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Works on Paper

Anna Kustera Gallery
520 West 21st Street, 212-989-0082
February 12 - March 28, 2009
Reception: Thursday, February 12, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Nicoletta West Carly Steward Fay Ray Mike Paré Mattia Biagi

Each of these artists opens our eyes to new, exciting ways of seeing and experiencing. In their multi-dimensional works, they employ everything from homespun materials like yarn to textile designs to the most unusual such as pools of black tar and relics of what remains after an exhibition has been taken down. Determined to go beyond the obvious, they present art that demands our full attention and study, igniting our sensibilities with their unlikely visions.

With yarn, thread, markers and tape, Swiss artist Nicoletta West creates idiosyncratic collages that evoke the seemingly conflicting realms of domesticity and surrealism. In her most recent work, the central female figure almost always hangs upside – like a bat – revealing only her body from the waist down. Though fashionably dressed in a skirt, boots and gloves, she is obviously out of control and out of her element. Interested in gender politics, West subverts the homey associations of the materials here by placing her subjects in jeopardy in ironically beautiful compositions. In one case, the figure is surprisingly surrounded by an image of an old city and in another a dog appears, a safe image that does nothing to relieve her helplessness.

What happens to an exhibition space after an exhibition ends? While most of us would never think to ask the question, Los Angeles-based Carly Steward sees the answer as crucial to fully appreciating the exhibition, just as memories can often be as powerful as the events they recall. Here she offers a bound book that she created based on a piece of drywall she found at the Los Angeles County Museum after a museum wall had been torn down after being up for 20+ years. The piece of wall had layer upon layer of different paint used from various exhibitions over the years. She dissected each layer of paint and created monochromatic pages of each color that she found. Every page in the book represents a different wall color from a specific exhibition at the museum. She researched the archives of exhibitions from the museum and created her own exhibition timeline.

Fay Ray offers two new gorgeous shimmering collages, “New Year, New You,” and “Perfectly Power”, that combine various items associated with women, from ribbons, lipstick and high heels to beautiful legs and arms, none of them connected in their customary ways. Both collages appear to be placed in the middle of a dark night, the first glowing with a greenish light while the second shines silvery. At first glance, they might be mistaken for pretty corsages, if it weren’t for the knife and the can of soda hidden in their midst. This disturbing absurdity stems from her wish to inspire questions about the prevailing views of the female body. She takes as themes the sexualization of space and objects, the uncanny and the grotesque in her striking work.

Mike Pare found inspiration for his new large-scale graphite drawings in tribal textiles, ranging from Navajo blankets, tribal Middle Eastern rugs and contemporary tie-dye hangings. Using only shades of black, gray and white, he manages to create entire universes with seemingly unlimited geometric and feathery shapes. It may seem a far cry from his previous work that depicted idealistic crowds and modern spiritual seekers, ranging from rock concerts to political rallies, but in fact, he is now focusing on the artifacts and relics associated with spiritual and transcendent ideas. He shows without question that it’s possible to reinvent new meaning and renew the spiritual aspects of these relics. They come to brand new life in his hands.

Mattia Biagi’s work immediately grabs your attention by his unconventional use of black tar on traditional historic prints. Each depicts a historical figure or event (Continental Soldier, Louis XVI, Edwardian Court scene) and are unnervingly eerie: in one, a man’s hair is a mass of tar sticking out in all directions, in another, Louis’ hands look like tar mops. In the court scene, the artist has placed real objects – toy guns, grenades and a Molotov cocktail – and then drawn squiggles of tar across the paper. There is understated violence in them all. His is a dark and mysterious concept of aesthetic beauty.
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