Seeing black at Brian Morris

Guest Contributor Jonathan Stevenson / “Cuts Noon Light,” the challenging three-person exhibition at Brian Morris Gallery on Chrystie Street, gets its title from a Pablo Neruda poem in which those words seem to refer to what a lover does, and especially what is missed when the lover is absent or gone. It’s a powerful if elusive notion, and the three artists shift it to a more general existential level in intriguing ways.

[Image: Andrew Ginzel, Cataclysm, 2008, ink, toner, gold on paper with mirror, 25 x 21 inches.]

Perhaps Not To Be Is To Be Without Your Being
Pablo Neruda

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.

Andrew Ginzel appears to see the compulsion to fill any aching void as partially if inadequately answered by gathering elements of what resources are available – books, maps, pictures; perhaps in a word, ideas – which he does in meticulously composed collages against a black field. With remarkable visual elegance, pieces like Cataclysm capture the beauty of intellectualization, whatever its shortfalls as a substitute for more direct experience.

Steel Stillman, Buskirk (1988), 2012, archival pigment print, 40.375 x 32.75 inches, framed, ed. 1/3.

Less hopeful, perhaps, are Steel Stillman’s photographs. Whereas Ginzel’s black vivifies the presentation of more interesting and salutary things, Stillman’s black seems to occlude or excise them, hinted as they are by escaping colors (see, for instance, Buskirk). Yet it’s hard to disagree that one person can never see enough, and therefore is inevitably disappointed.

 Kara Rooney installation. Photo courtesy of LDOphoto.net.

Kara Rooney’s installations tease out this notion. Like the others’ work, her constructions are more prominently black than anything else. They embody parts of wholes, items out of context, and images of trace perceptions. These components are distributed in several planes by means of veils, partitions, and platforms, so as to preclude focusing simultaneously on all that is there. This very frustration is presumably her point – or at least one of them.

The work in “Cuts Noon Light” seems to argue that memory fades as time unfolds, leaving isolated fragments, dark impressions, and vague emotion in place of Neruda’s sharp longing. If the poet suggests life without his lover wouldn’t be worth living, these
artists hold the less tragic–and more pragmatic–view that
memory invariably dims, freeing us to find new material.

 Installation view.

Cuts Noon Light,” Brian Morris, LES, New York, NY. Through July 26, 2015.

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 Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

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