Monday, March 16, 2009

Volta's major wattage

Fernando Mastrangelo dilligently proves a point here with his cocaine sculpture, Felix, at Rhys/Mendes of Los Angeles, CA. Showing the migrant farmer in plaintive pose-- shoulders hunched, bandana covering his sunburned face, all while working in a field producing a crop that he may never fully grasp its ramifications. The parched earth, or mirrors in this case, echo the days of Studio 54, and the stiletto-clad Hoovers his cultivation will eventually supply. Mastrangelo doesn't necessarily make Felix out to be a victim, though. Though he has no back story, he is working dillgently for the task at hand. Through this discipline, will Felix break free from the chains that bind him, or are the benefits of his industry many to be had? It's fascinating to think of the various storyline trajectories.

Cute Overload has a term for the type of thing you're seeing above -- Reedonk!! I mean, seriously-- my heart is soaring... just soaring... with Sterling Allen's whimsical (redonkulous) toy assemblage creatures on display at Austin, TX's Art Palace. Yes, that is indeed a squash you're seeing with outstretched arms?... feet?, as well as a rally-cry potato head with baby doll arm held aloft in Spud Power pose. My favorite inclusion by far was the old lady wig on the Skeletor mask, and the Rizzo the Muppet-like rat crawling up the background. Who said art can't be fun and inventive at the same time? Bringing out the inner '80s kid in me never felt so good.

On a far more serious note, Rina Catelnuovo photos at Andrea Meislin Gallery were dramatically touching forays into the personalized effects of the conflict in the Middle East. The Hasidic inner sanctum meeting above is a beautiful look into a subculture that's rarely exposed to the outside world. The car bomb photo above shocks us with the carnage that takes place almost daily. Catelnuovu does a terrific job at bringing us directly into the stories that Americans so normally disregard on the daily news. Now, if Catelnuovo can hold the attention span a bit longer than an art fair, her work will be a true success.

Lush tropical vines, flora and fauna inhabit the mindscapes of Andy Harper at One in the Other of London. Like becoming lost in a magical botanical garden, Harper's brushstrokes are immaculate. The rich colors flow into each other seemlessly, and set a mood of rebirth and renewal. Some portions of the pieces do remind me of Alexis Rockman's earlier series, but it's more visual trickery than ecological statement. I also think Harper's oeuvre is far more likely an embracement of the flesh, while bearing an uncanny similarity to certain feminine body parts if laid out in Rorschach format. Harper's paintings were a joy for me to discover, since so very little traditional painting is on display throughout the fairs.

Next up, Eugenio Merino at ADN Galeria of Barcelona. The Dalai Lama here looks like he just came out of the Stallone school of acting, while Shrub Jr. looks more akin to discovering enlightenment than the Mahatma himself. Juxtaposing such hilarious interpretations of a bizarro world run amock sent me into fits of giggles. The lifelike nature of the works again reminded me of the astounding realism of Ron Mueck, but in Merino's case, the message is not in the craftsmanship. For the true meaning of these works lies in the very definition of what is a man of peace, or god of war. To each and every one of us it can be a different thing. Definitely one to watch in the coming years.

Regina Jose Galindo made me cry. Really. I've never been more moved by a piece of art in recent memory. Promoteogalleri de Ida Pisani took the biggest risk ever by her inclusion. Taking performance art to new levels, Galindo's repetitive violent submersion in a vat of water is a graphic visual of waterboarding as means of torture. Only true hearts of stone could watch this and not get that in each one of us there is humanity and worth, no matter the political leanings, or actions of a selective few. Galindo's powerful statement here pretty much closed down all other artists from here on out to me in terms of what they're willing to do for their message to be heard loud and clear, with no static. Beautiful and raw, Galindo's booth is still making me think eight days later.

Last, but far from least, Boru O'Brien O'Connell's photographic exploration into male middle age, and the loss of masculinity itself at Boston's La Montagne Gallery. O'Connell's works sweat out palpable pools of Cialis and Rogaine advertisements, as well as PSAs on prostate health, if they were financed by well-meaning members of the PGA. Too often than not, we overlook as a society the "now what" that comes from men gradually losing control over the prowess they once thought was a given. Take the soap bar, for instance. What once was merely a means of getting clean now serves as a reminder to its owner as to the loss of his youth on a daily basis. I hope to see more of O'Connell's brilliant works again soon. He just may well be the new Cindy Sherman of his generation, dipping into the unplumbed well of the past-their-prime male specimen.


Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks for your coverage of the fairs, Olympia. I'm always struck by how differently we--not just you and me, but all the art bloggers--all see the work and write about it. Together these reports make for fully dimensional coverage.

Ah, working for no pay. Ain't it grand?

Oly said...

Yeah, my poor eyes at the hour I post at also love the fact I keep my contacts in until the corneas are worn away!



[dNASAb] said...

Volta was a nice mix of well curated solo projects. The "flora and fauna inhabit the mindscapes of Andy Harper" spoke to me as well. A gorgeous density of organic patterns and different techniques for applying the paints, very nice work.thanks for mentioning it.. [dNASAb]

Oly said...

You're welcome, Disney!!!
Drop me a line sometime.
Would love to hear what new stuff you've been up to!