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A break from ecstasy

Cafes continue to be unlikely, but sometimes dead-on, in their choices of who’s showing work on their walls. This week I’m all about La Colombe at 19th Street of of Rittenhouse Square (image, “Egret,” in the “In Futurum Videns” series; i don’t know if you can see it at this scale, but the subject has a black eye).

Artist Alex Da Corte has four huge portraits/icons up that are disconcerting after the first take. Behind the heads are gold halos, and atop the heads, bird hats that look positively medieval and 3-D as compared to the faces. But the scale of these, the faces and the blank backgrounds are ultra-modern–except for the face of the only male, who is missing one eye and has a Heironymous Bosch peasant look.

They’re all a little sad, some quite angry, that being the intent of a series of seven based on the seven sorrows of Mary. Da Corte said he had been thinking about laminating the paintings so they could be more like holy cards. How do you do that? epoxy? But unlike the luridly colored, blank-faced holy cards, Da Corte holds back on color, using a mostly grisaille palette. Also, but doesn’t hold back on expression. As Catholicism goes, these are pretty subversive (just in case you were worried that this work signals a return to the Middle Ages). I’m not so sure that they are faithless however. The faith has maneuvered its way to a belief in humanity. There’s a curious optimism here.

Holy cards also bear a relationship to advertising with its idea of a fashionably expressionless but ecstatic face–the antithesis of what’s going on here. The last show I saw of portraits was in New York (see post). The beautifully executed paintings by Karel Funk were straight out of Ralph Lauren advertising and I thought quite depressing–a shallow view of life. In light of that work, or Elizabeth Peyton’s, I find this work humanistic and alive–oh, give me a break from ecstasy.

Da Corte, a recent UArts graduate whose work we’ve covered here and here, expects to show the whole series at a solo show at Black Floor Gallery in December. He’s also got a solo show coming up in June at Space 1026, but look for something completely different there.da corte, alex