afro-Caribbean Religions and Deities, an exposure to the occult that would follow him throughout his life, and one that would eventually appear as cryptic signs, mysterious symbols and bold sentences in his visual art. 

Student protest against the Fidel Castro government in Havana's central park. January 8, 1960, Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Student protest against the Fidel Castro government in Havana’s central park. January 8, 1960, Photo: Wikimedia Commons

His creative journey began when his mother noticed his interest in music, especially the drums. Since it was the four of them living in a small efficiency apartment in Miami Beach, it was not the easiest commitment to make, but the drum set was there, in the corner of their all-purpose room by the time Vazquez was eight years old. His musical tipping point came when he was twelve, when he heard Whole Lotta Love for the first time. By then he had switched to guitar, and when he heard Led Zeppelin’s iconic song it shook him to his core, “I was stunned, stopped in my tracks thinking ‘What is This?’”. Instantly, the die was cast for Vazquez and soon, with a lot of hard work and ingenuity, the self taught musician was earning upwards of $90 per gig! 

Even though music will always play a key role in Vazquez’s life, his fate would change when he got his first acting role as Flaco in The Mambo Kings. Since then, he has appeared in countless movies and television series that most recently includes Severance, Promised Land and the soon to be released The White House Plumbers

Yul Vazquez, Fingers Freddy (2021), mixed media on printed canvas, 37 x 37 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc
Yul Vazquez, Fingers Freddy (2021), mixed media on printed canvas, 37 x 37 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc

Most recently, Vazquez has added a career in the visual arts, creating striking images that shifts between arresting black & white photography, fantastical mixed media paintings and stream of consciousness drawings. Opening July 16th at Red Fox Contemporary Art in Pound Ridge, NY, Vazquez will offer a variety of his works in a solo exhibition titled Bruce, which promises to add quite a substantial amount of heat to mid-summer. Among his wizardry of works will be Fingers Freddy, a work prompted by an x-ray of a six-fingered hand he spotted on the internet. Blown up and placed in a field of black, the image becomes haunting and mystical as Vazquez adds a frenzy of words, symbols and small sympathetic characters. His keen eye, especially when observing social behavior, helps Vazquez to elucidate both his observations and his emotions, which can stem from anywhere in his personal history to his current experiences.

If anyone has ever spent time on a movie set, it would be crystal clear how grueling the lives of actors and filmmakers are, where the 12-16 hour days waffle between endless waiting and pressure packed performing. Knowing this little detail would give you a better picture of what a wonderful, cleansing and fulfilling time Vazquez has in the solitude of his studio. In a recent conversation, he mentioned the alarm on his phone set for 3pm, which reminds him to take a “moment of gratitude” for his good life and the great people he has to share it with. I believe that gratification, his acknowledgement of his circumstance clearly comes through in his art.

Yul Vazquez, Mother (2022), mixed media on printed canvas, 52 x 52 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc
Yul Vazquez, Mother (2022), mixed media on printed canvas, 52 x 52 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc

Vazquez often references his mother in his art, focusing on her light, love and strength. One example is Mother, where Vazquez uses a B-movie photograph of an obscure actress in a playful pose, with lightning bolts coming out of her fingers and costume. This combination of power and poise captured his attention, just like it did with the six-fingered x-ray, only this time, a weirdly iconic image of a female space alien became the center of his attention. Tags of “Where r u mother when I am so lost?” and “Your heart was always so full” crosses the upper portion of the picture plane, while on the bottom left appears a kid with a guitar who is clearly loving and cherishing her presence.

The exhibition, which is titled Bruce, refers to an omnipresent ‘being’ that symbolizes all, the entire universe, including the most important human traits in the artist’s mind: “kindness, never malevolence, and always having a heart of gold.” Bruce appears in a painting of the same name, as a buoyant bunny who sports a huge grin and hopeful eyes. The figure eight seen here, which surfaces from time to time in Vazquez’s work, signifies infinity, or no end to Bruce’s positive and all encompassing positive energy.

Yul Vazquez, Joker (2022), mixed media on printed canvas, 75 x 52 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc
Yul Vazquez, Joker (2022), mixed media on printed canvas, 75 x 52 inches, courtesy of Red Fox Enterprises, Inc

The multimedia work Joker began as a collage of bits and pieces of playing cards that happened to have the compelling distinction of a skull and crossbones on the back. Vazquez tags the blown up version of that collage with animated hearts, stars, squiggles and sprays, which are partnered with various phrasings like “Memento Mori,” “Love is the Law,” “Traveler” and “Mi Reina” (My Queen). Taken in all at once, a voodoo vibe breaks through the layers of iconic images, passionate declarations and whirlwinds of emotion that leave us with a potent and mesmerizing visual.

The formidable photography of Vazquez, which is the basis of many of his multimedia paintings, can be overtly cinematic at times, especially when his night scenes shift unmistakably toward the Noir. Conversely, his more ‘candid’ images taken in Miami and New York, where pretty much anything goes, capture everything from bold decadence and pure self indulgence to desolation and despair. That feeling of hopelessness, which at times can reach surreal heights, can best be seen and felt in his photographs taken in Cuba, where time has virtually stood still, as only the strength and ingenuity of the Cuban people can offer light and life.

Yul Vazquez, Untitled (2011),digital photograph printed on paper, 13 x 31 inches, edition ⅔, courtesy of the artist
Yul Vazquez, Untitled (2011),digital photograph printed on paper, 13 x 31 inches, edition ⅔, courtesy of the artist

Vazquez, the visual artist,  is like a diarist, except his tale is told through impactful phrases and images, brilliant color and iconic symbols. Fueled by an innate ability to see through the haze of the mundane, Vazquez continually takes us to a place where life can truly be enlightening.

Bruce, a solo exhibition of the works of Yul Vazquez, opens July 16 at Red Fox gallery, 55 Westchester Avenue, Pound Ridge NY 10576. For more information, please refer to https://www.redfoxartgallery.com/

The Impenetrable in Art

by Steve Rockwell

Pat McDermott, You see it, 2022, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 15 x 15.5 x 1.75 inches (38.1 x 39.4 x 4.4 cm)
Pat McDermott, You see it, 2022, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 15 x 15.5 x 1.75 inches (38.1 x 39.4 x 4.4 cm)

At the artist talk for his “You see it” exhibition at the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto, Pat McDermott emphasized the direct experience of his work as a key to unlocking its import. The artist avoided references to contemporary art criticism, but elaborated on the Lascaux cave art as his primer. Although interpretations of pre-historic cave art will likely be subject to our own prejudices, there is a belief that ritualistic trance-dancing may have been part of this early art, shamanistic rituals inducing visions. Cambridge professor of classical art and archeology, Nigel Spivey, points out that the dot and lattice patterns overlapping the representational images of animals resemble the hallucinations induced by sensory-deprivation. Regardless, we can infer that the Lascaux artist communicated to the cave community directly and powerfully, to the extent that their lives somehow depended on the reception of its message.

Pat McDermott, I beseech you, 2021, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 15 x 15 x 1.75 inches (38.1 x 38.1 x 4.4 cm)
Pat McDermott, I beseech you, 2021, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 15 x 15 x 1.75 inches (38.1 x 38.1 x 4.4 cm)
Kazuo Nakamura, Rectangle Series, 1988, drawing
Kazuo Nakamura, Rectangle Series, 1988, drawing

McDermott’s approach to his art carries this sense of the essential, a life-long journey to the “core” of our being, which he maintains is “untouchable” and “unreachable.” This drive for answers to primal meaning in art brought to mind the work of Kazuo Nakamura, particularly to an exhibition from nearly two decades ago at the Cutts Gallery. In a review of the artist’s work, writer Gary Michael Dault characterized the almost monastic fervour of Nakamura’s painterly researches as being the result of a steadfast conviction that “There’s a sort of fundamental pattern in all art and nature… in a sense, scientists and artists are doing the same thing. This world of pattern is a world we are experiencing together.” Nakamura’s 1983 oil on linen “Number Structure and Fractals” can be viewed as the graphic depiction of the life of numbers, each organism containing the seed of its own being. By 1980, mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot had produced high quality visualizations of sets of complex numbers while working at an IBM research center, fulfilling Nakamura’s 1956 vision of artists and scientists working in tandem.

Kazuo Nakamura, Number Structures and Fractals, 1983, oil on linen, 71 x 101.7 cm
Kazuo Nakamura, Number Structures and Fractals, 1983, oil on linen, 71 x 101.7 cm

Perhaps this drive to the core of our being has no better illustration than the Renaissance itself, set in motion by Filippo Brunelleschi’s engineering miracle, the Florence Cathedral, his invention of perspective being a product. Inspired by Roman architect and engineer, Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” drawing blended mathematics and art, demonstrating the harmony of human proportion, centering the point of perspective, here, at the naval. Clearly more than a presentation of male anatomy was intended. Leonardo believed that the workings of the body was an analogy for the workings of the entire universe – a cosmografia del minor mondo. To the Renaissance polymath, this knitting together of the lines of sight was a miracle: ”Here forms, here colors, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is a marvellous thing.” For a shining moment, engineering, architecture, mathematics, and science found its expression through art, producing some of the greatest creative minds of all time.

Guiseppe Morano, Watch: Time: Fly, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48” x 96”
Guiseppe Morano, Watch: Time: Fly, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48” x 96”

Present at McDermott’s talk was interdisciplinary artist Giuseppe Morano, to whom I owe a bit of gratitude for linking and contrasting Nakamura’s art with McDermott’s. I had become acquainted with Morano’s art at the Artist Project a few years ago, his work being singularly based in numbers and mathematics, primarily a digital printing of black numbers on white primed canvas. At the exhibition Morano’s homage to Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows” the artist precisely mimicked the wing position with each crow in Van Gogh’s painting with the hands of a clock, and printing the exact time that the wing alignments signify. As I said of the work at that time, “If Wheatfield with Crows” was indeed van Gogh’s last painting, we can picture the crows taking flight at the sound of the fatal gunshot.” Morano had converted the crows into time stamps, serving here as winged metaphors for the series of events leading up to the tragedy. His “Happy Birthday: You’re so special” work is aesthetically neutral to its implied subject, until we recognize that the 366 sets of numbers printed randomly in columns signify the birthdays of every person who has ever lived. Your joy or disappointment at his gift to you may depend on whose birthday you were fated to be near, at least as how they were dispensed in Morano’s numerical universe.

Guiseppe Morano, Happy Birthday: You're so special, 2018, 72" x 36", acrylic on canvas
Guiseppe Morano, Happy Birthday: You’re so special, 2018, 72″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas

McDermott’s “You see it” exhibition is an invitation to penetrate the “unreachable” and “untouchable.” With few exceptions, the titles of the artist’s work emphatically address “You.” A solitary work begins in the first person: “I beseech you.” Yet, how much of the objective world can be inferred from any given work of art? If 605 of the more than 900 animals depicted by the Lascaux cave artists can be precisely identified today, then their art is hardly delirious phantasmagoria – rather an accurate encyclopedic cataloguing of the biosphere upon which their lives depended. 

Presented here is a fragment of the see-saw of art history – the visual style of the moment being a sum of the artist’s thoughts, set against the nourishment of insight and aesthetic meat upon which the viewer is invited to feed. “You see it?”