“The Sun is Gone But We Have the Light,” a group exhibition featuring eleven young, women artists: Caitlan Cherry, Ivy Haldeman, Annette Hur, Cindy Ji Hye Kim, Daria Irincheeva, Haley Josephs, Cheyenne Julien, Emily Ludwig Shaffer, Tanya Merrill, Leigh Ruple and Emily Mae Smith, is currently on view at Unclebrother in Hancock NY.
Located in what was an old car dealership, Unclebrother is the fab, new gallery/restaurant launched a few summers ago by art dealer Gavin Brown and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. Open only on weekends, the place has a cool, friendly vibe, with communal seating and serves a fixed, but creative, weekly changing menu, most of which is locally sourced. While the restaurant experience is great, the exhibition really makes it worth the 2 ½ hour drive from NYC.
While enjoying your food at the outdoor picnic tables, it’s hard to resist Ivy Haldeman’s large-scale paintings of sultry, feminine hotdog figures wrapped in pillowy buns, shoes kicked off, reading and lounging in various states of repose – sure, a sentence I never thought I’d write, but it’s what they are – luring you into the gallery. Once there, you turn the corner and are wowed by the stunning colors and controlled realism in the works by Leigh Ruple. Ruple has a lovely way of transforming ordinary spaces, brick walls, junkyards and cityscapes, into brilliant scenes of color and light.
Speaking of space, the gallery itself is an interesting combination of newly constructed red display walls running through the center of the rough cement and paint splattered old garage. The new owners clearly made an effort to preserve, in situ, the nostalgia of the old Debressia Motors Company for the surrounding local community who grew up with memories of it, as well as new visitors seeing it for the first time.
Each artist has a fair share of works on view and enough room to breathe so you can appreciate their distinctive style, subject matter, emotion and feel. At the same time, they go very well together, and curated to make the most of the unique features of the space. For example, Caitlan Cherry’s painting, “Neuromodification (Evil Gurl For Life)” is seemingly tucked into a corner, but adjacent to an actual window, outside of which sits a bright green house that complements the colors of the painting so well, it’s almost as if it was made for it. All of Cherry’s works are outstanding, deeply expressive, with gorgeous contours and vibrant color. On the adjoining wall, hangs “Day Session” by Cheyenne Julien, in which a figure with a wide-eyed, featureless face, and body with legs spread overhead, is being whitewashed by a large paintbrush down the center. This image makes a powerful statement on the masculine grey walls in this former auto shop. And “Night Fantasy,” by Emily Ludwig Shaffer, a magical image of orderly interlaced tendrils guarding the entrance to a room through which a window with an ominous full moon peers, beckons like a portal through the cement wall on which it is displayed.
Featured on one of the red walls, are the stark black, white and grey paintings by Cindy Ji Hye Kim. In one, the back of a young girl with neat braids is next to a man in a sweater vest, and in another, an imposing and unwelcome hand grasps a woman’s shoulder. Although beautifully painted, these unsettling encounters between a man and a woman and a child, leave you feeling a bit uneasy.
In contrast, Tanya Merrill’s enchanting and painterly oils on linen, are done in a softer palette than the others. Her graceful, gestural swirls depict a surprisingly aggressive scene in which a startled horse snarls, a dog attacks a figure down on the ground, and an ax extends menacingly from outside the frame. Meanwhile, on another wall, Haley Joseph’s paintings of women appear timeless, surreal, and dreamlike, with their bright, bold, near-fluorescent colors on dark backgrounds they glow like a sunset after a storm.
All of these women, as well as Annette Hur, Daria Irincheeva, and Emily Mae Smith, show the diverse artistry of the painted image. It should be noted, that there is no text, no explanations, no descriptions or names throughout the gallery; which in a way, provides an opportunity to appreciate them in their pure form. But, if you want to know more you can always ask at the food counter and they will give you a list
To their credit, Brown and Tiravanija, the doyens of relational aesthetics, succeed again with Unclebrother as an artist-constructed social experience, yet with the gallery, they re-center the art object, paintings at that, into the experience. In addition, this funky little oasis in rural Delaware County may just serve a bigger purpose. In the widening political divides that mark our society, where “rural folk” are often misunderstood by their “urban” counterparts and vice versa, Unclebrother is the perfect place to pull up a seat and have a beer or glass of wine, share some good food, and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. It has the potential of the salons of yesteryear, where people of all sorts come together, and art and ideas are discussed and debated. Or, maybe it’s just a space for a friendly chat and a chance to get to know someone new. Whatever reason, as the Nirvana song goes, “I’m not like them, But I can pretend, The sun is gone, But I have a light, The day is done, But I’m having fun…” So, have fun at Unclebrother this summer, and see this exhibition.
Unclebrother located at 250 E Front Street, Hancock, NY is open weekends, Friday – Sunday through Labor Day. http://www.unclebrother.org/