Dynamic Duo: Pat Lay and Theresa Ellerbock at Sideshow Gallery

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Pat Lay, SFL4OVO #17 (2010), collaged digital images on Epson archival paper mounted on archival museum board with MDF and wood backing, 85″ x 60″; courtesy Sideshow Gallery

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What is it with Rich Timperio and duos? Timperio–painter, arts impresario and Williamsburg pioneer–has made a specialty of mounting two-person exhibitions at Sideshow, the gallery he opened in 1999.

(In the interest of full disclosure: Timperio has included my work in the last few editions of Sideshow’s winter group exhibitions.)

Sideshow is a good-sized space, though not as encompassing as some of the hangar-like Chelsea spaces we could name, and decidedly hamish in tone: No attitude at the front desk. On a mission to provide “a stage for unseen work”, Timperio dedicates significant exhibition space to mid-career artists who can’t otherwise get a fair shake in a scene that values blue chip merchandise, youngsters fresh out of art school and not much in-between. Why Timperio has made a habit of pairing artists is anyone’s guess. But you know what? He’s got a knack for it.

Take Sideshow’s current exhibition featuring Theresa Ellerbock and Pat Lay. Their work would seem to have little in common. Ellerbock trades in material nuance: paper and fabric are stitched together in geometric arrangements so gently stated–so fragile, really–they barely qualify as geometry at all. Lay’s totem-like sculptures and digital collages don’t abjure tactility, but, instead, coolly yoke it to a post-Dadaist Futurism: imagine Metropolis as funneled through the age of virtual reality. My initial response upon seeing this mismatched pair was:  What the hell is Timperio thinking?

But first glances lead to second glances and second glances to second thoughts, all of which ultimately revealed deep-seated correspondences–between structure and pattern, between piecemeal construction, compositional intricacy, frontal compositions and technology, both confirmed (Ellerbock’s insistence on the textural integrity of materials) and subverted (Lay’s contriving Persian carpets, or something like them anyway, from reproductions of computer motherboards).

In the end, Ellerbock and Lay bounce off the other in ways that are surprising, enlivening and not a little quirky. Give the ladies a hand. But don’t forget Timperio, who divined commonalities that do both artists proud.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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Comments

  • Richard in Chicago  On July 11, 2011 at 3: 35 pm

    “When a conceptual artist masquerades as a painter”–absolutely. Richter is hardly alone in producing work which he knows to be meaningless, but his undoubted talent–in my opinion, anyway–makes it the worst sort of cynicism. It is amusing to browse the Home Depot-sized inventory at gerhard-richter.com (for example: painting/abstracts/abstracts 2005 onwards (232 results)). It’s an operation to make any ambitious hack drool with envy.

    Two left-handed compliments:

    (1) To Jed Perl for his definitive takedown of Richter, even though I find everything else he has written useless; and

    (2) To the gallery attendant at the Richter show who kicked out “James Kalm” and caused the youngster to throw a tantrum.

  • Sam  On July 11, 2011 at 6: 36 pm

    Richter is the go-to artist for writers who need a place to dump their festering ideas about art because everything sticks to him. Andy Warhol served this purpose for a long time, but Richter is a bigger and better vacuum.

  • vc  On July 14, 2011 at 8: 50 am

    I would suggest that Richter is like Jesus or Duchamp. We can’t blame him for what his supporters say and do.

    I am looking at reproductions of his abstractions from the 1980s, when the squeegee-pulls shared the stage with gradations, sharp edges and uncannily deliberate brushstrokes. I sense a kind of yearning, a purposefulness without purpose, a poignant but not utterly hopeless recognition of the difficulty of creating meaning in the face of pervasive cliche that was certainly on Barnett Newman’s mind, too (he said in the 30s he thought painting was dead).

    The photo-mechanical references in Richter’s paintings–crisp edges, airbrushy-gradations–are certainly truthful to our environment, and do not necessarily constitute a complete surrender to photography as the only valid idiom, as some others have taken them to mean. Storr attempted to retrieve Richter from his role as painting’s pre-eminent executioner or necrophiliac, and he got reamed in Artforum for it.

    I just like them for personal aesthetic reasons rather than for any “normative aesthetic logic,” to use Buchloh’s unintentionally funny phrase . There is a “taking apartness” that reminds me a little of Matisse, although Richter can’t hold a candle to him.

    Although we can’t take anything an artist says as gospel, Richter did claim that his paintings were about “the opposite of misery and hopelessness.”

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