On the LES

Conrad_Nengudi_Takaezu_02
Image: Toshiko Takaezu, Senga Nengudi, Tony Conrad; Courtesy of Essex Street 

“Tony Conrad, Senga Nengudi and Toshiko Takaezu”, Essex Street

Mar 12 – Apr 26 2015

Bringing a refreshing energy to the LES, this exhibition focuses on an older generation of artists notable for their contributions to action-driven object making and ritual performance.

The work of Nengudi, an African-American avant-gardist from the 1970’s, presents a bold dynamism that is in direct conversation with the body as a physical engine that moves through space and as a marker of identity. Using bundled and stretched materials such as nylon, Nengudi builds forms that appear transmutable, touchable, and familiar.

Conrad’s Yellow TVs satisfies the expectations put forth by minimalist conventions of the early 1970’s. The scale approximates the width and orientation of the human head and shoulders when installed. The series consists of a grouping of repeated forms – black cloth with a white ovoid shape painted to resemble a television screen. The most intriguing element of this work is its subtle performative quality. Rather than evoking timelessness or a confrontational sensory experience, the work was designed to yellow slowly over time, creating an extended durational experience akin to mediation.

Takaezu’s oblong ceramic sculptures are perhaps the most mysterious objects in the exhibition. Oriented towards the back of the room, the three expertly-crafted and expressively-colored ceramic forms stand around waist-height. Each was made from 1994-2000 and together they are typical examples of her larger body of work. These forms are strictly non-functional objects, clearly divorced from the utilitarian nature from which ceramic is derived and commonly associated with. Envisioning these objects as closed forms, she often conceals small objects or balls of clay inside of them before sealing them off. In doing so, Takaezu explores the intimate experience of creating something that, once completed, is no longer accessible to the artist or the viewer.

All-and-all the exhibition is a celebration of craft, identity-exploration, and the wedding of process and product, giving rise to a thoughtful meditation on artistic practices which diverged from the dogma of Minimalism during its most viable years.

TT2015-003cropImage: Torey Thornton, O Called O Mitt, 2015; Courtesy of CANADA

“Third Heat,  CANADA

Apr 3 – May 3 2015

Featuring the work of Gina Beavers, Brian Belott, Annie Pearlman, and Torey Thornton, “Third Heat” takes as its subject the fantastical, unseen, and phenomenological experience of an artist living in an urban center.

Beaver’s corpulent paintings emerge from their canvases built-up in a high-relief style. Sexualized bodies, fast food, and other snapshots of quotidian consumerism are painted from a first-person perspective. Viewers therefore share with the artist a vantage of point of entry into a fantastical and indulgent world.

Pearlman and Thornton’s architectural interiors and exteriors ring true to the experience of moving throughout the cityscape. At times disorienting, energetic, or still, these works narrate city living through color and gesture. The two strike a nice balance: the highly representational, small-scale paintings of Pearlman foil Thornton’s larger-format colorfield abstractions.

Bridging all of the pieces in the exhibition is the work of Belott. A hybrid of collage, painting, and sculptural relief, Belott builds his compositions using found household materials such as cotton balls, string, paper, and news clippings. His application of commonly used objects allows for the materiality of his work to reflect the sensory dimensions of daily life.

Moving viewers to consider the grotesque, the unknown, and the playful, this exhibition is a must-see.

– Nico Alonso, Digital Assistant

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