In his second solo exhibition titled Py•r•o·glyph•s at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, artist Greg Haberny breaks away from his sociopolitical charged art to experiment with processes and assertions that are personal and introspective. On view are Haberny’s recent mixed-media paintings and ceramic sculptures, which he made using unconventional materials such as ash, paper towels, wire hangers, dirt, and candle wax.
The distinguishing element in these latest works is a jet-black paint, referred to as GH ash black, which Haberny created using a very determined and methodical process. He burned his earlier political paintings, pulverizing their remains into a black ash, which was then mixed with an archival gel medium. This action is not meant to be perceived as destructive. Rather, for Haberny, the process is about psychological exploration and emotional release.
What makes Haberny’s latest work so compelling is that he holds nothing back. He is not afraid to make art that draws from the raw, untethered feelings and thoughts we have when undergoing personal change. It isn’t always pretty, it gets messy, but that’s okay. Alkaline conjures a chaotic mood. The composition presents a white background with an aggressive stroke of GH ash black near the top. Defined and solid at the uppermost edges, the black stoke unravels into loose descending drips. Three lemons are affixed on the work’s surface. Vanishing Point is a bit more stable in comparison. A tattered house paintbrush juts out from the painting’s edge. From it, a large white mass of paint extends up like a thought cloud, hovering over the GH ash black background. Haberny’s mixed-media paintings are abstract for the most part. Some like Cat do suggest a subject. But the impression is more of a fleeting memory of a cat, nothing substantial.
This marks the artist’s first venture in ceramics. Small-scale sculptures are displayed on a charred narrow table at the center of the gallery. Using a similar method to his painting, Haberny makes and fires his sculptures, then breaks and reassembles them, repeating the process over and over. Black ash is also mixed in the glaze. The objects have a playful, childlike quality to them. Look a little closer and you notice how delicate and paper-thin some are. During the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese revered eggshell porcelain – making such thin vessels required the skill and finesse of a master. For Haberny to achieve this in his first go at ceramics is remarkable.
The artist seized every opportunity to leave his mark behind. The gallery floor has been painted with GH ash black and decorated with pressed flowers, which are decaying with time. They look like flowers floating on the surface of a shadowy pond. A sheet of acrylic protects them. Using a hammer, Haberny made spidery fractures on the surface. There is a poetic, yet broken beauty here. At the same time, we sense that Haberny has no sentimental connection with the installation, or any of his other works for that matter. It is all just part of the process – the breaking down, rebuilding, and breaking down that is necessary for self-discovery.
Py·r·o×glyph·s will be on view at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery though November 20, 2016.