Tag Archives: Elizabeth Harris Gallery

“New Gallery/New Work” at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY

EH Gallery Announcement.jpg

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I’m pleased to announce that a recent painting of mine will be on display in “New Gallery/New Work”, an exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. More information can be found here.

Wuxtry! Wuxtry!

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Mario Naves, Fresno (2015), acrylic on panel, 36″ x 48″‘; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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I’m pleased to announce that my work will be featured in two exhibitions
opening in December.

A new painting will be on display in “Festivus”, a sampling of gallery artists at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. The show runs from December 3-19. The opening will take place on Saturday, December 5, from 3:00-6:00 p.m.

One of my collages will be sharing wall space with myriad artworks at Lesley Heller Workspace as part of the gallery’s annual Holiday Salon Show. The exhibition opens on Sunday, December 13, with a reception from 12:00-6:00 p.m., and continues until December 20th.

I hope to see you at both receptions!

Steve Currie: Gone Fishing

terminal

Steve Currie, Terminal (2014), stainless steel wire, plastic tube, bobbers and hydrostone, 112″ x 72″ x 60″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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The following essay appears in the catalogue accompany Gone Fishing, an exhibition of sculpture by Steve Currie currently on view at Elizabeth Harris Gallery.

While rifling through a folder of reviews written about the sculpture of Steve Currie, a passing observation caught my eye, not least because it points to the puzzling nature of his art.

Writing about a 1998 Currie exhibition, the critic Kenneth Baker discerned a Minimalist current informing the work, particularly in the deployment of materials. Minimalism, it is worth recalling, abjured mimesis and association–that is to say, metaphor–in favor of unencumbered materialism. The what-you-see-is-what-you-see approach (to iterate Frank Stella’s deathless phrase) has its adherents, but Currie isn’t one of them. Baker ultimately pegged him as “no true Minimalist”. He was right to do so. Though Currie came of age toward the tail end of the style’s dominance, he proved too restless a talent to settle for the easy-out. No literalist dead-ends for this sculptor. Inviting aesthetic discomfort in the cause of artistic potential, Currie has forever been welcoming of a certain impurity.

Well, maybe not “forever”, but Currie has been working and exhibiting in New York City for close to thirty years. That he’s managed to do so without succumbing to fashion or capitulating to cynicism is remarkable in and of itself: the art scene isn’t the most accommodating (or kindest) place for those with independent temperaments. As a veteran of this milieu, Currie has witnessed a fair share of cultural and ideological shifts. Taking them in with a sense of measure and, I like to think, bemusement, Currie carried forth in the studio, questioning the limits of his vision even while prodding at the sculptural tenets of the day. In doing so, he’s discovered tangents that are diverting, sometimes fruitful and sometimes dubious, and always worth investigating.

gone_fishingSteve Currie, Gone Fishing (2015), stainless steel wire, plastic tube, fishing poles and hydrostone, 112″ x 80″ x 26″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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The title of this exhibition provides an example of how Currie has strayed from any kind of orthodoxy. As a thematic marker, Gone Fishing connotes a level of disengagement, at least from the mundane worries of the here-and-now. As sculptural fact, “fishing”, for Currie, is an avowal of the benefits of play, of following where the logic–or illogic–of the work takes him.  Whether twisting fine lengths of wire or making casts of hydrostone (a cement derived from gypsum), Currie evinces a healthy acceptance of their material and allusive capabilities, even when they lead down pathways he could never have imagined. This aesthetic flexibility–along with a deadpan whimsy that marks Currie as the most disarming of artists–extends to the recent use of found materials: those would be the fishing bobbers and poles punctuating his signature amalgamations of systematic modularity and free form improvisation.

The incorporation of readily identifiable objects within abstract structures seems, on the face of it, a lopsided and potentially foolhardy endeavor. Wouldn’t these prefab items call attention to themselves at the expense of sculptural unity? One can’t help but be reminded of Marcel Duchamp’s remark that no work of art could hope to improve upon the inherent beauty of an airplane propeller. And, sure enough, the bobbers are, in their streamlined elegance, impressive combinations of functionality and design. That’s what caught Currie’s eye when he chanced upon them in the window of a fishing supply store near his Brooklyn studio. But an object remains “found” only to the extent to which it is endowed with poetic import. Currie transforms the fishing bobbers into integral adjuncts of a larger artistic context. They remain themselves and yet they don’t. Currie’s slight of hand is pivotal to the work’s integrity, and beguiling to boot.

Currie

Steve Currie, Adrift (2014), stainless steel wire, roots, plastic tube and bobbers, 117″ x 79″ x 54″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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It helps that Currie has long employed industrial materials and proven them un-industrial—in other words, pliable and humane. But the inclusion of the bobbers and, for that matter, the dried roots seen here-and-there, is unexpected even if the adroitness with which they’ve been synthesized is no surprise at all. Synthesis is, after all, Currie’s forte. As a sculptor, he’s less interested in essentializing forms than in creating a dialogue between contradictory impulses. Forget how he enlivens the buck-stops-here ethos of Minimalism with a limber strain of Surrealism. Consider, instead, the oddball tete-a-tetes generated between mechanical surfaces and organic rhythms; stolid architectural forms and graceful expanses of line; diagrammatic emphases and animal-like shapes; and, of course, volume and mass simultaneously confirmed and thwarted. What, finally, do we end up with? Donald Judd meets Paul Klee meets Wild Kingdom meets Tinker Toys, after which they collectively manage to defy gravity as deftly as Fred Astaire. And that’s just where Currie starts.

A recent trip to Asia affected Currie in ways still new to him, but references to topiary gardens and airplane terminals are there to be gleaned, albeit less as biographical markers than as extensions of the artist’s fascination with the world, both natural and otherwise. And it’s this fascination—turned outwards, appreciative and questioning—that endows the work with its droll animism. When ensconced in the studio–a locale whose isolation can engender the worst kind of self-absorption–Currie doesn’t tune out the particularities of what’s out there; the world is, in fact, ushered inside the door. As both philosophy and art, this approach is remarkably grounded and blessedly unpretentious. “No true Minimalist” Currie is, without a doubt. But the truth of his art lies in how thoroughly these quietly ambitious sculptures engage and enthrall the eye. Every artist should be as encompassing and true.

© 2015 Mario Naves

Ho, Ho, Ho

Holiday Delights* * *

I’m pleased to announce that a painting of mine will be on display in Holiday Delights, a group exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. You’ll find all the pertinent information above. Hope to see you at the opening/holiday party on December 7th.

Simple But Not So Simple: The Art of Victor Pesce

harbor3Victor Pesce, Harbor 3 (2009), oil on canvas, 24-1/8″ x 30-1/16″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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The following essay was originally published in the catalogue accompanying Victor Pesce, a 2001 exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery and is posted here on the occasion of Victor Pesce: Selections 1978-2010 at Elizabeth Harris Gallery (April 20-July 26).

Victor Pesce paints pictures of simple things, but the pictures he paints are not so simple. Certainly, his still-life paintings are unadorned. A few pieces of fruit, a couple of bottles, a milk carton or coffee cup–that’s all he needs to pique his interest, to set the pictorial snowball rolling. These items are seen situated against flat expanses of dusky color, mottled fields which are, at the barest maximum, demarcated by a horizon line. Yet even without that line–that not-quite-Platonic table top–we read Pesce’s still-lifes as occupying space, as things that “sit.” It is with this nod to gravity that he lets us know that however spare–or, if you prefer, abstracted–his paintings may be, they are irrevocably of this world.

Pesce’s art is hard-won, but plain-spoken, roughhewn in its clarity. Although their surfaces evince a history of painterly give-and-take, the pictures themselves are absent of fuss or muss. Whether it be a bottle, a box or the stray posey, Pesce bestows upon the objects of his attention an inquisitive, just-short-of-tenacious regard. In doing so, he locates both its essence and its pith without settling decisively on either. Pesce couldn’t, in other words, care less about absolutes; “pairing down” is not the Pesce approach. So while each canvas declares that things are pretty much what they seem, it also insists that things are more than what they appear. If anything, the more Pesce focuses on a particular still life the more allusive it becomes.

pinkboxbrownwallVictor Pesce, Pink Box, Brown Wall (2007), oil on canvas, 8″ x 8″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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You see this in the nudgy relationships he divines between his subjects and the peculiar–and peculiarly stubborn–life they take on. In one painting, a quartet of lemons engages in a pokey game of courtship. In another, a duo of soda bottles huddle together awaiting a verdict. In Pesce’s hands, a brick and a rock aren’t inanimate objects, but parties who have reached a tenuous and grudging agreement. These are muted, barely discernible dramas–pivotal morsels of some unknowable narrative given a gruff independence. One could trot out the word “poetic” in describing Pesce’s transformations, yet “poetry seems too highfalutin’ a conceit for paintings as down to earth as these. What he does is closer to magic–a magic so unassuming that it barely knows its name.

blackandwhitefruitVictor Pesce, Black and White Fruit (1999), oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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Pesce’s is a slow art, one for which time is not only a prerequisite, but its leitmotif. Asking us to work our eye with as much forbearance as went into their making, the pictures extend a blunt, take-it-or-leave-it respect–a kind of challenge. They dare us to stop and a look and then look some more. Pesce doesn’t operate on the belief that an artist’s worth is measured by how much he co-opts a culture made breathless by technology and its efficiencies. He puts brush to canvas as a means of regaining a sense of measure and proportion, of achieving a no-nonsense wonderment. His paintings make us realize that the simple things around us aren’t as simple as we think.

© 2001 Mario Naves

Mario Naves; Recent Paintings at Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Mario Naves, Timpanogos (2011), oil and acrylic on panel, 24″ x 28″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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I’m pleased to announce that my sixth one-person exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery will be on display from January 4-February 2, 2013. The gallery is located at 529 West 20th Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The opening reception takes place on Friday, January 4th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Elisa D’Arrigo at Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Elisa D’Arrigo, Yellow Sprawl (2012), glazed ceramics, 9-1/2″ x 10’1/2″ x 8″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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The sculptor Elisa D’Arrigo has been a friend for over twenty years, a fellow roster-mate at Elizabeth Harris Gallery for almost as long. I can’t pretend to be altogether objective about the work. But this much I do know: D’Arrigo’s art has never flagged in rigor, drive and forward propulsion, and her current exhibition is a stunner.

Known for craggy accumulations of cloth, thread, paper and acrylic paint, D’Arrigo has switched to ceramics or, rather, returned to them after a hiatus of some thirty years. A mordant strain of biomorphism continues to inform the art, but it’s now leavened by a heartening strain of humor. Obsession has been waylaid by goofiness, painstaking methodology by quick-witted improvisations. And don’t talk to D’Arrigo about finicky distinctions between art and craft. She’s “always been energized by the conflation and dissolving of categories . . . I seek the and, not the or.”

Comparisons to Ken Price will be made, I suppose, but D’Arrigo is better than that. She knows the point of art is animism, not taxidermy. As for the flowers ensconced, here and there, within the artworks? They look great.

© 2012 Mario Naves

Martha Clippinger at Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Martha Clippinger

Martha Clippinger, Catty Cornered (2010), acrylic on wood, 12″ x 10″ x 7″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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Artists attempting to gulf the divide between painting and sculpture are asking for it. Locating a coherent equipoise between pictorial space and sculptural space–between invention and actuality–invariably results in awkward (not to say “bastardized”) elisions of form. Even Donatello, the master of bas-relief, couldn’t pull it off on a consistent basis. Martha Clippinger isn’t Donatello–come on; who is?–but neither is she any one of scores of artists who make mixed-media their dead-in-the-water forte.

Clippinger’s amalgams of lumber-yard leftovers and modernist rigor, each of which sports a kid-friendly palette, tip-toe around painting and sculpture with disarming good will. The point isn’t how she performs this feat, but, rather, that the feat is rendered no-big-deal and, as such, beside the point. Imagine a down-home Ellsworth Kelly or a Richard Tuttle we could take seriously. Imagine caprice transformed into poetry and Post-Minimalism rendered humane. Then watch Clippinger make the theoretical concrete.

Martha Clippinger: Hopscotch is on display at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, until February 4.

© 2012 Mario Naves

Zip

Barnett Newman

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The most telling aspect of Charlie Finch’s takedown of James Siena, Thornton Willis, James Kalm, Jed Perl and James Panero isn’t the search-and-destroy broadsides. That’s Finch’s shtick, after all, and it’s often funny and sometimes true. Rather, it’s his adulation of “special hero” Barnett Newman:

“Abstraction [Finch writes] should be about liberation, the chain-smoking, searching, reductivist dubiation of a Newman.”

Great minds think alike, right? So do blowhards. Macho-blowhards, that is–chain smoking types who toss around words like “dubiation” when they think no one’s looking. Newman and Finch deserve each other.

Granting Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51) its iconic status, Newman’s oeuvre is notable primarily for its overweening ambitions and paltry realizations. It’s by that pretentious and under-nourished yardstick that Finch dismisses Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Pousette-Dart and the “dick-like puzzles” of Siena and Willis.

I’m not a disinterested party: Willis is a stable-mate at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, Panero my editor at The New Criterion and Kalm has immortalized me, my baseball cap and winning personality on YouTube. Swell fellows, all. But someone out there has to take Finch seriously. For the fifteen minutes or so it took to write this post, that’s exactly what I did.

Postscript: You’ll find my thoughts on Willis and Siena here and here.

© 2011 Mario Naves