Photo by Paul D'Agostino
It’s perhaps the most effective mode of thematically navigating the current group show at Pierogi, Idiom I (through February 9), yet it might not be easy to execute: breeze through the flat file antechamber; hustle through the main gallery, obscuring peripheral vision manually if necessary; turn right 90 degrees; go forth a few more paces; turn right another 90 degrees—or 270 to the left, should it suit your fancy. This will leave you facing south, approximately, and before you will be the exhibit’s formal legend and conceptual fundament: the salon wall featuring multiple works by all six artists in the show. Start here, then explore further afield.
This recommended route is not a matter of pedal difficulty. The reason it might be hard to carry out, if not also a bit unfair to suggest, is that it requires you to resist the rich allure, for instance, of Kirsten Deirup’s Red Dress, a beguiling work that references Renaissance portraiture in its profiled depiction of a mysterious sphinx-like visage, which some viewers might read as an indirect homage to a famously exiled Florentine author—given the figure’s scarlet hood and robe—whose characteristic nasal prowess has been partially compromised. Your rushed route to the back will require you to bypass, also, J. Fiber’s splendidly busy drawings rendered in such energized lines and vivid chromatics as to seem verged upon self-renderings asunder; Johan Nobell’s formally catch-as-catch-can wall of dozens of small watercolor wonders; and Ryan Mrozowski’s suite of quiet, ostensibly nocturnal orange trees—illumined, it would seem, by your act of looking at them. You’ll have to resist, as well, the draw of Darina Karpov’s floridly imaginative, deftly detailed organica, and perhaps also the curious bit you might glimpse of Lynn Talbot’s cleverly enigmatic still lifes in which stoically naturalistic subjects and variably dazzling presences looming above them compete with one another for your dividedly undivided attention.
A show both well assembled and ensembled, Idiom I does indeed, overall, cohere. Compositions by Fiber and Karpov share internal cacophonies and depths of detail frenetically aflux; Mrozowski’s oranges find similarly becalmed, nearly eerie company in Talbot’s apples, figs and peaches; Deirup’s King might reign supreme over the inhabitants of Nobell’s Mount Fear, and her Green Blob might well dwell among his Phantoms.
In unison on the salon wall, though, is where all such binary harmonies find collective euphony. It’s where the artists’ individual 'idioms,' as it were, gather into a more expansive expression most germane to a “willing suspension of disbelief,” an element of the show’s conceptual grounding by way of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. You needn’t start there, of course, to take holistic delight in Idiom I’s various voices and facets. Along that one wall, however, is where the show’s proposed thematic tones are most pleasurably attuned.
Idiom II, featuring Justin Amrhein, Beth Campbell, Jonathan Herder, Mark Lombardi and William Powhida, will run February 14-March 16.