Saturday, January 22, 2011

Heaven and Earth: Personal Icons @ Mindy Solomon Gallery

The word "icon" comes from the Greek word for "image", "persona", "portrait".
The religious icon, as we know it in Western Art, formally congealed in the Byzantine Empire (through connections to Greek icons) around the 5th century. The conflict between the Judaic anaiconism, as in the second Commandment, regarding graven images, and the religious icon was a serious problem. It led to the iconoclasms of the 8th & 9th centuries in the Byzantine Empire. The Second Council of Nicea resolved the problem with technical lingo worthy of a contract lawyer. 

"Icons are reminders of the spiritual world. They are windows into eternity, a holy space depicting sacred reality in the course of humanity" -- Tom Tsagalakis

Icons weren't always housed in churches. As Christianity spread, there would be outlying areas where no churches existed, and traveling priests would make their routes around these territories, arriving in one spot, marry people, baptize new arrivals, say Mass, consecrate the dead and more, all in one stop. Since there often wasn't a sacred space in these places (and no manpower/money, and sometimes no inclination  to build a church), these priests traveled with small, folding icons that served to signify a temporary sacred space. 

They also played the role of mass media, projecting a story/doctrine that everyone was familiar with in the established Christian territories, and as a teaching/colonizing tool in the outlying territories -- all in a human context, often one that had contemporary elements.

Patrick McGrath Muniz [Link] has looked at these icons and recontextualized them into the present, incorporating consumer culture into the iconic style and expressing his concerns about the myths surrounding colonial aspects of globalization, imigration, breast enlargement surgery/identity and many other issues.

"Today there are  many myths about beauty, culture, art, justice, war,  sex, food, energy and many other issues that consciously aware artists should address in their work. ... I find the world of myth infinite in sources for inspiration." -- Patrick McGrath Muniz

See his work here.

Gabriel Parque is a 3-D Technical Assistant at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon and a sculptor. In the Icons show @ MSG, his sculptures are from the "Blessing" series. Here is one. They consist of coil-built, stone-ware, white-painted figures of what appears to be a fetal or newborn Jesus figure, identifiable via either the blessing mudra (hand-gesture) or the small icon they hold in the other hand of the world with a large golden cross on it. The fetal ones have prominent umbilical cords literally grounding and connecting them to Mother Earth [Link], the world the Father made.

The Einar and Jamex de la Torre work showing currently at MSG is in the form of fused glass and mixed media. This a very, very different kind of sculpture from the usual swirling, amorphous and occassionally pointy glass.  This is narrative glass, rich in cultural iconography, telling intensely personal stories from the area around the border, and not just the border between the US and Mexico, but that between this Life and the Next, with the yonic gateway at the center of many; Green Earth Mother with ear of yellow corn vaginal lips. Yellow guns with toys floating in them, around another vaginal opening with blue lips, a background rich with more details, and festooned with large marble-sized clear glass. Others look like Mayan calendars, invoke totems, naguals, lucha libre figures, and more. Besides being extraordinary, emotion-provoking personal icons, these pieces are superb contemplative objects of beauty that can stand scrutiny at any viewing distance.

I met Jordon Meinster at an MSG opening and liked him immediately. We talked about the art. His fluency in art history and passion for art are breathtaking. But until this exhibit, I had no idea he is a painter. Quite a painter. "The Resurrection" , which curiously depicts the crucifixion, is an emotional torrent of line and color in acrylics and oil pastels on paper. There is a female figure on the lower left, hand raised in the "He is risen" gesture of pointing at the sky, and she is a wide-hipped, large-breasted Earth Mother like a prehistoric stone Venus. Another one, with hair the same color as the cross -- gold -- ministers to the crucified figure, one hand by the wound caused by Longinus' spear, the other by his genitals.

The man/God on the Golden Cross is frozen in an esctatic moment of revelatory pain, his face looking like some in the paintings of Francis Bacon. Around the top of the cross is a familiar green figure from the story. We know him in a different guise from His first appearance in the story, in Paradise, where he tested and bested the Ancestors. We see him when we visit the Doctor, wrapped entwined with his Other around the staff of Hermes that forms the caduceus, which goes back to Egypt and before that to India where it is associated with the Kundalini rising. In Western mythology, we know him as Ouroboros, the snake eating His own tail. He is the sundial, the face of the clock, and more, and in this painting, he is behind the crucified picture, around the golden cross, reaching for his own tail, circling the square (ok, rectangle) of the cross. We are at the imminent passing of an age, a personal and universal one. Like many cave paintings, the coiling, pungent-green figure is rendered in X-ray fashion. Looking inside his body, we can see prior ages in the process of digestion in his gut. He, and we, have been here before.

This isn't just the story of a Man-God from two Millenia ago. This a personal resurrection, of the artist and the viewer (this means you) through the crucible of the body, its pain and passions, the meeting of earth and heaven.

--- Luis

Mindy Solomon Gallery, 124 2nd Ave NE. St. Petersburg. Wed-Sat 11 AM-5PM.

Ps. If you go, there are two "hidden" must-not-miss things at the Mindy Solomon Gallery. There is a work that is invisible no matter how hard you peep through the windows. Go inside, when you get to the desk, turn to look back through the windows. Slightly to the left is a column. Hanging from it is a vertical video installation by Becky Flanders that is not to be missed. Second, ask Mindy or Sharon if you can see the two other works by Jordon Meinster hanging in the back room.


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