Art in New Mexico

The paintings by Matthew McConville in the project room of Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque read a little bit at first glance like landscapes by Martin Johnson Heade, an American painter (d. 1911) who seemed to grab a reverie at the bend of the river, magnify the Amazonian butterfly, and set the imagination areel. McConville,with a nod to the Hudson River School painters like Frederic Church, does paint “landscapes.”

But, at Levy, timed with LAND/ART, McConvilles works memorializing American earthworks by the likes of Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Jim Turrell, Walter de Maria,  effect a new sort of “landscape.”

The homage then is not to what the Corcoran Gallery called “the domesticated landscape,” but to a landscape altered by the gestures of those ambitious earth sculptors of the 1970s, finished with painting yet not in the slightest done with the gesture, as they went out, way far outside the frame. Awe of the sublime kind identified some of their means if not ends,  possibly (a skeptic would say) because for a New Yorker to get there, wherever “there” was, was rough, hot, no bathrooms. McConville has noted similarly. He said, “There is something a little bit frightening about “Lightning Field”, as well as Niagara Falls, and Hoover Dam. The effect of being in the presence of these is similar; the viewer feels less significant, physically vulnerable, but with an increased consciousness of the place they inhabit. I believe that the Hudson River School knew this subject well. To visit Niagara Falls is to imagine falling over it.”

Taking on not lanscape but the varietals of costume and fashion is the photographer Deborah Oropallo, whose show of polka dotty silhouettes that make up her digital prints on aluminum, Wild Wild West Show, at Turner-Carroll Gallery led Conrad to remark that theres some Sigmar Polke going on there. Can you compose a picture from the absence of parts? appears to be a question of this work. If the fashion world has established the turf of desire to be the sum of parts — from Guess jeans to Chanel lipsticks, the icon in the picture reads as cheeks, sunglasses, lips, plumped up for the camera — what then happens when the body is effectively rubbed out, a gone-missing of digital adjustment? The narrative accompanying this work describes that they are the silhouettes of rodeo clowns and queens, bull riders, with the bodies and heads smudged out. But as with anything that subtracts, the paradox is the doubling and tripling on the unconscious as after-image. (Left: Pearl.)

Since it was Robert Rauschenberg (d. 2008) who said he tried to play in the gap between art and life it made me think about how hard a time I have had reading anything since finishing Roberto Bolanos astonishing 2666. Right up there with Dante. At William Shearburn Gallerys new-old Rauschenberg show the earliest Rauschenberg is a 1964 lithograph from his Dante drawing series, done between 1959-60. Bear in mind that 1964 was the year Rauschenberg won the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale. He went on tour that year with Merce Cunningham Dance Company (and John Cage). A total of 34 drawings preceded the 1964 lithograph (as did 33 other drawings all on the Cantos theme). Per a Princeton prof, “The 34 Dante drawings are small, approx. 12″ x 15″, and are composed of images suggested by Dantes text which are taken from magazines, books, and other print media, and impressed into the drawing by a method of solvent transfer, lighter fluid used to lift the image from its source and rubbed onto the drawing by means of a ballpoint or other stylus.” One has to love that Rauschenberg saw in the cantos the terrors and melee of a horse race cross-country (right).

Intepreting  tradition with cinematic intrigues is Xavier Mascaro (below), who opened at Gebert Contemporary July 3  a show of iron and bronze sculptures including his guardians and “cultural objects.” The artist who studied painting in Barcelona, and is French, began to make bronzes in 1989. His large-scale installation of guardians at Pariss Palais Royal, in 2008, was tremendous. The artist works nimbly with issues of skeletal remains, taking the very large back to the very small in ways that also comment on substance and essence.

Finally but  absolutely not least, in the realm of the very small I want to give a nod to a Bay Area jeweler I have long admired, Sandra Enterline, whose solo show is at Patina Gallery. Enterline graduated RISD in 1983. Shes shown with icons of the jewelry world, makers of the unwearable (unlike Enterlines work, which is eminently wearable), like Kiff Slemmons.  Not only is she a mistress of ingenious hinging but of a lightness that puts the body to work with the jewelry, instead of against.

I forayed around a bit from Ivans backroom blog and found this on

“The 2009 Cheongju International Craft Biennale under its current director Dr. Ihnbum Lee seeks to position craft broadly within the arts as a unifying element. Ihnbum Lee claims that various art forms have been “˜boxed in to separate disciplines, making it difficult to experience their common nature. For Lee, craft offers an alternative to the commodification that has both put the planet in peril and separated arts from themselves. Craft in this biennale is engaged in a search for meaning in a tortuous era.”

While I am sorry in part to hear that craft now appears to be putting itself through the contortions that are usually the mainstay of contemporary art, is is interesting that an entire craft biennial has been organized in Korea. In the meantime there is still great work made by hand to see all over Santa Fe.

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