Scene + Sensoria will be a regularly occurring project of capture, of both the social and aesthetic dimensions of the New York art world, towards an ecological understanding of the scene as a living coral reef; these sensorial guided tours of affect, chance, and embodied presence will be relayed as an artistic experience by Andrew Paul Woolbright
Some parts of these sensorial tours will be difficult or impossible to recreate. Shows come down and some experiences will be relayed atemporally, persisting through aperture and capture. This particular psychogeographic tour will be focused on zoom, where the telescopic detail informs and reinterprets the perimeter. But briefly, I would like to discuss the material conditions that influence the way things look within the scene. The medium, after all, is the message; and space dictates context but also form; and how could I miss an opportunity, as a New Yorker, to discuss cost per square footage.
Do we love the work or do we love the space and context we see it in? The object of critical discourse within aesthetics, especially its synoptic interpretation through art criticism, might well be real estate itself. On the Lower East Side, it is reasonable to expect that a gallery space of around 700-square-feet will cost $5,000 per month. Considering the 50% artist consignment, this means a hypothetical gallerist would need to sell $10,000 worth of work per month just to break even on rent. If you’re the gallerist then, what work do you show? What MFA programs do you look at and how do artists come to your attention? How long before you start trying to predict the taste of your collectors, or in some cases, how long before you start asking them what they would like to see next?
Artists’ open studios sidestep these considerations entirely. In late July, Catherine Haggarty and Andrew Prayzner opened their Bushwick studio before shipping work off to various shows. The night allowed for discussions about the making of work rather than the destination, as we drank La Croix and caught up with one another. I ran into Robert Roest and Gary Petersen there, and talked to Robert about his recent paintings involving violent, designer-breed lap dogs.
Prayzner and Haggarty’s studio (and Gary Petersen’s next door) are in the heart of Bushwick, easy to swing by after going to a show at Luhring Augustine or Clearing. Plus, The Narrows is within walking distance, and their cocktail The Word is a neighborhood favorite.
Don’t miss William Downs at Derek Eller. The Georgia artists’ large ink drawings pull off some spatial image-object trickery that is able to generate sculptural form through density and line; accomplishing an inky plasticity via graphic illusion. The approach in Downs’ work is anti-individual, but the collectivist crowd actions depicted might not be towards any kind of sense making or harmony.
For Reveling in Thorns, Downs directly references the Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio through pathos formulae. The descending figures are wearing thorns or sackcloth, something uncomfortable that still leaves their asses exposed. Their long toes, fingers, and noses make them seem uniformly clumsy and inept. Thrown into the performance of a scene of this level of pathos, one they seem inadequate to comprehend or witness, we are endeared by their plodding. The pathos breaks to bathos and we are left with a confusing sympathy.
Hung on one of the pieces was a Chinese drawing of a collection of skulls, a telling group memento mori, and a charged metaphor for the way Downs depicts the figures in his scenes with the same anonymity and stacking.
Phong Bui is like a battery, and his exacting curation is currently viewable on the Bowery at Geary Contemporary’s “Mutual Convergence,” a dual show of artists Yasi Alipour and Cy Morgan. In The Exform Nicolas Bourriaud suggests that a defining characteristic of contemporary art is its reliance on networks, the constellation being the central allegory of visual representation, and this show is an exemplar:
“To be sure, it would be excessive to pretend that a specific form dominates contemporary art, given its formal and conceptual profusion. All the same, the presence of the network-structure and its derivatives pervades artistic production too much to amount to a mere ‘tendency’. The horizon of the present, both conceptually and visually, seems to be dominated by pulverization, scattering and links. Clusters, clouds, tree structures, constellations, webs, archipelagos … All these forms evoke pixels–as if to signal the decomposable structure of the universe and the precarious nature of our political systems.”
This show seems to confirm the idea. Both artists’ practices are connotative and hint at an adherence to natural forms, sacred geometries and environmental systems, but are indirect and veiled through process (in the case of Alipour) and scavenging (Morgan). There is the Epicurean swerve, the clinamen, at work here through materialist chance. I was impressed with how surprisingly sculptural Alipour’s drawings are; and Morgan’s anti-monumental assemblages felt rhythmic, like suggestions towards a contingent whole. Each artists’ smaller works presuppose their larger ones, acting like annotations within the constellated installations or islands in the visual archipelago.
11 Newel‘s inaugural show “Timely” takes some exciting risks with color and style in what used to be a dance studio in Greenpoint. Notable standouts are Ernesto Renda’s pastel-rubbing triptych that buries images within images from Another Gay Movie; Irena Jurek’s strawberry cabbage patch figure; Angelica Yudasto’s hanging glass works which capably generate liminal space; and a playful vibrant painting on fabric by Jaqueline Cedar.
15 Orient in Brooklyn is on the pulse of a contemporary European ethos that picks up where the Symbolists left off; and Stanislav Kovalcikova’s current show “Imaga” is no exception. Kovalcikova’s facture is earthy and similar to Moreau, reliant on staining (tache) and rubbing, which balances the virtuosity of the brush. What makes the work even more compelling is Kovalcikova’s inclusion of abject materials in the work, such as human hair and fake vomit. These acts complicate the symbolist register through an act of horripilation, that shocks and is able to remind us that paintings and flesh have a history; and that ultimately paintings are formations of dirt and bodily shock. Moments of sparing imprimatura let undefined areas still ebb, and romantic moments still smell like sweat.
I met artist Justin Cloud there and we talked about the return to magik, mysticism, and neopaganism. Justin said it’s our return to the earth and our current inability to imagine much beyond what is right outside the cave, what we are feeling eidetically and affectively during system collapse. The present search for egregores and animism perhaps acts as a reactive alternative to fascist strong men. Whatever the case, mysticism’s return to art is refreshing; that it is experienced in the dimming light is heart breaking.
About the author: Andrew Paul Woolbright (Chicago, b. 1986) is an artist, gallerist, and writer working in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of the MFA Program at the Rhode Island School of Design in painting, Woolbright has exhibited with the Ada Gallery, Nancy Margolis, and Coherent in Brussels, BE. He is the founder and director of Below Grand, a gallery located at 53 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.