NY Arts, p. 55
(An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor’s Doorstep
— By Piri Halasz
There are so many galleries in New York that a lot of good shows don’t get the full attention they deserve. Here are six that I feel were under-reported: One show of realistic painting worth mentioning was that of Adele Lau Rossetti Morosini at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, entitled “Shakespeare’s Plants” These mixed-media paintings will illustrate a book about the meanings that such plants would have had for Elizabethan audiences, and how Shakespeare used plant imagery to call to mind specific ideas and emotions, but the paintings stand by themselves as clear and precise. I was particularly intrigued by the mandrake or mandragora mentioned both in Othello, and by John Donne: “Go and catch a falling star, get with child a mandrake root…. “The mandrake root pictured by Morosini resembles a human figure uncannily.
Very different realistic painting could be seen in Sandra Scolnik’s show at CRG. Her detailed, meticulous pictures are uncanny in quite another way, evoking Henri Rousseau, Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo and Claes Oldenburg (if you can visualize this combo). Scolnik paints herself, alone or in groups of herself, standing or seated in banal interiors—a small room, a large room, or, in one case, a whole dollhouse. Sometimes she’s seen as a woman, sometimes as a child; fully dressed, in her undies, or a nightgown or nude. I usually don’t respond to narcissism, but Scolnik’s paintings rise above it.
Ameringer/Howard exhibited 1960s paintings by Friedel Dzubas. Dzubas was a color-field painter who never got the recognition he deserved because he didn’t achieve his mature style until the 1970s, when color-field painting itself was being edged out. I saw the Dzubas retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum in 83. and remembered its paintings from the 60s as overly influenced by the work of Helen Frankenthaler, but at Ameringer/Howard. this influence was much less noticeable, and the show itself correspondingly fresher and stronger. Its goodsized canvases each had just a few large, loose shapes that were full of motion, like banners flapping in the wind. The two I liked best were “Engadin I” (1962), and “Arch” (1963).
lftikhar and Elizabeth Dadi presented “They Made History” at Admit One. The Dadis are a Pakistani-American husband-and-wife team who divide their time between New York and Karachi. Their show featured ten backlit panels with digitalized color images. Two dealt with Pakistani themes, and eight showed the heads of English and American actors in their movie roles as leaders of other racial and national groups (Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, Chuck Connors as Geronimo, and so on). The press release explained that this was a commentary on “the politics of representation in today’s global media.” I enjoyed recognizing the famous actors, but found the handsome appearance of the work itself far more significant.
Peter Reginato showed his sculptures at Adelson. They were tall, narrow steel pieces composed of straight, looped or squiggly pieces of heavy wire, welded together with a congeries of small, biomorphic, cut-out shapes, and with each element painted a different color. Though predominantly abstract, most were verticals with one shape at the top that loosely equated to a head, a tripod of legs at the base, and a faintly humanoid feel. They had lots of energy, and cheery colors. Four came off unusually well: “The Last Found Qbject’ “Black and White Vertical” “My Red Rooster,” and above all, “Original Sin (for Eve Hesse).”
Finally, I liked some of the big, bold paintings by Zhu Wei at Plum Blossoms, a brand-new gallery in Chelsea. Many of these paintings depicted simplified, single Chinese heads, in a style that combined Asian and American influences (the latter especially reminiscent of the work of Alex Katz). Zhu’s painting of the water buffalo was the most individual and pleasing. The artist is a native of Beijing.
Copyright 2000 by Piri Halasz. This article is excerpted and adapted from Pin Halasz’ online column, (An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor’s Doorstep, whose website is http://piri.home.mindspring.com