For most artists the joy of creation is closely linked to the joy of appreciation; they want their work to be seen, and hopefully enjoyed, by the public. In NYC finding a way to exhibit the work of young and unknown artists is an ongoing struggle. Few established galleries show the work of unknowns and while there are some venues that focus on new talent the competition to show work is extreme. At the same time up-and-coming curators are struggling to move from assisting to designing their own shows. A new organization called Nude with a Goose is working to offer a solution to these dual problems- exhibits in free venues. Since they’re not working to cover overhead costs they can show work by unknown artists, and have the exhibits designed by unknown curators.
Their first show, Execution, was curated by Shannon McEneaney and included works by fourteen artists. The curator asked the artists to submit works that dealt with the concept of execution- the process by which art is created. Since contemporary art is often dismissed as being ‘something anyone could do’ she wanted to allow the artists to open a dialogue with viewers about their mode of execution. To this end she had each artist submit a statement, all of which were available for visitors to read, though they were not placed beside the artworks themselves. Walking through the exhibit first without the statements and then with them allowed me to compare my impressions of each artists’ methods with their own insights. In some cases the new information changed my view of the work dramatically and in others it augmented my original understanding.
The one video piece on display, a work by Dana Kash, was choppy and dizzying, showing vague images with only a few seconds of clarity. When I read her statement I discovered that the footage was taken with a cell phone camera, a method she sees as more spontaneous and evocative of her moment-to-moment experience. In this case an understanding of her methods made her work much more accessible.
Paul Bergeron’s quilt-like painting intrigued me to begin with; I found the geometry of it interesting and I liked the textures- thickly smeared paint and patches of fabric. In his statement he discussed his use of motifs, in particular images he associated with childhood, as the basis for his paintings. This psychological foundation is clearly responsible for the emotional power of the piece.
McEneaney sought to include works in a variety of mediums. Christine Wang’s blending of mediums was particularly eye-catching.
The rays of light are created by cutting fragments out of the canvas and the actual light is positioned so that the “rays” and the actual rays blend. The presence of a working lamp created a connection between our reality and the world shown in the painting. Although the painting is not strictly realist you had a sense that you could easily step between them. This was certainly a piece that wore its process on its sleeve; the steps leading to the final product were easily apparent and obviously carefully planned.
Undoubtedly my favorite work was the series of photographs by Este Lewis. Photography is a medium often dismissed as necessarily the work of amateurs. Lewis demonstrated her thoughtful execution through her choice of subject matter; the photographs depict an elderly woman, Thelma, with whom Lewis formed a close relationship. The images are touchingly personal and give you an intimate sense of their subject. Portraiture is a difficult business and Lewis’ use of props, different in each photograph, is well thought out and effective.
Taken together I felt that Execution not only demonstrated the deliberate thought process and skill of the artists and curator but also left the viewer with a sense of optimism about the future of the art scene in NYC. I am looking forward to their next exhibit.