Mark Leibert’s “Reflex” at Sandler Hudson Gallery: An Existential Big Picture

Mark Leibert’s solo exhibition Reflex looks to be a survey of life, the big picture of existence. Larger than life, ethereal portraits are paired with small color fields. A few color fields, big and small, are displayed alone or with groups. Some color fields made on paper are preciously encased in a quaint wood shadow box. The portraits are conventional, though when introduced to its adjacent color field, becomes more complicated. The exhibition opens up with “Shift”, a portrait of a woman folding her arms above her head, stretching one hand across her temple. Her pose is unnatural yet playful. A subtle washy streak of orange toward the top right of the painting leads us to 1/5th of the size canvas full of an orange wash. These canvases feel like captured auras, describing the sitter’s existence in a complicated truth that words cannot fathom. Another pair is found among a well groomed man with an aural streak of green guiding to a wash of dirty white to green. 

The portraits themselves are ghostly, thin but descriptive. Leibert treats acrylic and oil paints like watercolors. This leaves his portraits languid. However, he includes the precise details and gestures that make a person unique, inciting a tangible corporeality. 

Another hidden language is found in layered gestural marks found amongst “Untitled (Blank Series)”. This painting is like a secret letter written in lemon ink, only revealable by those versed in decoding ancient history. This painting stands as a monument for a past life, holding information only the individual may know. 

Contradicting the essence-factor of this piece is a slightly larger color field poised across the gallery. Despite the painting’s engrossing size, its marks and flecks are microscopic particles blown up for observance. This is the moment a cell is conceived and designated as a child. Invisible, and magnificently quiet, tiny matter are beginning to form an aura.

Some portraits, such as “Switch” and “Untitled” are smaller than the large renderings, but bigger than the aura jars. They emit an immaturity within the sitter; they are still developing, growing, learning, creating experiences that shape their existence. 

The series of color fields–unpaired and portraitless–feel like headstones for those who have completed their life cycle, and left a memorial aura behind, like a diary written in an unknown language but drips with distinctive personality. The large ones from his Blank series are full and long lived, while the small dreary grey color fields are transient lives. Fragile lives, too embyonic to stand alone, are cherished and safe within frames.

Overall, Leibert’s exhibition Reflex opens up an existential window with no particular answers but many beautiful suggestions into life as a big picture through small pieces. 

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Blurbing: Rachel Ballard & Kathleen Sharp

MFA Exit shows at Georgia State University feel like speed dates; each one lasts one Monday-Friday week and there are three going on each week. Last week I found interest in Rachel Ballard’s and Kathleen Sharp’s exhibitions.

Rachel Ballard’s photographs in Asunder had a Martha Rosler effect, with a feminist’s touch. At first glance–AKA before reading any statements–Ballard’s show feels like it has connection to the home with some touches of age-old-stereotypes of the woman-in-home. Her sink covered in grass and filled with ceramic mugs and clay-tinged water strikes me as a connection of home to earth.

Then I found Ballard’s statement. She writes that the focus is on opposites such as familiar/uncanny and attraction/repulsion. While that plays its parts in some pieces, it doesn’t feel like the important part of the show. I noticed a lot more playing within stereotypical domesticity. It felt a bit Alice in Wonderland if she didn’t have all her muchness yet.

Kathleen Sharp’s show At the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite of violet present iterations of red on variously sized beautiful metallic-seeming pieces. The photographs present ambiguous shapes and objects that suggest corners, walls, and angular objects. Around the same time that I saw Sharp’s show, I was reading Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel which outlines similarities in abstract art and brain science, as well as explains the brain science behind experiencing art. This book deepened my ability to sincerely appreciate abstract art in general, and was quite timely to experience Sharp’s work. I was engulfed to many shades and tones of red and forced to understand how that made me feel.

Anya Liftig 

A most exciting aspect of GSU’s art department is that they pay for the best of the best to come visit. And even more so in the photography department: we were honored by Yale and GSU Alum performance artist Anya Liftig. 

My first experience of Anya Liftig was from a previous professor who shared her Wonder video performance. I was appalled, disgusted, intrigued, and terrified. I was not, and still am, disinterested in most performance art. It’s mystifying to me at best. I could easily relate my intellectual experience with Anya Liftig’s work to my first official college art class that started with a urinal on the table and the question “Is this art?” 

Anya’s talk at GSU was intimate and drew a comprehensive line from her entrance into GSU as a photo-based grad student seeking beautiful black and white pictures of her less familiar Kentucky hillbilly family to her graduating performance where she walked into the gallery nude asking “Do you have any questions?” 

Following the complicated, yet intelligent path from disassociation from external identitifying elements to internal phenomenological elements as the context for the move from photography to performance made performance make sense, especially within Anya’s comical and unexpected work. 

Her overarching desire to simply experience things reminds me of the curiosity and selfishness that commandeers learning and discovering in children; this to me is such an intelligent way to navigate life as an individual in a sea of other individuals. 

Blurbing: Tyler Mann, Ben B. Lee, and Elham Masoudi

Georgia State University features its MFA graduates in spurts of weekly reveals. The series of MFA exit shows kicked off with photo-based artists Tyler Mann and Ben B. Lee as well as mixed media artist Elham Masoudi. 
Tyler Mann’s series A few weeks, maybe months brings to us soothing, traditional landscapes, car window landscapes, and urinals in a look at the experience of a transgendered man on a road trip. The various urinals draw to light internal dialogues with bathroom etiquette and familiarity while the intermittent landscapes ground us in a solo adventure across land. The banal, but beautiful, treatment of composition and eye to color narrate a beautiful story of an “unfamiliar” lifestyle for viewers to consider. 

Ben B. Lee creates narratives in The feeling of being ok. Repitition–certainly a form a visual alliteration–finds itself looming throughout Ben’s work. From a triptych of the birth of a boy next to a man gutting his game, finalized by a sentence about a boy and his father. Elements and notes about manhood, boyhood, and fatherhood underlie the work overall, highlighting perhaps a learned gender space that is engrained within snapshot image culture. 

Elham Masoudi looks at the censorship of the body within the context of Islamic ideology in her works on paper as well as mixed media installations. Her pixelated forms disembody women into generalized colors and designs familiarly seen in garments worn to avoid showing off one’s body. The use of typical colors and designs grounds the work in an ethnic and religious context while the pixelation dehumanizes the subjects. 

Ernest G. Welch Exiting BFA Show

From slut walks and bloodstained pants to pussies grabbing back, violent assertions of feminine authority are arising exponentially. Spencer Tunick’s Everything She Says Means Everything had 100 women standing naked holding round mirrors to the rising sun. 600 women artists came together for a photography at the Brooklyn Museum. Women—and men—throughout the art community have voiced their concerns and consistent disappointments with the media coverage of President-Elect Donald Trump’s numerous violations against women. Unforgettably, Hillary Clinton has earned more popular votes than any other person running for the presidency—except Obama 2008. It is not surprising to find an overwhelming ratio of 2:3 artists confronting the notions of womanhood and femininity in Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch’s School of Art and Design exiting show. The millennial female is taking cues from the world that now is a dynamic time to demonstrate womanly jurisdiction.

Megan Glasscock’s images of big cats on numerous uterus-shaped cut outs figuratively grabs the pussy back—and are titled as doing so. Black and white cutout portraits of 10 Untitled Women make a checkerboard with Glasscock’s cats. The cats have a full range of black and white where the linocut portraits are literally black and white, suggesting a grey-scale break within the binary narrative of the passive woman versus the bossy woman.

Glasscock’s stars of the show are not passively sitting on the wall, however. They stand, hang, and lie down opposite the linocuts and cats. Four women are skinned, baring muscle and fat—no hearts or soft organs are present. Only one of the women addresses the viewers with her eyes, and coincidentally, she is the only one attempting to hide her body. The others flaunt their under-skin, one asking to be painted like a French girl, one stretching, but the other is tied up, forced to show herself. The varying displays of women mimics the array of double standards, contradictory, and incompatible modes of women regarded in public display.

All the while, Shae Edman’s photograph Xposing Immersion has literal contact with her “pussy” as reclamation of sexuality after a prolonged grievance with her assaulter and everything—and everyone involved. Baby pink comfort shrouds provocative elements in Edman’s Reclaiming Pink: An Xposé. A curtain is installed in front of the photograph like a young girl’s princess bed drapery. A pink silicone camera with an o-ring points at her photograph, invading—or in reverence? Completing a physically triangular composition, a pink hand reaches out—for help or for comfort?—bundled by a leather belt. The leather belt has suggestive and controversial words charred into it—sick, exposed, hand, depend.

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Shae Edman. Reclaiming Pink: An Xpose. 2016. 

Another form of controversy finds itself within Ignacio Rivera’s three large-scale photographs from his ongoing photo series Lupita. In this series, Rivera confronts his emotions through the “protective bubble” of Lupita, his female counterpart. He navigates a binary system similar to Glasscock’s linocuts, but within the larger gender scale of male versus female or masculine versus feminine. Pictured are the general experiences of any female: practicing balance, riding a boat, and pumping gas; however, knowing that someone who is transgender holds the spotlight complicates said normalized binary system.

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Ignacio Rivera. Lupita. 2016.

More subtly, Jes Bailey’s The Nightgown Series inundates a free standing white gallery wall much like an American Apparel window display. Satin nightgowns disrupted by embroidered text dangle from hangers. The word “sorry” repeated seemingly a hundred times overwhelms one off-white gown while the words “Left or Right” ask for a comparison of one nightgown’s deflated breasts. The smooth surfaces are jarringly interrupted by plain words, functioning as reminders of the nighttime anxieties and experiences of a woman who might wear such frocks.

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Jes Bailey. The Nightgown Series. 2016. 

Katherine Miele and Alexis Huckaby look toward the place a woman may be when putting on or removing Bailey’s gowns: the bathroom. Miele showcases nongendered toilets and tubs in a couple of her exiting pieces; however, Huckaby directly feminizes her bathroom paraphernalia as tools for “taking up space” as a woman. Her digitally manipulated materials—soft wash clothes, hot pink razors, and fine china embroidery—overwhelm the image space in her photographs.

It is not difficult to feel the estrogen in the air of Ernest G. Welch’s exiting BFA Show this fall. Just as easily, the influences and cues from the larger scope of society are bestowing unto Georgia State University’s artists the approval, motivation, dominion to confer on the female paragon.

 

Update: From Figments of Film To Out of the Blue

I am updating my blog to Out of the Blue from Figments of Film. I have recently gone through a grueling independent study for writing reviews of art around town. This has left me with upgraded tools and ideas toward the intent of my blog: a refurbished website is essential.

So welcome, to the renewed Figments of Film:

Out of the Blue: an assortment of sorts about art

“Framework and View” by John Folsom

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I visited the Hathaway Gallery reception of their trio of openings, one of which was John Folsom’s solo show Framework and View. I pondered the gallery’s artist page once upon a time and discovering Folsom’s work in wonder because at the time–and arguably, still presently–I was obsessed with painting and photography and how they shared a space in the world of art. Oh how pleasing it was to see the work in person!

The photographic underpainting (as it seems appropriate to title) in his mixed media series have the same effect of trompe l’oeil paintings where the effect of reality falls apart as you get closer; however, in Folsom’s work [especially in Salt Marsh Redux #2], the reality falls apart all at once while still being held together all at once; like a loose tooth on it’s last root.

Some have a bit more reality, but then reveal the digital manipulations that Folsom put in place, and lose reality all over again. This is evident in College Park, 2016.

As you move through the works, you come to a point where it all falls apart: an unrealistic green colored brush stroke interrupts the landscape while washes of pink blend into the skies. Paint overcame photograph here.

It was also quite a nice surprise to see his Through the Ground Glass series of photographs of the ground glass of a large format camera. The idea feels solid, but the photographs lack the quality that the piece needs. It falls into a realm of photography wanting to be art rather than just being art.