Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Countdown Begins, by E. Tareila

The Countdown Begins is the inaugural exhibition at The End Is Near in Park Slope. The group show features Rich Cahill, Norbert Kox and Anna Sea; as the title suggests, each artist's work contains both transparent and oblique themes that one might put into the 'apocalyptic art,' 'visionary art' or just plain dark category, while simultaneously employing illustrative and craft techiniques to bring viewers to an intimate place with the work (both physically and emotionally). While each painter's aesthetic and perspective is distinctly his/her own, the work flows together as a cohesive whole, with shocking spontaneous moments and direct points of dialogue as one moves about the small one-room gallery space.

The space itself speaks well to the tone and aesthetic of the work. The End Is Near is a gallery, tattoo shop, and piercing studio, the new sister shop to the famed Hand of Glory tattoo. At the opening, the work stood alone in the front room of the space, while normally it also serves as the waiting room and storefront of The End Is Near. The walls are filled with over thirty different paintings of varying sizes, with as many mounted game animal heads as possible crammed in.

Anna Sea has the most work in the show, with some of her paintings the size of a 3x5 photograph, while others ranging to about 11x17. The paintings contain both text and the pictorial, all in a both haunting and endearing illustrative style. Her work is thematically based in craft and contains a female hand, particularly in her immaculate embroidery adornments (think a more painterly/dark Maira Kalman). Conceptually, the work presents narratives and struggles of motherhood, history, family and how these factor/relate to our current world. One of the most compelling paintings, Family Portrait, shows Sea and husband, Craig Rodriguez, with their son in a tangle of symbols, metaphors and cryptic imagery that is both luscious and unsettling. Sea's repetitive use of line and imagery in her work shows an obsessiveness and contemplativeness, alluding to her constant working through of these ideas, see This Is One. Her use of careful, small lines bring the viewer close to the work, with the viewer even sometimes wishing for a magnifying glass. Sea's markmaking collage aesthetic and text speak directly to Kox's paintings while her intricate line work speaks to Cahill's three larger paintings.

Although Rich Cahill has only three paintings in the show, they stand out in relation to Sea's and Kox's, which are connected more in subject mater and aesthetic. A tattoo artist and painter, Cahill's style is obviously more influenced by Asian art than folk art, as Kox and Sea are while still very much in the same conceptual conversation as the other artists. The images are some of the most confident looking in the show, perhaps because the work is on raw wood and there is small margin for error. The style definitely speaks to Cahill's tattoo work while not relying on tattoo imagery to carry the pieces. The most compelling painting is Dragon House, an acrylic painting on raw wood of a McMansion caught in a developmental disaster. The landscape looks alive and pulsing as information is being pumped through telephone wires to a black hole of mindlessness. The birds are the smartest in the piece-fleeing the scene as the house is enveloped in mainstream monotony.

Lastly is Norbert Kox, the self-named apocalyptic painter who describes his intentions as, " (a) cause (for) people to think, to research and investigate, rather than accept the blind traditions of men. The ultimate goal is to entice people to search the Scriptures on their own. The usual focus of my work is to target specific errors and idolatries of Humanity, revealing their fallacies through Scriptural references." Whereas Sea uses the super personal imagery and Cahill the less personal, Kox employs imagery that is super inconic-most specifically, Christ. He subverts the familiar ways in which we pedastool and simultaneously ignore religion by using hand-written text, painting over found images and cutting messages about sin, mass media, consumption and more.

Overall, the show flows with a specific trajectory: first, is Anna Sea's paintings. Her work is a representation of an inner dialogue she has with questions of self, identity and truth which directly flows into Kox's work- a different type of inner struggle and call for action, accountability and dialogue. Lastly, Cahill rounds out the exhibit with a warning of what is to come...or perhaps, what is already happening if we do not seek the truth as Sea and Kox suggest. Be sure to catch this show before the end of July. The End Is Near is located at 465A 7th Ave (bet 16th and Windsor), Tuesday - Sunday 12pm-8pm. An excellent first show from this new spot.

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