Friday, March 13, 2020

David & Beatrice: Hands and Other Symbols. The Work of David W. Cummings and Beatrice M. Mady, 3/13/20 - 5/3/20, at Drawing Rooms

Drawing Rooms celebrates the life and work of David W. Cummings, and a life lived with Beatrice M. Mady. They met in 1977 and began a relationship as artists and a romance that would span four decades. David passed from us last year. Drawing Rooms is pleased to show much of his work in this retrospective, which includes Beatrice’s work as well.
by Peter Delman

David & Beatrice: Hands and Other Symbols. The Work of David W. Cummings and Beatrice M. Mady, is a show about duality, primarily a tension between Modernist tradition and Romantic freedom. The joy of the work asserts that you can have your cake and, after all, eat it too.
David’s roots were in an orthodox allegiance to a Classical style loyal to the majesty of the grid and the primacy of flatness and the picture plane. But he also harbored an unruly urge to Rococo exuberance. His muse was Cezanne, who loved stable structure above all, but lit an iconoclastic fire that radically engulfed the world of art. 
David’s work follows a stately trajectory from pure color field abstraction toward a hybrid of formalism and image-making.

"Fire in the Hole" by David W. Cummings
In Fire in the Hole (1988), a phalanx of shapes threaten a color riot that in lesser hands would jostle for attention but here suggest a well-orchestrated symphony.
"Eastern Breeze" by David W. Cummings

In an earlier work, Eastern Breeze (1974), we glimpse the genesis of these signature “cloud” shapes. This seminal work has a pointillist buzz and manic energy that is harnessed and brought to heel in subsequent paintings.

"Montauk" by David W. Cummings

"In Harm's Way" by David W. Cummings
In Montauk and In Harm’s Way (1993), the once-sacrosanct picture plan is fragmented, no doubt in homage to the beloved Cezanne and Cubism’s coming storm.
With the advent of the hand paintings in the 1990s, David moved decisively from a flirtation with figuration to an embrace.  Abstraction still ruled the roost, mind you, but the hand shapes can no longer claim anonymity. They are “portraits” of specific people, though often that person is the artist himself. The hand image refers to a symbol of human self-expression ubiquitous from paleolithic times to the children’s art rooms of today, and to the hand-eye relationship essential to the artist.  
hand paintings on paper installation by David W. Cummings

The large wall installation made up of hand paintings on paper showcases David’s mastery of rhythm, harmony, and radiant color. A number of paintings pair male and female hands— duality again.

"Witch Hunter" by David W. Cummings

The central image of Witch Hunter (2015) with its wild tapestry of color and explosive mandala exemplifies David at his delightful and daring best.
David is a master of many media. Whether pastels, markers, watercolor, or oil, every work dances joyfully.
In Beatrice’s paintings and digital prints, she explores Modernist ideas with emphases on evocative shapes and interlocking lines and, just as with David, luminous color is supreme. There is a clear division between the upper and lower sectors in each oil painting. This demarcation is straight and level and mostly painted black. In most cases, the palette of the lower region is more somber, as befitting a quasi-underworld. The space is often populated by a trio or trios of shapes recruited from the artist’s personal iconography.  
Though some of her recurring images have their origins in representational sources, Beatrice thinks of them as purely abstract shapes.

"The Dead Can Dance" by Beatrice Mady

In The Dead Can Dance (1997), Beatrice veers closest to a narrative interpretation, and this tension between symbol and abstraction is arresting. With pelican-like shapes roosting in the understory, and skeletal fragments lurking above, there is more than a hint of the dark and tragic haunting this powerful painting.

The circle is another favorite shape harkening back to Plato’s symbol of the cosmos. The backstory is that Beatrice’s engineer father gave her his compass set; her early fascination with this magical tool has influenced her work ever since. 

"Knock Out" by Beatrice Mady

In recent digital work, her love of antiquity and Matisse are pervasive. Arabesques of Tunisian architecture are overlaid with complementary lines and abstract shapes. Photo images of ethereal art from the real world are matched and conjoined with pure abstraction.
“Painting is another form of thinking,” according to Gerhard Richter. Perhaps there is an implication here of a fundamental duality in the life of an artist. The artist thinks and functions like everyone else in their everyday world, but in the studio, a transformation— possibly miraculous, can occur.
Phillip Guston described this idea in an interview with Robert Storr: In the studio, the artist is alone with Velasquez, Picasso, and all the great masters he admires. Then one by one they leave— and if he is truly engaged,“even he leaves”. 
To inhabit that zone, even if only fleetingly, is the greatest fringe benefit of a creative life. This exhibition is replete with evidence that both Beatrice and David often experienced that altered and exalted state.

David & Beatrice: Hands and Other Symbols. The Work of David W. Cummings and Beatrice M. Mady, curated by Anne Trauben, runs from 3/13/20 - 5/3/20.

Peter Delman is an artist living in Jersey City. Read Peter's bio here and view his artwork here

Friday, January 31, 2020

THE BIG SHOW: All Animals Welcome, 12/14/19 - 2/8/20, at Drawing Rooms

by Bruce Halpin

THE BIG SHOW: All Animals Welcome at Drawing Rooms is a big (nearly 70 artists, 136 works) rambunctious offering. Curated by Anne Trauben, the works include paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, video and objects. The works in the show investigate the varied relationships humans have with animals as companions, providers of utility as well as objects of reflection and metaphor.

“Midnight Companion” by Judith Witlin

“Secret Conversation” by Judith Witlin

“Goddamn Crow” by Michael Lavorgna

“Moonlight Deer” by Michael Lavorgna 

“Anecdote of a Chiken” by Ibou Ndoye

“House Mouse” by Ibou Ndoye

The earliest figurative paintings were of animals. Their function is largely open to conjecture but seems to revolve around the hunt and suggest a spiritual connection between the animals and the hunters. This is certainly the case with paintings by the Indigenous Peoples of North America. Many works in the show convey a spiritual connection to their subjects. Among these are the monoprints “Midnight Companion” and “Secret Conversation” by Judith Witlin. Two works by Michael Lavorgna “Goddamn Crow” and “Moonlight Deer” share that dreamlike quality. Two small works by Ibou Ndoye “House Mouse” and “Anecdote of a Chiken” also suggest a shamanistic connection between artist and subject.

“Double Rainbow” by Bud McNicol

“Breakfast Surprise” by Robert Zurer 

“Flamingo” by Eileen Ferara 

Anne Trauben’s video “Indie’s Escape”

Alejandro Ruben’s video “Earthworms”

A sense of humor is a strong current which runs through the show. Bud McNicol’s “Double Rainbow” presents a camping trip gone terribly awry, it’s hilarity underscored by it’s anodyne title. Robert Zurer’s tiny painting, “Breakfast Surprise” is a goofy, yet beautifully painted, rendering of what appears to be a giraffe wearing a red surgical mask. Eileen Ferara’s “Flamingo” is reminiscent of a painting by Audubon on acid with its woefully convoluted neck. Anne Trauben’s short video “Indie’s Escape” displays a rather madcap humor (I won’t spoil it by describing it). Likewise, Alejandro Ruben’s “Earthworms” is dryly humorous, contrasting the video of the worms with a Salsa soundtrack.

"Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" by Andrea Geller

"Shadow" by Andrea Geller

"Waiting" by Andrea Geller

"Waiting II" by Andrea Geller

Tracey Kerdman’s painting “Milk Teeth”

Tracey Kerdman’s painting “The Offering”

While animals as companions comprise a substantial portion of the works here, a number of pieces exceed the documentary. Andrea Geller’s four oil paintings are really meditations on the nature of materials, color and light. These paintings are forcefully beautiful with deft handling of paint. Similarly, Tracey Kerdman’s paintings, “Milk Teeth” and “The Offering” transcend their subjects in weird, uncomfortable ways. “Milk Teeth” shows two adolescent boys flanking a German Shepard. The undercurrent of unease is not in what this painting shows, but, rather, in what is left out. “The Offering” evinces a similar displacement of normal life. The subject (a dog) is presented as a specimen or object of examination, clinically displayed as if in preparation for some sort of procedure. In both of these works there is an inversion of the “family pet” picture, with an unstated but felt menace lurking somewhere beyond the frame.

"Pelt 4" by Caroline Burton

"Pelt 5" by Caroline Burton

"Pelt 6" by Caroline Burton

"As Luck Would Have It" by Caroline Burton

Caroline Burton’s paintings “Pelt”, “Pelt”, “Pelt” and “As Luck Would Have It”, draw attention to the idea that our relationship to the world of animals is not always benign. Her sensitively painted pelts belie the violence, which transforms them from the skin of a living animal to an object, presumably of utility. Perhaps Ms. Burton’s intent is to disrupt the sentimentality inherent in “cute furry things”, injecting a dose of reality for our consideration.

"Keeping Us in Line" by Stephen Krasner

Many of the works I can only mention in passing but deserve appreciation. They occupy a category I can only describe as “other”. Steven Krasner’s sensitive portraits of his poodle companion have a glow that seems almost otherworldly and thoroughly transcend the “pet portrait”.

Cheryl Hochberg’s “Wool Spinner”

Robert Levy’s “Loading Zone”

Joshua Field’s “Thinking About the Many Ways We Are Bound”

Works that consider the utility of animals include Cheryl Hochberg’s “Wool Spinner”, Robert Levy’s “Loading Zone” and Joshua Field’s “Thinking About the Many Ways We Are Bound”. Mr. Field’s work seems to be based on a manual of how a horse is hobbled but expands to become metaphor.

"Wandering Cow" by Beatrice Mady

"Second Life of Limulus Polyphemus" by Milosz Koziej

"Beavers Revenge" by Casey McGarr

"Curly Rabbit" by Casey McGarr

"Squirrel Revenge" by Casey McGarr 

"Kafka's Pet" by Emily Broussard

"Long Elephant" by Cheryl Gross

"Polar Bear" by Cheryl Gross

"Small Giraffe" by Cheryl Gross

Eugenio Espinosa, "Tere con Repisa"

Eugenio Espinosa, "Abuelo, Marti, Papis"

Eugenio Espinosa, "Venados, Loma"

Lizzie Scott, "Mantaray"

Lizzie Scott, "Mantaray"

Brad Terhune's "Psychedelic Goats and Other Horned Creatures No. 2"

Brad_Terhune's "Psychedelic Goats and Other Horned Creatures No. 3"

Brad Terhune's "Psychedelic Goats and Other Horned Creatures No. 4"

Jodie Fink's "Avemhamo"

Jodie Fink's "Equusavem"

Works that defy categorization but deserve consideration are Beatrice Mady’s “Wandering Cow”, Milosz Koziej’s “Second Life of Emulous Polyphemus”, Casey McGarr’s broadly comic letterpress works, Emily Broussard’s deft painting of a roach, Cheryl Gross’s mixed media work, Eugenio Espinosa’s porcelain works, Lizzy Scott’s “Mantaray”, Brad Terhune’s pop inspired collages, and Jody Fink’s found object creatures which are just plain fun.

There are many more funny, profound, perplexing and well executed than those mentioned above, more than time permits. Anyone interested in animals, contemporary art, or are just in need of an uplift should go see the show in person. It’s well worth the trip. And bring your pet.

THE BIG SHOW: All Animals Welcome, featuring works by artists Alpana Mittal, Adriana Robertson, Alan Walker, Alejandro Rubin, Allen Strombosky, Andra Samelson, Andrea Geller, Anne Q McKeown, Anne Trauben, Beatrice M Mady, Bill Stamos, Brad Terhune, Bruno Nadalin, Bud McNichol, Caridad Kennedy, Carmen Recio, Caroline Burton, Casey McGarr, Cheryl Gross, Cheryl Hochberg, Chris Garcia, Eileen Ferara, Emily Broussard, Eugenio Espinosa, Gloria Adams, HJ Kleiber, Ibou Ndoye, Jane Dell, Jane Westrick, Jane Zweibel, Jodie Fink, Joe Lugara, Joshua Field, Joy Bush, Judith Witlin, Katharina Litchman, Katie Niewodowski, Kevin McCaffrey, Kim Wiseman, Laura Lou Levy, Laura Pawson, Linda Byrne, Linda Gottesfeld, Lizzie Scott, Lola Sandino Stanton, Lori Field, Lydia Viscardi, Lyubava Kroll, Marcia G. Yerman, Mary Beth King, Michael Lavorgna, Milosz Koziej, Mollie Thonneson, Nanette Reynolds Beachner, Pam Marchin, Rachel Aisenson, Rebecca Major, Robert Levy, Robert Zurer, Ry An, Sarah Walko, Scot Wittman, Stephen Krasner, Steven Barker, Tracy Kerdman, Vija Doks, Zewen Wang, continues until February 8 at Drawing Rooms at 926 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. A selection of works from the show can be viewed online at the Drawing Rooms website.

THE BIG SHOW: All Animals Welcome at Drawing Rooms, 12/14/19 - 2/8/20, is curated by Anne Trauben.

Bruce Halpin is an artist living in Jersey City. Read Bruce's bio here and view his artwork here.