Over the last two years, New York-based graphic designer/artist L. Mario Prian has discovered a dozen contemporary artists in his mission to advance the art of his generation. Mr. Prian, with the help of a modest but generous fund left by his friend/muse after her passing, began his experimental project of collecting and exhibiting works by undiscovered artists by initiating an active dialogue with them as well as with the general audience. The gallery’s participation in this project intends to further propel his prime effort.
Entitled Surreal Naiveté, the exhibit presents approximately 20 works by an international cross-section of contemporary artists—Ryoko Aoki, Joseph Burwell, Ernest Concepcion, Jose Luis Farinas, Jason Katz, Siobhan McBride, Huston Ripley, Casey Jex Smith, and Alfred Steiner. The unique styles of these nine artists converge in their seemingly simple renderings of images that are actually fraught with symbolism and the freeassociative meanings of the subconscious.
At once intimate and inviting, the works’ childlike, almost naïve quality tempts the viewer to indulge in a pure, contemplative moment uncluttered by hype-driven art lingo and academic posturing.
The transformative power of these works lies in the subtle tension of the yin/yang aspect of their perspectives, whether in the “dissonant counterpoint to the visceral subject matter they describe” in Steiner’s ballpoint drawings; or where the “magic reveals itself differently than in this world” in McBride’s dreamy paintings; or in Concepcion’s “personal commitment to perpetually draw anything imaginable in conflict.”
We are easily drawn into these mysterious presentations that are often replete with hidden religious references, as in Farina’s inspiration from the Old Testament, Smith’s intricate visual narrative derived from his Mormon faith, or Ripley’s complex web of imagery that evokes Hindu mythology. Again and again, viewers are invited to check their cultural rhetoric at the door and roam freely, whether in Aoki’s pictorial dream world that cannot be logically explained, in Burwell’s rendering of imaginary historic cities imbued by ancient religions, or in Katz’s primitive world painted in the folk tradition.
What makes Surreal Naiveté, particularly forceful is its ability to align the viewer’s visceral experience with the artist’s vision-one that remains outside the realm of reason and the rational. The exhibit offers contemporary viewers a rare opportunity to be rid of their intellectual baggage and partake of the works’ latent innocence.
Surreal Naiveté is co-curated by L. Mario Prian and art critic Bunsie Vasvani. The curators’ conscious decision to include artists of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds is intended to encourage emerging artists, art lovers, and young collectors of the visual arts to speak out in this frenzied market-driven art world. The exhibition at M.Y. Art PROSPECTS is meant to serve as a model for lesser experienced emerging collectors to engage, have a voice, and make strides in the art world. .