The intense colors in Sohan Qadris ink-and-dye-saturated drawings, recently on view at Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Soho, are not just luminous, they vibrate. These lush reds, peacock blues, deep indigos, sunshine yellows and emerald greens come straight from his native India.
The colored dyes are hand-made by the artist. He first saturates the paper with printing inks, then dabs on the dyes, controlling them without defining exactly how they will move. The tonalities of the dyes often increase and then melt away, up, down or across the paper.
The drawings are done on thick, intaglio print paper, which is covered with incised lines and small punched holes that help organize the surface. The lines add energy to the works, while the holes tack the works into space, contributing a forward and backward push and pull. They suggest an entry into other planes beyond the single surface before the viewer.
The result is a vibratory energy field that absorbs the eye yet projects a calming stability. This impressive effect, along with the subtle beauty of these works, makes sense in light of Qadris other professions -- Tantric guru and poet.
Tantra ("continuum") claims the entire range of bodily experience, especially sexual union, as the basis of enlightenment. Egoless indulgence is experienced as a path to transcendence once the usual snares of the physical world have been overcome.
Qadri, who started his artistic career using thick impasto on canvas, has allowed his art to follow his spiritual understanding, evolving into his current practice of using bathed, then dyed paper, after putting himself in a meditative state.
I found myself connecting to the works without knowing anything about them -- they produced an immediate buzz. Part artwork and part yantra, or meditation aid, Qadris works are both sensuous and profound.
Qadri, who has lived in Copenhagen for most of his life and traveled extensively, uses simple motifs that connect with both Tantra and more general Eastern symbolism. Many Westerners will read his Sambodh (or "understanding") as an abstract flower with four-sided geometric surrounds; most Easterners will identify the flower design amid unfolding boundaries as the lotus petals of a chakra, or energy center.
Whether or not a viewer interprets the serpentine lines in Qadris Samita (or "friendship") as the coiling female snake, or Kundalini, that travels up the chakras, joining and organizing their energies, the work is gorgeous, sexy, and hypnotic.
In several pieces, Qadri eschews color for pure white, as in Sunyata III (or "emptiness"), an evocation of a kind of cosmic egg. No matter what hes using, the results of Qadris endeavors are sure-footed pleasures. They call to mind Teilhard de Chardins comment that "joy is the most infallible test of the presence of God."
Prices range from $6,500 for a 28 x 37 inch work, like Sriti II (or "spiritual connection") from 1999, to $11,500 for the 63.5 x 47.5 inch Bliss II from 2004. Qadris work was on view at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 137 Greene Street, Sept. 1-Oct. 2, 2004.
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A quasi-mandala appears in a drawing by Louis Monza at the Luise Ross Gallerys new group show, but its a long way from being a peaceful, meditative aid. In each of the corners of this deceptively pretty, pastel colored-pencil piece from 1942 are three airplanes, possibly bombers.
The show, entitled "Dopes, Dupes, and Demagogues: Viewed by Outsiders," contains works by 14 self-taught artists, from the well-known, like Henry Darger, to lesser known contemporary artists like William Fields and Michael Madore. More than half the pieces are drawings, but everythings interesting, including a couple of WPA model bombs from WWII, made out of painted wood, and a small abstract sculpture constructed of gun sights.
While Monza is represented by several other delicately tinted works, usually scathing political satires, a black gouache on white paper by Carlo Zinelli, an Italian born in 1916, is a more somber affair. Silhouettes of men, one on the ground with a large, perfect hole in his abdomen, coexist with planes, tanks, rifles, birds, and much more. And then there is his visually fantastic nonsense writing, which glues together the horrific and the mundane into an unutterable amalgam.
Okinawa, a thickly stroked oil-on-board by Victor Joseph Gatto from around 1945, is crammed with action. Japanese soldiers storm toward Americans and die, falling into a ditch near the shore. In the distance, boats sink and planes dive. Its a vivid summation of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific in WWII.
Images of riots and wars, depictions of unfairness under the law, caricatures of politicians, and satires of all sorts fill the exhibition. Thankfully, the gallery has leavened all of this nefarious imagery with a more uplifting assemblage by Lonny Holley, Without Skin, Honoring Dr. King.
A small Monza drawing costs as little as $600 and a large oil $8,500. A modal bomb can be had for $1,800, the Gatto for $6,000, and the Zinelli for $18,000. The Holley is priced at $2,800. "Dopes, Dupes, and Demagogues: Viewed by Outsiders" is at Luise Ross Gallery, 568 Broadway, Sept. 14-Oct.23, 2004.
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Andrew Lords exhibition of glazed sculpture fills both venues of Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea, the well-established 10th Avenue space as well as his annex space around the corner on West 27th Street. Many of the viscerally wrought vessels in the show are from a series that Lord calls "breathing, biting, swallowing, tasting, smelling, listening, watching" -- which is what Lord does to the clay, torquing his oversized traditional pottery forms into fresh territory.
Born and educated in England and now working in New York, Lord enhances his erose surfaces by covering cracks with epoxy and gold leaf, as if they were precious Oriental ceramics.
Like Qadri, he plays with borders. Lord embraces the handcrafting of vessels that are no longer traditional ceramics. He plays with scale, form, surface effects, and even their repairs. They are still-life pieces imbued with the artists own physical being.
Kasmins annex is featuring drawings of Lords works along with a couple of pieces from 1993-4, Sleeping Head and Skull. Lord makes the drawings after the ceramics. They are really portraits of his ceramics, which bear the impress of his autobiography. Sort of sketching yourself from a photo. Sort of wonderful.
Andrew Lords ceramics top out at $34,000 for individual pieces with multipart works going into six figures. His drawings in graphite, red conté and white conté on black paper run to $8,700. "Andrew Lord: Sculpture and Related Drawings" is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Avenue and 511 West 27th Street, Sept. 10-Oct. 9, 2004.
N. F. KARLINS is a New York art historian and critic.