Vantage Point

Vantage Point: Works by Antonio Marra by Shoshi Rosen

Italian-born painter Antonio Marra’s artworks are a stunning display of color and geometry. Deep, meticulous streaks of vibrant blues, purples, yellows, and greens slash across his canvases to form phantasmagorias of shape and color. With a unique multi-perspective technique, Marra carves layers of vibrant, animated patterns into his abstracted paintings. 

Marra’s paintings are instantly striking, but they grow increasingly more enchanting with prolonged visual engagement. As viewers peer at the canvases from different angles, the images begin to shift and change. In fact, the paintings each display a triptych of perspectives, which unfold and alternate as viewers circle the paintings. Standing before Marra’s artworks, a beautiful, endlessly spiraling kaleidoscope comes to mind – and the longer one looks, the harder it becomes to look away. 

In order to fully experience Marra’s paintings, movement is obligatory. Access to the many overlaid colors and patterns embedded in the artworks is contingent on the path of the viewer as they pace before the paintings. Certainly, no two sets of eyes will experience these masterpieces the same way. As viewers map their paths in front of the artworks, they concurrently map a unique pattern of dynamic, morphing colors and shapes. The effect is both mesmerizing and playful, not unlike a handheld kaleidoscope. 

Left;  Alexa, Be Quiet,  acrylic on canvas, 39.4 x 39.4 inches  Right  The Lust and the Burden of the Painter , acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 39.4 inches

Left; Alexa, Be Quiet, acrylic on canvas, 39.4 x 39.4 inches

Right The Lust and the Burden of the Painter, acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 39.4 inches

Marra’s two paintings in Weinberger Fine Art, “Alexa, be Quiet” and “The Lust and Burden of the Painter” are thus highly individualized artworks. They are as much characterized by streaks of color on canvas as they are by the unique movements of their viewers. The artist does not fashion a singular visual experience, but rather encourages viewers to forge their own. For Marra, reality is subjective, multi-dimensional, and in a state of constant fluctuation. 

Circling “Alexa, be Quiet,” a drastic contrast in color and pattern materializes. From the left, the painting appears to be composed of many interlaced triangles of vibrant neon yellows, reds, purples, and greens. Straight on, the bright colors pale to an array of pastel sherbets, teals, and periwinkles. From the far right perspective, the colors give way almost entirely; only white, black, and pale blue are visible, and the complex pattern of interlaced triangles simplifies to a few large shapes. The emergent difference between the three perspectives is captivating and extraordinary. 

Antonio Marra’s painted kaleidoscope concept fosters highly individual experiences and compels multiple, extended viewings. The paintings embrace orphism’s spiraling vortexes of color, optical art’s hypnotic illusions, and geometric abstraction’s mathematical precision. They are at once delightfully simple and beguilingly complex, brazenly forthright and mysteriously secretive. Marra’s artwork requires active, dynamic, and extensive viewership.

Portrait of the Midwest

Portrait of the Midwest: Clare Doveton and Larassa Kabel’s “Beyond the Horizon”

Majestic, black and white horses tumble through the air. Their hyper-realistic bodies are captured mid-jump, or perhaps mid-fall, suspended delicately in the precarious moments before their inevitable landings. Beside them, celestial landscapes glow with an eerie yet inviting warmth. They are luminous and alluring, like sirens calling sweetly to viewers to enter their mysterious otherworld. Tangled and snarled thistles are cast in black silhouette against backgrounds of plain white. This is “Beyond the Horizon,” a joint show of works from Larassa Kabel and Clare Doveton. 

Kabel’s cascading horse drawings conjure a distinct tension. Their muscles bulge and flex; their skin ripples and stretches. Their manes and tails billow around them as they approach inevitable collision with the ground. Though this impact is just seconds away, the ground itself is not visible. Kabel removes her plummeting horses from context, instead placing them against backgrounds of plain white. The fate of the animal is thus uncertain. Perhaps they will gracefully land their intentional, elegant jumps. Perhaps they will crash clumsily into the ground from abrupt and injurious falls. Or perhaps they will tumble endlessly through the air, trapped in Kabel’s empty settings. 

Clare Doveton’s landscapes, too, convey an unmistakably tense quality. The artist reimagines scenes of Kansas nature with glowing pink horizons, pulsing cosmic constellations, and fiery red fields. The paintings seem soft, warm, and hospitable. They are tempting and indulgent, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the lush, mystical scenery. And yet, the works are quietly and dissonantly menacing. The glinting, rosy light of the horizon is visible only through an ominous, dark ring of deep purples and maroons. Doveton’s alluring, dreamlike havens are just out of reach, just beyond the looming circles of darkness. The paintings are at once romantic and tragic, tangible and elusive, enticing and isolating. 

Clare Doveton, This Vast Night, oil on canvas, 48x96 inches, price upon request

Clare Doveton, This Vast Night, oil on canvas, 48x96 inches, price upon request

Larassa Kabel,  At Last , colored pencil and artist’s tears on paper, 64 x 35.5 inches, price upon request

Larassa Kabel, At Last, colored pencil and artist’s tears on paper, 64 x 35.5 inches, price upon request

When exhibited together, Kabel and Doveton’s works call and respond to one another. On the north wall of Weinberger Fine Art’s Drawing Room hangs “At Last,” one of Kabel’s falling horse drawings. The monochrome animal dives headfirst into the artist’s undefined abyss. Its veins protrude from its outstretched neck, and its limbs fan out from its twisted body. Across from Kabel’s drawing, “This Vast Night” by Doveton depicts a gleaming sunset beyond a lens-like ring of ominous gloom. Whereas Kabel’s horse drawing is subject sans setting, Doveton’s landscape painting is setting sans subject. Whereas Kabel extracts color from her plummeting horse, Doveton employs an expansive range of colors, even more varied and vibrant than the open-air Kansas landscape from which she draws inspiration. “At Last” and “This Vast Night” exemplify the subtle yet profound interactions between Kabel and Doveton’s unique bodies of work. 

Left: Clare Doveton, Tall Thistle, Matfield Station 2, ink on paper, 30 x 22.5  Right: Larassa Kabel, The Tremor of Dusk, colored pencil and artist’s tears on paper, 34 x 23  Prices upon request

Left: Clare Doveton, Tall Thistle, Matfield Station 2, ink on paper, 30 x 22.5

Right: Larassa Kabel, The Tremor of Dusk, colored pencil and artist’s tears on paper, 34 x 23

Prices upon request

Both Larassa Kabel and Clare Doveton simultaneously romanticize the delicate beauty of Midwestern imagery and warn of its perils. The artworks on display are irresistibly calming yet anxiety-producing. “Beyond the Horizon” is a chilling and nostalgic portrait of the Midwest – of the fields that raised us, of the creatures that spoke to us, and of the skies that inspired us. 

Objects on Stage

Objects on Stage: Works by Tom Gregg

Tom Gregg’s body of work is a visual homage to objects. With vivid coloration and obsessive precision, his object-centric paintings weave together dreams, reality, and imagination. Gregg’s intensely profound yet remarkably unpretentious paintings are at once rooted in established tradition and on the cutting edge of contemporaneity.

            Gregg’s sleeping children series is defined by contradiction and ambiguity. The large-scale oil paintings feature various assorted objects, all represented with meticulous accuracy. Among them are a teddy bear, a pair of scissors, a high-heeled pump, and an alarm clock, all placed delicately on a foregrounded shelf. Behind the shelves, cartoonish outlines of sleeping children loom against backgrounds of glowing violets and brilliant teals. Gregg imagines the sharper-than-life objects in the foreground to be the innocent, ephemeral images that weave through children’s dreams. To him, the paintings are peaceful and innocuous explorations of a child’s mysterious and delicate subconscious.

Left:  Boy and Scissors,  oil on panel, 47 x 39 in. Right:  Girl and Branch,  oil on panel, 47 x 39 in.

Left: Boy and Scissors, oil on panel, 47 x 39 in. Right: Girl and Branch, oil on panel, 47 x 39 in.

            And yet, the paintings convey an unmistakably troubling quality. Dreams and reality seem to inverse on the canvas. The over-simplified children are too unstable, too minimalistic to represent reality; the painstakingly realistic objects before them are too life-like to represent a dream. The cartoonish lines of the children’s bodies combine with their peaceful, content expressions to form an ominously vulnerable quality. Fast asleep, the children are unsettlingly susceptible to danger, either dreamed or realized. In Gregg’s sleeping children paintings, dreams flirt casually with nightmares.

            Two still life paintings, Pink Grenade and Little Duck, represent the artist’s career-long meditation on objects. Similar to the foreground of the sleeping children paintings, Gregg’s still life pictures represent scrupulously true-to-life objects on a simple shelf. Here, though, the shelves become stages, elevating and honoring the items they exhibit. Resting on their stages, the objects are quietly powerful and independent. Humans are at once absent and present in these works – though we do not see them, we feel their connections to the objects with which they interact.

Left:  Little Duck,  oil on panel, 12.5 x 10 in. Right:  Pink Grenade,  oil on panel, 22.5 x 17. 5 in.

Left: Little Duck, oil on panel, 12.5 x 10 in. Right: Pink Grenade, oil on panel, 22.5 x 17. 5 in.

            In theory, the subjects of Pink Grenade and Little Duck are unrelated, even opposite; grenades inflict pain and destruction whereas toy ducks encourage playfulness and imagination. Yet the two paintings are so unwaveringly objective that the grenade appears no more or less ominous than the duck. The stage-like shelf and simple background of the still lifes remove the objects from their respective contexts. In Gregg’s painted world, objects are constant and unassuming. Only the subconscious assumptions of viewers assign meaning to Gregg’s objects; only these assumptions differentiate grenades from toy ducks.

            Gregg’s objects are steady and understandable; his figures are abstracted, unstable, and ambiguous. He presents objects simply, accurately, and without bias, leaving it to the viewer to interpret and contextualize their significance. Quietly and profoundly, Tom Gregg’s object paintings exist outside of the chaotic world around them.

Reminiscing on Tangibility

Reminiscing on Tangibility: Photo Series of Andy Gershon

Thomas Struth,  Art Institute of Chicago II,  chromeogenic print 72x86 inches

Thomas Struth, Art Institute of Chicago II, chromeogenic print 72x86 inches

Between 1989 and 1992, contemporary photographer Thomas Struth produced a series of photographs taken from inside some of the most iconic and magnificent museums in the world. The photos feature great works of Western art history in the galleries of the Louvre, the Pantheon, the Art Institute of Chicago, and others. The true focus of Struth’s works, though, was on the viewers perusing the gallery. Unselfconsciously, the subjects gaze at the works of art, at the museum itself, and at each other. Museum Photographs invited reflection on the act of viewership in the museum and complicated the relationship between object and subject.

Twenty years later, Andy Gershon reintroduces this polemic within the context of the digital landscape of the 21st century. Like Struth’s Museum Photographs, Gershon’s series Photourist captures unknowing subjects as they gaze at art and tourist attractions. Gershon’s photographs, however, add a third participant to the dialogue between viewer and object: the focal point of the works is on cell phone screens, clutched in the hands of tourists and museumgoers as they snap photographs of the great works of art and culture before them.

Andy Gershon,  MOMA (Matisse),  chromeogenic print, 40x40 inches

Andy Gershon, MOMA (Matisse), chromeogenic print, 40x40 inches

Perspective is at play in the images of Photourist. Gershon manipulates angles in such a way that forces viewers to see the tourist attractions only through the phone screen in the foreground. In the background, the cultural monuments are only partially visible. Certainly, Gershon’s method of inserting a cell phone screen as an obstacle between viewer and artwork calls into question the use – and overuse – of technology in place of candid engagement with the exterior world. The literal screen in Photourist thus takes on a symbolic dimension, as it functions to screen or obfuscate the observer’s view of represented artworks and monuments.  

Andy Gershon,  Banksy,  chromeogenic print, 40x40 inches

Andy Gershon, Banksy, chromeogenic print, 40x40 inches

Along with Photourist, two works from Gershon’s archival series titled Concert Tickets are currently available at Weinberger Fine Art. To create Concert Tickets, the artist preserved tickets from concerts he attended between 1978 and 1995, and now presents them as large-scale prints on cotton rag paper. The resulting effect is remarkably three-dimensional, as if the printed images adopt the texture of the aged, slightly ragged tickets. Concert Tickets seamlessly transports viewers to the gyrating audience of a Prince concert, to the grimy backstage of a The Clash show, to the overheated tour van of Sonic Youth.

Andy Gershon,  Concert Ticket (Bob Dylan 1980) , archival print on paper, 32x42 inches

Andy Gershon, Concert Ticket (Bob Dylan 1980), archival print on paper, 32x42 inches

At first glace, Photourist and Concert Tickets share few visual or symbolic similarities. Yet, in both series, Gershon leaves viewers with a lingering sense of nostalgia – nostalgia for overcrowded rock concerts that reek of beer and cigarette smoke, nostalgia for a time when art was consumed with eyes and not with iPhones. Gershon’s work wistfully calls on the Internet-crazed world to experience art and music candidly and tangibly – to observe without the barrier of a screen, and to collect physical memories rather than digital ones.