For the final show in their Chelsea location, the Andrew Edlin Gallery invited a strong roster of artists to create new mural works directly on their walls. The central theme of the exhibition titled Anthems for the Mother Earth Goddess is the environment, and each artist takes on this theme in a uniquely profound way, be it spiritually, politically, scientifically or emotionally. Just as the cycle of nature is ephemeral, so too are the works in this show. They will be demolished along with the building sometime in the near future.
While the show as a whole is a treat to experience, two particular works struck me with profound intensity. They are by Kevin Blythe Sampson and Brian Adams Douglas.
Kevin Blythe Sampson’s mural titled The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (2015)
Sampson’s expressionistic tree bleeds out from the poisonous doctrines that have tainted civilization. The names of places where national injustice have occurred are scratched into the bark. The mangled roots, which form the word “MIASMA” bleed into the Earth and spreading foul poison throughout the land. Hooded Klansmen, at the base of the tree represent catastrophic ideas like the Keystone pipeline and fracking, as well as the GMO corporation Monsanto and the Republican National Convention (which supports these aforementioned problematic environmental issues). The tree is tapped by problems that drain our society of justice and peace. A poached Rhino (with it’s horns cut off and black human feet) reminds us that we are an endangered species as well.
A mural by Brian Adams Douglas titled Everhigher (2015).
Brian Adam Douglas’ epic realist mural is the most dramatic in the show. It’s an end of days theme where nature has taken back the Earth through a biblical flood that would rival Noah’s. There’s a huddled mass, piled on top of each other in the form of a pyramid. They are seemingly the last survivors of the catastrophic storm. One barren tree is still standing tall from the flood waters. It is held afloat by a life preserver.
The rest of the must see murals are by Saya Woolfalk, Chris Doyle, Peter Fend, Rigo 23, and Katerina Lanfranco.
So while you’re walking along the adjacent Highline experiencing one of the more positive ways in which we can interact with and preserve our natural environment; don’t miss this show where the anthems to Mother Earth will get stuck in your head for days.
Continuing the survey of Humanist figurative artists with the third installment featuring: Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Saleme, Diana Schmertz, Esteban del Valle, and Atena Farghadani.
The formidable imagery of humanist painting has been troublesome to incorporate within the framework of today’s painting. In the 1960s and 70s when the art market was burgeoning for trendy “art of the day,” artists like those of the Rhino Horn group predicted the shape of things to come. In the group’s manifesto they stated:
“Realize when you see our work that the so-called “thirty years of painting and sculpture” in this country has been built on a lie; it has been packaged, promoted and super-sold by ambitious critics, dealers and curators trying to build their own reputation as they fatten their bankrolls.”
This quotation echoes in the Museum of Modern Art’s recent “Forever Now” exhibition, the museum’s first contemporary painting survey in three decades. MoMA is renowned for organizing groundbreaking painting survey’s such as Dorothy Canning Miller’s six contemporary exhibitions of American art, which introduced nearly one hundred American artists to the public. “Forever Now” was a far cry from the museum’s esteemed history of seminal contemporary painting surveys. The exhibition was loaded with (largely) derivative and abstract painting (albeit there were some gems in the show) by artists who are established art market favorites. There was very little work in the show that had an emotional impact, but rather an affirmation of the status quo. The influence of money makes the art world go round.
Humanism in the arts is an evolving concept and goes against the evolution of the status quo. Since the heyday of Rhino Horn, there have been monumental changes in technology which has pushed the way our culture communicates and functions to new extremes. The paintings in “Forever Now” felt as if they were driven by technological and material energy. Therefore, I have compiled a list (which is only the beginning and will be expanded) of contemporary painters who are swimming against the grain of technological impulses and art world trends. Their work is figurative and steeped in the human psyche and condition in times of crisis. In some cases their work explores absurd phenomena in our society, or questions the significance of life’s dualities. Sometimes it is meant to disturb, shock, and elicit a visceral response. Overall, they assert new meanings, add to the terminology, and interrogate the lineage of painting.