FUSION

The Gallery Ltd (November 6th—28th) Brooklyn, NY

Curated by Wade Bonds

 

A line of Sasha Meret’s slightly menacing, but simultaneously sweet found-object sculptures greet the visitor entering the exhibition “Fusion”; an exhibition of four artists curated by Wade Bonds at The Gallery Ltd, in Williamsburg Brooklyn.  Meret’s constructions are much like the other three artists works; the other three are all painters; Thomas Edwin Heath, Pat Hobaugh, and Edward Holland; and their work is immediately accessible, but with more tempestuous emotional content roiling beneath the surface.  In fact, if one were to find a point of intersection amongst these four, it would be surface finish.  These are four mature artists aware of their creative extents who expect the viewer to expend some effort in exploring the subtleties that emerge from piece to piece.  Meret’s robotic theme is a manifestation of his fondness for gleaming metallic mechanical components.  They seem anthropomorphic, or at least anamorphic, but these constructions are an exercise in toying with our sense of the familiar emerging from the enigmatic.  A very dragon-like piece, “Bird Helmet” (2009) made of silver utensils transforms knives into spines and the convex bowls of the spoons into reflective scales of a writhing beast; but what is most interesting is how the artist has capitalized on the ability of flatware to become components in a fractal-like growth pattern.

Thomas Edwin Heath and Pat Hobaugh’s paintings face each other from opposing walls, but their exploration of figurative composition follows a similar trajectory: by a series of substitutions, either in the surface texture of the painting or the identities of the characters in the composition, the painting becomes a far more complicated interweaving of layers emerging from the initial premise.  Heath’s single and grouped figures stand or walk resolutely, invested with a directness that either faces out towards the viewer or on a goal just off-stage.  “UB Rolling” (2021) depicts a girl on a skateboard, with a backpack and a pile of books balanced on her head.  While the background behind her is a solid pure blue, she herself is alive with drips pf paint of all colors.  We discern her clothes and features, but they are all uniformly contaminated by traces of paint of all colors.  While all of Heath’s figures in this exhibition are distinctly African-American, the artist very consciously uses his fluid and drip-heavy technique to create a vibrant multiplicity in each body. “Manhood” (2018) is a single naked figure in black and white, but except for the crown of the head, eyes, nose, lips, and neck, everything is a Jackson-Pollock riot of white drips over a clack form.  While the artist’s intention for doing this is wonderfully inscrutable, he leaves a wide berth for interpretation. Hobaugh’s four tondo’s are meticulously rendered academic paintings.  He pulls the positions of his characters from Rubens, but rather than the fleshy, ruddy-faced pink northern Europeans we expect from that canonical painter, Hobaugh has decided to either re-cast his scenes with personalities from Disney and Hannah-Barbera, or overlay a perfect miniature rendition of a Rubens painting with a disembodied muppet head—in this case Kermit, Fozzie, and Animal.  Whether this is a critique of corporate culture, or a reconstituting of classical mythology is less important than the hypnotic interplay of familiar faces in unfamiliar contexts.  Hobaugh gleefully pokes holes in our reliance of anthropomorphism to bring order to the natural world and simultaneously explain away the dark sides of human behavior.

 

Edward Holland’s abstractions fill the center wall of the exhibition and present a sequential and methodical approach to abstraction.  Again he plays with a recognizable substrate—a dialogue between rectangular forms and X’s, which imply a geometric structure.  Over the ghostly white squares with their straight pencil lines are brushy black florets and non-rectilinear rainbow brushstrokes, which also creep around the precise edges of the foreground forms.  Holland, like the other three artists in Fusion is also using a thin veneer of control to hint at increasingly riotous subtexts.   Bonds’ curation of the exhibition subtly allows the artists to take their own positions without getting in each other’s way.  In an exhibition like “Fusion”, which brings together four discrete approaches to art making with little immediate similarity, the objects and paintings are allowed to breath, giving the viewer space to draw their own connections.

- William Corwin