Density squared

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There are several reasons to catch the last week of “Specific Density” at the Borowsky Gallery, the ones at the top of my personal list being Marta Sanchez’s retablo-inspired portraits, which, as promised by the show’s title, are dense–with paint, imagery, words and a sense of personal connection (left, “Retablo for Ray,” 36″ x 36″. The words say “Retablo for Ray and his search for his spiritual calling.”)

The show is one of a pair of shows at the Gershman Y gallery spaces selected from InLiquid’s member artists. The exhibits are long-time art critic Miriam Seidel’s first outing as curator there. She said she was drawn to the subject of density in art because it’s something that puzzles her. “My eye doesn’t work that way,” she said.

She also challenged herself with the task of going through all of InLiquid’s fat online portfolio of members. She selected some out-of-towners as well as local artists, a fact trumpeted on the wall labels (I don’t know whose idea this was, but it struck me as odd.) New Yorker Annette Cord’s layers texture and pattern, and Brooklynite Paul Loughney suggests psychological layers in his monotype on mylar prints; local artist Randall Cleaver piles on found objects, until they become new things.

Cords’ richly colored paintings bring to mind fabrics, weaving, plaids, and also city grids and networks on circuit boards. The work has a color-field quality because of its dense color, but the grids, whether upright or on an angle, talk to minimalism and obsession with drawing lines. Agnes Martin on peyote came to mind. Well, I guess that makes it an inept comparison, because spirituality is not a factor in what are flatly concrete objects rooted in reality–in the same sense that a color-field painting is just what it is, a field of color (right, “Mass Tool,” pigment, acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″).

Loughney’s prints get their strength from their representational subject matter that takes off from the reality of the every day and pushes its way into the “Sixth Sense.” Also, like all prints, they have a physical sense of layers, but even more, a physical sense of layers of time, experiences from childhood mixed with a grownup point of view (left, “Kids in a Trance,” 23″ x 14″).

Cleaver’s assemblages of found objects have the Philadelphia craftsmanship/perfection element going. The mechanics and the metaphors merge and playe off eachother. I especially liked “Time in Hell,” a demure box on turned legs with a compressed array of loopy flames inside. “Infinite Time,” however, seemed to be reaching with its orrery-like clock/planets that winked and turned above swinging pendulums. Though beautifully done and carefully thought through, the meticulous workmanship held the pieces in check, preventing the ideas from taking off in unexpected directions. I like things a little bit looser.

Others in the show were two other Philadelphia artists–Carol Sivin, with overwrought ceramic assemblages, and Marc Salz, with squirmy painting assemblages–and Richmond, Va., artist and fellow blogger Martin Bromirski, with scrap-paper collaged onto canvas landscapes.

Up and coming Feb. 3 at Borowsky is an Archie Rand show on Biblical and Jewish themes–sorta like comic books filled with guys in fedoras and Hebrew Biblical quotes in thought bubbles.

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