Monday, February 25, 2008

Tommy Hartung

Tommy Hartung at Moti Hasson Gallery
535 West 25th St New York, NY

February14-March16, 2008

Purchase Alumni Tommy Hartung is exhibiting a successful multi-media show at Moti Hasson Gallery in Chelsea. With an MFA from Columbia and showcased as part of Moti Hasson Gallery's inaugural Chelsea exhibition, Hartung is proving he can do a little bit of everything in terms of art-making and storytelling. Through his work in painting, digital video and sculpture, he tells a fictional tale featuring the mysterious settlement of the “New World” in the late 1400s by a Christopher Columbus-esque character and his ill-fated crew. In keeping with this theme, Hartung creates an exhibition in which everything has the feeling of something “found”, and the viewer is free to explore.
Entering the gallery space a video is shown for about 15 minutes. Behind the wall on which it is projected are presented an old-school projector, and a sculpture. In an adjacent alcove one can also enjoy two figurative paintings and sculpture, offered almost sarcastically as the last pieces to an interdisciplinary “puzzle” which spans the triad of video, sculpture and painting.

(Image stills)

Tommy Hartung

The Story of Edward Holmes, 2007

edition of 5000

still from color video on DVD

15 minutes

courtesy of the artist and Moti Hasson Gallery, New York

The movie consists of scenes comprised of animation, made out of small figurines and bits of toys, painted and glued together to create “characters”. He also films a miniature ship as well as busts of familiar-looking dignitaries, which recall portraits of our founding fathers. The myth Hartung weaves tells the story of one “Edward Holmes.” His journey at sea is narrated it as he had recorded it in a journal. The viewer is visually dictated the conditions of a storm, which causes the model ship manned by the crew of sculptural busts to crash on the shores of a mysterious land inhabited by strange animals and Natives. An overall sentiment of paranoia and anxiety can be felt in the spaces between the figures as they float and dance across the miniature stage. This is fitting as one could think of no story more relevant or obsolete than the “discovery” of the Americas. At some points you feel as though it is expected that you laugh, uncomfortable, as it would seem. This is especially true during the last scene, when Edward Holmes gets lucky with a young Native girl. The video, as the primary element, sets the stage for the rest of the show and is by far the most interesting piece Hartung presents. His main character is effective in that he plays into the myth of the early American explorers with an abstract dialogue between Fate and Edward Holmes.

The sculpture pieces behind the projection wall consist of the projector emitting an image of a blackbird. Pencil sketches of the model busts used in the video lay on the table next to the projector. Hartung plays with the idea of the artist’s studio being a work of art in itself, however this arrangement of tools reads very literally within the context of the rest of the work. The parallel between the worlds of video and real life is one of the most interesting concepts in the show. However, the sculptures, with their incidental compositions and scale shifts, seem negatively residual of the video-making process.

The last room of the exhibit contains two paintings and a sculpture. The paintings are large and colorful despite their limited palettes. The representational scenes depict a cottage in the woods with a bridge crossing a river or ravine, and a picnic at an RV in a forest. Abstraction is achieved through veiling the scenes with drippy, atmospheric paint, as well as obsessive patterning in the foliage of the trees, which also serves to camouflage the subject. The paintings seem to depict the magic of isolation found in the woods, with elements reminiscent of northern lights and other light phenomena such as shadows and silhouettes.

The sculpture in the corner of the room is a to-scale model of two cocks fighting, made of masking tape and wire, de-lineated with charcoal. The motif of animalistic aggression is possibly in reference to the outdoors, and the wild becoming tame through familiarization.

The whole show could be explained as a metaphor for the fear and confusion of the unknown. Hartung brilliantly parallels the anxiety of exploration and the thrill of a “Manifest Destiny” in Edward Holmes’s discovery of a new species of black bird. The animal’s strange behavior includes eating its surrogate mother upon hatching. Tommy Hartung will be at Moti Hasson from February 14 thru March 16, 2008.

(Installation shot)

Tommy Hartung
Raw File Dump #2, 2007
found objects and materials
dimensions variable

courtesy of the artist and Moti Hasson Gallery, New York

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Amira Mednick

Amira Mednick

Manna is proud to present eleven pieces by painter Amira Mednick on display now through mid April. Mednick’s work represents a trend in contemporary art addressing issues born out of the 1960’s art historical movement known as “Minimalism”. Mednick’s colorful, energetic sci-fi landscapes put a new spin on the simple and concept-based aesthetics of this section in art history. Taking her cues from minimalist artists such as Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt, she explores painting through a body of work focused on color play and spatial representation. Mednick utilizes a precision-based technique while still maintaining a traditional approach to painting.
She works in acrylic on canvas. A plastic-based paint, acrylics come in many “artificial” colors and can be manipulated with mediums (paint additives) and water until it dries flat, without visible brushstrokes. Impeccable craftsmanship is also another element of minimalism with which Mednick infuses her paintings. One must view the work in person to see the perfectly straight lines and edges, which separate colors of almost imperceptible shifts in hue and value.
This is truly the magic of original artwork. With every view one is reminded of the immense care taken in paint application and color selection. Some pieces seem to explode off the canvas in an expressive composition, while others represent figures suspended, motionless in an atmosphere of color.

Amira Mednick was born in Manhattan and grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut - Westport and Stamford areas. Her mother is from Switzerland and is also a visual artist.
Mednick studied architecture for 2 years at the University of Miami and recently graduated summa cum laude from Purchase College in 2007. She know lives in CT, and works as a Specialty Art Project coordinator/instructor at Congregation Shir Ami, Stamford. Her past exhibtion includes: “Obviously Four Believers”/Senior Thesis Show/Purchase College/State University of New York/2007,"The Best of SUNY"/ State University Plaza Gallery, Albany, New York/ 2007 – awarded Critic’s Choice Award,"Downtown Cabaret"/ Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York City, New York/ 2007,"Art of the Northeast"/ Silvermine Guild Arts Center, New Canaan, Connecticut/2006,"25th Annual Photography Exhibition"/ Betty Barker Gallery, New Canaan, Connecticut/2005, "Spectrum 2004"/ Betty Barker Gallery, New Canaan, Connecticut /2004,"Alpan International 2004"/ Alpan Gallery, Huntington, New York/2003.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

John Torreano critique

Visiting artist John Torreano took a look at my work last semster and I finally found the notes from this discussion. He started out by metioning a method of drawing "by seeing." The piece I offered for critique is titled "red portrait."He explained his belief that painting and drawing particularizes the artist's point of view. Interest in perception and ideas of space, the galaxy often provide the catalyst for many events in painting. All art is contemporary art for an artist working today. An painter must be open to any influences; start from the inside and go out, returning to the inside. Fracture images, appropriate cross-cultural references and multiple points of view. Look for surprises in the particular. Let the intuition lead the production. You do need to intellectualize the background. Schizophrenic, simultaneous desires become choices in a vacuum. There is a tyranny of choices. The choices of a particular culture can reflect particular responses; more personalized. A person's identity is defined by the choices she makes. There is a sense of loss, void, space and multiplicity. The choices you make chart your personality and character. It is a process-oriented work.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A guide to "Myko"

The work of artist myko gave me reason to believe again in the job I do even though managing comes naturally to me, and I feel that providing public art is my life mission. In many ways it also restored my faith in painting; even my own. Maybe in a way I loved his paintings so much because they invoked in me an anxious feeling. I felt the urge to continue simply looking.
The painting that first caught my eye was the eerily abstract piece entitled "Nursey".
For some reason the horror I felt when I first saw it left me uneasy for the rest of the night. The mangled form of a diapered person stretches backwards into the depth of the painting. The viewer is not sure if the figure is in motion, or the image is simply being distorted. There is an unsettling ambiguity that is consistently provided as a main theme of the work.
As I would wish to see them,
"7 days of the week" then presents to the viewer an ultimately bizarre experience. There are fragments of cabaret identifiable in the high heel the figure tip-toes on. It might make the entire discussion easier to call out the blatant allusions to sexism, but there is a more complex language at work here.

"Alexa and Taylor dancing" is an incredible figure painting for all of the reasons you can think of for knowing who Matisse is. The negative space surrounding the figures is reminiscent of Matisse's large work hanging in MoMa entitled: "Music"