Sunday, December 11, 2011

Melora Griffis at 571 Projects

--Melora Griffis, empty room (2010; acrylic, gouache, pastel on paper).

--Griffis, blue sun (2010; acrylic, gouache, pastel on paper).

In mid-November, the Lobster & Canary made our first visit to 571 Projects, a beautiful small art gallery in NYC's Chelsea founded by Sophie Brechu-West two years ago ("571" refers to the gallery's square footage). We were rewarded with a gem of a show: wings and murmurs, paintings by New York artist Melora Griffis.

Griffis's work has great narrative power, stories emerging from depths below the carefully muted surfaces, and spurred by the enigmatic shapes and figures (many half-rendered, or veiled) the painter places on the canvas. The overall effects are of restraint and solemnity, possibly remonstrance and mourning, overlaid with spectral uncertainty and a sense of things perceived rather than formally witnessed (fittingly, one of Griffis's paintings is titled unsichtbar, which is German for "invisible, unseen, hidden"). Griffis works small wonders with her chalky/milky backgrounds supporting flares of subtle, slightly slurred color. She calls to mind Pousette-Dart's mostly white paintings, the pale mysterious abstractions of Adele Sypesteyn, the finely calibrated gestures on corrugated white done by Saul Fletcher. Her eerie personages recall those of Ensor, and --while her style differs often substantially from each of the following--the tone is similar to those suffusing Marsden Hartley, Johns, Bonnard, Rauschenberg, Gorky, Tamayo, and O'Keefe.

--Griffis, schlossgespenst (2010; oil on linen)

571 Projects is an arts space to watch, a welcome newcomer to the Chelsea scene. The warmly dynamic Brechu-West has a sharp eye, and a strong sense of how the space interacts with and supports the artwork, how the space becomes a part of the overall aesthetic experience. She chose the locale for-- among other things-- its large windows with their unobstructed views of Chelsea Piers, so that the rays of the afternoon sun and of the sunset play a role in how viewers see the art.

Brechu-West is also willing to cross disciplinary boundaries. As an example of the latter drive, 571 Projects hosted a talk last week by Griffis along with three poets-- Betty Harmon, Alystyre Julian, and Shelly Stenhouse--reading poetry inspired by Griffis's displayed work. Alas, the Lobster & Canary could not attend the event, but we love the concept and look forward to more such salons at 571 Projects.

Visit 571 Projects. For more information, click here.