Wayward Bound, a group exhibition closing today at RARE Gallery in New York, is curated by Lexington-based artist Aaron Skolnick and features the work of seven artists (himself being one)—Taylor Bowen, R Clint Colburn, Amanda Kates, Letitia Quesenberry, Aaron Skolnick, Mark Stockton, and Leah Tacha [June 25-August 8, 2013]. Skolnick curated Visually Sound this past spring at Land of Tomorrow (LOT) in Louisville, KY [April 26-May 31, 2013]. In that exhibition, Skolnick worked with artists represented by RARE Gallery— Daphne Arthur, Johnston Foster, Dionisios Fragias, Nathan Ritterpusch, and Jimmy Joe Roche—so Wayward Bound can be perhaps viewed as the second part to Skonick’s initial curatorial endeavor.
Wayward Bound ranks in the top 20 great exhibitions I’ve seen in NYC over the past 25 years. The night of the opening was electric. The crowd—over five hundred people in sweltering heat (the air-conditioner could not keep up)—was lined out the door and into the hallway. At first I thought that the inclusion of (curator) Skolnick’s work into show was a bit odd. I can not recall a recent case where this has happened in a blue-chip gallery space. I learned that Skolnick was included at the insistence of RARE Gallery; it was a wise decision. Skolnick’s work in Wayward Bound does not necessarily carry the show but rather it is a great starting point from which to engage the other work. Skolnick set the bar high and the payoff is an exhibition of not only aesthetic beauty but profound intelligence proffering a meaningful and pleasant viewing experience.
The work of Mark Stockton and Aaron Skolnick specifically references the classical idea of drawing, portraiture, and the historical precedents of each.
Mark Stockton’s installation New York, Net Worth (2013) comprises 11 silverpoint drawings on custom panels (each 10×8 inches). These hyperrealistic portraits range from David Koch (the richest) to Derek Jeter (the least rich of the group). The size of the portrait on the panel proportionally diminishes in size with the size of the subject’s net worth. With an approximate net worth of 41 billion, Koch’s head consumes his entire panel with no negative space at all; this results, I think, in an unpleasing proportion of head to panel. The last portrait in the grouping is Derek Jeter. His head reads a bit too small for the size of the panel: A net worth of 125 million dollars does not guarantee a pleasing composition of head-to-background ratio. How clever can you get? The work also references the DOW with its long horizontal arrangement.
Aaron Skolnick’s installation in Wayward Bound, entitled Jackie O Series (2011-2013), comprises nine drawings in varying media and reference the medium’s antecedents and styles ranging from a drafting ability comparable to Manet and Morisot to post-punk deconstruction—with the drawing seemingly melting off the paper. The Jackie O Series takes as its starting point a single photographic image of Jackie Kennedy the day JFK was shot in Dallas. She holds a white glove to her lips, and her pillbox hat is effortlessly tilted on her coiffured hair. The nine iterations on view (there are over 100 in the full series) range from classically rendered to cartoon-like—specifically a provocative red lipstick rendition dedicated to Dan Colan.
R Clint Colburn’s work, ranging from the very colorful to the nearly pale—as if the drawing had been worked on and worked over repetitively—are like fantastic journal entries emerging from an inquisitive and delving mind. Demi Yod (2013) is a small pen drawing appearing freshly ripped from a notebook page.
Amanda Kates, a Washington, D.C. area artist, makes work inspired by the ever-present onslaught of popular culture. One gets the impression that Kates cannot stay away from hand held communication. Kates ejects a machine gun rattle of images resulting in powerful, somewhat chaotic drawings. She states “…my work is not portraiture…” but her works are most populated by these shrouds of figures emerging through her stylized technique.
Letitia Quesenberry’s works read as oversized Polaroid SK-70 prints. Quesenberry reveals portrait photographs—or what we read as photographic images—encased by various materials (including plaster and layered wax). Through a formalized and masterful technique, Quesenberry’s works live as preserved relics. Muted under gossamer layers of paint and wax, it is not so much a narrative that evolves, but more like visual evidence with the artist as witness. Though Quesenberry’s work has an undeniable reference to a classic photography format, her works are not photographs and they are not really about photography. The feeling of light that is almost always present universally in photography is not an issue with Quesenberry’s work—they are (positively) lightless, dense and solid like stone or thick muddy water.
Leah Tacha’s collage works [Hoop Dreams, 2013 and Rose Bush, 2013, for example] appear weightless and floating or like a pleasant dream unfolding, the story of each one a rapture to the eye. They are like poems, the economy of which plainly speaks their visual stories. Tacha’s work provides such a nice contrast installed next to Stockton’s monochromatic silverpoints. Tacha, a native of Lawrence, Kansas, asserts, “…I make a series of immediate decisions and then pair each piece down to the most essential elements of marks, images, and color in order to create a narrative. I draw from images of success, whether that be an opulent grand home, an athlete at a peak moment in time, or a woman walking confidently in fur. …” And this is what her work conveys; it is as rich and grand as the images and designs she arranges on paper. I want to be surrounded by them forever.
Louis Zoellar Bickett, an archivist and writer, is a three-time Kentucky Al Smith Fellowship recipient and a recipient of a YADDO Fellowship. Since 1972, Bickett has produced The Cultural Memorabilia Project. It is an archive-based work that consists of several hundred black binders containing letters, photographs, postcards, obituaries, household bills and receipts and anything else that can fit into a plastic archive page. In addition to those volumes, Bickett has tagged every article in his house and studio with a laminated descriptive tag and made a computer database list of the inventory. Bickett maintains a studio in Lexington, KY.
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