Recently, mounted at Newman Popiashvili Gallery in Chelsea, “Drawing Room” cleverly combined an eclectic group of seven artists preoccupied with the nature of space and how we structure our lives within it. Taking its title from a photograph by Michael Huey, Newman Popiashvili’s winter group exhibition undermines assumptions about the physical and psychological membranes that structure the architecture of the everyday. To begin, the show included several of Kristina Solomouka’s subtle but potent watercolors, executed between 2001 and 2005, which counter the ever-growing threat of industrialization through their intimate scale. Her elegant visions of urban sprawl are riddling juxtapositions of beautifully engineered structures and the vanishing landscapes that they have eclipsed.
“Drawing Room” at Newman Popiashvili – Jennie Hirsh
Recently, mounted at Newman Popiashvili Gallery in Chelsea, “Drawing Room” cleverly combined an eclectic group of seven artists preoccupied with the nature of space and how we structure our lives within it. Taking its title from a photograph by Michael Huey, Newman Popiashvili’s winter group exhibition undermines assumptions about the physical and psychological membranes that structure the architecture of the everyday.
Ulrik Heltoft’s video, Untitled, delivers the viewer to Copenhagen’s Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Savior) built in 1696. The artist repeatedly climbs the spire’s stairs (added in 1754) in a claustrophobic loop that thematizes his methodical circular ascent. In a single gesture, Heltoft efficiently draws on the legend of the church architect’s suicidal leap from the spire and retraces the steps of the characters who embark on Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Zeroing in on the building blocks of all architecture, twin artists MP & MP Rosado challenge the viewer’s assumptions about the three-dimensional nature of space, conflating top and bottom, as ceiling and floor curiously commingle in painted photographs. Their generic, Untitled, “rooms” transport the viewer to another dimension where peeling ceilings, metal floor vents and framed compositions materialize on single mural surfaces that subtly disorient a viewer unprepared for the fusion of horizontal and vertical. Committing both spatial and temporal transgressions, Michael Huey refocuses a photographic vision of the past, with his contemporary lens. In Drawing Room, Huey fashions a compelling metamorphosis that transforms a classical vision into a futuristic utopia, replete with spectral elements both stately and timeless. The portal to the past, suddenly janus-faced, leads to a historical future.
Chris Fennell and Marco De Luca both explore the architecture of specific objects that reflect directly on drawing as a medium. Careful study reveals the intricate detail and intensive process that produced Chris Fennell’s Empire, a work that oscillates between collage and sculpture. Fennell draws our attention to an unlikely process that imparts a mesmerizing, decorative white surface onto a practical architectural element, a door, which has become a surrogate canvas for his textured creation. Similarly focused on the internal structure of vision, Marco De Luca’s Mobile con Vaso is a meditative drawing of the very display cases destined to frame his sculptures.
But whereas these six artists provide the viewer with visions of how humanity has created, transformed and transgressed spatial limitations of the environment, broadly defined, Heather Rowe’s deceivingly simple Persona stages a highly charged dialogue between the viewer and the space of the gallery. Here, Rowe combines the smooth, polished wooden curves of a mirror’s frame with carefully arranged sheets of glass. The mirror-like structure that refuses the coherent image that we seek, Persona provokes a range of startling spectatorial reactions, offering only ephemeral splinters of the plenitude that we desire. By rupturing the frame itself and reconfiguring the reflective pool, Rowe doubly disrupts. Persona translates a perfunctory object into a source of anxiety, generating a series of uninvited Pirandellian episodes that foreground our fractured selves.
Newman and Popiashvili should be commended for mounting a coherent and concise exhibition, centered on a compelling and timely theme.