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Hamptons Life

Mar 16, 2010 1:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Show at Solar evoking McLuhan's observation

Mar 16, 2010 1:54 PM

While it’s unlikely that co-curators Esperanza Leon and Irwin Levy were thinking of Marshall McLuhan when they organized the current exhibition at Solar Gallery in East Hampton, elements of his core philosophy seem nevertheless to echo unconsciously throughout the exhibit.

Referred to by author Todd Kappleman as “the first father and leading prophet of the electronic age,” Mr. McLuhan was in many ways the patriarch of media criticism, perhaps best known for his observation that “the medium is the message.” That dictum was intended to illustrate the way that the form of a specific medium in contemporary society, whether in art, literature, or entertainment, itself creates the context for meaning. In essence, the idea is that the method of transmitting information manipulates how the message is identified and thereby influences the central focus of the viewer’s attention.

This interplay represents a major component in considering the works of the four artists in the exhibit, whose approaches are so driven by methodology and individual technique that superficial process and materials become absolutely integral to the transmission of the underlying intellectual and aesthetic concepts.

And, given that the exhibition bears the title of “Mediums,” it would be difficult not to think of Mr. McLuhan anyway.

Nannette Carter, a self-described “Scapeologist,” is showing oils on frosted Mylar juxtaposing overlapping layers of colorful abstract imagery that manage to be both visually dense and also by turns gently and seductively transparent. Chosen from her recent series, “Bouquet for Loving,” the works are a tribute to the artist’s late mentor, Alvin Loving, and are superficially suggestive of luxuriant and sumptuous plants from some fantastical universe only peripherally like our own.

Much as works by Mr. Loving did, Ms. Carter’s works echo elements of Frank Stella’s mid-1960s overlapping constructions. But while Mr. Loving tended toward reflecting Mr. Stella’s more geometric influences (especially in his paintings on shaped canvas), Ms. Carter strives for a more improvisational and organic approach to imagery.

Using the Mylar polyester film to conjure mysterious areas where both great depth and stark flat planes seem to float on interweaving levels, she is able to simultaneously contrast a measure of great control in certain areas of the painting surface while others seem, much like nature itself, tempestuously and turbulently energetic.

These are also characteristics that can be seen in works on view by Darlene Charneco, whose use of organic rhythms to organize and dominate the picture plane has always been a result of process melded to a sensitive yet unyielding aesthetic vision. Whether in her series of utopian communities as seen either from space or through a microscope (what she has called “Cyburbia”) or in works using colored nails to fashion imagery that is simultaneously visual and literary in impact, Ms. Charneco’s works are completely defined by the mediums she uses.

Interestingly, in the Cyburbia series, Ms. Charneco seems to be moving away from the more figurative cartographic imagery of such pieces as “Bloom Colony 2 (Immense)” and venturing into more immediately abstract landscape reveries, as in works like “Elements,” “Like Lava and Snow,” or “Changeling Network.”

Landscape elements that are more psychological than literal also reverberate throughout Fareen Butt’s shimmering tableaus, which offer a philosophical mix of east and west through her marriage of principles of the Japanese art of Nihonga with Seurat and Signac’s European technique of pointillism.

In her “Akasa” series, Ms. Butts is drawing on the Hindu concept of the transcendent source of all energy, which, interestingly, is not limited to that which exists in only three dimensions but which cosmically redefines spatial concepts in both material and non-corporeal terms. This is reflected (sometimes literally) in her use of the Nihonga technique of incorporating pigments derived from precious and semi-precious stones, which creates not just an intimate and shimmering facade, but also hints at great emotional depth through the depiction of light hinting at vistas glistening in the distance deep within the paintings themselves.

Intimacy and emotion also have a profound presence in recent ceramic pieces by Soraida Bedoya, qualities that were also present in photographic work she displayed a few years ago. Further, while those earlier pieces were reminiscent of Kurt Schwitter’s use of assemblage in her manipulation of re-cast and found objects, in these works the surrealist element also remains in her presentation of mattress coils and bedsprings as sculptural objects reflecting everyday use as well as offering more mystical interpretations in their repetition of structure and gently twisting and sensuous forms.

The “Mediums” exhibition continues at Solar Gallery in East Hampton through May 17.

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