Newman Popiashvili Gallery is pleased to present If It’s So Then Let Me Know, the second solo exhibition at the gallery of Brooklyn-based artist Chris Fennell. Appropriating its title from a Big Star song lyric, the show is a meditation on relationships, both personal and cosmic, and the idea that perception and reality are often worlds apart.
This show continues Fennell’s ongoing practice of creating mixed media collages whose organic and geometric patterns reference nature, mathematics, architecture, and religious art. Fennell’s primary medium is paper, cut in differently sized circles and lines that overlap in layers. The density of layering and the hypnotic, closely-knit facture result in animated and undulating surfaces, where subject melds with a sense of relentless process. The shift between visual and material is emphasized by the viewer’s proximity to the work.
Paintings such as The Bad Seed, Watching/Waiting, and Quicksand reference the biography of the artist, and exhibit an underlying current of unease and self-indictment. Their small scale enhances the viewer’s complicity by beckoning close observation. Jewel-like in their metallic, glittering, and transparent layers, they draw the viewer in with their vivid, tactile surfaces. Activating the viewer from passivity, often with literal mirroring, one is now implicated in the messy business of being human. In Peckerwood, two black and white symmetries are joined by a web of emerald green and gold. Naturalistic metaphors wrestle with a sensory psychedelic meltdown.
Answer to Job, inspired by Carl Jung’s essay of the same name, explores Job’s unfortunate status as the object of a bet between God and Satan. Overlapping energies swirl around a tight, hub-like core, in an unstable melting sensation. Exploring the cosmic scale further, To and Fro Upon The Earth responds to the biblical struggle for power between good and evil. Gestural and map-like, it’s layers are both obscured by and melded with a veil of eye-like mirrors floating above, blind to the activity below. In both these works, nature is evoked and simultaneously confounded.
In their conception and in their construction, Fennell’s works function as a working model of the ambiguity of consciousness and perception. They mirror the sense that the world around us is a seemingly familiar but subjective construct, one that unravels and reveals deep complexities and unsolvable mysteries upon close examination. The more we know, the less we know. The sense of existential uncertainty residing just beneath the surface of perception is one of the core ideas in Fennell’s work. The work is anti-mimetic, in the sense of seeing an image and rendering it. Finished works are more like a map of processes, a record of the overlap and interplay of mind and hand. The end results are not remote or aloof, but rather a kind of parallel nature. Simplicity is undercut by the welcome glitches and complexities that enter the equation when differing kinds of information intersect. Odd notes and undercurrents weave their way into one’s grasp of the image as a whole. The scale and qualities of the work refer back always to the human condition: its surface is skin, its rhythms are the rise and fall of breaths.
Chris Fennell was recently featured in the group show “Mystics: A Blessed Rage For Order” at BRIC Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn. He has shown in solo and group shows at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art in Miami; a two-person exhibition at PS122, in Manhattan, titled Here and There; and has been featured in various other group shows in New York City, Long Island, Seattle, Atlanta and Chicago.