Monday, September 24, 2007

Dreaming of Black Mountain

This weekend I spent some time with a friend of mine, he’s an artist and a professor, and where I tend to be didactic, he sees the humanity in just about everyone. It’s a good lesson to remember; it is easy to slide down a slippery slope into absolutism…especially when dealing with art and artists.

Also this weekend, Dreaming of Black Mountain opened at the Jane Gray gallery in Riverside/Brooklyn. Featuring the work of Kurt Polkey and Morrison Pierce, the name alone raised questions of what it means to be a part of an artistic community. So, I eagerly anticipated the work…and I was curious about the place where the artists’ work would intersect, as they are friends, and in the past have been studio-mates.

Both artists are making work that addresses the art scene in Jacksonville, and both artists have invested in a curiously precious sort of anti-art aesthetic. Pierce’s works, in paint and sculpture share an ethos with that former “bad-boy” of Jacksonville: Lee Harvey. Using crafty materials—a play-do-esque clay, bacon bags, and children’s guns, Pierce’s work made the kind of glaringly obvious points that Harvey once sought to make with his work.

Two pieces leap to mind, “Jacksonville Art Prison,” and another work (whose name I can’t recall) that featured a tiny graveyard outside of an office. The work was about the grinding numbness that office workers inevitably experience. When asked if he is, in fact, an office worker, Pierce answered with a kind of über cool hauteur, that no, he wasn’t. And offered no further illumination.

Polkey’s works vacillated between paired-down, oversized paintings and tiny, tiny, drawings. The larger works, especially those of horses, draw heavily on Susan Rothenburg’s works, and, closer to home—the works of Tod Murphy that were recently exhibited at MOCA.

His landscape, with the word “landscape” stencilled across the sky, recalls Ruscha’s series, “Course of an Empire” which were themselves, related to Tomas Cole’s “Course of Empire.” Cole was the founder of the Hudson River School, and perhaps that is why Polkey chose to paint his landscape with a blue-yellow sky and tobacco/sepia earth. Perhaps too, it explains the decision to shoot the video installation accompanying the show in tones and tints of high yellow as well.

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