Maximinimalist gracings of burlap and pacified man-beasts in these art picks from our 11/20 issue.
Flowers Gallery, 529 West 20th St., through January 18th
Hicks' generally life-size sculptures straddle such ambiguous territory between anthropomorphic and theriomorphic that the human-animal divide becomes nearly irrelevant, indeed even immaterial despite the grave, weighty materiality of her forms. A minotaur-like character, actual or masked, plods along with audible tread—in one hand a smaller beast's posterior quarters, in the other its head. This is a towering bronze called Banker II, its implications both chilling and clear. Banker I is a less beastly, somewhat more ghostly pairing: whether the bear is leashed to the financier, or vice-versa, is debatable; to whom the market belongs, or who dominates, an open question. Amalgams of straw and plaster, which are then occasionally cast in bronze, lend prickle and clump to these creatures Hicks has been crafting since the '80s, and their monstrosities are at once haunting and placid. Behold calmly the spent eyes of these mysteriously menacing, or perhaps amiable souls. To call them captivating is most certainly understatement.
SALVATORE EMBLEMA: TRANSPARENCY
BOSI Contemporary, 48 Orchard St., through January 11th
The suite of 20 deeply and variably interventionist, one might say, two-dimensional works that comprise most of Transparency—a traveling exhibition just in from Los Angeles that will be mounted in Santa Fe, too, next year—are intended to bring Emblema (1929-2006), a widely known and extensively shown artist in his native Italy, into a much brighter US spotlight, and justifiably so. A painstaking manipulator of mediums and surfaces, Emblema attenuates the integrity of burlap in his de-threadings not merely to soften its tooth, but also to exploit the embedded potential for his rugged material of choice to become a transformative conveyer of light. Tinted soils, natural pigments and dyed fabrics flesh out his spare palette; patterned abstractions and basic geometries constitute many of his forms; horizontal works suggestive of landscapes become literalizations of the same thanks to texturally incorporated earths. Alongside the subdued, essential, somewhat meditative palettes and compositions that characterize the artist's output from the '60s, '70s and '80s, his works from more recent decades appear nearly playful—vertical orientations, brighter chromatics, more expressive implementations of soils whose sources have become volcanic. Simplicity, dexterity and humility are Emblema's great strengths, and this fine retrospective provides an impressive array of the same. A great argument for a greater regard.
JULIA MARGARET CAMERON
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., through January 5th
Both known and derided for her use of tools and techniques that evaded, for expressive purposes, the increasing potential for photographic precision, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), a curious figure among Victorian intellectuals, had never even produced a photograph until she was nearly 50. What she left behind is, nonetheless, an extensive and moving body of work featuring many portraits of her literary, philosophical, scientific and quite mixedly 'societal' coterie—including such curiosities as staged photographic illustrations of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's grand cycle of poems, Idylls of the King. Try to see this gem of a show on Friday, November 22nd, when a gallery talk will expand on Cameron's skills, camaraderies and peculiarities while placing her within a broader milieu of Victorian intrigue and tendencies.
JAMES PREZ: NOTHING SPECIAL
S & J Projects, 191 Henry St., extended through December 1st
There is, to be sure, quite a lot that's special about this Williamsburg-based artist's solo show on the Lower East Side, from its floor-favoring nestling in the somewhat irregularly niched and nooked quarters of the gallery's quaint basement space—a perfect setting for a spread of this sort, and so carefully arrayed that even ambient electrical outlets are folded into the creative mix—to the meticulous and consistently clever ways in which the objects at hand have been manipulated, reconfigured, drawn and scrawled upon. Indeed, Prez's operative mode is to morph bric-a-brac and catch-as-catch-can items into smallish works of imaginative immensity; he make the un-special special and imbues it with importance. This is art with hella heart. Thoughtfully curated by Julie Torres, Nothing Special presents Prez at his best.
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