Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Very Spatial Show: Art Space @ Mindy Solomon Gallery

Space is defined as:  "the unlimited expanse in which everything is located". We have outer space, inner space, rent-free head space, personal space, musical space,  Hilbert space, storage space, topological space, uniform space, convergence space, interstitial space, learning space,  boundless space, defined space, architectural space, public and private space, and let's not forget web space. We've all been spacy,  known space cadets, been to the top of the Space Needle, used space heaters and played Space Invaders. A space monkey is slang for an addict, space suit for a condom, space cake for pot baked goods, space rape for invading someone else's space, space goo, the mysterious black stuff that sticks to one's shoes and cuffs of long pants from the floors of South Beach clubs.

We also have Art Spaces, the theme for the current show at the Mindy Solomon Gallery, which opened to an enthusiastic full house on August 21st.

An Art Space can be a synonym for a gallery and/or museum, but here it refers to the dialogue between art and space, both within the bounds of the art itself, and without, between the art and the space it occupies en situ, wherever it is displayed. Space in art can be divided into positive space, a space occupied by something, and negative space, unoccupied or "empty" space. One defines the other, and between the two, often create tension between elements within (and outside) the work.

There were a few pottery pieces in the show by Minkyu Lee. White bowls, one aptly titled Hidden Structure revealed #10. From a distance of a few feet, it looks like a beautiful formalist glazed ceramic bowl. Get closer, and one discovers this piece has its own distinct public/outer and private/inner space. The inside of the bowl is inscribed with a geometric pattern of squares reminiscent of the Fibbonaci series, but I don't think it is. The pattern itself is a succession of positive and negative spaces. Minkyu has worked in ceramics and porcelain, extensively exploring color, texture and geometric patterns in his works.

The context of furniture is living spaces, where it dialogues with the architecture, interiors, and the people who occupy those spaces, be they a reception room in an office building, or in a home, extending out into lounge and pool areas. Custom art furniture takes a room from the generic to the specific. This is custom furniture designed for a specific space. It redefines the space and its inhabitants, transcending genre and fusing utilitarianism and art. Jo Milic is an architect and furniture designer, with his own company, Mesh.  His work at this show consisted of several custom-designed/built pieces, all with strong iron bases, often with right angles, echoing the form of the rest of the piece. The welds are smoothed out, giving the impression of a monolithic, solid, geometric form for the legs and concealing the technical ontogeny of its creation. This gives the wood or bamboo parts of the tables/chairs which are seamlessly integrated into the design, an airy, floating look. In Mesh Table  this can be clearly seen in the interplay between the wooden tabletop and the rectangular legs.

 Raymond Gonzalez has a deep, sonorous voice, the kind that carries across a room authoritatively - sans microphone - and many politicians and most preachers would love to have. In his bio, he gives us a two-generation account of his family history. When Raymond talked about his art on opening night for this show, he spoke of his interest in his parent's time, specifically 50's culture. Part of his ancestry is Mexican. In Spanish, all words are gendered. He spoke of how this terminology is also in the English language and commonly used in fittings. Raymond  brings this into his sculptures in this series, collectively titled Fetish, many of which are clearly male or female by their sex "fittings". Some appear to be hermaphroditic, like this. Others wear coverings laced up like footballs (technically, it could be said they're "flashing"). Some are duets, others singlets.

The thought ocurred to try a little sculptural husbandry and try to 'mate' two just to see if they could, but we decided that perhaps that's what they do when the lights are out -- and they have a little privacy. These endearing, brightly colored, part glazed ceramic, rubber grommets, flocking, rhinestones, and, notably, automotive urethane pieces are like a fusion of many styles, ideas and concepts from the era Gonzalez focuses on. Look into one and there's traces of automobile designs, the influence of space, in rocket-like forms (and some reminiscent of Sputnik as well) motel signs and more. This is art that not only exists in the space it occupies, but historical space as well.

David Hicks sees agricultural cycles as an analog to our own lives. The cycles of conception, development, expression, reproduction, fruition, decline, death and transformation inform him and he uses them to inform our lives through his work in an ur-language he refers to as composed of  "origin, form and beauty". The first thing I noticed about Hicks' work is that there are two types. One is in hanging forms that bring to mind fruit, gourds, clusters of outsized grapes and other forms, ripe and heavy. The other are truncated, complex ceramic matrices inspired by pulled tree stumps. The hanging work is in a plurality of varied forms, hung from a bar or plate bolted into the wall. These are raw, sensuous, luscious primal forms that speak to us of life-sustaining food, accomplishment, the apex of a life cycle, sex and the next generation. They suggest their own inner space and ours. These works inspired one viewer on opening night to openly ask David if he would be OK with her rearranging the sequencing of the individual hanging pieces. He smiled & replied that once it's in your house, you can do what you want with it. A testament to the accessibility and playful nature of his work.

The tree-stump works are more abstracted, in layers of partly colored terracotta matrices. Like the other Hicks works in this show, they dialog with their analogs, but are far from literal representations. The stumps are externally simple forms, and internally complex ones. We can see into them, easily losing ourselves in their matrices and in the interstitial spaces between them.  Their "surface" is conceptual. We supply it, the work only implies it, thus engaging the viewer into participation in the ideation of the piece. I asked David if he tended to work on one type or the other at one time. He smiled and replied that he always has at least one of each work in process.  

Every artist speaks to his viewers in a vernacular visual language, while simultaneously transcending it, making it his own. Cosme Herrera openly states this personal/universal, visual and philosophical language to be one of his goals. Many of his works in this show are from a series called New Forests . The works are made with wood grain vinyl on polypropylene paper. While they may seem like artificial landscapes, all of these works originate from specific locations, to the point of being geotagged. They are initially drawn, then worked over in photoshop before assuming their final form. Perhaps this is why he refers to them as binary landscapes, though that could also refer to their being part of a duet, one the original landscape, and the created alternative one. These are complex landscapes addressing many things, including the interaction of man and nature, specially in parks. Cosme and I spoke for a while at the show's opening. He sees the landscape as narrative (many of the world's indigenous people do), and man in dialogue with it. Some elements in his work are elegiac, for vanished trees. The odd trellis-like forms on tripod legs as seen here, are, in part, a kind of talismanic device for missing trees. Many of the iconic walls are boundaries of sorts, edges and perhaps, symbols of man. The effect of the whited-out sections reminded me of wintry landscapes, and serve to recontextualize and emphasize the trees and other forms that are left. Cosme has also done geo-installations, and if a grant comes through, he wants to design a small park-sized area.

Mindy Solomon's Art Space show opened August 21st, and closes on Sept 25th. See it at 124 2nd Ave. NE St Petersburg, Wed-Sat, 11am to 5pm. The gallery will be closed from Sept 1st to Sept 7th, for Art San Diego.

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