The exhibition Natural Resistance on view at Y Gallery, New York brings together the work of artists Shay Arick, Adriana Ciudad, and Tamara Kostianovsky in a conversation about the dual forces of nature. Using natural motifs such as flowers, water, and birds as starting points, each artist exposes the hidden dark side of our natural environment, which often results from human negligence and brutality.
In his work Uprising, Israeli-born artist Shay Arick presents the viewer with a perplexing proposition. Twenty-one knives are horizontally affixed to the gallery walls. Flowers have been carved out of the blades and rise vertically. The knives point straight out and in the face of these dangerous sharp objects, we are left to marvel at the poetic beauty of the flower silhouettes against the wall. Arick is addressing the political situation of his home country where people are being attacked at the Israeli –Palestinian border with kitchen knives. Representing different types that grow in this region, the flowers bloom from earth soaked with blood. Thus, they become nature’s unwilling participants in the violent acts of humans.
Artist Adriana Ciudad’s project, The Weight of Water is composed of two works that address environmental issues taking place in her home country of Peru and Columbia where she currently resides. El Peso de las Cosas (The Weight of Things) is a large wall installation presenting four works on paper against a rainforest backdrop that has been saturated with neon pink paint. Cuidad is addressing the Peruvian oil industry, specifically the recent oil spill that left 3,000 gallons of oil floating in the Amazon’s Marañón River. The natural environment and local people have been threatened and it is their situation that Cuidad brings to light. Based on photos from Peruvian newspapers, her graphite drawings show figures, all children as star-specked silhouettes gathering buckets of oil executed in striking dark washes of watercolor. The oil company paid them $6 for each bucket removed from the river. Ciudad underscores the idea that the jungle is a place of mystery to humans – there is a dark and otherworldly atmosphere about her work.
Her second Aguas Oscuras (Dark Waters) is a floor installation composed of two hippopotamuses half submerged in watery pools. They stand for the animals that drug lord Pablo Escobar moved from Africa to Columbia for his private zoo. Today, there are 70 hippopotamuses in Columbia and they pose a treat to the natural environment. The artist considers the displaced animals a metaphor for Columbia’s child soldiers who seek shelter in the jungle. Each taken from home and forced to survive in nature by whatever means necessary.
Brooklyn-based artist Tamara Kostianovsky was born in Israel and raised in Argentina. Growing up in Buenos Aires where beef is a culinary staple, she became fascinated by humans’ consumption of animals. In her artistic practice, she continues to investigate the idea of animals and death through her hanging bird sculptures. The birds are made from the fabric of clothes that Kostianovsky pulled from her own closet. From a distance, the birds with titles like Big Dead Vulture appear lifeless and grotesque with a plumage of tattered feathers. Upon closer look, we notice that the fabric is different colors and decorated with ornate and natural patterns such as flowers. The works completely change at this point and demand further consideration. Comparisons of Kostianovsky’s work have been made to the imagery observed in 16th and 17thcentury Flemish painting. It is no surprise then that these birds leave us with an impression of still and haunting beauty.
Aptly titled The Inevitability of Change, the exhibition’s special project presents sculptures by Ori Carino and Benjamin Armas. The works take the form of dilapidated brick buildings inspired by the buildings of the Lower East Side, which were frequented by artists Gordon Matta Clark, Sol Lewitt, Richard Serra and others.
Natural Resistance was curated by Carlos García-Montero and will be on view at Y Gallery through July 3, 2016.