David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Il Signor Beneventano, an exhibition of new work by Pietro Roccasalva. The show opens on November 5 and will remain on view through December 17, 2016. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, November 5 from 6:00pm until 8:00pm.
Pietro Roccasalva makes paintings, sculptures, films, and other works that constitute a single, ever-expanding artistic vision. The entirety of his practice is like an ongoing installation that takes place in different locations across many moments in time; each piece refers both to past works as well as a potential infinity of future ones. This multiplicity informs his Renaissance-like ability to employ a dizzying array of materials and modes. Yet despite the masterful technique that characterizes his approach, the interconnectivity and mystery he conjures are decidedly futuristic, reflective of a world in which more and more seems to be known but less and less is certain.
Il Signor Beneventano includes a monumental new sculpture, some of Roccasalva’s largest paintings to date, a new 16mm film, and a suite of Moleskine notebooks whose teeming pictorial invention is only revealed when they are taken off the wall. Together, these works constitute a mise-en-scène full of literary, cinematic, and art historical allusion in which major and minor genres collide.
The show’s title is borrowed from a short story by Herman Melville, “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! or, The Crowing of the Nobel Cock Beneventano,” whose fictional narrator jokingly applies the name of an opera singer, Beneventano, to the fowl at the center of the action. It also serves as the title for a short 16mm film in which a shot of a rooster from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu is followed by a title card whose text Roccasalva has replaced with a poetic, existentialist fragment from an external source.
“Carnival Night,” the sculpture that provides the exhibition’s centerpiece, resembles a giant spider. Almost 12 feet tall, its steel legs arch upward from a circle of eight squat toilets installed on the floor. Instead of a spider’s body, however, the central point where the legs meet is occupied by a truncated, puppet-like form of an inverted man rendered in carved wood at full scale. He is painted so that he appears to wear the colorful garb of the Papal Swiss Guard (a recurring motif throughout the exhibition), and is hung so that he faces directly down toward the viewer, with armless hands and legless feet emerging from the sides of his torso, which in turn supports his helmet and its intense, rooster-like red plume. While the sculpture finds antecedents in the igloo works produced by Mario Merz in the late 1960s and the anthropomorphic spiders that populate Odilon Redon’s drawings and prints from the 1880s, by leading the gaze upward it becomes a metaphor for the timeless act of looking itself.
Roccasalva has long treated painting as a medium with the disconcerting power to gaze back at the viewer who gazes upon it. Once a viewer is transfixed before a painting, a perceptual loop is completed: he or she feels as if being seen, while the painting takes on an uncanny semblance of life and begins to do the seeing. Paintings included in this show are among the artist’s most sizable to date, including three whose subject is Just Married Machine, an immersive installation that was the focal point of his last exhibition at the gallery in 2012. The tableaux features a man and woman dressed in nuptial attire, a boat that resembles a mandolin, a fallen hot air balloon, and a rooster dressed, once again, in the uniform of the Swiss Guard. In each painting the strangeness of the scene’s narrative implications is matched by the mesmerizing complexity of its rendering, as well as the vivid array of hues that characterize the broadened palette of these new works. Throughout, Roccasalva employs spatial experiments that draw from both medieval and Cubist approaches to figuration, hyper-realistic textures, and the kind of surreal biomorphic distortions usually associated with science fiction.
On one hand, paintings are the points from which all of Roccasalva’s expansive investigations in other media begin; on the other, they are the points to which he always returns, condensing the breadth of his philosophical reflections in pictorial form. For this reason, with works like those on view here, he increasingly takes on the scope of history painting within the context of the other genres–nature morte, portraiture, landscape, abstraction–that make up the Western tradition.
Related issues are literally seen from the other side in “Rear Window,” a work comprised of a series of Moleskine notebooks that provide visual and conceptual counterpoint to the paintings. Installed austerely in a row, their black covers facing mutely outward, these works on first glance appear to conceal more than they reveal. But when they are removed from the wall with the assistance of gallery staff, sketch-covered spreads on the notebooks’ pages can be seen through the Hitchcockian “rear window” of their double-sided frames. As if to highlight this play between revelation and concealment, each is open to the page where the owner is invited to inscribe his or her name with the words, “In case of loss, please return to.” Private sketches made quietly public become metaphors for self-identification. Roccasalva invests what might otherwise be considered preparatory drawings with a brooding grandeur, heightening their intimacy, and reminding us that what we cannot see often holds the key to what we can.
David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Black Bars, an exhibition of new work by Kathryn Andrews. The show opens on November 5 and will remain on view through December 17, 2016. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, November 5 from 6:00 until 8:00pm.
Kathryn Andrews examines the latent power dynamics in acts of desire and consumption, creating works that implicate the viewer as both an agent and an object of such desire. Her images and reference points are drawn from a broad swath of cultural production, including mass entertainment media, the Western art historical canon, commercial products, and advertising. These are refracted through a sensibility highly attuned to the phenomenological aspects of sculpture, so that the viewer’s body is always an implied, and often a direct, subject of Andrews’s practice.
Black Bars features the debut of an eponymous new series of large-scale wall-based works, as well as two new floor-based sculptures incorporating the stainless steel cylinders that have served as a recurring foil throughout her recent bodies of work.
Almost eight feet tall and six feet wide, the wall-based “Black Bars” works consist primarily of large-scale images screen-printed by hand onto painted aluminum substrates. The series’s title alludes to the fact that two monolithic black bars have been printed onto the inside of the Plexiglas that hovers in front of each image. Because the frames in which they are housed are over four inches deep, a substantial measure of space exists between the bars and the visual information they partially obscure; in some cases Andrews has also installed film props within these gaps. Even though these are ostensibly flat works that hang on the wall, they are activated by the viewer’s movement around them, so that in most cases the breadth of the images and any objects can be discerned, if only in glimpses and pieces. The bars function as a kind of visual wall or fence separating viewers from an experience whose totality remains obdurately out of reach.
The images themselves are divided into two categories. Roughly half depict young women surrounded by stereotypical signifiers of pleasure and leisure, including flowers, fruit, and candy. (The appearance of the word “déjeuner” in their titles alludes to Manet’s 1862-63 modernist masterpiece Déjeuner sur l’herbe and its archetypal depiction of desire.) Throughout, Andrews conjures a ubiquitous, even parodic, version of beauty that feels as though it could have been appropriated from any number of pre-existing sources in the commercial media landscape. Each work is a similarly carefully crafted composite. The women were photographed by Andrews herself, as were some of the surrounding objects. Other images are stock images licensed by the artist. Typical to her practice, Andrews blurs the distinction between readymade and fabricated forms, establishing her own authorship by challenging the possibility of the concept. This generates pointed questions about how an artist’s own subjectivity does (and does not) appear in the materialization of his or her work.
The second group of “Black Bars” works incorporates imagery and objects with direct connections to specific Hollywood and art historical sources. In one composition, for example, a giant image of a shark with its mouth open is juxtaposed with an actual flipper worn by Richard Dreyfuss in the 1975 film Jaws. In another, an image of the beloved 1950s TV character Howdy Doody makes an appearance alongside three felt polka dots, relics cut out from the curtain that served as a backdrop for the show’s set; the result is an unlikely amalgamation of geometric modernism and classic television entertainment, simultaneous cultural expressions often considered antithetical to one another. In a signature move, Andrews recontextualizes certified props as a means of exploring how objects oscillate between their roles as signifying forms and as mere physical, sensory things. Her approach conflates the effusive, image-based ethos of Pop Art with the austere criticality of Minimalism that forced a reconsideration of materiality as a subject in its own right.
This is especially apparent in the floor-based sculptures on view. Each brings together a highly polished stainless steel cylinder and a Storm Trooper costume from the popular Star Wars movie franchise bound to the cylinder with its feet raised off the floor. (The costumes are replicas officially certified by the films’ prop-master.) If the viewer’s body finds an optical double in the reflective surface of the cylinder, it confronts a physical one in the form of the Storm Trooper, which in turn seems to stare at its own reflection; the result is an endless deferral of subjectivity, a perceptual hall of mirrors. That Storm Troopers inhabit the Star Wars movies as an infinite group of anonymous subjects finds a parallel in Andrews’s decision to display two essentially identical objects–two examples, in fact, from a single edition–at the same time. Rather than cancel out uniqueness, Andrews shows how repetition, reiteration, and reproduction give life to it.
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