What is the art climate now? Does it reflect what is currently going on? There are two things you don’t discuss even among best friends not unless you want to start a fire. Those are religion and politics. But politics, especially after the new administration, took over and it seems to be a volatile landscape we live in nowadays. The country seems divided and these are precarious times we live in.
But what does it have to do with art? Actually, quite a lot since art is a reflection of our times or a platform where it can be explored. The three shows picked are not necessarily political in nature but it does have facets that parallel what’s happening now. After seasons where POP and color was king, the tide has turned and the pendulum has swung to a more neutral and somber tone.
First up is Kim Min-Jung at Jankossen with a show entitled Building Mountains. Crafted using Hanjin paper which is a Korean handmade item made from a Mulberry tree grown in the mountainside and perforated with circles punched out in the style of Georges Seurat, the work is sheer beauty with the pale calming colors of peach and light teal of majestic mountain vistas. The fibers of the natural handmade paper had frays left on the punched edges and add to the textural brevity of the work by Min-Jung. This might as well be the majority of the American populace feeling frayed and dismayed by the new administration but each one when it comes together like in the totality of Min-Jung’s art – what a beautiful and strong picture it makes.
Next one is where one singular stroke of a line says a lot. Metro Pictures is the Mecca of the esoteric and they featured the work of André Butzer. For this series, Butzer presented black background large canvas with a single white line either scratched or painted precisely. It would leave anyone shrugging his or her shoulders on what makes one white line in a sea of black special. Consider for a moment the confidence of one element disrupting the perfect plane, the deliberate chutzpah of placing that line in one area and the gravitas to repeat all throughout. Now, look at the double-edged meaning of what it says about the air in America right now. These are dark times we live in but in our hearts lie the small sliver of light to soldier on or what could be the once granite façade of America is now cracking. But regardless of that analysis, Butzer produced works that are sublime in its simplicity and stark statement.
Last but not the least are the paintings of Jessica McGarry Bartlett for Reversals at First Street Gallery. The dark palette of the landscape painting featuring a somber fauna fantasy does not overpower the sheer talent of Bartlett. It is no small feat to imbue life and layers in dark brown and murky grayish blues. Her work managed to convey warmth in an otherwise desolate plane. The title of the show is quite telling as this whole country is off its center after a reversal of fortune that now incited the disgruntled masses to light a fire of revolution.
These three shows were not merely picked for the political connotations but it was just incidental that these underlying thoughts were mined off it. From an art editor’s point of view, this is now the time to calm the eyes from the POP assault of saturated color and rest on calmer hues. Who knows where the pendulum will swing next month but maybe we’ll ignore that direction and go the other way? Art is not an exact science. It goes on its own path but let’s just say that the state of art is always unexpected and in its own insidious way – says a whole lot.
Kim Min-Jung: Building Mountains
February 2 – March 11, 2017
529 West 20th Street, 6th Floor. New York, NY 10001
February 2 – March 11. 2017
519 West 24th Street. New York, NY 10001
Jessica McGarry Bartlett: Reversals
January 31 – February 25, 2017
First Street Gallery
526 West 26th Street, Suite 209. New York, NY 10001
Article by: Oscar A. Laluyan
Photography by: Olya Turcihin