Art Review: Mikel Glass At Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery - 27 East

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Art Review: Mikel Glass At Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery

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"Collateral Damage" by Mikel Glass.

"Collateral Damage" by Mikel Glass.

"Boxes of Dolls" by Mikel Glass.

"Boxes of Dolls" by Mikel Glass.

"The Insiders" by Mikel Glass.

"The Insiders" by Mikel Glass.

author on Nov 22, 2010

While surrealism has been declared dead by critics and revisionist historians with remarkable regularity over the years, its influence on the motivations of artists across the stylistic spectrum nevertheless continues unabated.

Emphasizing the import of reality as we perceive it as much as in actuality, surrealism has never lost its ability to provoke artists in incorporating the unconscious to reconcile the perceptual and conceptual influences that define who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Part of this, of course, is due to the simple fact that the physical acknowledgement of our obsessions and dreams, the essential elements of surrealist dogma, have become so intertwined with the popular culture the early surrealists unwittingly helped create.

As the illustrator Brad Holland once defined, “Surrealism: An archaic term that was formerly an art movement but is now no longer distinguishable from everyday life.”

It is, however, this cognizance of the simultaneous unreal and super-real aspects of contemporary existence that permeates the paintings of Mikel Glass, currently on display at Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery in Sag Harbor. Focusing on themes drawn in part from autobiographical sources emphasizing decidedly personal imagery, the works are playfully constructed to stress narrative elements that highlight a rather enigmatically detached, yet emotionally taut, irony while also echoing with a degree of psychologically expressive resonance.

Further, in his use of imagery either taken directly from unconscious memories of childhood (apparently interpreted after the fact during therapy) or in his use of dolls as figurative representations of human beings, there is a dramatic air of both sad poignancy and innocent whimsy throughout the exhibition. The works reflect, rather succinctly, Andre Breton’s observation that “the mind which plunges into Surrealism, relives with burning excitement the best part of childhood.”

This is particularly apparent in paintings such as “Attributes of Painting I” (oil on canvas, 1999) and “I Once Was Lost” (oil on canvas, 1996) which, through a still-life motif, express an energy in their compositional structure and awareness of detail that conjures mysterious sensations of dreams being relived, rather than mere objects being delineated.

At the same time, the works are able to express the rather difficult concept that often the best memories from childhood, that which forms us as adults, aren’t necessarily always happy or carefree reminiscences. Tones of discovery, self-determination, and independence mix interchangeably with lost innocence, disillusion and mortality throughout, particularly in works such as “Special Friend” (oil on canvas, 2007), “Bullwinkle” (oil on canvas, 2003), or, most poignantly, “At Rest” (oil on canvas, 2004).

Regardless of the obvious connections to surrealism, however, it would be a mistake to pigeonhole the artist as deriving antecedents solely from that school. Rather, while his classicist impulses do, in fact, follow a dreamlike stylistic line in the 20th century that include Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dali, one can also at times find echoes of 19th century realist painters such as William Harnett or John Haberle in Mr. Glass’s aforementioned specificity of detail and arrangement of forms.

“Baby, You Drive Me Crazy” by Mikel Glass continues at Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery in Sag Harbor through December 9.

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