Vanishing Points marks the launch of LewAllen Projects with a curated group exhibition in the gallery’s Railyard location. The man behind the curtain is Alex Ross, an employee of LewAllen and a sometime art critic.
I have known of Ross since I first moved to New Mexico. As a writer, he stands out for his verbose and dense prose on matters of aesthetics. I don’t know what grade level he is reading at, but suffice it to say I’m not in that grade yet. I need a dictionary to machete my way through a typical Ross piece and this merely translates the language into digestible words; it does little to provide lucidity for Ross’ claims.
His curator’s statement is no exception—I just finished reading it now, though I saw the show more than a week ago. I commend Ross for striving to do more than provide a sappy introduction of facile works, but the couch in which his ideas rest is a heavy floral thing indeed, and it threatens to overpower the art that hangs above it.
According to Ross, the show examines the ever-evolving ways we receive and interpret information, specifically by re-evaluating the practice of landscape painting. Incorporating various strategies of mark making, the artists’ work is a far cry from idyllic depictions of a peaceful countryside. Theirs is a world being scrambled apart; digital artifacts are likened to decay.
Saul Becker eyes the waterways surrounding Brooklyn like someone awaiting a lover’s return. From land he looks outward toward an empty horizon. In many cases, the view looks to have once been obstructed, but erosion and time have worn through the concrete barriers and rotted piers. His bleak palettes and titles—with ironic names like “Cornucopia”—indicate a possible future wiped of mankind. Becker is a precise draftsman and his surfaces are smooth and seductive, but the paint is laid down in parts, giving the images a pixilated quality. It’s an interesting effect, but ultimately the works remind me of dystopian screen savers.
Steve Robinson’s images of Ryo-an-ji utilize a computer to create elaborate stencils. The shapes at first look like specks and pebbles, but a moment to read just one of the work’s visions—squinting helps—reveals the intricate surfaces and patterns of the famed garden. Especially lovely is a black-and-white pen drawing. The lack of color allows the viewer to oscillate between the surface and the marks’ illusory perspectives. By enlarging and simplifying the shapes to this extent, Robinson questions the completeness of the nature of representation.
Martí Cormand’s realist renderings are immaculately detailed. The problem is he repeatedly disrupts the imagery with a goofy one-liner meant to invoke tensions between interiors and exteriors. He does this by cutting across the pictures with colored lines and widgets that recall the early days of CGI. I believe Cormand means to reference the amassing of bits of information that fabricate a seamless and untruthful whole, but the effect is neither poignant nor sensible. His concept is clear enough in the clever and masterful “Bite,” in which a hillside road has been destroyed and has collapsed into a gaping hole littered with human detritus. At the bottom of the composition, spilling out farthest, is a painter’s easel. In this single image, Cormand captures the theme of his other works, if not the entire show.
The works of Vanishing Points are beautifully crafted, but the tone of the show seems unnecessarily negative. Whereas the artists and curator alike see something tragic in the potential for misinformation, I would counter that digital media has helped aid our awareness of the world well beyond any harm it has done. As more of our experiences become virtual, something may be lost, but what exactly? It may not be perfect, but wider dissemination of information and greater interconnectivity are rather worthy goals.