June 16 - 30, 2008
Opening Reception: Friday 20 June

A group show curated by Basak Malone

The Illusive Lure

Drawing on theoretical discourse related to the semantics of desire and difference, curator Basak Malone constructs a platform for multiple investigations of liminal space through Lure, recently presented at Broadway Gallery in SoHo. Reinterpreting classic texts from French structuralist and post-structuralist theory, Malone skillfully orchestrates a compelling constellation of works by a group of serious international artists. Navigating concepts related to “the other”, “the gaze”, “the simulacrum”, and “agency”, the exhibition features works by Jane McAdam Freud, Béatrice Englert, Michel Beaucage, Monika Iatrou, Ko Bhamra, ARVEE, Freddy Flores Knistoff, Sandro Bisonni, and Destroy Be. Each artist evinces a unique reading of the central themes of the exhibition, a fact that results in a welcomed diversity in terms of the modes of conceptualization and practice on view in the show.

Referencing Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum, Jane McAdam Freud, Sigmund Freud’s great grand-daughter, draws on imagery from Freud’s art collection, as well as her own artworks in her film Dead or Alive. Invoking a hyperreality that is formed through the liminal equalization of her own work with her great-grandfather’s, she highlights visual similarities and contrasts in both her own and her great-grandfather’s sensibilities by producing morphed images that combine the artwork of both. This inspired and singular familial coupling transcends rational time-space barriers between generations, evoking a new space for agency and co-existence.

Similarly transgressing thresholds between two differential existential planes is the work of French painter Béatrice Englert. These richly painted figurative abstractions depicting human-like forms excavate the psychological evaluation of “the other” through a representation of the complex mental barriers that separate people. In Two Heads in a Diptych, for instance, a painterly pair of quasi-abstracted heads with vague but recognizable facial features are evoked to describe “the impossibility of… minds to meet and become close to another,” as the artist explains. Also utilizing the figure as a point of departure, Michel Beaucage presents two paintings from his series entitled Great Athletes I-IV. Here, the physicality and vibrancy of his technique work to enhance the gestural quality of the twisted torsos he represents. Applying paint with his hands to the canvas surface, he leaves behind a physical testimony of human authenticity. Traces of an actual physical world are transformed into a simulacrum on the canvas. Monika Iatrou also investigates figuration and the body, but as a mode of questioning physical alienation. In her most compelling work, depicting a gaunt, angular human face with hollow eyes, she echoes a German Expressionist aesthetic, yet transcends it through a particularly postmodern perspective. Here she self-consciously emphasizes the subject-object looking relationship, making the subject (or viewer) painfully self-aware of his objectifying gaze of “the other”, resulting in a reevaluation of the hegemonic structures informing the looking relationship he participates in.

Pushing the envelope of painterly practices, are several distinct abstract artists exploring the boundaries between the real and “the other” as a space. Ko Bhamra submerges herself into a series of subconscious spaces, depicting the duality of agency inherent to the creative process itself. Not only does an artist invent an image, but the image re-invents the artist through process. According to Baudriallard, as the human subject attempts to understand the non-human object, which can only be grasped through its signifiers, he becomes seduced by its hyperreality. Echoing Bataille’s belief that erotic union causes a momentary indistinguishability between distinct objects, and hence reveals new awareness of the unknowable continuity of being, Bhrama’s approach is to renounce submission to the object itself, hence freeing her to witness a sense of timelessness that is unbound to the perceived world.

Similarly working in the idiom of abstraction as a mode of excavating liminal space, Dutch painter ARVEE investigates a hyperreal world of surreal abstraction, and implied spiritual mysticism. Informed by geography, he is attracted to isolated locales—the desert, the beach, even underwater. In fact, there is a sense of silence and quietude emanating from these complex, yet Zen-like compositions. Italian artist, Sandro Bisonni, very similarly explores geographic liminal space, formally investigating multiple techniques through a form of self-imposed and determined primitivism. Having turned his trained technique in on itself, he reduces his compositions down to their most basic elements, and like Beaucage, he employs a process that evidences the physical human gesture as a mode of boundary transgression.

Freddy Floress Knistoff’s approach to representing the notion of the simulacrum is expressed through a more ludic exploration of constructions of agency. Depicting candy-colored swirled abstract shapes that hover playfully on a field of white, Knistoff seems to emphasize the artist’s creative agency, as well as the subject-object dilemma. By creating engaging forms from the negative space, he challenges the viewer to reevaluate the real subject of the works—is it the colored shapes, the spaces between them, or the interplay between the two?

Lastly, Destroy Be collective displays an astute thematic approach that evidences a strong familiarity with the conceptual issues of the exhibition as well as cutting-edge contemporary art practices. Here they present three digitally-composed montages printed on canvas. The series captures screen shots lifted from a variety of resources including television and the Internet. The sleekness of these seductive portraits of young adults obliterates any physical human imperfections, and emphasizes the idealized over the real, in a move that nods to both Baudriallard’s concept of the “hypperreal” as well as to Lacan’s belief that the gaze is linked to human agency, and his concept of the dialectic between the ideal-ego and the ego-ideal.

Through a broad range of styles and media, the artwork on view in Lure stimulated in the viewer an awareness of difference, whether that difference was between opposing subjects, divergent forms, or even between the artwork and the viewer himself.Milton Fletcher

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