Artists have examined the concept of a utopian state of mind and being throughout many generations. Evermore pertinent these days, the nine artists comprising the current exhibition at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects present their take on the subject by utilizing their own personal background or analyzing our society’s general tendencies. True to the exhibition’s title, each work embodies an inherent contradiction—the beautiful, playful and optimistic are immediately undermined by the grotesque, disturbing and negative.
Tracey Baran’s sun-bleached photograph In the Garden (2007) captures a naked man and woman standing in an intimate embrace. While the man appears absorbed in the quiet moment, the woman stares intensely at the camera—visibly disturbed and detached from the romantic setting. Ian Davis’ paintings are concerned with the dissolution of the individual in our increasingly conformist culture. People are portrayed as cloned beings that strive to attain commonalities rather than distinctions. In Clients (2008) – where twenty stretch-limousines form a circle in the midst of a desolate environment – the emblematic contradictions are vividly clear, as material success becomes futile in the face of redundancy. Other works, such as Amy Cutler’s figurative drawings and Dean Byington’s landscape paintings, position the beautiful alongside the grotesque, while Ori Gersht’s photograph and Danny Jauregui’s charred-wood sculptures present objects in their “dystopian” state. These artists have thus approached the concept of utopia from a broad range of perspectives, only to conclude that we are heading towards the unraveling of reality, as we know it.
Images: Tracey Baran, In the Garden (2007); Ian Davis, Clients (2008); Ori Gersht, Blow Up #4 (2007). Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.