So how long does it take you to see an art exhibition, anyway? Do you linger in front of each canvas or do you cross the exhibition with your back? As there is no clock during a gallery presentation, you are free to set your own pace. But while it’s a truly engaging experience, art has a way of establishing its own rhythm – and if you listen carefully, you can slip through time with the beat.
The participants in the “Slow Art” show the West Village Gallery (331 Newark Avenue) have thought a lot about time, speed and the particular velocity of perception. This beautiful, tempered, sometimes apprehensive spectacle politely introduces these reflections. It goes without saying: slow art must be gentle.
The artists approach the theme with the quiet reverence it deserves. Painter Anki King represents time as a dark substance, something slippery like oil, seeping through intertwined fingers at the end of a pair of frail, ghostly arms. In “Gather”, the painting that welcomes visitors to the gallery, time threatens to escape from the clutches of its owner in a great black race. Other works in the show alleviate this same anxiety through repetition. Megan Klimthe dense folds of gauze, Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Salernothe shaded, almost ocean-like blue ink waves, Jimbo Blachly’s strata of thin horizontal lines in watercolor, and co-curator and gallery owner Robinson HollowayThe richly decorated couch of: These works of art radiate diligence, accomplishment, time spent, hard work well done. Meticulousness, they seem to suggest, is a response to the ticking of the clock. If the artist can properly lose herself in her task, she may be able to calm those hands.
“Slow Art” asks the viewer to pause and reflect, to respect the inner rhythms of the exhibited works and to indulge in the luxury of contemplation. But if you want to follow the call of these works and others like them, you’ll need to make an appointment to see the exhibit. The Village West Gallery, itself an elegant space for quiet reflection, also serves as the ground floor of Robinson Holloway’s home. (Mrs. Holloway’s cats are part of the permanent collection here.) It’s as big and bright as most dedicated exhibition spaces downtown, and it again demonstrates that anyone with the taste, a sensibility cohesive aesthetics and a few wide white walls can put on a sight worth seeing.
Holloway and his co-curator Diana Schmertz attracted about twenty artists to the “Slow Art” show, which will be visible until December 6th. It is a “JC Friday”, and the gallery will be open for a reception that evening.
If you’re a downtown resident or a rock fan, chances are you’ve already seen some of this exhibit. Village West is a stone’s throw from the White Eagle Hall, and spectators queuing may have noticed David Baskinof 160 oval-shaped containers in the gallery window overlooking the street. « Dove bottles” turns the front of the house into a big abacus: the bottles are candy-colored and easy to count, and if you give in to the piece (recommended), you’ll likely find intriguing patterns in the middle of the plastic. Like much of “Slow Art,” Baskin’s installation is a silent charmer – it’s quirky and homemade, but it’s not too insinuating, and it doesn’t lead with intelligence. The same could be said for Sharela BonfieldThe hand-embroidered “selfies” are rendered on ten-inch pieces of felt. These images of the artist, assembled point by point, radiate a daily beauty.
They are also a commentary on the immediacy of digital reproduction and a challenge to those who might view artistic creation as a waste of time and energy. Yes, said Mrs. Bonfield, I will indeed take three months to a year to capture my thread image; you go ahead and settle for your raw, cold assembly of pixels. The artist’s subtle challenge is a figure for the entire show and an abbreviated version of its theme. Some worthwhile effects can only be produced slowly, and some powerfully expressive mids shouldn’t be rushed to make an immediate impression.
Other works in the exhibition practically demand close reading. A painting like Alexis Duqueis stuffed and wobbly “Truck” cannot be appreciated at a glance. The artist simply loaded too many details onto the canvas: rooms on rooms and houses on houses like a compacted Santorini. He gave the viewer twisting stairs to navigate and windows to look at and stuff crammed into every corner, and he put it all on a pair of wheels. Where is this rolling citadel going, and who are its inhabitants? How fast is he traveling? Does it move at the speed of the spectator’s apprehension?
Slow art, by definition, lacks the urgency we expect from modern visual entertainment, and it risks providing comfort at a time in history when no one should be comfortable. Joshua Mintz‘Untitled (Bunker)’, an adorable yet terrifying piece, plays with ideas of ease, intimacy, welcome and the alluring power of relaxation. This sculpture is a tiny replica of a crumpled sofa in a suburban green, with messy cushions for sleeping on, and the seat sagging treacherously in the middle. There’s even a pair of well-worn miniature sneakers on the floor. Here is the sofa as a hungry eater of hours: a dangerous place, a lure for the weary and the unwary.
My favorite piece in the series confronts the notion of wasted time head-on. On a rough sheet of cotton and wool paper, Jeanne Heifetz drew a partial globe of small interlocking quadrilateral shapes, each distinguishable from its immediate neighbors by tiny differences in ink color and shading. It’s all beautiful and thorough and seen from an uncharitable angle, completely aimless. She named her work Mottainai after the famous Japanese warning against waste. It is certainly not practical to spend our time like this – brightening the patterns of the sofa upholstery with homemade paint, folding and gluing gauze, hatching small squares on canvases, assembling hundreds of colored plastic bottles in a Newark Avenue window. But as Anki King’s painting shows, the minutes are going to slip through our fingers no matter how hard we try to hold them. How better to spend them than in the pursuit of beauty?
Header: Untitled (Bunker) by Joshua Mintz