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Norman Mooney and Ran Ortner, Falling Short of Knowing

Causey Contemporary
92 Wythe Avenue, 718.218.8939
September 13 - September 24, 2008
Reception: Tuesday, September 16, 6 - 9 PM
Web Site

“In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of transcendent greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, or artistic. The term especially refers to greatness with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation. This greatness is often used when referring to nature and its vastness” –(, 4 June 2008).

In Falling Short of Knowing, Norman Mooney and Ran Ortner explore the sublime in nature through art. For Norman Mooney, this current body of work is the personal exploration of inner form and how this relates to the outer world. This is communicated through a very direct and immediate process of mark making. The direct engagement in this process enables the fundamental nature of the form to be realized. The marks created are primary, difficult to define; boundaries and definition are blurred between the positive and negative, inner and outer, the intimate and the universal. The formal physicality of the work deals directly with the primordial nature of human scale, engaging the viewer in a larger intuited reality. In addition to paintings, Mooney will exhibit a sculptural work. In his own words, the Sculpture deals with the eternal dichotomy of the present, the immediate moment when we are ultimately becoming and eternally dying at precisely the same time, “I am looking to understand the idea of something much larger than ourselves, than our capacity to see, that is ever-present, persistent and constantly in motion. It is our intuitive sense of the whole and our complete inability to define it the work explores.”

Ran Ortner’s work is driven by his visceral relationship to nature.

“In my art, I contemplate the thing that never ceases to astonish me… the inherent marriage of opposites at life’s core. From the most tender brutalities to the most devastating sensitivities. These paradoxes register within me and I see myself within them. I am continually surprised by this reflection between me, as an individual, and the environment within which I exist. ‘The blood within and the brine without’. The pulsing surge of my blood…the pulsing surge of ocean waves.

Spending years in my studio challenged by the work, I often think about Rollo Mays’ idea that sustained intensity = ecstasy. Every day I enter my studio, prepare my materials and, as Joyce said, ‘go for the millionth time to encounter the reality of experience.’ In fact, I find that sustaining the encounter, with life’s biting reality, is not miserablism, but rather communion. It’s not dire this marriage of life and death. It is majestic. It’s the union of the holy and the profane. In the crest of each wave I see the rising of life, in the trough of each wave…. death. In a tempest, these distinctions blur registering in me as the rhythm of life’s dance. Life’s beauty is magnificent as it hangs at the edge of death, insisting upon its relevance and screaming with immediacy. It is this immediacy I reach for in the sea.”

Brooklyn Museum Curator, Judy Kim remarks in her catalogue essay for the exhibition that “ Although the formal qualities and methods of production are vastly different in Mooney and Ortner’s work, they inspire awe. These works, which depict unique, fleeting moments in nature, capture and suspend us in a place in a universal continuum, and arouse tension between fear and attraction. In front of these images, we are engulfed in a state that is at once the present, the past, and the future. If a part of what art is supposed to do is emote, takes us on a journey, or pose questions that may not have easy or singular answers, then Mooney and Ortner are succeeding. Let their work overcome you.”

Executive Director of The Drawing Center, Brett Littman in his radio interview for with Ortner and Mooney remarks. “ I was intrigued about the genesis of this show because the artists are close friends and do regular studio visits with each other. Both artists also share an almost primordial undercurrent of energy and immediacy in their work. However, in the end it is apparent when you see the work side by side their individual pieces stand in stark contrast to each other in terms of content and their visual impact.”

Norman Mooney was born in Ireland in 1971. He studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin where he graduated with honors in 1992. Mooney has exhibited in the US and abroad in Europe. From 1992 – 93 he was awarded a residency at The Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Deeply engaged in process, Mooney’s work involves billowing smoke onto large painted aluminum panels. The residue of the smoke settles on the panel and is sealed with a clear fixative. The process is repeated, layer upon layer, until the density and depth of the image is achieved. The ethereal forms created appear to be in a constant state of motion.

Ran Ortner was born in 1959 in San Francisco, California and at age five moved to Alaska. He spent the next ten years living in the Alaskan wilderness and often traveling with his missionary father to remote villages throughout South America. Ran spent his teens and twenties as a surfer and professional motorcycle racer. After one too many injuries, Ran began painting. Drawn to the immediacy of extreme sports, Ortner transferred this dynamism and his unusual childhood into his approach to painting. He has exhibited nationally and abroad. He is a guest professor at the Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent, Belgium.
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