• Tackling Quirky Talent – Julie Alvin

    Date posted: October 17, 2006 Author: jolanta

    Upon entering the Rivington Arms gallery, a narrow, sparse exhibition space in Manhattan’s East Village, I was immediately confronted with an artful photograph of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most acclaimed works, the famous Falling Water House located in Western Pennsylvania. Printed in black and white, the photograph was placed there to pay homage to the building after which the exhibit was named.

    Tackling Quirky Talent – Julie Alvin

    Image
    Mathew Cerletty, A Day In Korea. Wax with Book. 50 x 27 x 7 in. Courtesy of Rivington Arms Gallery.

        Upon entering the Rivington Arms gallery, a narrow, sparse exhibition space in Manhattan’s East Village, I was immediately confronted with an artful photograph of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most acclaimed works, the famous Falling Water House located in Western Pennsylvania. Printed in black and white, the photograph was placed there to pay homage to the building after which the exhibit was named.
        Only upon much closer examination did it become evident that this piece was a testament to Mathew Cerletty’s artistry as well as Lloyd Wright’s. This piece was not a photograph at all, but a part of the exhibition itself, a meticulously created sketch by Cerletty. Done with exquisite attention to detail and masterful depiction of light and shadow, glass and stone, water and land, the piece was rendered entirely with the crosshatches of the artist’s black ballpoint pen. Here, the tool of idle doodles on student’s notebooks became as capable as a paintbrush or a camera’s lens at capturing this architectural masterpiece.
        The painstakingly detailed portrait of the house seems incongruous with the rest of the works, a collection of pieces that range from text-based paintings, to colorful and odd sculpture pieces, to decisively rendered oils on linen. In each piece, Cerletty pays careful attention to which elements to paint in full and which to leave seemingly unfinished, creating an interesting tension between the parts of each work that are scrupulously and lovingly drawn by Cerletty’s brush and those haphazardly thrown on the canvas. Though the works appear so, it is clear that there is nothing haphazard, nothing unintentional about it. Cerletty is purposefully telling us where to look, pointing our eyes where he wants them to go.
    In the most thoughtful and captivating pieces of the collection, Cerletty produces two nearly identical works that honor another artistic great, though one far before Lloyd Wright’s time. In Untitled 1 and 2, Cerletty pares Leonardo Da Vinci’s St. John the Baptist into a single monumental gesture. The original work shows St. John, shirtless and face framed with curls, with one arm crossed against his chest and the other raised, a finger pointing towards the sky. While a reed cross and animal fur were later added to the original by another artist, the piece initially focused on a bare St. John, with nothing to distract from his upraised arm, a motion that Da Vinci often used to denote the coming of Jesus Christ.
        It is this motion that Cerletty focuses on in his adaptation of the work. The meaningful position of limbs is mimicked, but on a figure with no head or legs, just a rudimentary torso holding up beautifully rendered hands. The mahogany skin and violet fingernails stand in stark contrast to the flat white of the body to which they are attached. Cerletty breaks down Da Vinci’s famous work to one evocative gesture, forcing our eyes to follow the extended finger of this delicate hand to the heavens.
        More intriguing and cryptic are Cerletty’s text-based paintings, with one piece ironically touting the artist’s love of exercise and another screaming “NO” at the audience should they come too close. These too are exercises in restraint, as Cerletty meticulously approaches one element of the work while relegating other elements to awkward mono-dimensionality. The lunacy continues with A Day in Korea, a sculpture piece featuring a mounted children’s book and a red plastic fence propped against the gallery wall. The schizophrenic nature of the exhibit is disorienting and it seems this is what Cerletty desires.
        This is the third solo show Cerletty has held at the Rivington Arms and each exhibit seems to take on a personality as distinct as the different elements of Falling Water, as the artist attempts to find his voice or perhaps to tackle all the avenues of his considerable and quirky talent.

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