Sunday, May 22, 2011

Long Island City Open Studio Tour: "An Alien with Extraordinary Abilities" (Jose Carlos Casado); "A Numerical Family Portrait" (Tania Alvarez); "Numbers" (David Ferris)

Yesterday afternoon the Lobster & Canary visited dozens of artists in their open studios as part of the first-ever Long Island City Arts Open Festival (click here for more).

Long Island City (on the westernmost edge of Queens, with spectacular views of midtown Manhattan right across the East River) has a long-standing community of artists and the community is growing. LIC is-- along with Mott Haven in the Bronx, and Gowanus, Red Hook, Greenpoint and Bushwick in Brooklyn-- becoming what Soho and East Village were in the 1980s and DUMBO and Williamsburg were at the turn of the century: a hotbed of eclectic artistic innovation.

We saw many finely wrought, beautiful and thought-spurring works by established artists, e.g., Elliott Lloyd, Marilee Cooper, Janya Barlow, Gustavo Schmidt. We'll feature them in future posts, but want today to highlight three up-and-coming talents to watch: Jose Carlos Casado, Tania Alvarez, and David Ferris.

Casado (his site is here) is a surrealist of the first order. We loved his 3-D film-- part of his "An Alien with Extraordinary Abilities" series-- of an ostrich (slightly Looney Toon-ish) running in slow motion and in place, in the foreground of a very pedestrian, slightly smudged, greyish village scene. (You can watch this, and other of his mystifying short films, on his website). He inserts elephants in domestic settings, entices viewers with sly-looking dragons, merges bodies in his "Matrix" and "New Bodies" series and more.

Alvarez (her site is here) is developing a vocabulary of memory, loss, and the passage of time with her multi-media works. We were enthralled with two of her pieces in particular, paintings with ticking clocks embedded in a canvas carefully strewn with letters and numbers. When we asked the title of the larger piece, Alvarez smiled and said that she had not yet found a suitable title, but that the painting was a "numerical family portrait." (Her disregard for title, at least for the moment, reminds me of the Baziotes quote: "One can begin a picture and carry it through and stop it and do nothing about the title at all"; indeed, though her style differs greatly from that of Baziotes, Alvarez's oblique narratives share something of Baziotes's sensibility). Alvarez reminds us of Twombly with her calligraphic elements, and of Stephen Hannock's miniscule, half-hidden textual contours to his Oxbow paintings. Alvarez's sense of composition also brings to mind Guston. In short, Alvarez has much to say and an intriguing way to say her closely.

Ferris also has a thing for numbers and letters, in his case creating almost Platonic ideal versions of them in exquisitely hand-carved and finished wood. Ferris is thinking about space and form in ways that echo Brancusi and Lewitt, combining a keen artisanal hand with the fractionating eye of a logician. His walls are covered floor to ceiling with supple drawings that both are and document the evolution of the form that Ferris then calls out of the wood. Click here for more of his beauty.

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