Bellwether Gallery on Grand Street in Brooklyn kicked off the long hot summer with a two-part exhibition of dramatically dissimilar work, May 31-July 1, 2002. In the front of the gallery was "When to Stop," a show of abstractions by four young artists organized by freelance curator Patrick Callery. In the back, behind a black curtain (like a magician's surprise, as it were) was a playful installation by the Brazil-born artist Eli Sudbrack, his second at the gallery. Start back to front.
Sudbrack, 35, who goes by the extravagant alias of Assume Vivid Astro Focus, revels in a certain subcategory of American Pop culture that could be called "bubblegum space-disco surfer psychedelia." His installation covers floor and walls of the gallery with stripes and polka dots and a large digital print on vinyl titled Peacock Rides On, an ever-expanding logo that primps and preens like a Pollock abstraction but whose design actually harkens back to Peter Max and Yellow Submarine. The walls are also speckled with decals of his muse, Carla, who Sudbrack says is a witch, and an eclectic array of other images.
Playing in the gallery is a trippy video titled Freebird, an animated kaleidoscope of appropriated and original imagery that blurs the line between abstraction and representation. The soundtrack is a looped sample from Lynrd Skynrd's rock classic, Free Bird. This is designer psychedelia, and without a care in the world. Sudbrack has a DVD version of Freebird for $800; he also makes limited editions of postcards, t-shirts and other commercial objects.
Sudbrack sells a CD of his picture glossary that buyers are free to use as they wish -- they can make it into t-shirts and posters or bury it in the yard. This kind of public-domain Conceptual Art, pioneered by Lawrence Weiner, is important to Sudbrack's personal ideology, but so is having a really good time. His art, which he says is inspired by a perfect day at the beach, is an inviting fantasy for anyone who needs an escape.
Up in the front of the gallery, Callery's group show is premised on Jackson Pollock's famous quip in answer to a questioner who asked, "How do you know when to stop?" Pollock replied with a question of his own: "How do you know when you are finished making love?" In the case of this show, which features three formalist painters and a sculptor who Callery apparently thinks know "when to stop," perhaps the question might be better phrased as "What is love?"
Shoshana Dentz, a Bard MFA student and at 35 the youngest of the group, paints an approximate answer to the question in a limited palette of yellows and reds. Her works suggest a gentle if dispassionate caressing of the paint -- she still loves this most sensuous of mediums. Works by the other three artists share a weariness that would seem to come from the "neverending attraction and debate over abstract art," as the curator calls the endless labor of wringing abstraction dry.
Several small monochromes by Jacqueline Humphries, the best known artist here (she's represented by Greene Naftali in Chelsea), are marked by stilted dripped lines that feel emotionally frozen. Dorota Kolodziejczyk pours paint on her canvases and tips them about to create dull-hued abstractions that suggest plain and boring Midwest landscapes. The sculptor of the group, Edouard Prulhiere, mashes and mixes metal and paint to create sculptural equivalents of a Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild, cold and intellectual and far from the physicality of love making.
WILLIAM POWHIDA is an artist and writer living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.