Review of Voyeur at Lyons Wier Gallery

Curated by Dina Brodsky

Lyons Wier Gallery

542 W 24th St, New York, New York 10011

Reviewed by: Jacob Hicks and Angela Gram

 Observation for Entertainment, or the Pleasure of Looking

Curator Dina Brodsky has brought together an immense amount of technical painting prowess for this show about intentioned, pleasured looking.  The result is the constructed intertextuality between visual storytellers whose work feels decidedly literary in this context. The individual images tell the narratives of bodies, sex, romantic landscapes, empty architectures, minuscule myths, and magical realisms. I admired being pulled through the conduit of a classical skill-set toward individualized totalities-i.e, a woman being watched/caught as she descends the stairs, a symmetrical doubling of a birthed Venus reaching toward herself.  I admired Dina “Dostoyevsky” Brodsky’s  orchestration of these multiplied casts of disparate characters within far-reaching narratives, she being the maestro or marionette-wielding puppet master, aligning this story near that, with the guiding principal of pleasurable, secret looking.  Voyeur in French is literally “one who sees,”  and I without hesitation be-knight Brodsky with this title.

Maria Kreyn "Double Blind (After Francis Willey)" Needlepoint etching on plexi, backlit, 13x13" 2012

Maria Kreyn “Double Blind (After Francis Willey)” Needlepoint etching on plexi, backlit, 13×13″ 2012

With depictions of Christian iconography, burning Viking longships, and a series on Medieval armor, Maria Kreyn’s light box etchings elicit the etherial power of historical and formal Romanticism.  Each piece is achieved by a delicate needlepoint etching into plexiglass which is then backlit by LED lighting.  The resulting images are almost ghostlike as incandescent forms of bygone ages wistfully dissolve and materialize throughout the surface of each work.  Here the use of light as a medium becomes symbolic, vital, and appropriate.  19th century Romantic painters used illumination to communicate the numinous and transcendent.  Kreyn also achieves this but goes a step further.  Her illumination manifests history into the physical present, symbolizing knowledge gained from an obscured and darkened past.   It is a figurative “memory” of the unknown, a metaphorical subconscious, and a romantic vision that can only be seen while the light is burning.  Throughout the duration of Voyeur, Maria Kreyn’s piece, “Double Blind (After Francis Willey)” is a small and secluded work that becomes one of the most memorable pieces of the exhibition.

Cory Morgenstein “Swallowing Darkness” 2013, Oil on mirror, 14 x 12 in / 35.6 x 30.5 cm

To encounter this work is to touch momentary dissipation.  The artist’s self-portrait affixed to a mirror is both sensitive and violent; it breaths between these two states.  His bareness is scrutinized and touching; it transmutes from viscera and chicken-skin into a solid, sad eyed man.  The portrait’s mouth is open and on his embedded tongue burns a mystery.  There sits detritus-dark and dirty.  Upon closer inspection one notices the black mass is covered in glitter-an odd interruption.  The bracing subject, with his tongue like a hand made for showing, presents his prize, which hovers on the border between interiority and the exterior-right there on a literal cusp.  Is it a pill, a hole, bird-shit, a microcosmos? The answer to this mystery is in the mirror reflection behind the portrait: it is the viewer looking and desiring to know.  It is the other becoming the self, and it is this experience encapsulated.

Michelle Doll “Couple (LQ1)”, 2013 oil on canvas 50 x 44″

Michelle Doll’s large scale paintings reveal the intimacy and vulnerability inherent in human relationships.  Her models fill the canvas in delicate vignettes with closely cropped compositions.  Though this subject matter is adopted by many figurative artists, Doll’s work is unique and made successful partly due to her use of formal devices.  Her scraping, visceral brushstrokes harshly interrupt the boundaries of flesh and landscape between grating moments of exposed underpainting.  The underpainting (usually a deep orange or red) is especially striking when it shows through the flesh of her figure’s bodies, leaving them raw, open, and ultimately incomplete.  Doll’s fractured figures are neither fully realized nor completely obscured. They exist in a tenuous space and embody the nebulous and vulnerable moments of their own intimate relationships.

In “Couple LQ1” (above) a woman and a man recline on a bed.  As the painting’s main subject, the woman is vividly rendered compared to the man’s ambiguous nude torso fading into obscurity.  As she pensively gazes downward a psychological tension between them may be inferred.  She fails to acknowledge his gesture and he is barely present, completely lacking an identity.  As Michelle Doll captures such singular, private moments, her work is in a sense strikingly diverse.  Each painting conveys one glimpse of the complex human experience.  Wether it’s tense, sentimental, or psychological, her work ultimately reminds the viewer of their own personal existence.

Mitra Walter  “Frontal”  2013, Oil on panel, 30 in. diameter / 76 cm. diameter

Mitra Walter “Frontal” 2013, Oil on panel, 30 in. diameter / 76 cm. diameter

Walter’s tondo affixes a viewer like a sighted-target onto these colorfully-flarring females.  Blushed plush cheeks provide evidence for a sort of 1950’s empathetic shame we might want to feel with and for these characters “caught” in exposition.  They have lined up for their tamely-revealing photo, the revelation, like their painted cheek embarrassment (the same sort of shade as their high heels and leggings-warm against a cool green wall) is that they step into bashfully the ideal aesthetic of the perfected American female.  This is the image ceremony that every woman will undergo, a ceremony in which she drapes herself beneath her cultural aesthetic-the ritual of becoming nothing deeper than a pleasing image.  Each body is a manifested silhouette  absence the same deep black as the canted floor- a metaphor for how we exhibit a predestined, constructed persona amplified by our own embarrassment  at such a disregarded conflagration for anything below the surface.

Dina Brodsky “Return to Old Towers”, 8″ diameter, oil on plexiglas

Dina Brodsky “Return to Old Towers”, 8″ diameter, oil on plexiglass 2014

To observe Dina Brodsky’s impeccably rendered miniature painting is to witness a powerful and seductive force.  It demands to be examined and exerts its will through an alluring and almost inconceivable level of detail.   Yet one must surpass such fleeting first impressions to encounter a glimpse of the abject sublime.   Two monoliths rise in unison from desolate soil.  Indomitable towers embodying all of humanity.  Like sacred ancestral visions they manifest through time and space and death.  Stark hallucinations of archaic power.   The undeniable Romanticism of this work compliments its intimate, miniature size.  In order to view it, one must strain the eye and yearn to know its obscure and meticulous character.  The voyeur cannot help but look closer.

Artists: James Adelman, Luis Borrero, Dina Brodsky, Diana Corvelle, Bonnie Dewitt, Michelle Doll, Joshua Henderson, Judith Klausner, Maria Kreyn, Amber Lia-Kloppel, Cory Morgenstein, Tun Myaing, Mitra Walter

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