Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wide Field @ Joe Ballweg’s Studio

Remember for a while there in the late Nineties when it seemed that every review Jerry Saltz would wrote worked in the ratio of women to men in exhibitions? Well, I want to do the same for photography in Brooklyn. Wide Field was a pretty decent pop-up show of mostly abstract painting and one free-standing sculpture, granted it’s in Ridgewood, Queens, but that’s nine painter/sculptors to zero photographers. A ratio that puts photography on a par with such arts as graphic design, ceramics, and graffiti. Oh, the lonely world of secondary art forms. One day we will rise and take what is rightfully ours.

It’s hard to get too up in arms about a pop-up show in a ground floor studio. I am just saying one of these days there is going to be one painting/sculpture to every nine photographs/cartoons/new media pieces. The two standouts in the show were Adam Parker Smith and my favorite current Ridgewood painter, Matthew Mahler. nowadays. The real fun in his paintings is that they are so potentially terrible. Imagine Native American rugs with the palate of a Trapper-Keeper. Now imagine Native American rugs combined with the palate of a Trapper-Keeper that didn’t suck, and you have some surprisingly awesome painting. Mahler’s work in Wide Field is a little more muted than his last showing at 950 Hart Gallery, but he seems to be working in these light splashes of paint that almost looks like his paintings are molding, and molding into some rather nice little day-glow colors. The slight splatters add an organic feel that works well off the hard edge in the work while playing into the hippie/hipster vibe of the Native American patterning in the work.

Adam Parker Smith’s work has a similar vibe, an echo of early seventies hippies who got out of college and either started to abduct rich teens and shoot people or got jobs. It is that strain of failed utopian hippieness that has pervaded Brooklyn, where everyone looks like they just gave up living on an upstate commune after it ran out of food. I might have gotten off topic, but I feel somewhere in what I just said is the visual aesthetic of Smith’s thousand or so friendship bracelets that have been woven into a visually vibrant but a tad shabby drug rug that reads “Will U Marry Me.” The piece is one giant desperate grab at the idealized hopefulness of sixties utopianism and middle-school friendships that in retrospect never really existed.

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