I happened upon Dmitri Deragtchev’sThe New Icon (2022) while vacationing in Vancouver BC. As you can see, the piece is quite visually striking and has a lot to unpack. I felt it would be an appropriate feature choice for this column given the current political world climate, and it being Halloween and all. The artist’s statement follows:
There is no doubt that the costume designer plays an essential role in cinematic storytelling. For the Elton John biopic Rocketman(2019), costume designer Julian Day’s guiding principle was: the louder, the better.
Three Fish (In the Evening), 2015 (All Photos By Gail, Click on any Image to Enlarge for Detail)
Fredericks & Freiser Gallery is currently hosting Topical, an exhibition of very fun new paintings by Keegan McHargue. In Topical, McHargue returns to the human figure, albeit broadly shaped, satirical versions. His paintings have been described as “Hairy Who meets South Park, where social commentary comes wrapped in the guise of humor,” and I can definitely understand why.
The Ick Factor, 2015
Though their expressions and gestures are generalized, McHargue defines his subjects in surprisingly specific ways. A woman’s lower torso is a single grotesque foot. A butterfly with human legs drifts in outer space. An artist paints the landscape wearing a Colonial hairdo sporting the body of a Centaur. The topographies are identifiable yet seem as intuitive as the figures. The New York-based painter’s use of childlike motifs, like a flat yellow sun appearing in the corner of the picture frame, lends his paintings a kind of innocence, despite the depravity that they sometimes contain in their weird scenes. All of these rather disparate elements come together with some kind of strange logic in McHargue’s world.
Ex Dilecto, 2015
In an essay on the artist, Ross Simonini writes “McHargue compresses and reduces and distills the image until it functions, like an icon, on the simplest, most unfettered visual wavelength. He thinks about the freedom inherent in minimalism while he works. It keeps his attention focused on the singularity of the idea, so that the image’s energy appears to emerge from a point somewhere deep within itself and ripple outward into a sea of visual ideas, each one nestled into its neighbor, like a liquid puzzle. The feeling of looking is not dissimilar from seeing ancient Islamic and Hindu art, where narrative and space and subject flow into a single current.”
Day One, 2015
Keegan McHargue’s Topical will be on Exhibit Through October 10th, 2015, at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, Located at 536 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.
You have just one more week to visit the Mike Weiss Gallery in time to check out Diva’s Song, the second show by Jerry Kearns at the gallery, and the first in collaboration with singer/performer Nora York. The exhibition features eight acrylic wall paintings of larger-than-life size characters as high as eight feet, seemingly out of a comic book, with thought bubbles that form a coherent yet ambiguous narrative.
Merging his own “psychological pop” aesthetic with York’s rendition of “Vissi d’arte” from Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, Kearns and York have reimagined the aria, isolating it from the operatic masterpiece and widening its narrative scope to encompass all the intrigue, drama, and emotional weight of a full length story. Without the restraints of a canvas edge, the gallery becomes transformed into a democratized space – a stage where viewer and art, and reality and metaphor, play equally important roles.
The show begins with a theater banner that introduces the title character “Diva” as well as her gun-wielding cowboy boyfriend “Sugar” (or painter, if we’re following from Tosca). The cinematic effect continues from here into three “shots” of the lone diva. Thought bubbles like, “Oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, does this burden lay so heavy on my mind? Oh why, oh why, oh why?” take us into a vulnerable moment of existential anxiety, as if the distant future became suddenly, alarmingly immediate.
The searching, introspective tone of the first room comes to boiling point in the main gallery space, visually evoking an operatic crescendo with a stark increase in scale. Two monumental close-ups – one of a tearing and/or perspiring victim and the other of a strong, enraged agent – create an emotional and psychological battleground that ultimately turns violent.
In the ensuing clash of good versus evil, Jesus and his crown of thorns are disconcertingly absent. Instead, we find Sugar, on his back and with a bandage around his head, in a fracas with the devil, whose own head, curiously, is the only realistically-rendered in the show. Unlike Puccini’s Tosca, the exhibition’s narrative outcome is ultimately uncertain. Definitely, however, the knife-wielding diva, in a stance reminiscent of Judith with the head of Holofernes, is the one in control.
Infused with Kearns’ archetypal cowboys, bad guys, and damsels, Diva’s Song inherits traits from the Spaghetti Western as well the opera. But perhaps the lineage can’t be so neatly partitioned. Throughout their careers, Kearns and York have had a seemingly compulsive attraction to montage, brazenly pairing the head of Jesus with the body of the cowboy (in Kearns’ paintings), or cleverly sampling the chord structures of Puccini with Pop melodic overlays (in York’s songs). While in both cases these amalgamations may initially seem discordant, their underlying foundations always reveal their harmonies. Diva’s Song operates in that same vein, translating various modes of representation – opera, film, and comic book illustration – into a single cohesive exhibition of wall painting.
Jerry Kearns and Nora York are a married couple who live and work in New York City.
Jerry Kearns and Nora York’s Diva’s Song Will be on Exhibit Through Saturday, August 22nd, 2104 at Mike Weiss Gallery, Located at 520 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.