Cloud Nine finds its roots in the religious art of Sassetta and Bernini, the bold and emotional works of Gericault, Delacroix and Goya from the Romantic period, William Blake's paintings and prints from "Heaven & Hell", the "inner language" of Clyfford Still's abstractions and the contemporary psychedelic & color field paintings of Philip Taffee, Bridget Riley and Tom Moody. This exhibition bears no connection to the much-publicized 2005 exhibition titled "Ecstasy: In and About Altered States" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which focused on the drug "ecstasy" or its chemical name MDMA. Nor is it intended to reference tantric sex or elements of rave or techno culture.
In an age when feelings of ecstasy can be realized in a six hour "experience" (MDMA), the more common route to harmony and happiness comes from the prozac revolution. Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors such as Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft and others effectively repress feelings of depression and anxiety. By anesthetizing their emotional pain and conflict, people today seem to have done away with the need for ecstatic experiences. However, it could be argued that in today's strained global economy and potentially apocalyptic landscape, the ability to escape or transcend to ecstatic states may never have been more necessary.
The artworks in Cloud Nine are visual interpretations of the concept of ecstasy and generally fall into the three categories: religious (or spiritual), philosophical, and personal.
LINDA GANJIAN'S sculpture "Theresa and I, Dreaming of You" is informed by Bernini's "Ecstasy of St. Theresa" and intentionally conflates religious and sexual ecstasy by combining the visual vocabulary of both: phallic towers, heavy lidded eyes, stacks of breasts, and other forms arise from a turbulent sea of fabric.
AMY HILL'S oil painting titled "Worship" is influenced by the spiritual qualities found in northern Renaissance painter Hans Memling.
JESSE LAMBERT'S drawing "Future Butterfly" depicts a man reclining in an ambiguous state, perhaps sleeping, dreaming, hibernating or expiring. Vegetation bursts from his body as if it is an awakening from a dormant state of chrysalis.
BRUCE CHECEFSKY'S piece deals with simple pleasures, powerfully built on the achingly beautiful lines of the Japanese flower DAHLIA Tsuki Yore No Shisha and how they reside deep in this searing photograph.
FRED TOMASELLI'S collages combine cutout images of plants, birds, smiling mouths and hands with occasional passages of paint.
JEANNE TREMEL'S abstract painting on paper sees ecstasy as a "transformation to take place, both, in mind and psyche".
In CHRIS JEHLY'S large painting ecstasy occurs with moments of catastrophic disbelief where feelings of fear and panic are replaced by feelings of euphoria.
LORELLA PALENI'S painting has a surreal pulp magazine cover feel that presents a revelatory daydream that suddenly brings the viewer to a parallel reality or unknown truth.
In "Heaven/Hell" BRENT RIDGE focus' on the oppositional pole that represents a space between the literal and the transcendental.
CHRIS CLAREY creates an installation about out-of-body experience using wallpaper of images of over 1500 men downloaded from gay porn and dating websites collected over the last twenty years. Additionally, his desktop takes on mythic proportions when pixels are blown up to larger-than-life paintings.
CHAM GIOBBI's piece "Se7n Gluttony (After Freud)" is a collage made from hundreds of photographic fragments covered with bees wax, embodies the isolation and shame of an obsessive urge, yet the private satisfaction of gorging leads one to a blissful, decadent state.
DAVID KRAMER contributes a painting on paper of euphoria as seen through the eyes of his "everyman" persona.
PATRICIA FABRICANT's gouache paintings are a meditation on color & line. She aims to move beyond thought & conscious intent into a pure visual, transcendental space.
GREGORY DE LA HABA creates a wailing wall for recently departed artist Mike Kelley who reportedly died as a result of suicide. He creates a dynamic mixed media installation for an artist who may have been searching for something beyond the material world.
J.FIBER is the collaborative artist team of James Esber & Jane Fine whose works on paper feature cartoony images with lush colors of mischievous, sometimes sexy characters.