August is the toughest month to find a gallery exhibition that will inspire most critics’ fingers to pound the keyboard. With so many galleries closed, and others emphasizing the coming season’s first exhibition in early September, there tends to be a general lack of interest in mounting a show, especially anything substantive. However, there are some good gallery exhibitions here and there, one being “It’s Always Summer on the Inside” at Anton Kern Gallery in Chelsea. Organized by Dan McCarthy, the exhibition features a vast array of two-dimensional works where the artists, as stated in the exhibition’s catalog, “…tend to work in an intuitive, direct and personal manner.”
I was first drawn into the exhibition by Robert Moskowitz’s Hardball (1992), a large oil on canvas painting of a southpaw in silhouette, hurling a high hard one directly at the viewer. Hardball reminds me quite a bit of artists like Ben Shahn and Jacob Lawrence who too had a flare for the lyrical in creating an alluring composition to enhance a powerful narrative. Once inside the gallery, I was quickly drawn to Andreas Schulze’s Untitled (Mac Duff) (2002), an acrylic painting on unprimed canvas that spewed forth spiraling eyes and noses held aloft with ‘smileus maximus’ grins. If you get in close enough to the canvas so most or all of your peripheral vision is covered, the colors, contrast and forms will ignite in you palpable eye twitches.
Seeing Sean Landers’ Around the World Alone (the Gloucesterman) (2011) in the context of the show makes abundantly clear the power of this work. The fact that the captain of this classic vessel is in full clown make-up and staring intently into space – a gaze that is intensified by the exaggerated perspective in the floor boards -- leaves you with a slight tinge of anxiety and fear. Perhaps it’s the background of swelling waves and the heaving slant of the boat that is so destabilizing for the viewer. It’s as if a vortex is about to be created, followed by a heavy wave that is about to whack you from behind. From a technical standpoint, if you get in real close to the surface, you can see the remaining penciled-in grid lines the artist used to transfer the image to scale.
Gingham Guitar (2012), Dan McCarthy’s blue-skinned, bikini-clad, guitar-playing girl with road kill hair looks like it may be part of a larger narrative à la Raymond Pettibon sans the text, while Robin Winters’ Moment of Truth (1980) owes much to the art of James Ensor. The most curious piece in the show is Marlene McCarty’s Lucy and Janice (1977-1988). In it, you see a loving embrace between a young woman and an ape surrounded by a halo of pristine white space that is set in motion by stark black foliage-like accents. After a moment, you will notice the bushy pubic area of the young woman as it shows right through her jeans -- a point of interest for the ape suggesting more of a nod to solidarity and compassion, than any indication of sexuality.
If you decide to visit a few galleries and find yourself on the west end of 20th Street check out “It’s Always Summer on the Inside.” The exhibition closes August 17th.
(Image on top: Andreas Schultze, Untitled (Mac Duff), 2002, Acrylic on untreated cotton, 67 x 86 3/4 inches; Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery.)