Gallery  May 26, 2020  Paul Laster

6 Sensational Viewing Room Shows Across the Americas

Courtesy the artist, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver and 303 Gallery, New York

Tim Gardner, Breakfast Scene, Lake Louise, 2020.

Continuing our search for the best online art shows, we’ve rounded up six lively exhibitions from galleries in New York, Chicago, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Mexico City. Presenting a diverse selection of watercolors, drawings, sculptures, photographs, films, and editions, these dealers make looking at virtual art especially inviting by providing video walkthroughs of the shows, interviews with the artists, and ways to view the artworks both in and out of frames and on the wall.

Nothing can compare to actually seeing art in person, but online exhibitions that are chock-full of content is undoubtedly the next best thing. We hope that you enjoy the six sensational viewing room shows from across the Americas featured here.

Courtesy Francesco Clemente Studio. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging

Francesco Clemente, 4-23-2020, 2020.

Francesco Clemente: Beauty Without Witness, April 2020
Lévy Gorvy, New York

Presenting twelve new watercolors by Francesco Clemente that he made at home in Greenwich Village during quarantine, Beauty Without Witness, April 2020 provides viewers the opportunity to understand the Italian artist’s overall process through a singular body of work. Taking its title from an observation made about the circumstances related to the creation of these works by Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Curator at Large at MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, the virtual presentation offers a seductive series of seascapes portraying shells, starfish, and toys that have been cast adrift like childhood memories.

Pictured at the in-between space of the shoreline—a place that the artist says is “like twilight, a place where the line is blurred” in a video conversation with Raymond Foye, a writer, curator, and publisher, who co-founded Hanuman Books with Clemente in the late-80s—the saturated series of watercolors mark the passing days in lockdown in a dreamlike manner. Named for the day in April that each piece was painted, 4-10-20 depicts a lone conch shell on the beach; 4-12-2020 captures one shell in the water and another onshore; and 4-23-2020 pictures a teddy bear, shell, and starfish washed ashore on a moonlit night. 

Enchantingly painted with hazy, feathered edges and strangely labeled on the surface with the date—and thus the title—illustrated in a rectangle, which the artist reveals he is doing for the first time after being inspired by the visual intrusions in historical Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, the poetic pieces in the series portray what Clemente revealingly calls “the place in between, which has always been a subject, maybe the subject of what I make.” 

Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Nate Young, Causal loop, 2020; The grandfather paradox, 2020; and Theoretical proposition of time, 2020.

Nate Young: The Transcendence of Time
Monique Meloche, Chicago

Nate Young’s fourth solo show at Monique Meloche, which is currently being presented in the gallery’s viewing room, continues the artist’s distinct conceptual practice of displaying drawings with sculptural objects. The three drawings—Causal loop, The grandfather paradox, and Theoretical proposition of time—set the stage for the premise of the allegorical show, which is Young’s journey back through time to connect to his great-grandfather, who moved from the South to the North in the early-1900s, during the Great Migration, when six million African Americans moved northward. Inspired by the story of his great-grandfather traveling by horse when he migrated, Young supposedly excavated the bones of the beast to get in touch with the thing that made his being born where he was possible, and consequently led to the artist he would become. 

In the works on paper, he realistically illustrates the bones while defining the titles of the drawings in their upper left corners. In the boxed wall sculptures, which are constructed like religious icon paintings with doors that open and close, he places bones behind black-tinted Plexiglass with handwritten excerpts from a suicide note by his revered relative, who had battled depression, on the surface of the Plexi and cut-outs of the shapely bones in the doors, which switch on a haunting, interior light when they are closed. Lastly, the show includes three vitrine-like sculptures with lit bones below tinted Plexi surfaces that go dark when approached by the viewer, who also triggers the recorded sound of Young rubbing the bones together, as though he is ironically controlling the movement of his great-grandfather’s prophetic horse. 

“Black space for me points to multiple things,” Young philosophically states in a video walkthrough of the show. “It’s allegorical to multiple things—one of them being the void of my great-grandfather’s state of becoming, in between specific identities. It points to the believability of an idea when we are all living in our own memory.”

Courtesy Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

Isaac Julien, Baltimore Series (Ida B. Wells/Still Life), 2003.

Isaac Julien’s America
Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

A contemporary master of the mediums of film, photography, and installation art, Isaac Julien makes art that equally moves the mind, heart, and eye. The exhibition Isaac Julien’s America focuses on three of the artist’s riveting films about the history of the black experience in the United States via three seminal figures from three different eras: Frederick Douglass, Matthew Henson, and Angela Davis. Magnificently shot, edited, and installed (often on multiple screens of various sizes spread throughout an exhibition space), his films are poetic and poignant, while his still images express his narratives in a succinct, captivating style.

Lessons of the Hour, a recent film that’s designed to be displayed on either five or ten screens, follows former slave and orator Frederick Douglass—said to be the most photographed man of the time—on his 19th-century journey from America to the UK and back again while highlighting three of his powerful speeches on human rights. The 2004 film True North presents a gender-reversing interpretation of the story of black American explorer Matthew Henson’s atmospheric expedition to the stark North Pole with Robert Peary and their Inuit guides in 1920. And Baltimore, from 2003, mixes the filmmaking genres of blaxsploitation and science fiction and the cultural realms of the city’s Walters Art Museum, The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, and Peabody Library, where the radical feminist Angela Davis comes face to face with famed black filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles. 

Photographs from the three films and tintypes, which were initially made as props for Lessons of the Hour, along with installation shots of pictures in situ and excerpts from the films, round out the viewing room presentation, while two video conversations between the artist and cultural sociologist Sarah Thornton on the exhibition’s page draw parallels between social distancing for survival in past times with the present and provide insight into the characters, props, settings, and concerns of Julien’s fascinating films. 

© James Welling. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

James Welling, Erechtheion. Western facade. Sacred olive tree, karyatids and old temple of Athena Polias in foreground, 2019.

James Welling: Archaeology
Regen Projects, Los Angeles

In a new series of photographic prints that began with a visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and was continued on an exploratory trip to Athens before coming to completion in the artist’s studio, James Welling’s absorbing Archaeology images combine current digital camera technology with antiquated analog printing processes to compelling results. Photographing Greek and Roman antiquities at the Met and the Acropolis Museum and buildings and ruins at such sacred sights as the Acropolis and Eleusis, Welling gathered a treasure trove of images to later manipulate in a variety of experimental ways.

He made more than 200 vivid variations of his photograph of a defaced bust of Julia Mamaea, a third-century Syrian noblewoman and mother of Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, by using an old collotype process and substituting colored dye for lithographic ink. He adjusted the digital files of the Greek and Roman ruins so that his photographs would mimic black and white, 19th-century film and then utilized oil pigments to make richly toned photolithographs of the images. And, in the third component of the series, he employed multilayered digital filters to more mysteriously color his photos of the ancient architectural sights and sculptures.

Summing up the series, Welling says, “What have I learned in making this work? The brute violence evident on Julia Mamaea’s head and the horrific disfigurements on almost every Greek and Roman sculpture brought me face to face with the history of intolerance that nearly obliterated the science, literature, and philosophy of antiquity. With Archaeology, I am hoping to restore the spirit and vivacity of the ancient world in all its beauty and complexity."

Courtesy Galeri­a RGR, Mexico City

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Color Aditivo Yuruani, 2017.

Carlos Cruz-Diez: Bi-Dimensional
Galería RGR, Mexico City

One of the celebrated masters of the Op Art and Kinetic Art movements, Carlos Cruz-Diez, who died at age 95 in 2019, was on an experimental path to take abstract art beyond a traditional, static plane for more than sixty years. Over the past two decades, the Paris-based Venezuelan artist enjoyed a newfound interest in both his early and recent works—becoming a favorite at auctions and fairs, while being strategically exhibited and collected by museums worldwide. In its initial Online Viewing Room, Galería RGR presents striking editions from the eye-popping artworks that Cruz-Diez identified as Bi-Dimensional, which features abstractions that dynamically take color into a transformative realm. 

The show includes pieces from the Color Aditivo (Additive Color) series, which he began in 1959, and Inducción Cromática (Chromatic Induction) series, started in 1963. His later works, however, employed digital processes to create and realize their designs, which were precisely printed with fine lines of color on aluminum panels using chromography. Color Aditivo Panam and Color Aditivo Yuruani capture overlapping transparent rectangles made up of linear strips of color that seemingly bounce before our eyes, while Inducción Cromática Elizabeth and Induccion Cromatica a Doble Frecuencia Panam 12 achieve moiré effects by thickening and thinning parallel lines in a limited but vibrant palette.
     
Playing with color, line, and perception, Cruz-Diez was part-artist/part-scientist—researching color theory and making his own tools in order to accomplish his ideas. Dealing with the instability of the plane, he advanced the concepts of geometric abstraction, while always keeping invention at the forefront.

Courtesy the artist; Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver; and 303 Gallery, New York

Tim Gardner, Sunset, Griffith Park, 2019.

Tim Gardner: New Works
Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver

Celebrated for his watercolors, pastels, and oil paintings of post-adolescent males reveling in juvenile behavior, which he made when he first broke onto the international art scene in the early-2000s, Tim Gardner has mellowed over the years, but never lost his touch for strikingly capturing the world around him. Mining snapshots of his brothers and their friends, his days in New York and Los Angeles, and his favorite outdoor locales in his Canadian homeland, Gardner turns ordinary photographic images into arresting works of art. His fourth one-person show at Monte Clark Gallery, which is a viewing room exhibition, presents a selection of seventeen small to medium-scaled watercolor portraits, landscapes, and still lives that revisit earlier, often autobiographical themes. 

Sunset, Griffith Park shows a lone figure in a landscape, which is a favorite subject of the artist. A young man with a backpack observes the legendary Hollywood sign from a trail in Griffith Park as the sun sets behind the Hollywood Hills. Additional scenes from Los Angeles—a throwback to when Gardner lived there after leaving New York after 9/11—include a birds-eye view of a sparsely populated Venice Beach and Mt. Hollywood at Dusk, which shows the urban sprawl lit in a grid by sparkling headlights on a constant procession of cars and a solitary figure that’s just reaching the view’s inspiring vantage point. The portrait Tobi Dealing Cards lovingly portrays his younger brother at home during Christmastime, while Breakfast Scene, Lake Louise offers a virtuosic depiction of a scrumptious still life from a room with a delightful view.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is an artist, critic, curator, editor, and lecturer. He is a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and writer for Time Out New York, Galerie Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Architectural Digest, Cultured, Garage Magazine, Ocula, ArtPulse, Observer, Conceptual Fine Arts and Glasstire. He was Artkrush’s founding editor, started The Daily Beast's art section and was art editor of Russell Simmons’ Oneworld Magazine, as well as an Adjunct Curator of Photography at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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