June 16, 2014

Barbara Friedman - Closing Party

Please join us on Sunday, June 22, from 6PM-midnight, at a Closing Party for Barbara Friedman's show DEPORTRAITURE.

Location details are here.

June 5, 2014

KB in Venice

Pool Cue Archery Bow Cello from 1981, is one of a large group of Ken Butler's pieces now on display in Art or Sound, a survey that spans four centuries of musical instruments and curiosities.

The mere fact that the esteemed founder of "Arte Povera" Germano Celant has chosen to put Ken Butler in any show is a cause for comment, never mind what the show is about. As it happens this is not exactly an Arte Povera show, but rather an historical survey of musical objects from over the course of four centuries. It is, however, a bit of a curatorial "spill" in the manner of Arte Povera. Very old decorative artifacts and sundry pieces of Weimar whimsy are rolled out into the company of objects from the historical avant-garde.

Antiques are pressed into the service of conceptual art, and all the objects in the show concern "the relationship between art and sound" or the "iconic aspect" of musical instruments. Never mind the context or the century of origin of anything, there is a theory that carries them all in a Prada handbag, whose foundation is sponsoring the show. So it is a good chance to see some beautiful and interesting objects from all over the map, and some really dull moves from the 1970s as well.

Adolphe Sax, Natural Trumpet, 1866–84, brass

But I will say this, Ken Butler's hybrid visions stand up to an Adolphe Sax trumpet or a dazzling old street organ, as much as they stand out against the stylistic uniformity of most of the avant-garde and postmodern representation here. Butler really is a new species in the art world, and in Venice it shows. His work has old world charm, and it looks and feels snappy in the generally mortified acres of assemblage art of our times.

I'll venture that Butler's work is the lynchpin of this show. His work is historically sensitive to the older artifacts. It responds to the antique functional objects as well as it does to the newer and patently art historical pieces. And what's more, Ken Butler's instruments are thoroughly and all about the confluence of objects and sounds.

Musical Chairs, roto-picker (for 8 chairs and channels) concept drawing 23.5 x 18 in. 2005. See enhanced album of these drawings.

Rifle Cello, exhibited at Test-Site in Williamsburg, early 1990s

Art or Sound, June 7 - November 3, 2014
Ken Butler's page on our website

June 3, 2014

Unhurried Antinomies – the work of Alkemikal Soshu

The Matador oil on canvas 30 x 59.5 in. 2012

Alkemikal Soshu speaks of reconciling opposites, and not just opposites but antinomies, of fundamentally irreconcilable things. His paintings are accretions of such things, compacted strata of the difficult and unwieldy, all splayed out.

Alkemikal Soshu's profile on this website
Alkemikal Soshu – Inventory and Prices

The Benign Snotty and the Discovery of the God Particle
oil on canvas 23.75 x 35.75 in. 2012

The paintings remind me of the great Alfred Jensen, who is very well regarded in Brooklyn, for his joinder of non-objective painting and conceptual art, of color and the occult, and for certain mapping tendencies. Soshu’s work reminds me of that oblique tunneling that took place in Brooklyn more than three decades ago. The handful of painters in Greenpoint at that time were influenced by such as Jensen, and also by their socratic mentor James Harrison. It was a moment of esoteric abstraction, during the avalanche of postmodern imagery. These were the origins of Brooklyn’s myriad world of painting today. And it just seems right that a painter of Soshu’s temperament should choose Brooklyn as his frame of reference. Or rather, in the case of Soshu, as a substrate to be catalyzed.

Pipe Mandala pencil and ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2012

Soshu lives in Kathmandu, he has never been to the US or much outside the subcontinent so far as I know. His entrance upon the Bushwick and Williamsburg scene has been brazen, obstinate, opinionated, and entirely by way of facebook. Yet an entrance it most certainly has been, and I am strongly of the opinion that Soshu’s is a bracing contribution precisely to the art scene that he has chosen to engage and to which he was drawn from afar.

His early work of more than about five years ago was inflected by what he calls the “low brow” movement, a kind of international brew of comic, decorative, and graphic art. With surprising speed, and in relative isolation, he put together a fighting palette. The shrewdness of this maneuver impressed me. Irony and panache were achieved that take many a New York artist a decade to achieve. This is thinly veiled by the Himalayan flavor of the paintings, and even that is a conceit. a conceit, no less, that confers mordant humor and originality to Soshu’s canvases.

Hermaphroditos Salmacis oil on canvas 26 x 26 in. 2012

Hermaphroditos Salmacis involves the Greek myth of the nymph Salmacis, who raped Hermaphroditos, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The “union” transformed Hermaphroditos into an androgynous being from whom the word hermaphrodite derives. Writes Soshu:
The mystical derivation would be the belief in holistic transcendence by a union of opposing energies. A completeness and synthesis of opposites. Aphrodite is associated with beauty, Hermes with literature and poetry. Hermaphroditos is the outcome of both, but in male spirit. I think Salmacis is the integration of the female in the symbolism.

Venom oil on canvas 30 x 30 in. 2013

Soshu’s canvases are densely coded, and there are high-pressure zones that gather around matters that need to be “sorted out” as Soshu is fond of saying in the clipped Britishism of the region. This kind of deliberation over a painting is a delight and a relief to me. There is an unhurried generosity here that is appreciated.

— Ethan Pettit, May 2014

Dragon Naga pencil and ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2011

Library of Babel ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2011