Grimm presents “Tetris,” an exhibition of seventeen new acrylic and acrylic emulsion paintings by Dutch artist Tjebbe Beekman. In Beekman’s deeply felt and strongly envisioned images, the components and fragments function as indefinable players in what can be described as confounding theatrical productions; they immediately impress the viewer with their powerful symbolic meaning. The title of the exhibition lends insights into Beekman’s artistic intentions. “Tetris” is defined as an “endeavor involving rearranging things of a different shape into physical space.”
Beekman excels at making visually convincing painted “collage” details. The interconnecting dystopian elements read as layers of expressive recognizable objects such as cloth, balls, rope, pieces of wood, trays and sticks to name but a few, whose relationships to each other seem unfathomable. They convey deeply intriguing yet puzzling undefined messages. The variety of textures, colors, unspecified articles and entities grip the viewer in a psychic drama presented in many of the works, in the pictorial space of a Picasso collage or Synthetic Cubist still life. The shallow arena appears to be constructed of overlapping items that might have been dredged from a cellar, woodshed or attic trunk.
The works on view with their attendant narrative titles, give the impression that they relate personally to the artist’s psychic and emotional states of consciousness. These pieces have underpinnings in Old Master compositions; Poussin comes to mind. They have no pop culture references beyond the 1980’s arcade video game entitled “Tetris.” Playing this game is said to thicken the cortex and possibly increase brain competence. The painting actually entitled “Tetris” integrates unrelated strata of abstract and figurative items, which may symbolize the chaos in which we live in the world. Arranging ultra-complex configurations woven within pictorial structures probably provides relief for distressing emotional experiences. Art-making can be a constructive venue for exploring feelings and venting emotions directed at the charged episodes that cling inexorably in our consciousness.
The piece entitled “The Miraculous Drought” diverges from the collage-based still life works, with a storm setting in which four human figures reach dramatically into a trough to collect water, amongst a barrage of flying debris. A desperate peacock, the flamboyant bird that symbolizes personal vanity, cranes its neck to beg for water, verifying that human and animal needs intersect. In a mesmerizing display of nature’s chaotic powers, the debris blows wildly across the top of the format signaling an apocalyptic natural disaster which pits us not only against nature, but against each other. It seems the artist is striving to reconcile life’s struggles with its rewards.
The various collage-like and cubistic spaces seem to express their own particular emotional conundrums disguised within the undefined forms presented. “To Pray for the Living and the Dead” hints at aquatic looking shapes that seem to intersect a black empty area that conceivably signifies the “self.” Sensory stimulation gives a certain distraction and pleasure to life, when conflicts and unresolved relationships, especially from the past, become intolerable to bear.
The artist’s superb technical mastery of the medium comprises a striking underlying message that permeates this mesmerizing body of works. With images whose underpinnings in the old and new masters are articulated by honed elements with deeply saturated hues, few art shows today are more serious or more engulfing.
Tjebbe Beekman: Tetris (October 21 through November 12, 2022) at Grimm Gallery, 54 White Street, New York City, NY 10013
D. Dominick Lombardi’s exhibition, Cross Contamination with Stickers, at Albright College’s Freedman Gallery brings together recent work that implodes linear expectations in art by attaching a subversive cast of characters and abstract forms on stickers to paintings, drawings and objects grounded in traditional techniques and figuration. The sticker imagery emerges from an automatic drawing process where Lombardi allows his hand and mind to move freely on the page, uninhibited, in the creation of bodies, faces and amorphous forms with anatomical implications. A clue to the origins of his stickers is evident in the drawing, D-6-21, where the subconscious is accessed through a constellation of linear characters and intestinal contours. Embedded in the lines are faces, bodies and colonic forms in dialogue with one another, yet isolated in placement and spacing. The drawings might even be the dissection of a poor soul pinned across the page; each organ animated by its own disposition. While this process has its roots in Surrealism and automatic writing, it also brings to mind the drawings and distracted doodles of teens and the young at heart inspired by underground comics, animation and tattoos. The association of Surrealist history with adolescent attitudes and daydreams is further underscored by Lombardi’s use of satire and dissent in a collision of unruly worlds.
Lombardi’s application of stickers to charcoal drawings, album covers and sculpture brings into sharp contrast the disparate traditions and values embodied by their respective methodologies and subject matter. The figure drawings are repurposed from Lombardi’s demonstrations for students during his twenty-seven years of teaching life drawing. Well executed in composition and representation, they succeed in depicting the likeness and proportions of their subjects. Although, in the context of Lombardi’s work it feels absurd to look at these drawings through a formalist, academic lens. Together the drawings and stickers destabilize the histories and sensibilities behind their realization. Yes, there’s harmony in their composition and hue, but the combined attitudes and methodologies are unsettling. Lombardi negotiates an uncomfortable alliance in his work. While the figure drawings endeavor to attain classical representation, the stickers undermine these traditions with humorous impropriety; an affront to the well-intentioned studies. Both hold their own by asserting divergent values all the more apparent by their proximity.
Analogous to graffiti, Lombardi’s stickers bring to mind the “hello my name is” stickers filled in with the swirling, jagged monikers of their makers that dot New York City’s transit system. A misdemeanor tag rarely worth pursuing by the authorities, the graffiti artists interject themselves into the monotonous, engineered aesthetics of commuting. A declaration of self and markers of time, the subway stickers exist until peeled off or worn away. Lombardi’s stickers, on the other hand, tag an introductory foundations course, life drawing, pitting the traditions of proportion and representation against the raucous attitudes of underground comics.
The painting, CCWS 92, exemplifies this tension between dissimilar practices. The canvas consists of six sketches interspersed with black and white stickers. Two of the six are charcoal drawings repurposed from the figure drawing classes and four are studies in marker reminiscent of early 20th century abstraction. Suspended like stalactites across the top are stickers of gelatinous mechanical forms. Throughout the canvas are Lombardi’s ill-behaved characters. Disembodied heads hover over models while exaggerated figures are in dialogue with each other and the models on fields of pink and yellow. Internal organs seem to have developed outside the bodies of some. The best artists instill their unique perspective and spirit irrespective of the subject matter. Lombardi accomplishes this by disrupting the technical origins of the charcoal drawings with stickers rooted in underground pop influences. Lombardi’s fusion of academic concerns with an alternative mindset questions assumptions around “high and low” art by presenting contradicting motivations side by side with equal authority.
Humor is central to Contamination with Stickers. For instance, Lombardi has placed stickers in conversation with the remains of imagery and text on album covers. The wit in this work not only stems from connecting disparate aesthetics, but also from his seamless over-painting of elements on the albums. The humor is subtle, labor-intensive and easy to miss. There’s no Photoshop to assist Lombardi with the detail and time required to remove by hand all the text on a Barry White album, or text and a section of the dock on a Freddy Heimweh cover. Lombardi’s modifications separate the artists from their personas. Instead, Freddy Heimway is reenvisioned as “Reddy St.” and the faces of both are covered with stickers. Now unrecognizable by most, the album format remains while promotional expectations are subverted with irony and finesse.
The most audacious piece in the show is the freestanding painted assemblage, CCWS 25. Visitors to the exhibition openly laughed when confronted with its punchline, a rare reaction in the polite confines of an art gallery. The armature of the sculpture consists of plastic bottles from various products and discarded wood objects embedded in a biomorphic paper mâché arrangement. Although the bottles are no longer visible, their origins reference ubiquitous plastic waste and determine the shape of the sculpture with implications of mutation and survival. A table leg serves as one of its legs and the rounded end of a wooden spoon is recast as an ear. The proportions of the sculpture are reminiscent of a teddy bear except here the creature is headless with ears protruding from its torso. A green and yellow appendage in the form of a grapefruit is attached to its side. Stickers of abstract designs punctuate the sculpture. CCWS 25 seems to have taken shape from one of the stickers on a nearby painting.
The sculpture greets its guests with a cheerful, positive demeanor. Its pudgy proportions and stickers function as a comedic buildup to the sculpture’s posterior. Moving around CCWS 25 reveals a cherubic figurine with its face buried in the creature’s buttocks. The discovery is jarring and unnerving. Most will respond to this encounter by recoiling, laughing or both. The conditions are difficult to discern and impossible to ignore. This might even be interpreted as an investigation into sensory deprivation and teamwork. The figurine with arms wide open does not appear to be distressed and, perhaps within the conditions proposed by Lombardi’s exhibition, is in an amenable and unremarkable situation. It’s as though the figures in CCWS 25 and throughout the exhibition need each other to navigate the intractable worlds they inhabit.
This is where the collision of ideologies in Contamination with Stickers is most subversive. Assurances found in taking sides are called into question. Lombardi destabilizes bias in the exhibition by composing dissimilar characters, values and forms into harmonious pandemonium. Discomfort with the show most likely arises from the assumptions and predilections projected onto the work, while the work itself remains confident in its lively exchange between high and low aesthetics and ethos. Meanwhile, the characters and figures sourced from personal history and internal realms remain in buoyant conversation – happily indifferent to outside decree and assessment.
D. Dominick Lombardi: Cross Contamination with Stickers runs through December 8th, 2022 at the Freedman Gallery, Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania.
“Town: The Muscle Show” at Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto is a display of Harold Town flexing his own creative muscle in the closing decade of his life. I admit that I couldn’t suppress a smile at his zesty full throttle tackle of a subject that was not “in” or popular in any refined, cultural sense. His building up to this painterly leap is revealed in a statement that he made in the late ‘70s, “It’s time for me to become unpopular again.” Predictably, the works were disparaged as trivial by the art establishment.
Town stuck to his guns, insisting they should be included in his 1986 retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. As painting subject, his musclemen paintings here have proven resilient, being also prescient. Bodybuilding itself at that time underwent a rehabilitation from the freakish to a somewhat respectable arm of the physical fitness movement that took off in the 1980s. The acknowledged catalyst seems to have been the 1977 bodybuilding documentary, “Pumping Iron,” that introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger to popular culture. Shelley Town cites “Pumping Iron” as an inspiration of her father for the Muscle paintings. The artist would subsequently go on to collect 1970s muscle magazines.
A liberation from the constraint of “taste” fuelled a sense of the heroic in Town’s “Muscle Man” series of paintings, that included an occasional “Muscle Woman.” The artist’s “Muscle Man #1” stands out as a gesture of defiance, featuring a subject with flexed bicep and clenched fist raised high. Town dated the work April 1, 1981 as perhaps a sucker punch to his critics, as if to say, “Plenty of time for history to sort out where the joke lands.”
Apart from the anomaly of bodybuilders as subject, Town’s “Muscle Men” paintings possess an exuberance independent of their images. Their allusion to the landscape is clear in their unshackled freedom with brush, color and form. Similarly to the artist’s 1970s “Snap” series of paintings, “The Muscle Show” is a prime example of a Harold Town career shift on steroids, energized here by a supporting tactic, “pumping irony.”
Harold Town: The Muscle Show (October 15 – November 19, 2022) at Christopher Cutts Gallery, 21 Morrow Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6R 2H9 Phone: 1-416-532-5566 Email: email@example.com
(New York, NY) In a New York art world that has long favored male artists, Francine Tint has always been an unabashedly female abstract expressionist painter. Once ushered into this Cedar Tavern boys’ club by the curator and art writer Clement Greenberg, Tint has held her own ever since. Her immersive painting style was not just about fierce focus and pure energy but also physical prowess as she dons fisherman-style rain gear to throw paint around freely, using large house painting brushes to create a maelstrom of paint, pigment and passion.
Tint’s most recent work in the solo exhibition Life in Action at TheNational Arts Club (November 7 – December 2, 2022), is a departure from her well-known bold surfaces and powerfully deep canvases to focus instead on shimmering color and effervescent light. In Pink Pearls, Tint’s gestural swirls of warm white paint dance across raw canvas acting at once as shape and form. The iridescent paints shift from lightest pearlescent lights to darker rainbow hues that compel the viewer to move back and forth in space to fully experience and encompass the light changes. Strawberry Fields reaches for bold greens and luscious pink madders that circle one another on the bare cotton canvas. A virtuoso drawn charcoal line guides and accelerates the viewer’s gaze, preventing it from resting too long in a visual stanza or traveling too far down a vortex.
Fallopian forms abound shaped by bold brushwork that describe both void and form. There is a constant balance but never a stasis as Tint rocks steadily from one end of the canvas to the other ,reaching out in all directions, embracing space and being and leading the way to the sheer pleasure of vision and the divinity of true light. In the painting, WomanSoul , Tint introduces mesh fabric elements that undulate softly with the alizarin pink brushwork. Flecked with touches of ochre, the painting presents an aquatic suspension of time and the comfort of open, embracing light.
If there is a common thread in all of Tint’s 50 year career as a painter, this would be found in her masterful ability to weave space. Moving from left to right, top to bottom, Francine Tint allows forms to undulate from front to back, and again from in to out. Whether she is building space or flying free across raw canvas, Francine Tint harnesses a powerful life force that embraces and channels the power of paint and the grace of the human spirit.
Francine Tint: Life in Action (November 7 – December 2, 2022) at The National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, New York City, NY
Ginette Legaré’s “Supply Chains” exhibition at Birch Contemporary in Toronto speaks to the moment, a time when the links to the network of things necessary or desirable to our lives are showing strain. Their pain has arrived in the form of higher prices for fuel and food, and frequently an empty shelf – the canary in the coal mine. Legaré’s “Hardwired” wall sculpture personifies want at its extreme, a skeletal Dickensian Oliver with an empty begging bowl who pleads, “Please sir, I want some more!”
Answering to any crimes associated with breaks in the supply chain may be educed from the artist’s “Lineup,” a sculpture that commands an entire wall. The viewer is invited as detective to ferret out the usual suspects from this motley crew of 21 danglers. The innocent one might be the lightbulb in the very top center of the lineup, its sole felony being one of omission, the poverty of illumination. It brought to mind Picasso’s “Guernica” with its exploding eye, similarly positioned to Legaré’s lightbulb. A further analysis of the eye and its perceptive properties is the artist’s “Le compas dans l’œil,” mounted on the wall of the gallery’s overflow office space. We accept “Guernica” as potent protest art against the heinous barbarism of war, with the understanding that an economic war may equally unleash untold global miseries through crippling disruptions in supply chains.
Legaré’s floor sculpture “Urban Strands” is reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg machine, which describes a chain-reaction contraption made to perform a simple task in a complicated way. In any case, “Urban Strands” seems to be a mash-up of the supply chain logistics from conveyor belt, packaging, shipping container, to shelf and display, equipped with a wire-frame that may have once held a mirror. The last item may be a bid to the viewer for a moment of reflection on the object’s wonder, as the consumer is simultaneously head and tail of this chain, being the ox that grinds the grain and also one who devours it.
Suspended from the ceiling of the gallery positioned to roughly its center was the wire sculpture “Upheld.” Sweeping upward above the walls of the show space gave it the properties of a tornado, as if harnessing into a funnel the charge emitted by the works, particularly from the densely-packed “Lineup” piece. If something purely visual could emit audio, this work might be likened to a “wall of sound,” something record producer Phil Spector achieved famously in pop music. Legaré’s “Lineup” as an LP has its A and B side of 20 works in grooves simulated by the suspended wires, each side evenly divided by the mute lightbulb.
Ginette Legaré’s “Supply Chains” exhibition is a patiently assembled body of primarily wire objects that have undergone a kind of excavation by the artist as found remains of a still-living civilization, their skins having sloughed to reveal something essential and new in the articulation of a language. The keys to its translation involves a mixing and matching the wire letters of the artist’s alphabet with our own experience as a way of “sounding out” the material world around us. It is through this process that Legaré’s lightbulb illuminates.