In today’s contemporary art world, the value of art and talent has been heavily confounded by market value prices and media trends that take away from the authentic experience of appreciating art for its pure aesthetics. But underneath the complex layers of superficiality and trendy business, there is a lot of heart and soul with evocation of true craft that still lives in many closed studios and open exhibitions. One just has to venture further and open their eyes a bit wider to appreciate art that is evolving with real dedication in our contemporary world.
To counteract the superficial assigned valued to art, Melissa McCaig-Welles and Rodrigo Valles curated, “Trophy Art,” an exhibition intended to showcase artwork that exemplifies artistic talent and devotion to their work. The intention is to present a variety of artists that are both well-known and emerging with fine art or street art background to feature a glimpse into our current art scene.
The artists presenting their prized and diverse work included: Queen Andrea, Monique Mantell, Carlos Mare, Elle, Dan Witz, Laura Mylott Manning, Rodrigo Valles, Tim Okamura, Alessandra Maria, Kathleen Vance, Zofia Bogusz, Chris Uphues, Jamie Martinez, Sophie Alexia Joly de Lotbiniere, GILF, John Arthur Carr, Vicky Barranguet, David Ortiz, David Hollier, Greg Berg, Katrina del Mar, Nick Kuszyk, Morning Breath, Jerome Lagarrigue, Norbert Waysberg, Chizuru Kaplan and Christian Jaquet.
When walking through the eclectic exhibition, it is somewhat perplexing to view works with different mediums and sizes that seem to juxtapose each other in both style and context. However, the beauty of seeing art for its execution suspends the viewer to just appreciate the mastery before them. On that notion, Carlos Mare’s heavy metal sculpture with intricate shadow placement exemplifies the concept of contrasts that can cohesively work on the principal of talent.
Similarly, Zofia Bogusz’s oil painting on wood, “Siren,” illuminates mystery and tenacity displaying a feminine figure with a mask that only reveals her stoic eyes. Zofia’s painting is yet another example of diversity that creates visual representation of each subject and artist’s perceived emotional state. Zofia claims her favorite part on creating is being able to “turn a blank surface into a visual presentation of one’s collective mass of ideas, beliefs and internalized inspirations. The actual process of creating, of laying down the paint with a brush, brings about a sensory satisfaction and along with it a meditative mental state.” This process is ideal in creating a piece that viewers can themselves relate with personal experience or societal explorations.
One particular painting, “Trust Your Dopeness,” by Tim Okamura, an artist that loves to marry contrasts in his work demands the viewer’s attention with the portrait of a strong woman that illuminates enigma and empowerment. As an artist that is known for his portrait work, he describes his process based upon a balance that emulates the injection of contemporary iconography, themes and technical exploration. When asked on the juxtaposition of graffiti and fine art, Tim ruminates, “I love texture, I love passages of abstraction, and words and signage, and an indication of some consciousness of history and ‘now’ co-existing at the same time. That’s really what our lives are, I think… a profound balancing act of all this history and the exact moment we are living in.”
Similarly, in the context of history and artistic expressions, Jerome Lagarrigue’s painting, “The Arrest,” is a profoundly striking painting of a portrait of collision between two human beings. One has to take a step back to study the loosely but intently brushed oil strokes in abstract form that creates a painting displaying police brutality. The image shows an officer in riot head gear slumped over a figure that is being subdued. Jerome, a French artist actually began his series of works titled, “The Tipping Point, in late 2012 based upon a violent protest that took place in France in 2005. Ironically, this particular piece is extremely relevant today in the U.S with recent prevalent cases of police brutality and neglect of authority. In addition to shedding light on issues and on artist responsibility, Jerome affirmed, “I think the role of the artist is to not shy away from any topic he or she wishes to explore. For me it has been documenting uprising and protests. These paintings can be read from multiple entry points, the riot depictions are metaphors, are mirrors of our own internal conflicts, battles, contradictions as human beings.”
Art is about self-expression and the way we “see” each piece is based upon our individual relation to the world. Thus, an exhibition like “Trophy Art,” carries an array of painting that appeals to viewers on different sensory and contextual levels. It is safe to say that the curator’s intentions match the lineup of artists that share the philosophy of creating work that both internally and externally manifests an intrinsic value to art.
With good reception, the exhibition will be extended and relocated to Gallery 345 in Harlem (104th and 1st Ave). The show will be up until mid-September with another opening reception on Sept 2, 2015 which will include a performance by Grammy nominated pianist Gustavo Casenave.
Writing by Upahar Rana
Photographs by Bincy Stephen and Arte Fuse