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Mixed Greens at The Parrish Art Museum
Art Commentary, Dan's Papers, Marion Wolberg Weiss/ May 01, 2009

The current show at the Parrish Museum, where well-known artists picked their own personal favorites from among 260 entrants, is, indeed, a field of "mixed greens." Yet the works are similar in that they all stray from traditional subjects and materials. There are no landscapes and few figurative pieces. Instead, one finds several geometrical abstractions and a few conceptual works.

A more interesting point, however, is the question of whether the selecting artists were guided by their own work. Did they look for similarities between themselves and the artists they chose? There's nothing wrong with that, by the way - it comes naturally.

I would like to suggest that there are obvious (and not so obvious) connections. Donald Sultan's choice of "Tip to Toe" by Stephen Laub is an obvious example, pure and simple. It recalls for this critic at least, Sultan's "Smoke" installation where shadows were created on a screen. This shares obvious similarities with Laub's shadows of shoes and hats on the wall. Also, Laub employs optical illusion in his installation recalling Sultan's sense of fun and whimsy. Lastly, we recognize Sultan's love of ordinary objects, turned into something more literal by Laub.

Other similarities between selectors and selectees are present, including the use of bright colors in fun ways. We can see, therefore, why Richard Kalina was drawn to Peter Dayton's day-glo birch panels, even though Kalina's abstract designs are not hard-edged like Dayton's.

Mary Heilmann selected works by Frazer Dougherty that mirror her own pieces to a degree. Her abstract shapes are squares and cubes, but they are a little "off-balance." Dougherty's squares and rectangles are exact. A subtler similarity is the perspective used by both artists. Heilmann's forms almost seem to be floating in air. Ditto for Dougherty's, recalling the artist's earlier bird's-eye-view photographs of farmlands.

John Torreano, who selected painter Kevin Teare, also shares structural similarities with his artist. Torreano's brightly colored abstraction creates a 3-D effect with its attached umbrella-like object. In fact, it is this object that defines the images underneath. In Teare's work as well, disparate elements of the piece define each other. Teare's blobs of color provide a lens through which to interpret the text that lies beneath (excerpts from The Warren Commission Investigation). It is a noteworthy ironic touch: the juxtaposition of the colorful spots with the Investigation passages.

There are other subtle similarities between artists, but we may be reading too much into them. Take, for example, Randall Rosenthal's "Obama New York Times" selected by Michael Combs. Both artists have a penchant for exaggeration and even conceptual art (why does Combs remind this critic of Jeff Koons?). But there's a lyricism in Combs we don't find in Koons or Rosenthal.

Another text-related work, this one by Ellen Wiener, may share one salient aspect with the work of its selector, Joe Zucker. Wiener's "book" unfolds on a horizontal level, while Zucker's "Cannonballs" is a vertical piece. They both, however, suggest the evolution of a process that never comes to fruition.

There are a few works that don't seem to relate at all to the artists who selected them. No matter - they are still top-notch. Consider Jody Pinto's process-centered work-her laser cut plastic models ("Charles River Pedestrian Bridge"). It's a far cry from Michelle Stuart's luscious butterflies (which are not displayed at the Parrish) but we appreciate Stuart's recognition of Pinto's intention. Other examples include Jessica Benjamin's "Inside the Green Zone, Baghdad" (selected by John Alexander) and Lucy Winton's "Rabbit Tricking Wolf" (selected by April Gornik).

"Mixed Greens" will be on view at the Parrish Museum until June 21.


Michael Combs  |  New York, NY  |  info@combssculpture.com
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