-ART ARTICLE: "Default State Network" at Morgan Lehman

Article written for "M" aka "The New York Art World" in 2010.
Pdf archives eventually arrive here: http://www.TheNewYorkArtWorld.com/

The printed article was of course quite edited-down.
This is the full text before editing.

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Notable Shows :
Morgan Lehman Gallery :
Group Show, "Default State Network"
6th Floor, 535 West 22nd St, New York, NY 10011
(Nearest subway: 23rd St Station via C or E trains.)
June 17 - Aug 30, 2010.


Those visiting the inaugural exhibit at Morgan Lehman Gallery’s new 22nd Street sixth-floor location might wonder, “why so much blank canvas?” ---or at least nearly-blank. And if so, the staff might smile with satisfaction, “mission accomplished.” The group show, titled “Default State Network” is about blankness ---mental blankness. When the mind is blank ---so blank that it doesn’t even realize that its blank--- it is in its default state network, at least according to neuroscientist jargon which gallery writings paraphrase. The default state network might quietly activate when drifting into or out of consciousness, or of hypnotic states, or of dreams. The traditional prompt for meditation asks, “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” This exhibit seems to ask its artists to ponder that question, and then to try picturing it. It is at least the second incarnation of “Default State Network,” which has previously hung on the other coast.

Show organizer Ryan Wallace’s own entry, a six-foot mixed media canvas called Glean 3 is a nearly-monochromatic whites-on-whites grid-piece where densely-packed vertical rectangles somewhat resemble the streaming sourcecode of The Matrix (if it were shown on a black-and-white TV). An implied circle or inverted teardrop seems to be trying to organize near the center. Artist Jaq Chartier’s three-foot panel Chart w/11 Whites is a white rectangle with faintly-colored vertical bars. Within the bars are dark, vaguely kidney-bean-shaped ovoids which evoke photomicrographs of chromosomal pairs.

An Elise Ferguson gray-on-gray mixed-media creation has two incuse upended squares which almost touch ---almost forming a pointy infinity symbol. Some outlines radiating from the squares meet in the center to form an x (the piece is called Capital X). The artwork evokes early Frank Stella, small scale (maybe two feet across). Another gray-on-gray Ferguson, called C-90 Stare is a double “target” painting ---resembling a black-and-white photo of some lost small Jasper Johns item. Taking the title to heart and staring long and hard at the piece causes some op-art effects: maybe a little visual-vibration at the circles’ edges and almost at times an illusion of spherical depth. Stare long enough, and one might even pass over into the mental default state ---as long as one can keep the head clear of silly distracting thoughts like, “this must be the last thing a field mouse sees before the screech owl pounces for the kill.”

Unintended distracting thoughts might abound at the sight of Alex Dodge’s mixed-media installation, Study for Intelligent Design, which is a load of shredded papers, waste-paper bags, and human body parts ---the latter realistically painted molded rubber. Some of the limbs terminate with wires as if pulled from frighteningly humanoid cyborgs. It is hard not to recall latex Halloween masks ---and perhaps to muse that the mask-makers, whose creations sell for $30-$150 typically, are in the wrong business. Another peripheral thought inspired by the piece: after ten years, this city is “over” September Eleventh. New Yorkers have reached a milepost of sorts when piles of office paper with dismembered white-collar worker body parts elicit no outraged cries of “too soon” ---like Eric Fischl’s “falling man” themed Tumbling Woman, which was heckled (and even bomb-threatened) out of exhibit at Rockerfeller Center about a week after installation. (Maybe Tumbling Woman can make a comeback soon.)

Cleverly hung close to Dodge’s human remains are : the coffins. Glen Baldridge’s, photos of casket catalog pages are screenprinted Warhol-style onto two-and-a-half foot surfaces ---each overprinted with a polka-dot pattern of typographical symbol-dingbats in a way that recalls wallpaper. Seven such works are framed and hung close-together ---titled Lucky Sevens. The catalogue images and the wallpaper patterns comment on the peculiar American commerce of comforting mourners: putting the cold reality of death at a distance by presenting the corpse in semi-formal clothing within a luxurious furniture-box with silken bedding ---a high-dollar final purchase. Lucky Sevens can get one thinking.

Another case of clever exhibit hanging: Chris Duncan’s abstracted humanoid sculpture, Ryan Schallenberger (No. 1) stares at the wall ---where a mirror piece (also by Duncan) hangs. In the Minimalist mirror piece, three-and-a-half feet square, an area of multicolored spraypaint spots forms a waist-up human-shape which occupies the area where the sculpture’s (or viewer’s) reflection seemingly ought to be. Duncan calls the mirror Absence Presents. The Duncan sculpture is a flat square base topped with a cut-off boulder shape painted to resemble stone, the whole crowned by a realistically-modeled man’s head which has been stipple-painted with rainbow-hued dots ---looking much like baker’s candy sprinkles. Portions of missing ear might get one wondering if Ryan’s paint job was done to conceal damage (one of those “happy accidents” that lead to novel studio solutions) or if the missing areas were intended for some reason.

Will Yackulic’s basic shapes (cubes, the circle) in metal foil applied to geometric artwork might bring to mind joss-offering gilding or maybe the Mylar tarp on Skylab. The artist’s Twinfinitive Lozenge and Foil/Plotting (New Illusion) put a new spin on geometric Minimalism ---a field in which it is hard to do anything which hasn’t already been done. Joseph Hart’s non-objective mixed-media creation, Stagecraft, seems to use actual joss paper ---though with a black background and also (thanks to quirky painted shapes) channeling Miro. Another Hart, called Tilt, has an off-vertical array of concentric rectangles in German and Dutch flag colors ---a sort of squared-off Mardsen Hartley. That the two Hart’s are sufficiently different in style as to look like they weren’t made by the same hand is not a worry at this show; the curator repeatedly pairs dissimilar creations by the same artist ---or shows both a sculpture and a painting by one person. Perhaps the most flagrant example is the monumental painting of an empty swimming pool pictured from under the water ---the calm realistic blue acrylic is by Alex Dodge ---maker of the body parts heaped in the other corner. Dodge’s realism might not fit among so much Minimal art, except that the empty expanse of water takes on an abstract sort of quality. Plus,it fits right in with the “blankness” theme ---one can almost hear the self-underwater sound, which is the blank audio peculiar to being submerged.

Andrew Schoultz’ large Mounted in Darkness has a complex collage-like radial design upon a diagram of a box upon a black ground. Hilary Pecis’ Untitled is a more conventional approach to collage ---both in scale and in design. Keegan McHargue’s abstract surrealist painting The Waxman Cometh and the artist’s nearby painted found-object (with castings) sculpture look like they came from a public school art room, but perhaps on purpose. The sculpture’s visible drips of hot-melt glue which at first simply look sloppy (rather than being “purposefully” drippy in a Pollock-esque reveling-in-the-materials kind of way) might be a calculated effect. The piece’s secondary title, after all, is Pre-Teen X. The little assemblage shows no fear about painting-over found objects (a clear prism and a polished agate) whose “precious”-ness would usually preclude such treatment.

The exhibit’s extreme-Minimalism award must go to Artist N. Dash’s Gilded Corner Portrait which is, quite simply, a rectangle of metallic silver applied to a corner (at about head-height) ---the joint of the two walls cleanly bisecting the shape so that an index-card-sized sector appears on each wall. This sort of thing might have been done many times before ---often with a sort of “I’m an Artist and I’m not making an object you can buy because Art should not be about buying and selling objects” statement--- but not always with the quiet authority which this piece seems to exude. This creation and other Dash artwork are in a separate small room, a quiet art-chapel of sorts. Three Dash photographs (black-and-white close-ups of hands with interlocked fingers gesturing against black backgrounds) in artist-made frames occupy one wall. Echoing lines of the fingers, two of the three frames are parallelograms rather than conventional rectangles. Dash also fabricated two sculptural lumpy fleshcones called Digit II and Digit VIII ---somewhat conical shoebox-sized skin-toned vase-oids. Dash’s We Eat is a bathroom mirror “hung” by resting one edge upon the floor. Upside-down, the hand-lettered words “eat me” are etched near the center. The piece, immediately nicknamed “the ‘eat me’ mirror,” was a favorite of opening-night visitors seeking FaceBook-usable snapshots. During the opening, in the Dash room, in the corner opposite the Gilded Corner Portrait a dime sat on the floor ---whether placed by an artist or a visitor was unknown, but within an hour a quarter had joined it. Perhaps visitors left tips?

---Terry Ward
Ward is an artist and occasional writer for “The New York Art World.”

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Of course reflections vary as visitors come and go --article author reflected in the mirror piece, We Eat. Photo: Terry Ward.

Photos below courtesy Morgan Lehman Gallery.

Alex Dodge, Study for Intelligent Design, detail. Mixed media

Alex Dodge, Hidden Power of Everyday Things.42 x 56 in. Acrylic polymer & pigment on panel

Andrew Schoultz, Mounted in Darkness. 57 x 54 in. Mixed media on paper

Chris Duncan, Ryan Schallenberger (No. 1). 18.5 x 21 x 35 in. Mixed media

Chris Duncan, Absence Presents. 42 x 42 in. Spray paint on mirror

Elise Ferguson, C-90 Stare. 18 x 24 in. Mixed media

Elise Ferguson, Capital X. 18 x 24 in. Mixed media

Glen Baldridge, Lucky Sevens. 20 x 30 in. 3 color screenprint with scratch off ink, published by Forth Estate

Hilary Pecis, Untitled. 20 x 16 in. Ink, collage and acrylic on panel

Jaq Chartier, Chart w/11 Whites. 28 x 36 in. Acrylic, spray paint on panel

Joseph Hart, Stagecraft. 38 x 28 in. Collaged paper, ink, acrylic, colored pencil and graphite on paper

Joseph Hart, Untitled, (Tilt). 19 x 15 in. Acrylic, colored pencil, & graphite on paper

Keegan McHargue, The Waxman Cometh. 27 x 21 in. Gouache on paper

Keegan McHargue, Untitled (Pre-Teen X). 17 x 9 x 9 in. Mixed media

N. Dash, Demonstration II. 20 x 68 in. Silver gelatin prints in artist frames, suite of 3, ed. 10

N. Dash, Digit II & Digit VIII. 22 x 6.5 x 7 in. Plaster, plywood, ceramic

N. Dash, Gilded Corner Portrait. Silver, graphite

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