(So) Happy Together

by D. Dominick Lombardi

“Ever since the Big Bang, it’s ALL collage!”
Todd Bartell

Finding common ground in Contemporary Art today is not necessarily about aesthetic or messaging commonality. The age of Isms, or schools of art are rare, largely due to the fact that labels are limiting and many artists are experimental or in new media. One of the things I have noticed over the years is how much new art looks multidimensional. How it is common to see dueling perspectives and timelines, think Neo Rauch; or accumulations as art or installation with works by Mike Kelly, Faith Ringgold or Nick Cave.

The title of this exhibition, which refers to the 1967 song by The Turtles, was one of the first things I thought of when thinking about the art in this exhibition. That feeling that an artist reaches, at some point in the making of an art work, when the process and purpose of a work comes together and drives the artist to dig deep. For this exhibition, I have selected six artists who reveal both new and traditional ways of expressing great depth of vision while creating compelling, topical, beautiful and at times humorous works.

Joel Carreiro, Untitled b27fz (detail) (2022), 18 x 24 inches
Joel Carreiro, Untitled b27fz (detail) (2022), 18 x 24 inches

Joel Carreiro, who uses either classic collage methods or multiple image transfer, commingles various art ages and types with stunning results. With his transfers, Carreiro weaves wondrous visual transitions that ebb and flow, forming waves of optical transitions. Patterns develop, rhythm is created, and an overall composition becomes focused on referential glimpses and color connections. In his collage series, Carreiro combines a portrait painted by Picasso with an iconic offering from another notable Modern artist suggesting a humorous take on greatness, while the overall effect creates a compelling aesthetic conversation.

Yeon Jin Kim, Plastic Jogakbo #4 (detail) (2019), hand-sewn plastic bags, 56 x 40 inches
Yeon Jin Kim, Plastic Jogakbo #4 (detail) (2019), hand-sewn plastic bags, 56 x 40 inches

Another collector of elements is Yeon Jin Kim, as she updates the traditional Korean art process jogakbos, which is the creation of wrapping cloths from pieces of various fabrics, by using a variety of modern day plastics in place of fabric. In doing so, Kim switches indications of a once male dominated society that insisted on women being frugal, to focus on our big business dominated world of profit and ubiquitous waste. This contrast is both stunning and beautiful, as it sheds light on the fact that no matter how much things change, they in some way stay the same.

Don Doe, Dorothy Twister in Rimini (2021), oil on linen, 38 x 24 inches
Don Doe, Dorothy Twister in Rimini (2021), oil on linen, 38 x 24 inches

Don Doe falls into the multidimensional zone, where collages largely from fashion magazines and ‘mens’ periodicals result in oddly sexual, powerful, simultaneous juxtapositions of euphoria and despair. Having little concern for lining things up anatomically, Doe suggests a nod to the divergent imagery found in film montage, while the clarity in the contrasting bodily forms makes them appear more psychedelic or dreamy. Given all this, Doe manages to create a narrative that represents much of what both excites and represses.

Cecilia Whittaker-Doe, When Summer Went, ink, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches
Cecilia Whittaker-Doe, When Summer Went, ink, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

Cecilia Whittaker-Doe brings us something of a kaleidoscopic view of a landscape. By combining multiple perspectives and stylistic approaches on one common surface, Whittaker-Doe leads us down a trail of wisdom and wonder. What really draws the attention of the viewer is her unique interpretation of ‘natural’ color, and how various elements seem to trade hues with adjacent forms. It’s all a puzzle waiting to be solved, or not, as the journey is the message.

Matthew Garrison, Invincible (2009), plastic, newspaper, wood, light bulb, 8 ½ x 11 x 3 inches
Matthew Garrison, Invincible (2009), plastic, newspaper, wood, light bulb, 8 ½ x 11 x 3 inches

Matthew Garrison is known for his experimental approach to media. Using video, photography, paint, found materials, Garrison brings to mind the art movement Arte Povera, with influences more coming from the home computer age than the ‘poor object’ or his predecessors. By employing references to the banal or the everyday, Garrison reintroduces popular culture as near venerable, while his sense of humor tends to guide us into the deeper meaning of his work and the odd possibilities that lie ahead.

Margaret Roleke, Pink (detail) (2022), wire, spent shotgun shells, brass, 15 x 13 x 14 inches
Margaret Roleke, Pink (detail) (2022), wire, spent shotgun shells, brass, 15 x 13 x 14 inches

Margaret Roleke gathers contentious objects to make potent political statements in her desire to prompt positive change. Women’s rights, gun reform, cultural and racial oppression all seem to have some overlap in her prolific, spent cartridge series of sculptures and wall hangings. Which, when displayed in a gallery or museum setting become optical plays on gesture and form. In the end, we are confronted with sheer numbers, of scary symbols all too abundant that have become a sad defining reality.

(So) Happy Together opens January 21st at Artego, 32-88 48th St, Queens, NY 11103. The exhibition closes February 25th. For more information, go to: https://www.studioartego.com/exhibitions/forthcoming/

K8N Collective and the Geography of Scale

by Steve Rockwell

K8N Collective installation view
K8N Collective installation view at Gallery 1313, Toronto

The use of planes, trains, and automobiles are required to get to the place where this article might take us. The cultural product being shipped has triangulation points between New York, Toronto, and the town of Belleville, Ontario. Its cargo designation comes under late minimalism, set in motion here by the Bellville artist collective K8N, and arriving at their Gallery 1313 exhibition in Toronto last November, in all likelihood by automobile. Belleville exhibitors Steve Armstrong and Elizabeth Fearon were joined by the third K8N member Toronto artist Rupen, to produce a thoughtful, cohesive show.

The divergent aesthetic concerns of Armstrong and Rupen, displayed on the walls of the gallery, knit nicely together into a “body of work” helped by Fearon’s six stone sculptures on plinths, which cleaved the show space like the vertebrae of a spinal column. A self-evident human scale gave primacy to the hand of the artist, the burden of meaning falling on the materials employed and their craft.

Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtest Richard Serra and Pearson International Airport
Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtesy of Richard Serra and Toronto Pearson International Airport

Some time after beginning my deliberations on the K8N exhibition, I boarded a jet for a winter holiday. To get to the gate at Toronto Pearson International Airport required me (or rather I chose) to walk through Richard Serra’s “Tilted Spheres.” Having previously looked “at” a work of art, I was compelled here to reconcile being an observer “within” a work. Serra’s massive steel forms were carted from New York, where Richard Serra is based. Toronto has a large art scene by Canadian standards, but New York’s is large globally. By this token, Belleville has an art scene, perhaps proportionate to its population of under 60,000, of which the K8N Collective is a part. My own journey in art matches this hop from small to large, with the international ethos a shifting point of reference.

Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’
Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’

This fabric of geographic connectivity is the soil out of which much of the art which is presented to us grows. In 2004 Rupen exhibited a series of wall works in wood, beige panels with networks of red lines inspired by railway tracks leading in and out of “the great art cities,” such as New York and Paris. My first exposure to the K8N collective was at Rupen’s show space and home in the Junction district of Toronto in 2019, very nearly where its four lines of track intersect. The K8N name itself is the postal code designation for Belleville. The environment and how the body situates itself within it, has a part in the making of Rupen’s art, who employs a process of distillation that includes a subtle playback loop with each creative adjustment. Rupen views the body as the recipient of life-affirming energy, that is released in the making of each work.

Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”
Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”

Fearon’s 1997-03 photo-booth work explored the movement of face and body, having led the artist to considerations of the framed capture of an individual in “official” uses such as passport photos and other licensing protocols. Isolated frame demarcations that form grids apply not only to our immediate urban environment but engulfs the entire globe ultimately. Information networks structure the flow our personal data electronically much the same as air, sea, and land transport does physical counterparts, both synched to their respective red and green lights. These considerations situate the patiently filed facets of Fearon’s stone sculptures within a dynamically alive environment, while the objects themselves evoke a stillness. Each surface performs a sublimation, condensing and purifying all that it absorbs as the work progresses.

Steve Armstrong, untitled, acrylic on plywood, 13.5″ x 15.5″

Surface ambiguity has been an abiding interest to Armstrong, much of his work designed to read as second and third dimensions simultaneously. This playfulness is welcomed in art, but not so much on subway platforms, elevator shafts, and edges of cliffs. Getting the gestalt of what we see around us is obviously important to our survival. Distinguishing the illusionary in our art may serve as helpful training wheels for the real world. We also accept Armstrong’s sly sophistry that drilling a hole in an object doesn’t yield an interior, only more surface. Worms, on the other hand, understand that boring through the skin of an apple doesn’t yield yet more skin, but pulp, something materially different from the apple’s surface. This focus of Armstrong’s art on the nuances of visual perception and the language that we employ to describe it, packs our daily “spectacles” into the retinal arena of our eye – a kind of microscopic Roman coliseum.

The funnel of all fabrication from the hand-manipulated to the mandibles of an industrial-sized forge, channel our compressed experiences through the wires of a common neural network. Viewer and artist tap into the same channels. The twelve meter steel walls of Serra’s “Tilted Spheres” at Pearson Airport close in over heads, and we experience its potential crush in our gut. It makes palpable the cabin pressure in the hull of the jet that we don’t feel, but know is there. The congestion of an urban grid, and its electronic counterpart carries its own crush, which Feoron somehow eases with the honing of her alabaster facets. The filing of the stone subtracts to reveal its material beauty. In the ordering and reordering of the folding ribbon of planes in his “Rebounding Energy” Rupen plays the scales of line and plane to elicit “sound” from a mute form. The fundamental question that Armstrong raises is, “What can I come to know about the object that I see, if what I sense from it is a contradiction?” Whatever the scale and scope of the object in our vista, the neural bandwidth that equips us all is essentially the same.

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.

dArtles: Weekly on the Arts

by Steve Rockwell

Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhina and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios
Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios

In Toronto’s cultural kitchen, a dish named Weekly on the Arts has begun to bubble. Hosts for this upcoming weekly TV show are Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields. Featured segments cover visual artists, collectors, curators, museum directors, art magazines, auction houses, art galleries and art dealers. Shooting began this spring at Pie in the Sky Studios, with rushes from the first batch of digital reels already in post production.  

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Liz Larner: As Stars and Seas Entwine

Regen Projects in Los AngelesMarch 27 – May 22, 2021

Detail of Liz Larner work combining plastic refuse with acrylic paint.

“Plastics…were used in furniture, clothing, containers, appliances, just about everything. Sometimes the poisons leached into food or water and caused cancer, and sometimes there was a fire and plastics burned and gassed people to death…. The only place that has enough of it to be a real danger is right here.” — Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites, 1988

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