Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of first-time contributor, Brooklyn-based artist Eleanna Anagnos. The video companion is a collaboration between Anagnos and Zahar Vaks, Brooklyn-based artist and curator of this show. They are both active members of Ortega y Gasset Projects. Enjoy!
(L-R) Paul Demuro, Nicholas Sullivan
Thinking and Touching Time is an exhibition curated by Zahar Vaks for Ortega y Gasset Projects. It is the inaugural exhibition in Ortega y Gasset’s new exhibition space at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The exhibition opened on March 13, 2015 and will run until the closing party on April 12 (this Sunday!). The accompanying video (below) serves as a teaser for the exhibition and gives us an idea of how Vaks would like us to explore the exhibition – by sitting with the work and letting it take you somewhere new.
This exhibition is about looking. Really looking at something, studying it, taking it in, and consuming it requires time. Today, no one’s got enough of it. It’s radical to spend time making non-functional, non-narrative work like those included in this show. It’s even more radical to ask someone else to spend the time looking. The work in this exhibition is the antithesis of fast art, easy art or entertainment. It’s contemplative, complex and can’t be digested, felt, consumed or appreciated in two seconds or even thirty, which is the average amount of time someone looks at an artwork – depending on your source.
(L-R) Dona Nelson, Austin Lee
We, as a species, can’t seem to communicate with each other fast enough. The world today emphasizes speed, even in visual languages. How fast can the product, idea, or art be consumed and turned into sales and revenue? The Slow Movement (which started in Rome in 1986 in response to a McDonalds opening by the Spanish Steps) represents a cry for an intentional cultural shift towards slowing down life in order to do it well. The emphasis here is on quality, not quantity. It is a call to savor the experience of pleasure and joy.
Like the Slow Movement, the works in this exhibition are about being present and slowing perception. The show celebrates the contemplative creative process, outside of mainstream consumerism. The crux of the works, and the dialogue between them, revolves around the slow burn. It’s meditative, philosophical, and romantic even. It is deep and it takes your time. It’s demanding, to put it simply. The more time you spend with the work, the more it gives to you. Thus, the exhibition highlights how one creates and consumes a work through the passage of time.
Zahar Vaks’ curation of the show has the same intensity and instinctive rigor with which he makes his own art. To some extent, each of the artists represented in this exhibition offer a kind of making the way Vaks does. Through the use of time as a transformative element, by layering, breaking down, and then building-up again; through the immediacy of touch and raw material, each artist offers layers of meaning. It is up to the viewer to peel back those layers one at a time.
Michael Ambron’s materials are basic: water, powders, and pure pigment. Yet, his process involves a waiting game and space from the work. Like Pat Steir, he’s not in direct contact with the painting. Ambron allows the materials to gel for these incredibly tactile surfaces to appear – and they are magical. After his moss-like surfaces congeal, he then digs direct marks or symbols back into the surfaces with a brush. Utilizing different speeds to make a mark and different touches, from indirect to direct, slow to fast: the result is mystifying. You’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Another dynamic piece: part sculpture, part painting, part performance, S.E. Nash’s work seems to bubble upwards and includes an enormous jar of living, breathing, constantly changing, Mother of Kombucha, which is a colony of yeast and bacteria turned into a fermented drink. This is the most transformative piece in the exhibition- as it literally changes through the course of the exhibition. The Kombucha will be consumed by the viewers at the closing party. The work takes Rikrit Tiravania’s 1992 Pad Thai performance a step further.
Nickola Pottinger’s large scale work on paper has been worked and reworked with a discerning eye. The process here is like taking two steps forward and one step back. She builds up the space and breaks it down. From tea, to glitter, to thousands of repetitive marks and prints of those marks, tearing apart, painting and reworking, the work could easily look like clumsy patchwork. However, her sophisticated sense of touch and color come through.
Paul Simmons sculpture is made of painted drywall. As we all know, drywalls’ main purpose is as sturdy walls that create the spaces in which we live and work. Simmons takes the material and strips it of its core function. It sits on the ends of itself with unfinished edges. In order to sit up straight, it is completely dependent on the finished gallery wall (which is also painted drywall). The sculpture is made to look like it was made in no time at all, but it was labored over. It’s wonky, and yet, it doesn’t lack sophistication. That’s the real beauty in Simmons’ work. He makes these objects that are not bashful of their shortcomings. The work, instead, celebrates them.
If you can manage to press pause, visit the exhibition before it closes, plan to stay awhile- it will reward you.
Featured artists in this exhibition include Michael Ambron, Yevgeniya Baras, Paul Demuro, Austin Lee, Larissa Mellor, Dustin Metz, S.E. Nash, Dona Nelson, Mike Olin, Nickola Pottinger, Eric Schnell, Winnie Sidharta, Paul Simmons, Nicholas Sullivan and Lauren Whearty.
Leave a Reply