Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Lockdown called for the safety and comfort of an inner sanctum, but that of course produced the urge for unmediated exposure to nature. In curating “Nice to See You Again,” now up at Underdonk in Bushwick, Leonora Loeb and Keisha Prioleau-Martin set about finding art that captured that virtuous tension. They have succeeded, presenting varied but thematically harmonious work by ten artists, each of them in some way conveying the hibernation and re-emergence implied in the exhibition’s amiable but also multivalent title.
The exhibition is judiciously but seamlessly calibrated, with due sensitivity to both the satisfaction of a moment and the trial of the passage of time. Start with Julia Blume’s exquisitely simple wall piece Moss Waterfall in a corner of the space. By fusing distinctly artificial representations of flowers, fungus, and water in motion, she conjures just the kind of wistful longing for nature that tends to arise when it is out of reach. Likewise, Madeline Donahue’s glazed ceramic sculpture Butterflies incorporates shape and imagery that a happy child seems to imagine rather than directly observe, making it all the more poignant.
Kathleen Granados plumbs the more mysterious aspects of remembering the outdoors in Halved Century (Seeds) – a felicitously conceived work consisting of a nest-like yarn pouch containing gold items the nature and provenance of which is, at least at first, visually unclear. Alison Owen tills kindred emotional ground in Figure Vase (Stacked) and the site-specific Corner Composition, which feature found materials and fired stoneware placed on torn out canvases. They exude dour but perhaps manageable solitude, or perhaps some kind of rebirth from painter to ceramicist, that merely abuts the external world.
Agitation emerges on the canvas in Alfredo Plot’s playfully sardonic watercolor Sottosopra (upside-down in Italian–sorry, no image for this one), depicting a restless figure draped tenuously over a florally busy couch. To somewhat graver effect is Giancarlo Montes Santangelo’s unsettling untitled black-and-white photograph of a man in shorts, looking out of sorts, occluded and further distressed by artfully crude collaging The photo is torn apart and then pieced back together with tape. In these pieces there seems to be annoyance and frustration, which are inevitable parts of the story in real life.
Then there are works that suggest a kind of resolution, or at any rate a more stable equilibrium. The luminous silver gelatin prints of birds taking flight hazily seen through glass that comprise Wendy Small’s Creatures of the Dawn appear guardedly celebratory. Lauren Whearty’s exuberant, geometrically loose painting Still Life with Daisies and Peonies may be a nod to art itself as a provisional reconciler of people and nature, Lauryn (Red) Welch’s cheerfully enigmatic Green-Wood a subtle reminder that their coexistence requires work, vigilance, and the light we take for granted.
The elegantly succinct ambiguity of Logan T. Sibrel’s painting Beach Beer makes a fine coda. It presents a shirtless, gently hunched-over guy on a sunny beach drinking a can of lager and looking into the lonely distance, maybe at a friend, though any companion is unseen. This could be either his last day out or his first day back; better, let’s say it’s both.
“Nice to See You Again,” Underdonk, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, #211, Brooklyn, NY. Through November 21, 2021.
Two Coats of Paint Fundraising Update: After nearly three weeks, we are more than halfway to our fundraising goal! Thank you, readers, for your generous contributions. If you enjoy our art coverage and have not yet donated, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution. Help keep Two Coats going in 2022. Thank you! Click here to contribute.*