Home is where the heart is as the old cliché goes. Since the dawn of civilization, men had always staked a place to call their own and so it goes for their fine-feathered friends. Men had caves and birds built nests. Making personal habitat a subject of choice that two artists, Jasper White & Steve Ellis, had their press preview for “Caves and Nests” at gallery nine5 in Nolita (North of Little Italy) last September 13th. It is their first time together in a single exhibition.
Jasper White at the front room of the gallery displayed the photographs of man caves that the artist discovered while traveling in Western Victoria, Australia. Instead of bars, men congregated in “sheds” filled with their memorabilia and collections of stuff. He said that all items in the photos belonged to the shed owners and staging of course had to be done to produce the composed images. It is a dynamic slice of human expression where no two sheds were alike (Ian’s Shed, Chris’s Shed, John’s Shed, et al.) as it provided an intimate and colorful voyeuristic peek into a world fashioned from individual tastes or idiosyncrasies. White’s photos balanced the vibrancy of rich elements but gave it thoughtful composition. There is a sense of lived in domesticity and not of a designed set where you can’t help but be fascinated. You feel that these men are devoted and fiercely protective of their caves as women are of their closets.
Steve Ellis for his part had two paintings inspired by his workspaces and the avian muses that fueled the focal imagery for his oeuvre. Birds build nests and humans when concentrating on making a habitat is said to be nesting. Ellis observed the winged source of inspiration from the windows of his upstate New York home (Barnstorming Swallow) and the pigeons seen from his urban studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The central subject in the pieces is rendered very sharply and emphasizing the wingspan coupled with the intensity of the swooping stance gives it an Alfred Hitchcock The Birds vibe. Quotidian scraps are being clutched by the birds to such as a Hershey Kiss pull-tab (it alludes to a previous series) and at the background on the front porch is a petition sign from a recent small town political drama. His works function as the magnifying glass on canvas to observe man’s relationship with his surroundings. The nuances are all there but it takes a hawk’s eye to spot it.
Habitats are of personal nature. Ellis and White in this dual exhibit manifest a verve and stark execution that gamely declares, “Home is where the ART is.”
Jasper White & Steve Ellis: Caves and Nests / On View: Sept. 14 – Oct. 12, 2012
Gallery Hours: Mon – Fri (11 am – 7 pm) / Sat (12 – 7 pm) & Sun (12 – 6 pm)
gallery nine5. 24 Spring Street. NYC, NY 10012
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
images from gallery nine5 courtesy of the artists
event photography by: Deukyun Hwang