Monday, February 1, 2010

The Antidote @ Claire Oliver Gallery

The set-up is simple – or, perhaps, the fix is in… The Antidote, a new show at the Claire Oliver Gallery in New York City, sets out to prove that the ancient technique of painting is far from dead in modern art. I attended The Antidote’s opening last night to see if the remedy was truly taking effect.

Enter the impressively massive glass façade of the gallery and two works by Ulf Puder greet you. Muted color palettes, barren landscapes, the two pieces focus on buildings, their form, their regularity, subverting their clean lines with occasional drips and impossible construction. One building is intact, the other collapsed as if simply shoved over like a child topples building blocks. Upon closer inspection I can’t tell which building is more absurd.

Ulf Puder, Kreidefelsen

Up the short steps to the gallery’s main showroom hangs the rest of the featured collection. Tom Sanford’s darkly funny questions of celebrity – Tiger Woods, the Salahis, and Susan Boyle this time – are to one side; Jesse McCloskey’s intricately constructed noir mysteries to the other. I find myself taken in by Rina Banerjee’s exotic demons rendered in watercolor and with a sort of gleeful disregard for formality. Each of her demons melds with the tenuous world that surrounds them on canvas. Aaron Johnson’s demons, however, are a different story.

Aaron Johnson, Bleeding Heart

At the main room’s far end William T. Wiley’s The War Your After Durer bludgeons me with its multiple drab layers. It’s a confusing mess, sometimes sickening, sometimes funny. The press release tells me Wiley’s work is chock full of social commentary and it certainly is. But Wiley’s piece is dense and disorienting like the volume of commentary out there, a point I find important in and of itself… and an interesting counter to Herb Jackson’s similarly large abstract pieces beside Wiley’s. Colorful, textured, jagged, there’s an epic feel to Jackson’s pieces. Maybe an epic journey is the wrong evocation... maybe it's more an exploration into the pieces' surprising sense of space.

Herb Jackson, Veronica’s Veil CXCIII

Before entering the show, my comely acquaintance who I was fortunate enough to have on my arm for the evening reminded me of a thing told to us when we met. At one of those East Village dives that specialize in shot-and-a-beer deals, while watching the New York Jets go gently into that good night against the Indianapolis Colts, a man with a face long ago merged with the sidewalk outside and a voice tattooed by Philip Morris, leaned in uninvited to our discussion about art and offered this witticism:

“Writing about art is like dancing about architecture.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

The Claire Oliver Gallery is at 513 West 26th Street in Manhattan. The Antidote featuring the work of William T. Wiley, Ulf Puder, Herb Jackson, Rina Banerjee, Jesse McCloskey, Aaron Johnson, and Tom Sanford runs until March 6th.

Cian O'Day