October 15th, 2014 through December 13th, 2014
by Dan Greenberg
Andy Mister. Double Olympia. 2012. Charcoal and ink on paper. 36 x 48 in., framed.
The packed reception at the landmark building on 32nd St. near Madison, formerly home to the Grolier Club, spilled out to the street, releasing powerful communal energy for FREAK FLAG, the new multimedia installation that inaugurates Brian Morris Midtown. The converted Romanesque Revival – previously a Persian carpet warehouse, a disco and possibly a speakeasy, but that’s neither here nor there – established a perfect balance of old world reverence and NYC history with contemporary aesthetics. Paintings by Paul Corio and Andy Mister, along with a healthy glass of red, welcomes us to the scene.
The vast space boasts cathedral ceilings and airy appeal in the midst of midtown. James Clark’s UNTITLED (2000) is a powerful shaft of light that bisects the room and serves as a beacon for the exhibit. His sculpture is like the space – useful, a bit absurd and exuding warmth. As the lone centerpiece, perhaps its duty is to disorient – do we start to the left? to the right? Follow the light! It refracts off the mirrored wall, funhouse-like, taking us back to center.
James Clark. Untitled. 2000. Metal, polyethylene,fans, motion switch, lights.
Brian Morris, the ubiquitous impresario of LES legend, is ringmaster for the event, and with him at the helm any and everything is possible. His constant collection of talent is a tour de force. Along with curator Kim Uchiyama’s keen sensibilities, Morris guides us with a sturdy hand through the celebrated works.
Al Loving. #6. 1998. Acrylic on rag paper mounted on plastic. 18 x 12 in.
According to Morris, Al Loving embodies the collective theme of the exhibit. His two wall reliefs assuredly burst with primary colors birthing secondary colors, and mixing ellipses with the hard angles of triangles. Loving’s radical departure from his previous, highly successful body of work emphasizes his lifelong dedication to change and following his true artistic impulses. Uchiyama’s LIGHT STUDY #28 (2014) steadies the action, centers and calms the viewer amidst an interloping scene of life in the gallery. It suggests a landscape as wise as the river – hers is a work that is hard to walk away from.
Paul Corio. Papa Bear. 2009. Acrylic on canvas. 60 x 60 in.
The pleasure ride continues…I gulp grapes and lock eyes with a deliciously tall woman who looks like her breath smells of cinnamon. She nods her head towards Gwenn Thomas’ LARGE Q (1996), where I’m immediately immersed in a tactile jungle of collage, re-envisioned and revisited as photograph. I return a thankful nod, then give her the ol’ snub and turn where I’m struck by Noah Post’s SECONDS FALL (2014). Redolent of de Kooning, with the intermittent suggestion of an emergent figure, I get a distinct Organized Konfusion vibe, a Pharoahe Monch inspired Tasmanian devil fusion of energetic determination.
Craig Fisher’s poignant DROP CLOTH PAINTING (2012), draped above the exit, is apropos to the space, a utilitarian work that respects the process and origins of painting. Stephen Westfall’s TIME WILL TELL US WHAT TO DO (2013) plunges us in (or out?) of the abyss with his kaleidoscope pattern, with vibrant colors seemingly bouncing off the mirrors and into the other works.
Truly tantalized at this point, and with a perfect buzz, my eyes settle on the intriguing cloth tableau complexly dotted and spotted by Ann Shostrom. Did Shostrom, by incorporating waxing, threading, beading and dyeing in COLONY (2010), weave a tapestry of civilization and teach me a lesson in community? Dammit Shostrom! And dammit Keller! The inimitable Marthe Keller, her ALP II (2001) immediately pulling emotion out of me and widening my eyes to the glorious color, with so much suggested behind it.
There is no fear here; these works are merged into the old city walls, integrating art and life. These works conspicuously lack pretension and invite discourse. Bravo!