Summer: Curated by Ugo Rondinone
Peter Freeman, Inc. | June 8 – July 27, 2018
White clouds in a bright-blue sky, painted across clothes on drying lines; a pair of boots on a plinth; a shovel attached to the wall (rocks attached to its blade); a circular sign on a stick leaning on another wall; next to it, a horizontal canvas, also of clouds in the sky. Entering the gallery and leaving behind the traffic noise of a busy weekday Grand Street, I found summertime to be successfully, if disconcertingly and humorously, evoked. Summer, curated by the artist Ugo Rondinone, brought together seven intergenerational artists whose works relate at varying tangents to this apparently straightforward seasonal idea. There was a breezy variety in Rondinone’s selection: the works were formally unrelated but connected nevertheless because life’s experiential contradictions continue to be affectual—holidays and good weather notwithstanding.
In the works of Geoffrey Hendricks, a former member of Fluxus, metaphor and representation seep into each other. The effect is deadpan, both humorous and surrealistic, not unlike that of René Magritte’s. David Adamo’s group of “termite mound” sculptures are reflections on the structures made by this insect, both resourceful and destructive. The process of constructing the sculptures reiterates a process found in nature, which is typical of his oeuvre. They are made with Zellan, a synthetic material that when cured takes on porcelain-like qualities. Here, the earth yellow color adds to the impression of an organic material, and—placed, as they were, in front of Pat Steir’s paintings—one associates them pleasurably and perversely with nature, the non-human world, absent of intervention.
Shara Hughes expands the scale and range of imagery found on old postcards, repurposed via imaginative invention and luscious color contrast. The painterly reveries results in a graphic semi-abstract ambiguity. Stephen Pace, formerly an abstract expressionist painter, turned to figuration upon leaving New York City for Maine in 1972 and produced beautiful, fresh paintings of the people and places he found there—in particular, fishermen. His expressive brushwork pieces together fast-moving strokes across the canvas. Pat Steir’s “waterfall” paintings, much like Adamo’s sculptures, have clear associations with phenomena found in nature. Heart of Darkness (1990) was rendered through a free-flowing yet precise and lucid process that equally embraced structure, accident, and chance. Up close, the drips and splatters weave together in a shallow, resonant pictorial space. Ned Smyth’s mosaic, totemic sculptures recall ancient sites visited on tours of faraway regions. Their detailed patterns and pillared forms reveal a visual and structural interest in past eras. Emily Mae Smith melds Pop Art style and animation into an unexpected rerouting of art history—its different genres of figuration—with a sleek, rather than painterly, surface. For example, The Gleaner Study (2018), in which a Daliesque figure dries itself, seated within a traditionally painted coastal scene: all the elements fit within the remit of what summer could be—in this case,swimming and being by the sea—albeit uncomfortably. The mood is dark, not carefree.
Questions are raised about our relationship with natural phenomena, their inherent structures and found materials, and how together, with our own perceptions and inventions, nothing is stable and transparent. It was fun to walk this path, but also disquieting to think about it too much.
DAVID RHODES is a New York-based artist and writer, originally from Manchester, UK. He has published reviews in the Brooklyn Rail, Artforum, and Artcritical, among other publications.