Carrier Pigeon magazine’s artists take to the walls in Artist Driven II at Dalet Gallery

With a name evoking antiquated modes of communication, Carrier Pigeon is a magazine that tries to be everything. The quarterly publication uses a cross-disciplinary approach and casts a wide net to gather artists, writers and illustrators into a unique production.  The magazine is beautifully articulated. Its subject matter is lofty and cerebral; its raison d’etre described as ornately as any gallery press release. The gallery affect is understandable since the magazine puts on exhibits, in galleries, showcasing the magazine’s artists.  Artist Driven II at Dalet Gallery is a case in point.  (The show is a re-mount of a previous exhibition, Artist Driven, shown at Powerhouse Arena in New York in May, 2011).

Adam Lister’s cover for Carrier Pigeon II.

This time around, Dalet Gallery offered Carrier Pigeon a space in which to stage over 120 works from their roster of artists.  In addition to Dalet artist Ellen Peckham, there are contributions from Chakaia Booker, Rie Hasegawa, Bruce Waldman, Joseph Hart, Stephen Fredericks, Justin Sanz, and Russ Spitkovsky — it’s a retrospective of art from the past seven issues of the journal.

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Justin Sanz, “To the Republic.” Acrylic on canvas.

In a mission to avoid current trends and follow the in crowd, the organizers have made no discernible order to the types of art on show, although the art tends heavily towards the illustrative side.  The organization is haphazard, which may appeal to many, but put off many more. Many of the artists’ works accompany writing in the magazine, and whats’s on display reflects much of that. Justin Sanz, a printmaker from Brooklyn, is a repeat contributor, and his painting “To The Republic,” acrylic on canvas, is an enticingly lurid melange of menacing figures. Sanz is one of two artists whose work is categorized by Carrier Pigeon as speaking to a complex, esoteric interior monologue.

Rie Hasegawa, Trick Unicycling Show, Lithograph, 2008, 15″ x 22″.

Rie Hasegawa’s work has a similarly surreal edge, depicting an organic inner monolog and an eye for the sublime. Her pieces are especially palatable for young artists interested in a certain kind of accessible, surrealism-infused, ornamental illustration; she works in a style that seems to me to be the bread and butter of a magazine like Juxtapoz.

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Photo of Hyeyoung Shin’s interactive footwashing performance.
Unlike the many illustrative and surreal works in the show, Hyeoung Shin’s interactive foot-washing performance stands apart.   Photos of the footwashing piece (accompanied by texts) are based on Shin’s religion-influenced ritual, using her body as the drawing instrument and making participants feel like the object of a performance. It’s an oddly unifying centerpiece, both because of the way Shin (featured in the most recent Carrier Pigeon) appears to be submitting to her participants, and because the piece seeks to level onlookers in a communal experience.
For all the blood, sweat and tears that go into them, literary magazines have big distribution issues. Getting magazines to people other than immediate family and friends is typically an onerous task. That’s what makes Artist Driven II something of a disappointment. In their attempt to build a visual overview of the artists from the magazine (and perhaps drum up some new subscribers), Carrier Pigeon and Dalet have created a diverse show, but not an inviting one. Except for Hyeyoung Shin’s centerpiece, it’s going to be difficult for visitors to get the full effect of any one artist, and it’s hard to imagine that seeing several artists’ works crammed haphazardly together on a single stretch of wall will draw new fans and subscribers. Carrier Pigeon is quite beautiful as a magazine, and perhaps that’s the best presentation of what it has to offer.
The opening reception was held at Dalet Gallery on Friday, October 5, 2012, from 6–9 p.m. Artist Driven II is up until October 27.