Essay by Howard Rutkowski and Mary Dinaburg
Science tells us that dark matter is a mysterious unseen force that comprises most of the universe. So far immeasurable, it has a powerful effect on that which is visible and known. The creative process is somewhat analogous in that it is presumed, but also unseen, yet impacts the physical world, making the invisible, visible.
This gathering came about in an attempt to present several artists who follow an intuitive, sometimes aggressive approach in the making of art. While formal references may abound and others foist upon them, all the works possess an organic origin, often unfathomable.
Not too long ago the paintings of Elad Kopler were vast scenes of destruction and upheaval rendered in a combination of the recognizable and the abstract. The beautifully painted surfaces and abstracted passages obscured darker themes that reflected a very real physical experience. Recent work has seen a reduction, a distillation that excises the narrative and focuses on color, shape and line that goes to the abstract core of the composition. In a very real way he has found the path literally and figuratively ‘out of the rubble’ and into pure painting.
Painter, sculptor, photographer, installation and performance artist Robert Melee’s work is not comprised of disparate elements, but is a holistic approach to the making of art. The work is always self-referential and complex. The bottle cap paintings, a series the artist first began in 1999, have become signature works. The kitsch elements of the beer bottle caps are interwoven with plaster, enamel, paint creating an undulating surface. The resultant abstraction provides a meditative mandala effect that transcends the humble materials.
The ethereal paintings of Ted Pim reference old master portraiture. He began his painting career creating mural-scale works in the dark recesses of abandoned breweries, factories and schools, places where few, if any, got the chance to experience the work. The distorted physiognomies rendered in ghostly tonalities emerge from a nearly black expanse to create a poetic, almost funereal imagery, channeling Goya and Francis Bacon.
Gabriel J. Shuldiner re-purposes the detritus of the world around us, bending, coaxing, twisting and forcing found and discarded objects and materials into a new existence. A pseudo-trademarked amalgam of black pigments called ‘postapocalypticBLACK’ is Shuldiner’s secret ingredient in his alchemical process of turning base matter into a more precious substance. Despite the overriding insistence of the color black, the surfaces have a painterly quality, alternating between matte and sheen and sometimes injected with a tiny shock of fluorescent color. The works move between monolithic statements of form to more free-flowing, seemingly fragile elements.
Skill and serendipity are the hallmarks of Jack Slentz. Best known for his wooden sculpture, where single green hardwood blocks are chosen for their color, grain and imperfections. A violent tool like a chainsaw is used with scalpel precision and as the green wood dries, unplanned, but hoped for, changes occur as the grain shifts and cracks appear. A new and visually different body of work, the fetish-like forms of rubber, steel and occasionally wood, continues the combination of the expected and unexpected. Rubber inner tubes are introduced into the hand-forged steel armatures, manacles and wooden sculptural supports and then inflated. The resultant shapes suggest the exaggerated biomorphic human form constrained and straining against the bondage of metal and wood.
Cullen Washington’s expansive compositions are like exploding stars, shooting out in all directions and dimensions. Or - perhaps closer to the ‘Big Bang Theory’ – the creation of a new materiality. As he wrote ‘I try to capture things before they are formed, still in an embryonic state of meaning, forming multiple fluid relationships.’ The mash-up of found materials – wood, tape, canvas scraps and other flotsam and jetsam – would suggest an inherent and unconsidered chaos. Yet, as with the natural world, there is an ordered structure that emerges out of confusion as the compositions coalesce into pure abstraction.
Kopler, Melee, Pim, Shuldiner, Slentz and Washington are artists who, in different ways, visually and conceptually, find commonality in the dark energy that emanates from the anxiety and tension found in today’s precarious existence. Each wrestles, intellectually, physically, emotionally, with disparate material, making sense of the external and internal forces that shape us.