A Dollop of Grandeur for Your Living Room
On view now at Gallery W in Westlake is a Mad Men-esque battle of the sexes, each grid-based piece by Bruce Checefsky, Marilyn Farinacci, and Freddy Hill hoping to land itself a spot in your permanent collection. Powerful ideas scaled for your mantle, magnificent form that’s immediately obtainable. The only work you can’t walk out with is the Checefsky printed large and wrapped around a trademark American Greetings freestanding house-wall, an installation that reminds you that home is where this art could be.
Retro furnishings ground you in the space, the warm wood tones draw your attention to the lobby’s lovely dark wood baseboards and set the stage for an interplay of past, present, future. Altogether, the show feels like the establishing shot in a dystopian sci-fi movie, earthy yet sleek mid-century meets next century gives way to glitchy botanicals and precisely gridded drips in a large, vacuous space. An invasive human culture skewed in translation, packaged almost as relics aboard a spaceship, reminding inhabitants and employees alike of their rich lost civilization.
Freddy Hill’s beautifully designed and meticulously crafted furnishings encourage the viewer to grab a tumbler of whiskey and sit down for a chess match with an android. A large, sleek glass table suggests it would be the ideal location to discuss the merits of painting vs. photography at your next dinner party. You have to really look for formal kinship between the material surfaces of the furniture and the art on the walls: inlays on the Townsend Credenza form a plaid, the metal surface of the Liquor Cabinet’s door displays a subtle film like cream-swirling-into-coffee smoke cloud forms that echoes the painting next to it. The grid of the chess board is mirrored in the loose woven linen grid of Farinacci’s Dragon Red, but serves more to underscore the curator’s insistence that this art should go home with you.
If this show were a scene of two parents fighting, Hill’s pieces are the little boy huddled in the corner, eyes closed and ears covered, softly singing to himself, representing just how far we are from peaceful domesticity. On the walls are paintings and photos that talk over each other more often than they can be found having a dialog.
Marilyn Farinacci’s large, measured, abstract paintings feature controlled drips, beautiful colors, and occasional surprise forms emerging from the precise grids. Reds and oranges demand your attention and consume those works, while blue gray pieces reveal they are masking hot pinks upon closer inspection. Shadows move behind the lines, forming the curves of secrets kept from the viewer, pulling you in and providing depth and movement behind the stripes. In Crossing Over, curvilinear forms become their own swirling grid on the topmost layer, a trippy experience, water rippling out, or perhaps the mapping of a rocky terrain. Out Front shows swirling forms that become like knot-work or the curvy embroidery of an embellished Mariachi jacket in teals and pinks that feel more 50’s/80’s than 60’s/70’s.
In Contrast, suggestions of her personal vernacular mark-making get whitewashed over with a nice additive removal process evoking censoring graffiti. In Dragon Red, which appears with the chess set in the front window, the curving forms have broken free of the grid completely, and are thickening into vines or springs in movement. Bright red blocks out whole sections of the image, focusing the viewer’s eye as well as repeating shadowed forms that can just be made out from the back-most layer, suggesting history repeating.
The two pieces which hang above the title vinyl present an interesting duality, the fury of Crossing teasing out the hot pink peeking out at the seams in Light & Shadow. Finally, in Passage, sickening lava lamp green suggests the future has seeped through and is threatening to blot out everything.
The baritone in this cacophony is Bruce Checefsky’s futuristic, atmospheric, scanned images of otherworldly flowers, stretched and distorted in space-time, like evidence of manifestations of the rumored Chernobyl wildflowers. The dark backgrounds with high, distant horizon lines underscore the sense that these botanicals exist in an alien atmosphere. The blurs and stretches give the organic growth a faint modular, mechanic feel, they are just foreign enough to mesmerize.
In Allium Aflatunense, a familiar amaryllis becomes a sparkler in motion, thin petals stacking and shifting and stretching with an almost prismatic effect. In Zinnia Elegans (red), petals and leaves become rectangular, emerging from a coppery background as though they are growing on Mars. William Baffin Rose smashes into a mime’s invisible glass, and melts off of it like a Dali painting. The bloom looms so large against the blurred horizon, a sepal at the flower’s base distorts in such a way that the bending light takes on the blueish glowing cast of the hottest seed of a flame. These mutant flowers buzz with life and bizarre coloration tucked into their folds.
Each individual piece is strong, but taken together, the show has a disorienting, falling-through-the-bookshelf-in-Interstellar gestalt. There is a bizarre domesticity that feels forced and particularly at odds with the sleek corporate lobby space. Being in the space makes it easy to imagine collecting art, and so it is perhaps a show that knows its audience. Given how packed and busy the rest of the Crocker Park complex is, an expansive storefront happily presenting itself to a parking garage at the farthest corner of the lot adds to the feeling that you’ve stepped through a portal not meant for you. It’s a strange trip.
Intimate Grandeur runs through May 10th at Gallery W in the American Greetings Creative Studios. Gallery W is located at 1 American Blvd in Westlake, and open M-F 10am to 5pm.