Alejandro Almanza Pereda
Parallel Universes Converge in a Triple Gallery Mid-Career Retrospective
The Rymer Gallery in Nashville, Aaron Payne Fine Art in Santa Fe and
June Kelly Gallery in Soho, New York
“The visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves
meaningless; the significant thing is feeling.” Kasimir Malevich
Looking back over the works selected for Joyce Melander-Dayton’s
mid-career retrospective, three stages can be articulated. The artist
moved from objectivist juxtapositions to a non-objectivist affair with
pure shapes and organic textures. The work, representing twenty-five
years, has completely metamorphosized and in doing so, revealed key
Always interested in patterns and pairings, Melander-Dayton developed
a highly polished technique of rendering shoes, bowls, bells and other
tokens. A 1993 acrylic and pencil work, “Dead Dog” depicts
a row of tightly drawn Monopoly charms—a thimble, a hat, a wheelbarrow
and so on. The cast figures line up in a row on a white bar superimposed
over a rich, washy brown atmosphere. The word GO in red appears austerely
Fine-tuning the balance between realism and abstraction, Melander-Dayton
painted a thin white X across the entire canvas, from corner to corner.
This earlier composition, with its symmetric mix of charged imagery
and neutral content, presages the artist’s evolving concerns.
“Cumberland Blues” from 2002, synthesizes the realist /
abstract divide into an iconic impression of fluidity. A swaying blue
line runs down the left side of a canvas, suggesting the Cumberland
River. A vertical black line separates it from a column of circular
shapes and outlines. These roundish shapes are like bubbles or the heads
of a crowd.
Some of the oval shapes are painted and some are woven onto the linen
surface with wool. White faces, black balloons, and half-painted blue
eggs in different sizes — all rise from a scored, scarred scrum
of overlapping under painting.
In a dialogue between the two sides, time appears endless on the left
and instant on the right. The serenity of the broad blue band undulating
down through space is countered by an insistent, jostling ascension.
The river’s mighty scope is reframed as the sum of its component
drops. Melander-Dayton’s play between forms leads to ultimate
syntactic shifts where abstraction becomes metaphoric.
Pulling from her childhood experiences in Asia, the more recent work
extended an artisanal approach. Elements of folk art, craftwork and
“feminine” arts (like embroidery) have been amplified, upsetting
notions of hierarchy.
“Rondo” from 2009, breaks free from a framed presentation.
A slew of curved triangular shapes (39 in all) were arranged on the
wall, bridging a corner at the Rymer Gallery exhibition. The notion
of fluidity animated the modular array.
Like stones in a stream, the units were related by their smooth contours
and marine hues. Varying in size, the labor-intensive pieces included
wool, cotton and beads on gator board. Built-up edges were elaborately
woven. Looping lines of thread ran across the sea-blue surfaces. Interlocking
shapes rose and submerged.
Melander-Dayton’s triangular forms suggest palettes, sewing hoops
or guitar picks. In her latest work at Aaron Payne Gallery, she has
focused on this distinctive form. Archipelago” extends the concept
of “Rondo.” Like islands, eight shapes sprawl across the
wall. Their sangria bubinga burl veneer recalls souvenir art painted
on wood. The surfaces include silk, wool and beadwork patterns that
evoke an Aboriginal aesthetic, echoed in the boomerang configurations.
In the last few years, Melander-Dayton has mastered a stand-alone sculptural
strategy and “Canyonlands” leaves the wall altogether. This
new work with its cinnamon, teak and salsawood coloring, reflects the
Santa Fe terrain of the artist’s home.
In what could be an expression of geology, one triangle shape is mounted
sidewise atop another. Onto the polished wooden surfaces of these two
units, mimetic triangle shapes and outlines are overlaid. While resolutely
enigmatic, they can suggest stylized hills or clouds or even as a mouth
and eyes. However, the potential transfer from landscape to figurativism
remains suspended in illusionary abstraction.
Over the years Melander-Dayton has diligently distilled a personal lexicon
based on iteration and gesture. The new plateau she has reached is grounded
in the postmodern practice of attention to process. Her dynamic balancing
act could be described as isometric, from the Greek term for “having
As an artist, Melander-Dayton finds lilting congruence between objective
and non-objective — between abstract and representational. Her
highly individualistic phrasing is poised and compact. The universal
and the personal are fused in her lyric, liberating vision.
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
The Fan and
Sept 12 – Oct 25, 2008
Magnan Emrich Contemporary
accidents waiting to happen, Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s work challenges
structural integrity as it engages the concepts of stability, risk and
danger. In a second show at Magnan Emrich Contemporary, the artist has
fine-tuned his iconoclastic, sculptural assemblages. Moving away from
found objects and furniture, he builds on groundbreaking shifts in materials
first expressed in Jeff Koons’ fish tank and Haim Steinbach’s
commercial items displayed on shelves. Pereda’s new show extends
his earlier balancing acts while rounding off some rough edges.
Lighting fixtures are still part of Pereda’s trademark vocabulary
as are construction tools. As previously, objects are re-contextualized
in startling combinations and height is examined, as works are precariously
elevated and placed “out of reach.”
In “It is for our own safety”, the cachet and elitism of
red velvet ropes are telescoped and spoofed at the same time. By making
the metal poles 10 feet high, Pereda amplifies the materiality while
rarifying the vision. Above us, the seductive ropes sequester a sparkling
chandelier. The silver, red and crystal are imminently appealing, evoking
class and exclusivity and exuding a faux fairy tale aura. Yet a visceral
feeling of smallness, rejection and insecurity falls on the viewer as
he or she walks between the poles and under the chandelier.
Much of Pereda’s muscle comes from his ability to symbolically
charge the atmosphere and mirror emotional states. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in the central work of this two-part exhibit. Based on
the game of Rocks, Scissors and Paper, items are ensconced in a glass
grid. Shiny metal clips hold the transparent squares and rectangles
together. Evoking domesticity, industry, panic, violence, life and stagnation,
the different things inside create a schismatic dialogue.
Some of the objects are repeated. Six paper globes glow, each lying
on its side with wires running up and into the ceiling. There are five
axes emblazoned with the logo TRUPER. A cone of confetti… some
lumps of coal… two bonsai trees… five cinder blocks…
nail clippers… a law book… a discourse is opened between
these disparate entities.
In a top compartment a glop of cement has smeared the sides and hardened
in the center. Characteristically, Pereda has inversed the balance and
put the heaviest part on top of a seemingly fragile construct.
In one of the bottom cubes, an open tall boy in a brown paper bag completely
deflates the elevating concept of a vitrine. Usually, vitrines house
esteemed relics not empty beer cans.
Witty and irreverent, the piece is also aesthetically intriguing with
its rhythms and reflections. At the heart of it all is a wad of fifty-dollar
bills. An axe in glass communicates emergency as well as temptation.
This is not a passive display in the sense that it both mirrors anxiety
Weight is conflated with light in a giant ball of chains hanging in
the Magnan Projects space. Pseudo-chandeliers in art (pioneered by Petah
Coyne) possess incumbent magnetism but this one also carries a disturbing
mass. “Out to Lunch/Closed for the Day” calls into question
our reliance on safety codes and official inspections. The shiny metal
coil (approximately a ton’s worth) approaches the structural limit
of the chain’s strength to hold itself up. Pereda’s recurring
strategy is to take things right up to the breaking point.
incredulous piece, atop a slender welded frame about ten feet high,
perches a forty-gallon fish tank. In the water a host of red Christmas
balls are tethered to a mallet, suspending it. The wooden handle floats
up but the heavy head pulls down. In this sculpture, Pereda’s
intense vision has moved literally from support to suspense.
A holiday buoyancy is countered and re-channeled. Opposing equations
co-exist. Sinking, flooding, and breaking are held in check but exert
an ever-present pressure.
Action is implied — specifically the possibility of the mallet
smashing the bright ornaments or the glass tank. The contrast is paralleled
by the opposing elements of air and water.
In a pair of serigraphs, Pereda echoes this balanced opposition. He
depicts eggs in cartons, first on top of a scale and then underneath
it. By placing the scale on top of the eggs, hope is threatened but
reinforced. In Pereda’s art, we gasp as the normal order is reconvened
in unexpected signals of renewal. The ephemeral parts of life hold up
the concrete. The light holds up the dark and the heavy.
Remarking on his playful title, “The Fan and the Shit,”
Pereda quipped that it was about the fans of art coming to admire his
new shit. Art can be considered as the byproduct of mental digestion.
This show presented some potent cerebral fertilizer.
DOES NEW YORK
In Collaboration with Bankrobber Gallery, London
Vanina Holasek Gallery
502 West 27th Street
weekend there’s been a line outside one of the last quaint buildings
left in the gallery district. The notoriously secretive Banksy is showing
on all three floors of the Vanina Holasek Gallery. The windows are covered
in American flags and Union Jacks with Victor rattraps attached. Other
street artists, Pons and Elbow Toe have put up posters on the building
and next door. A doorman with a clipped Brit accent, wearing a knee-length
leather coat with a skull molded into it, allows you in.
tape and paintings left half-visible through bubble wrap immediately
connotes an exhilirating sense of displacement. This ain’t your
Banksy is an art legend. Sometimes called a guerrilla artist, he’s
renowned for his hard-hitting political street art and museum escapades
(he’s sneaked his own paintings into several museums). Yet he
remains muy elusive and reportedly no pictures of him have ever been
released. Rumor had it that he was on the third floor at Vanina Holasek
Gallery’s opening. Or he may have been in Bethlehem at another
of his openings. He had been there to paint on and “through”
the wall dividing Palestine and Israel.
Banksy’s website said the New York show was unauthorized and “probably
not worth seeing.” The Bethlehem show was authorized and also
“probably not worth seeing.” Very funny.
Banksy slams icons together in a typically deconstructivist manner.
A happy face peeks out from the grim reaper’s drooping hood. Soldiers
keep guard while painting a peace sign on a wall. A masked urban guerilla
pulls back his arm to hurl… a bouquet. The obvious appeal of clichés
are challenged and forged anew.
the triumph of the wild spirit over the hegemony of civilization’s
repression that makes Banksy a real hero.
A jaguar busts out of its barcode cage and heads threateningly our way.
This image is a metaphor for Banksy’s whole career in a way. It
is the triumph of the wild spirit over the hegemony of civilization’s
repression that makes Banksy a real hero.
He cruds up the Queens the way Andres Serrano re-crucified Christ. Anachronisms
and startling juxtapositions confront cultural disengagement. Hunters
with spears stalk grocery shopping carts. Stripped down to the barest
elements and presented in the starkest tones, the visual impact is huge.
The aura and edge of street stencils give the works an aggressive and
The humor is more tongue in cheek than vicious: “Abandon Hope
9am to 5am.”
Regardless, the point is made and hypocrites are targets. Banksy spares
neither the power elites nor the die-hard radicals. A line of ragtag
punks gathers to buy tee-shirts that proclaim “DESTROY CAPITALISM.”
Actually, much of Banksy’s appeal is his punk aesthetic, polished
as it is. There’s something irresistible about a chimp queen that
screams Sex Pistols and shivers with defiant, raw energy.
Banksy is a lot like Delacroix’s Liberte´ storming the barricade—it’s
hard not to get behind him.
article first appeared in Chelsea Now
_________________________________Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
Honoring the past and embracing the future she was filled with love
for everyone. — Icelandic Saga
By Ilka Scobie
had an overwhelming reason to change my life completely, being in love
was the first and only thing," Dorothy Iannone told me on the phone
from her Berlin home. Four decades ago, this grand passion propelled
the self-taught American artist Dorothy Iannone (b. 1933) to create
an expatriate life with her lover, the influential Swiss-German avant-garde
artist Dieter Roth (1930-1998). Documenting their love affair, Dorothy
took Dieter as her inspiration and muse. "The two of us became
the stars of my work," Iannone said. Her highly personal and poetic
artwork was the subject of concurrent shows at the New Museum and Anton
Kern Gallery in Chelsea this year.
Since the early 1960s, the Boston-born Iannone has made intensely intimate
and original paintings, drawings, figures and mixed media pieces. New
Museum curator Jarrett Gregory, inspired by seeing Dorothy’s work
in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, put together a beautiful, if small, show
of Iannone’s work from the ’60s and ‘70s, including
her iconic 1976 book The Icelandic Saga. "Dorothy is a liberated
human being and makes work from her heart, which gives her practice
an immediacy that is uncommon and refreshing," Gregory said.
Included in the New Museum show are Ianonne’s early "People
Series," painted wooden figurines depicting Charlie Chaplin, a
pugilistic Norman Mailer, bare-breasted geishas and Jackie Kennedy.
Genitals hang casually from trousers, erections exaggerated. These early
figurines embody Iannone’s lifelong celebration of sexuality as
integral to life. For "Access All Areas," an upcoming group
show at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin, Iannone is again devising cut-out
figures. "Somehow I got the wish to make more cut-outs, with the
text integrated, maybe at the bottom," Iannone said. "The
scenes are mostly from films I have seen over the years."
Iannone’s large paintings depict her and Roth in formally sensual
unions, inspired by great romances, such as Shakespeare’s Anthony
and Cleopatra. Female and male are portrayed as equal adventurers. A
reduced and powerful palette highlights tribal details, while referencing
an early Pop sensibility.
The African motif appears as a trio of ebony and gold shields in “I
Begin To Feel Free” (1970), and again via balanced tribal decorations
in I Am Whoever You Want Me To Be (1970). Both couples depict a pelted
Roth balanced by Dorothy’s armless Pop figure. Her colors and
free mix of image and text remain as international as they are contemporary.
New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni calls her "our great lady
At the Anton Kern Gallery are nine more works, including paintings made
from earlier sketches. Later pieces like On the Continuing Journey,
with its erotic mandala, are suffused with Buddhist equanimity and reflect
a spiritual synchronicity. Her imagery, consistent in detail and line,
has grown more refined in her present work. Breasts which ended in bulls-eye
nipples now feature decorative corollas. Opulently adorned surfaces
are reflective of an expanded consciousness.
Male and female equality remains constant. Two works from 2009 embody
a psychedelic energy. Tickles My Fancy, a gouache-and-ink on board,
features extravagant adornment illustrative of an expanded consciousness,
as does Metaphor, with its silken bondage cord and tattooed text, reading
"sometimes you must also submit." Instead of the usual autobiographical
raven tresses, this odalisque is blonde and buxom.
Dorothy’s gentle, hypnotic voice echoes through the gallery, the
sound of the audio CD included in the 1972 piece Dinner Box. The painted
box is crowded with a haunting cast of revelers. Iannone, who has been
censored and under-appreciated in her native America, is enjoying a
renewed interest and enthusiastic appreciation of her profoundly personal
New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni calls her "our great lady
of irreverence." Dorothy studied literature, but says that "I
just wanted to make art. I just kept doing it. I was doing what I wanted
of this article first appeared in artnet.
Nature calls in Kim Keever’s landscape photos of submerged dioramas
By Jeffrey Cyphers
nature is part of nature but is also painfully apart from it. We are
always aware of our separation from the innocence and sanctity we associate
with nature. Art tries to address that longing, most especially in representational,
Landscape as a genre may seem out of place in the modern world, but
it was top dog in the days of the Hudson River school when America’s
character was being forged by the notion of a vast and endless wilderness.
Contemporary landscape still claims its painterly heroes like April
Gornik and Rackstraw Downes. Celebrated photographic practitioners of
landscape include Emmet Gowan, Richard Misrach and Victoria Sambunaris.
Then there are photo manipulators and photographers building sets like
Thomas Demand and Didier Massard. It is this latter category that Kim
Keever is roughly aligned with.
This November at Kinz, Tillou and Feigen, landscape is getting some
new attention. In addition to showing Hudson River School paintings
in collaboration with Godel & Co. Fine Art, Kim Keever’s latest
photographs of his models are on view.
It’s an ironic update on the venerable landscape tradition, because
at first blush Keever’s photographs read as throwbacks. Big and
billowy, cloud-filled vistas of a pristine corner of the world, they
relate directly to Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and Frederick Church.
Uncut versions of Eden, no sign of pesky humans disrupts the preternatural
awe. Only rocks, plants and atmosphere inform these regions.
It’s hard to tell that these scenes are not actual places. But
in fact, they are dioramas that Keever has constructed in a big fish
tank and photographed. Only Andres Serrano has thus far made it by submerging
subjects (remember “Piss Christ”).
assembles his dioramas using twigs, rocks and plaster that he sculpts
to resemble mountains, cliffs and boulders. He also loves to visit the
model railroad store where he finds convincing plastic plants for his
compositions. Clouds are cotton placed behind the tank. Lighting effects
amplify the illusions. Much of the light’s delectable hues are
achieved by pouring pigment into the water and letting it disperse.
By reframing the concept of the natural world, Keever has restored a
sense of wonder to it. His depictions of environments ring with the
exalted pitch of a full on symphony. Here, the artificial engages reality
through a hyper-contextuality. Time and space are conflated.
These are not old paintings of real places although they conjure past
masters. They are instead inventive portals of desire. They are addresses
of the imagination where we can examine philosophical conundrums about
what we worship and why. They are exceedingly lovely and over the top.
And that works.
As leavening, a graceful distance from beauty is maintained by the faint
scuzz marks that Keever leaves on the fish tank’s inner walls.
This secondary surface of ethereal slime adds a requisite grunginess
to the product while highlighting the process. It also adds the illusion
of the passage of years, implying survival and thus imparting a sense
of greatness to the artwork. All of these commingling associations blend
together to form a warm, but sharp focus. The closer you look, the more
pleasing the assembly of visual “information.”
83c” evokes a delightfully primal feeling with its lure of virgin
territory. Layers of cloudbanks bulge around an emerging moon. Its effulgence
is perfectly located between a couple of tall pines on the left and
a leafy giant on the right. As in Turner’s atmospheric pyrotechnics,
the sky is unabashedly glorious. Layers of cascading clouds are bathed
in robin egg blue, periwinkle and lilac, indicating a transient time
like dawn or sunset.
The bewitching hour is played up. Everything is heightened to the point
of a silent crescendo. A placid stream recedes down thicket-dense banks.
Gnarly branches posit a surge of ragged silhouettes against the immense
curtain of evening as it ascends. Our eye is lead to the diffuse horizon
that pledges a rendezvous with the sublime.
Fog grips a ridge in “Wildflowers 52i.” The mist has opened
enough for us to see a throng of bright flowers filling the foreground.
Tropical in their brilliance, they are spotlighted, creating an animated
intimacy. They communicate an inviting sense of purity, elevation and
anticipation. They stir us. In the distance a mountain looms through
a break in the clouds, beneath a promising patch of blue.
Conceptually, Keever has re-framed our appreciation of wilderness areas
by mythologizing them. Again, the artist leads us to contemplate an
ideal — a transcendent place we would really like to see.
Thomas — Bringing bling to the art game
540 West 26th Street
has three super myths – the frontier, the racial mix and the belief
that anybody can be somebody. We’re informed and fascinated by
all three. Their intersection is our most potent avenue to metaphor
Mickalene Thomas is a triple-crown contender in this arena. The National
Portrait Gallery acquired her silkscreened portrait of Michelle Obama.
This first solo exhibition in New York at Lehmann Maupin (she had a
one person show at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago) calls for busting
out the bubbly. A big, brassy blockbuster, it will knock your knickers
off, whether you like it or not.
Thomas builds on traditional representations of women in the arts and
grafts them to modern media and the appurtenances of soft porn, pop
culture and Blaxploitation films of the 70s. But her quotes are dichotomous:
half pastiche and half homage… half showgirl – half earthy
matriarch. Her figures exude strength and inner assurance even while
the artist appropriates questionable sources of authority.
Voodoo and rhinestones
Mickalene told me that she didn’t gravitate to art at an early
age. “I didn’t think I could draw well. I was into sports
in high school.” She did attend after school programs that her
mother enrolled her in. These programs had craft elements that may have
influenced the use of nontraditional materials such as the rhinestones
and thrift store get-ups her models wear. In addition to formal art
training at Yale, the artist also studied Aboriginal art and Voodoo
Thomas has transferred some of the flash of modern day celebrities in
sports and music and brought the glittering bling to her art. She’s
not the first or only one to use rhinestones in paintings (Rhonda Zwillinger,
Chris Ofili) but she has carved out a singularly attractive signature
style. And now she’s upped the ante by including Federovsky crystals
in the newest work.
In the main gallery, four large portraits of African American females
dominate the space. Posed in dramatically seductive and over the top
poses with historical precedence, the women radiate sensuality, sass
The submissive, reclining female, or odalisque, is a somewhat thorny
(and corny — think saloon nude) act in art history but it is definitely
a perennial. And as the great actors know, you have to risk being corny.
Every queen comes with a fool. This artist keeps the jest in majesty.
Thomas begins with a photo of a woman in a room. Often her subjects
strike subtly contorted expressions of horizontals and diagonals. Vibrant
throw pillows, couches with competing patterns and wood paneling form
a tropical mise en scene in which the subjects bloom. Thomas then makes
collages based on the photos that are used as studies for the paintings.
Each reproduction adds a layer of illusion and mystique.
Naughty ’n’ nice
A playful audacity complements the sumptuous physicality in “Naughty
girls (need love too)”. As the title implies, Thomas balances
her siren’s edge with grace and vulnerability. A woman in thigh
high “hooker boots”, raises up horizontally off a couch
by one leg and one elbow in a highly manipulated and suggestive pose.
The boots and outfit are studded with numerous shiny rhinestones. Crystalline
points accentuate the hair and face.
The odd angles of the woman, her head dipping down and her breasts thrust
up, are integrated into the overall activity. In contrast, a midnight
blue miniskirt and dark skin isolate the figure and project it forward.
The wooden panels of a 70s era rec room reflect the cultural milieu
of Thomas’s youth and are also autobiographical.
This autobiographical aura complements the art historic associations
that are apparent in “Mama Bush: One of a Kind Two.” Manet’s
“Olympia” is updated in this twelve-foot wide rhinestone,
acrylic and enamel painting on a panel. Blocked color recalls Jacob
Lawrence’s bold exaggeration within a representational framework.
“Mama…” peers at us over her shoulder with a “come
hither” look. A riot of fabrics on the couch evokes interiors
by Bonnard or Vuillard. A fractured floral pattern drapes the couch,
shimmering with hundreds of black, white and grey beads and clear crystals,
emphasizing a powerful, abstract subtext.
Mama Bush is apparently a code name for Mickalene’s mother. In
addition to this nude, a simple seated painting of Mama Bush in a dramatic
black and red dress exudes a different kind of daring. Here smoldering
elegance and dignity crackle into flame.
In a new direction for Thomas, a video of Mama Bush posing for the camera
is presented beside a portrait, creating a technical diptych. Eartha
Kitt songs add a final touch, both personalizing the sitter and monumentalizing
her “Everywoman” aspect.
Returning to the multi-panel format of her “FBI/ Serial Portraits”
and “America the Beautiful” series from last year, she has
expanded to a 40 panel painting. “A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y”
presents expressive faces in rows, photo booth style. Most faces are
limited to two tones and reference the simple silk screens of Andy Warhol.
Ten full color portraits activate the grid, giving it the conductive
resonance of “Broadway Boogie Woogie” by Mondrian. This
extra association also reclaims the African-American heritage of boogie
woogie and its blues roots.
In addition to the iconic portraits of females, Thomas previously created
a series of “Big Cats”. The feline images, while sleek,
emanate menace. They are beautiful but remain wild… easy but ready
to spring. Likewise, Mickalene Thomas’s compelling oeuvre evokes
both danger and domesticity. She forces us to confront banal stereotypes
and rewards us with complex archetypes.
Reflecting on a legend that Thomas must appreciate, Benetta Jules-Rosette
and Njami Simon wrote in Josephine Baker, the Icon and the Image: “Even
contemporary pilgrims, whose quest is secular rather than religious,
seek to be close to icons and glorified objects of value so that some
of the magical power will rub off on them.”Go, pilgrim.
of The Villager