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PS: Parsing Spirituality

Affirmation Arts
523 West 37th Street, 212-925-0092
Hell's Kitchen
January 10 - February 17, 2009
Reception: Saturday, January 10, 6 - 9 PM
Web Site

curated by Micaela Giovannotti

New York, NY: Affirmation Arts is pleased to present the most recent exhibition from international curator Micaela Giovannotti opening January 10th 2009. PS: Parsing Spirituality examines the recent resurgence of spirituality in contemporary art. Featuring artists: Janine Antoni, Sebastiaan Bremer, Melissa A. Calderon, Gordon Cheung, Graham Caldwell, Andrea Galvani, Dan Kopp, Ivan Navarro, Lisa Ross, Courtney Smith, Xaviera Simmons, and J. G. Zimmerman.

“Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions” (Concerning the Spiritual in Art, W. Kandinsky.)

After being neglected for quite some time, spirituality has risen to the surface in contemporary art. Art has both advertised and glorified religions, but contemporary art has generally distanced itself from the spiritual realm, focusing its lens on formal and conceptual tenets. Not surprisingly, as often happens in times of secular uncertainties and political and economic turmoil, there is currently a resurgence of interest in spirituality, wherein artists are exploring and re-defining themselves in their work with very introspective and personal means and approaches.

“I am struck by two simultaneous desires: to hold, and to be held,” artist Janine Antoni commented regarding her work Coddle. “I see my foot as Other because it is the furthest point from my heart. To bring my leg back up into my chest not only brings me back to the fetal position, but to a position of loving myself. Still the impossibility of fulfillment remains. When I apply this to the familiar image of the Mother and Child, I explore it from the perspective of my own ability.”

As iconographically explicit as Antoni’s recapitulated Virgin and Child in Coddle, are Gordon Cheung’s paintings from the Paradise Lost series. Translating the prints of John Martin, the artist captures the shared parallel structures of capitalism and religions representing how both operate with dynamic systems of fear to motivate believers into a “progressive” movement by promising either paradise and riches or hell and poverty.

In Lisa Ross’ Unrevealed series, the iconography is rather more mysterious with Uyghur holy sites in northwest China, portrayed devoid of human presence, which might at first appear to be sculptures or earthworks. The impermanence and fragility of the holy sites placed in the desert is balanced out by the inherent anthropomorphic power of nature.

J. G. Zimmerman’s first episode of the Dystopia series utilizes imagery of oil tanks gathered from the Middle East to construct minimalist abstract landscapes. A metaphorical devotion towards these oil sites weds the artist’s fascination for systems and subsystems. These are interpreted as the human impulse and desire to “create” in an attempt to come to a better understanding of our “creator”.

Sebastiaan Bremer’s miniature, Diamond Night, portrays an idealistic starry landscape inspired by his Dutch homeland and an early etching by Rembrandt.

The esoteric power of the color white is explored in the work of M.A.Calderón. In Permanence of Pain, layered veils of fragile, gossamer tissues stained with the artist’s tears become a larger than life installation. The artist expresses a whirlwind of emotions, clashing cultural ideologies and the internal conflicts of the stereotypical Latina role in society.

Immersed within the solitary vastness of the landscape, the female role is also protagonist in Xaviera Simmons’ photographs, Denver and Make the Fist. Simmons’ iconic figures dominate the narrative, lone invaders involved in private rituals, within but not really part of the landscape fertile with immanent life.

In Andrea Galvani’s L’intelligenza del Male (The Intelligence of Evil,) the silhouette of a man standing alone magically dissolves into black smoke. Unreasonably calm, the scene is set against a snowy backdrop that obscures the horizon. It is unclear whether the man has begun to experience his death sentence while waiting in the purgatory or if he is the victim of an inexplicable spell.

Mythology and magic play a pivotal role in Graham Caldwell’s glass structures that hover between the organic and the otherworldly. His interest develops not in terms of science, but rather in terms of myth, referencing the epic wars fought within the microcosms of our very bodies.

Apocalyptic and eerie are Dan Kopp’s translucent paintings that hover between abstraction and figuration. A color-saturated foreground resembling broken stained glass or a chemical pattern observed under the microscope, is in dialogue with a more ethereal and psychological background that recedes almost to the infinite.

Ivan Navarro’s Assembly Line challenges spatial perception through mundane materials and light. It encourages one to reflect upon objects and the structures of our surroundings while optically creating a crater that drags the viewer down below the ground. Navarro’s collaboration with artist Courtney Smith sprang from a mutual interest in existing objects – hand-made or mass-produced – that still linger in the domestic realm, courting functionality, albeit impossibly. Bohemia, from the Dovetail series of binary compositions, bears a hanging chandelier visually grounded by wooden seating below, forming a meditation station that invites four people to share very close seats that remain, nonetheless, separate and independent.
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