The raison d’être of most artist-run galleries is often to present alternatives to the restrictions, bureaucracy, and politics of market-oriented commercial galleries and museums, frequently by showcasing more experimental work and bringing in more experimental work. engaging avant-garde conservation concepts.
In West Bayside, New System Exhibitions is that kind of operation. It’s a very raw space run by seven young artists, mostly graduates not too far from Bowdoin. There you will find two shows: “Gendered Fluid”, with work by Hannah Boone, and “Bloomers”, with work by Kenny Shapiro. They aren’t formally related, but their emphasis on sexuality and fetishism inevitably connects them. Both are in place until August 15.
In East Bayside, Zero Station presents “Efflorescence” (until September 25), a group show ostensibly about flowers. It couldn’t be more different from New System. Run by a couple with many years of art experience under their belt – as designers, framers and preparers – Zero Station has been in business for 21 years, 19 of which were there.
While some of the works in this gallery are certainly out-of-the-box, such as Tracey Cockrell’s sound sculptures and Winky Lewis’s photo composite work “Peony Hubble Study,” the exhibit has great respect for traditional art practices such as engraving and engraving. , and it emphasizes beauty and lyricism, which may seem old-fashioned to some, but for the 62-year-old, it enhances the appreciation of the entire art history vocabulary.
Exhibitions of new systems
To quote Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Toto, I feel like we’re not in Kansas anymore.” We are immediately dropped into a room filled with the stunning and sexually explicit work of Boone, which she creates using painting, sculpture, 3D printing, and video. This is not a show to bring your kids to, although it is so joyful that it sounds more innocent than you might imagine.
“I use an interdisciplinary practice to explore queer world building and research where I exist outside of the gender binary,” their statement read. At the gallery, they also came up with this ironic intention: “I wanted to be the artist who put the most sex parts in one space.” If there was a price for this achievement, they would win by a landslide.
Many modern artists have explored erotic-laden subjects in their work: Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Hans Bellmer, and Bogdan Rata to name a few. Boone’s work aligns most with Bellmer and Rata in his surreal rearrangement of body parts – think Bellmer’s sculptures of multiple breasts, or Rata’s feet with female nipples spouting from their heels.
But the spirit of these – and their vivid, garish colors – seems to celebrate the endless ways in which sex and sexuality, especially in this generation of binary nonconformity, is constantly transforming. A double phallus having a double glittery culmination (“Fountain”); a sculpture of breasts (“Bust”) which features a nose and a mouth on one side of the base and a vagina on the other; a huge sculpture that looks like nothing so much as a French tickler’s condom (“Ribbed Tower”)… these strive to be provocative.
Yet our reaction is more likely to be a smile or a small laugh. It’s too tacky and fun to shock unless you have a particularly delicate sensitivity.
Kenny Shapiro’s sculptures feel like a room. Some are made of underwear stiffened with liquid rubber. The clothes have been drastically altered with cut-out holes that are framed with flesh-colored silicone rubber, then filled in various ways: with a plastic net, a fiber abacus, a small goldfish behind plastic sheeting.
More kitsch and more fun. But the allusion to pleasure clothes bought in the hope of speeding up her sex life also implies a tender urge to feel wanted, sexy, vital. They are incredibly soft in a way, while also being incredibly hard-working in their construction.
The same sweet-sad poem informs the dolls connected to the hand vacuums. They’re also painstakingly constructed but seem more messy – like our egos – and you can’t help but feel for them every time they cheat and stand still, helpless, and defeated.
There are 13 artists in “Efflorescence”, and each of them is technically proficient – even masterful – in their skill. Some works border on graphic illustration. Stephen Burt’s “Society of Mutual Aid” ink and gouache, for example, looks like an old stoner poster from the 1960s, and Nancy Blum’s “Cereus, Mauve on Gold” silkscreen has dimensional flatness and style. reductive representation that conveys a sense of illustration.
This is not a review. They are simply stylistic choices and very well done. Blum also contributes to “Cornflower,” which interestingly stylizes this bloom to the point of unreality, making viewers feel like someone maybe slipped them a dose of acid. Burt also shows “Ornament with Anole and Fantastical Flower”, an etching no less charming for its classicism, and “Bright Horizon”, a watercolor, ink and gouache which, although not thematically related to the spectacle and the graphic design at the William Blake etching manner, has a tumultuous energy to rival the immortal “Wave” of the ukiyo-e master Hokusai.
There’s the traditional painting, most surprisingly Elise Ansel’s abstract reimagining of the old master’s floral still life. “Incandescent IV” also challenges the genre, but without the sexual imagery and the Day-Glo palette seen at New System. From Ansel’s statement: “Old master paintings were, for the most part, created by men for men. Abstraction allows me to interrupt this one-sided narrative and transform it into a sensually voluminous, non-narrative form of visual communication that embraces multiple points of view. His work is both elegant and eloquent.
The scale of Lorena Salcedo-Watson’s Proteus Pincushion, a 54 inch by 42.5 inch watercolor and charcoal on paper, highlights the complexity and divine order of nature. The size monumentalizes his subject, but his talent as an expressive designer also leaves a dazzling and indelible impression.
Superficially, the three photographic works by Peter Shellenberger seem to be about flowers. But they are more specifically about light. He takes pictures at night, opens an exhibition and fires flashes of up to 110,000 lumens in stands of “Queen Anne’s Lace” or “Hydrangea”. Something weird and wonderful about the process and the angles it shoots from. “The lace”, for example, looks like sea grass taken underwater. For “Fireflies”, he put the film and the fireflies in a box (they weren’t harmed) and put them on display overnight. However, knowing what you’re watching doesn’t make it any less intriguing.
For her “Sound Studies”, Tracey Cockrell uses vegetables harvested from a farm in Maine to make papyrus which she then transforms into loudspeakers using conductive wires. (It’s too complex a process to describe in detail here.) They’re mounted on old Martin guitar frets. The push of a button starts a recording of the sounds of the fields: farmers chatting, the chirping of birds and the buzzing of bees, the revving of a van engine. Nature, growth, harvest and life are one.
These are the most innovative works, both materially and conceptually, in the exhibition. In essence, however, they are like codas of age-old, ever-evolving media and artistic processes, many of which are beautifully displayed at Zero Station.
Jorge S. Arango has been writing about art, design and architecture for over 35 years. He lives in Portland. He can be contacted at: [email protected]