Visual Arts
Skyships Reclaim No 13, by Dennis Bertram.
Skyships Reclaim No 13, by Dennis Bertram.

Amid/In WNY at Hallwalls

by / Feb. 13, 2017 8am EST

A bonus round of the “Amid/In WNY” series of works of local artists is on show at Hallwalls. This would be round eight if they stayed with the numbering system for the originally slated series of seven. The current exhibit instead is called “Epilogue.” 

Among the more interesting work, Patrick Foran (no relation) tackles about the toughest questions currently going. How as an artist respond—he asks in his artist’s statement—to the present-day “ideological and social polarization…a permanent or de facto state of emergency in which laws are suspended, personal freedom curtailed, and sovereignty eclipsed by the state’s desire to maintain control and authority.” 

He is particularly interested in the concept of “the wall” in several senses: “a physical barrier and a symbolic constraint that can assume different forms depending on the context, from a police barrier to a curtain of flags.” As in one of his works showing a line-up of American flags—but in just two colors, blue and white, no red—on a stage with a podium. Reminiscent of the recent farcical primary and general election debates to decide the fate of the nation. So nice to have it made incontestably clear that this is America. Absent the redundancy of flags, one might have been mistaken on that crucial point. (Similarly, when I tune in to watch a college or pro athletic contest on television these days, I am comforted and reassured to see the flag prominently displayed on every player’s uniform. We are in America, and we are Americans. We love our flag like we love our guns.) 

Winter Intersection by Patrick Willet

Another piece on “the wall” as police barrier. Broken images of broken bodies, and riot gear and billy clubs in plentiful deploy. Another work presents a straight—as far as I could tell—depiction of a Budweiser “America” can. Welcome to the post-irony era.

J. Eric Simpson has two minimalist sculptural works that neatly analogize contemporary Christian religious culture and consumer commodity culture. Product display shelves that morph into religious altars, empty of any items pertaining to either cultural manifestation, suggesting the similar emptiness of the one and the other. 

Bruce Adams’ single work pays equal homage to David Byrne and David Bowie. A shirtless figure of ultimately ambiguous gender wrestles with a snaky phallic shop vac hose against a Wagnerian stage set backdrop of rocks and mountains and firey lakes. From a series of works intended, he says, to echo “Byrne’s intuitive method of songwriting.” Alternatively or by way of elaboration, he talks about “mixing imagery and techniques freely like a recording artist remixes sound bites.” 

Alicia Malik

Rosemary Lyons’ rather spectacular contribution consists of several large-format sheets mimicking vellum medieval choir book decorated pages—elaborate marginal floral displays and illuminated initial letters—of Gregorian chant musical notation and pidgin Latin translation of the rather scurrilous lyrics of the group Nine Inch Nails’ song Closer, with interlinear English translation—really the orginal—of the ersatz translation. Initial letter illuminations reflecting the abject sexuality sensibility of the Nine Inch Nails source work. 

Dennis Bertram’s art is a kind of amalgam of M.C. Escher and Tetris. Futuristic skyscraper or even whole space city constructions-in-progress. Armatures of regular and irregular solid geometrical figures—blocks and timbers—sometimes neatly fitting together, sometimes not. Evidence of trial and error in these unprecedented engineering forays. Many varieties of paintings featuring the same basic formal vocabulary to express many varieties of meanings, according to the artist, from “the complexity of existence and difficulty of making good decisions” to “the idea that all things will pass” to networks of connectivity ranging from neural to social to cosmic.

Patrick Willett has a series of minimalist drawings in black and white and one spot of red, a fire hydrant at an intersection defined by car traffic tire marks on an otherwise unsullied snow blanket. Other pieces, other patterns. Coils of stranded rope. River current waves. Stripped stalk remnants of last year’s field grass poking through the snow. 

Brita d’Agostino

Alicia Malik’s paintings are about insect life after death. Mortal remains of single dead flies against gritty backdrops underscoring the dust thou art message. (And Ash Wednesday coming right up.) 

Andy Krzystek has a double portrait-in-the-making of the same subject—a woman of strikingly benevolent countenance—that seems to be about the artmaking process over product. Brita d’Agostino has several wall collages about fashion world glitz. Emptiness as content. And Mizin Shin a large sculptural black box with outline drawings of mechanical apparatus, and intermittently flashing lights, signaling processes underway. 

The Epilogue exhibit continues through February 24.

 Amid/In WNY Epilogue 
 Hallwalls / 341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo /