Thursday, March 26, 2009
Kinkead Contemporary recently displayed a new series of paintings from New York based artist Ben Grasso, entitled “Close to Home.”
Grasso’s latest body of work continues to loosely address his prior existing interest in depicting contemporary urban landscapes and aberrant domestic structures.
Grasso documents the world around him, imagined and factual, with a sort of magical realism, both in the initial sense of the word by German art critic Franz Roh and its later appropriation by Latin American writers. In the context of Roh’s meaning, situated within the post-expressionist dialogue, Grasso’s works reveal both the magic and transitory nature of all objects; objects that have almost become invisible because of their very familiarity.
Grasso’s works verge ever so slightly on the surreal; in fact his strongest works are those that flirt with altered instances and prompt an emotional or psychological response. Standouts include his visions of mid-air kalleidoscopically fractured and exploding houses, lifting off as if to Oz in “House of Cards,” or a bee’s nest attacked by a swarm army of paper planes and porch swings in “Close to Home.” Now the center of activity, the hive buzzes with monolithic import, and a grade-school joke is at once playful and menacing. “Just Keep Looking Up,” turns the mind’s eye to a disorienting and vertiginous structure perched or lodged the branches of trees, while “November” seems to present some sort of cryptic marker; a white flag from a battle lost or a sunken ship perhaps.
The paintings true strengths, however, overarchingly are their formal qualities. The oil on canvas paintings are lush, beautifully painted visages. In a brash move, Grasso purposefully allows his paintings to bear evidence of workings and re-workings, taking place directly on the surface of the canvas. Rather than meticulously laying out the final product, Grasso’s multiple layered revisions evidence a spontaneous approach.
By portraying technically impossible realities, Grasso seems to dreamily desire to capture the essential nature of all things around him. In some ways, this attempt to create a world that is simultaneously fictive and hyper-real, can be traced back to the romantic ideal that art should transcribe what lies beyond immediately perceivable surfaces. Though certainly not idealized, in many ways, Grasso’s hand almost longs to be applied to classic Hudson River School epically heightened vistas. Grasso’s sweeping hand almost feels out of place within a post-modern dialogue, instead best suited to sublime American pastorals, where man harmoniously co-existed with his surroundings and complications such as industrial zones, demolition sites, and abandoned structures didn’t interfere with the land. Within Grasso’s bizarre conflations and intersections, however, he shows that today’s post-modern landscape is worked and re-worked not by the slow and steady hand of nature, but the impatient and fickle bulldozer and contracts of man, as it has been for centuries now.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Event Title: "The Grand" in the Wallace Gallery
Date: March 19,2009
Time: varied times
Description: The Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at SUNY College at Old Westbury is pleased to announce the opening of The Grand, an exhibition organized around the idea of beauty and the sublime in a contemporary context. People often associate beauty and the sublime with eighteenth-century concepts despite their prior histories. However, depiction of grand cathedrals, sublime landscapes, mythical legends, monumental events in history, and heroic portraits are very common themes explored throughout history. Such grand subject matter aim to evoke feelings of pleasant adoration or quiet wonder. According to Kant the sublime can be divided into three kinds: noble, splendid, and terrifying. The artists in The Grand; Ben Grasso, Daina Higgins, Miyeon Lee, Rita MacDonald, Andrea Loefke, Larry Lee, Alejandro Almanza Pereda and SunTek Chung explore ideas of the monumental that evoke joy and splendor while toying dangerously close to the idea of sublime terror. The exhibition will run until March 19, 2009. Admission for the gallery is free and the exhibit will be open from Monday-Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment.
Location: Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, Campus Center
Contact Name: Visual Arts Department, 516-876-3056
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, January 26, 2009
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Ben Grasso at Kinkead
Ben Grasso, like many contemporary painters, takes decay as his subject matter, but unlike those painters (often eager to watch the world burn), Grasso seems to follow the enthusiasm of his brushstrokes and the buoyancy of his color into realms laced with whimsy and imagination. His houses are in shreds and crumbling, you see a white flag of surrender, he dashes off a couple of shacks in the jungle, but Grasso doesn’t believe that these ruins denote the end of things -- flickers of light shimmer and whirls of white burst into the air.
The strongest work in show is American Oblique, 2008, a fascinating mixture of Ed Ruscha’s palindrome paintings, the Hudson River School, and maybe a touch of the Wizard of Oz. A house floats up and out of the canvas, twirled and pulled apart by planes circling around through its wreckage. It is hard to believe that plane wreckage can come across as charming and delightful but this is exactly what Grasso has accomplished. Though this house (maybe a home even) is coming apart, there’s no threat here, not a trace of dread. This is somehow, in spite of itself, a joyful exercise.