First Friday: No two alike

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It really was a dark and stormy night (okay, all nights are dark; but this one was super dark and miserable), so Roberta and I, along with buddy Iris and a couple of teens decided that the usual Old City gallery hop wasn’t in the cards–at least not until Saturday.

Our first FF choice proved we were the only people daunted by the weather. The stop was sentimental–but the work we found needed no sentimental ties to support it. Blog contributor (he might have been our first!) Tim McFarlane, whom we knew only electronically, was opening at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. We grabbed the opportunity to meet him face-to-face.

I know we’ve been raging about dead-end minimalism and abstraction, but here was minimalism that talked to both Roberta and me, so the moral is, theory will bite you if it’s blanket philosophizing. (Or does it really mean, if you like somebody and the art requires some contemplation, you’ll take the time to fall in love?)

McFarlane’s work–acrylic (sometimes juiced up with gel) on canvas or board–offers tenderly impinged-on borderlines peeking out from behind larger blocks and stripes, some thin and layered, some juicy. Those borderlines vibrate with visual tension, the place where sky and building meet, or where stripes and blocks meet.

McFarlane’s attention to material, surface, color, grid, never seems trapped or limited by those issues, and the choices he made seem open to a variety of meanings–viewer’s choice–this viewer choosing land and sky, body and world for starters.

I suppose you could compare his work to any number of minimalists exploring spiritual issues, from Mark Rothko to Agnes Martin, but I’d go to Barnett Newman, who implies both this world and that spiritual space beyond and stretched-thin bodies in his zip paintings.

But McFarlane adds both a sense of play with the materials, shapes and colors, and sense of vulnerability.

Check this off as one to see.

McPicasso

On our way to our next stop, we passed by a McDonald’s (the one at 10th and Market) with art prints hanging on the walls. Here’s a picture.

The gamut

Our next stop was “The New Money O.S.” by Josh O.S. at Space 1026, where as usual, we were among the few people over 30 and perhaps the only ones over 40 (the teens helped to give us some credibility in the mostly 20s crowd).

We were wondering what O.S. stands for; fortunately Josh was there to tell us it’s Operating System, as in MacOS. So he’s a techie. And his work takes the technology and creates collages of stolen images (aren’t we all doing this? my walk around Old City Saturday shows that the answer is, yes we are) that he prints on big canvases. (Shown, detail from one of the three panels from “Inauguration,” about Dubya’s policies.)

But this work was incredibly ambitious–a critique of our media-image loaded and consumerist society. The pieces were like puzzles, loaded with imagery to be discovered and decoded.

We got to look, at first, without a clue; On our way out, O.S. handed us schematics identifying the imagery. Either way, the images kept my attention.

Somehow, O.S. keeps this baroque excess of imagery in compositional control along with the lurid colors of the media and advertising. I loved them visually, and I loved the ones most that I was able to decode somewhat on my own.

Not all of the work was baroque and huge. Borrowed Renaissance portraits were reworked with the faces of media devils like Margaret Thatcher and Slobodan Milosevich, the backgrounds transformed into golf courses and McMansions (shown, a portrait of Nancy Reagan). Oh, yeah, and sheet cakes were frosted with printouts of the same images. We left before temptation forced us to partake.

To see such a range of work in one evening was a treat and a reminder that art can be anything and still be good.

Roberta and I divided up the rest of FF possibilities, so she’ll weigh in on those, and tomorrow I’ll add something about what I saw Saturday.

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