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National Arts Club
15 Gramercy Park South, 212 475 3424
Flatiron / Gramercy
March 14 - March 31, 2011
Reception: Monday, March 14, 7 - 11 PM
Web Site

Works by James Gallagher, Bryan Harrington, Abshalom Jac Lahav, Zane Lewis, Richard Longstreet, Andy Mister and Ray Smith

Presented by the Junior Committee of the National Arts Club Curated by Jessica Shaefer

Monday, March 14: Opening 7-9pm, Reception 9-11pm featuring music by AndrewAndrew

The Junior Committee of the National Arts Club in New York City is pleased to announce the opening of Vestigial, a group exhibition curated by Jessica Shaefer that includes works by artists James Gallagher, Bryan Harrington, Abshalom Jac Lahav, Zane Lewis, Richard Longstreet, Andy Mister, and Ray Smith. The exhibition will open on Monday, March 14, 2011 from 7pm to 9pm with a reception from 9pm to 11pm and will remain open to the public through March 31, 2011.

The title of the exhibition references the notion that the impact of digital technology has irrevocably transformed traditional activities such as painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and analog film and photography. New forms, such as web art, digital installation art, and virtual reality have become recognized artistic practices, used beyond their mainstream applications. The term “vestigial” is most commonly employed in the context of a bodily limb or organ, such as the appendix or wisdom tooth, which is assumed to have lost its original use due to evolutionary changes in the body. Vestigial aims to apply this notion to art, thereby addressing the question of whether or not traditional, so-called “outmoded” mediums are, in fact, becoming remnants of a bygone era of art making. Will traditional mediums become vestigial, traces or remnants of a past practice that is no longer useful or relevant in today’s increasingly digitalized world?

Within this discussion lies the fact that medical history is rife with body parts that were first identified as vestigial and thus classified as “useless” or even detrimental to the body simply because medical science had yet to understand them. New scientific evidence indicates that a vestigial structure may in fact retain lesser functions or even develop new ones. Applying this notion to contemporary art practice, Vestigial poses the possibility that painters (and sculptors, and all those using traditional mediums) today are doing something “perversely advanced” by using outmoded techniques, that vestigial modes of art practice are in fact an integral part of whatever comes next in art.

The artists whose work is included in Vestigial employ traditional mediums in order to explore present reality. James Gallagher uses collage to investigate human form and personal identity. Piecing together images cut from discarded books, forgotten issues of National Geographic, and the occasional vintage sex-manual, Gallagher creates stark and provocative scenes that reflect the world around him. Bryan Harrington’s elegant assemblage works are made from found materials like discarded bottles and egg cartons, showcasing how “tin cans can be transformed into gold.” Abshalom Jac Lahav’s oil paintings focus on the richly detailed textures and colors of clothing. Lahav is influenced by the society portraits of John Singer Sargent and the textile quality of Gustav Klimt’s work; he is also fascinated by the notion that contemporary fashion, as portrayed in the media, reflects a (post)modern identity crisis that is dependent almost solely on “veneer and superficiality.” Zane Lewis’s work explores themes of youth, idolization, and desire. While his images are remixed and reinvented from contemporary culture, he often references art historical motifs, religious iconography and classic still life painting and portraiture in his work. Richard Longstreet creates mixed-media landscapes that include diverse and often incongruent “scraps” of nature, which are first completely assembled as a scene, then photographed in sections with a converted black and white copy machine and finally re-conformed in the studio into a proximity of a conceived “natural” landscape in the manner of 16th century Dutch and Flemish botanicals and the Hudson River School landscapists. Andy Mister uses traditional drawing techniques to re-render images that previously existed as photographs. The multilayered recycling of imagery, especially of anonymous, seemingly random scenes, painstakingly rendered with graphite pencil on paper, reflects and comments on the inherently superficial and ultimately futile gesture of, for instance, celebrity idolatry. Ray Smith’s wood sculptures begin as two-dimensional images that are then crafted by hand with a process mimicking three-dimensional printers, in which each layer is “eroded until the initial image disappears,” creating an effect that suggests “a primitive topography as rendered by a caveman” and reveals the three-dimensional representation of surrealistic technique.

By applying the metaphor of vestigial body parts to traditional modes of art making, the exhibition Vestigial invites the viewer to engage with the work of both emerging and mid-career artists who are proving, yet again, that painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, assemblage, and analog photography have a continued relevance in our postmodern, “post-painting” society. Although traditional mediums are perhaps no longer central to the contemporary art process and the dialogue that surrounds it, they are an essential part of the evolution of art practice, revealing traces of the past as well as a myriad of possibilities for the future.
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