Nader's Garden

You'll find the masters' works in the parking lot and narcotic beauty inside

During a recent visit to Gary Nader Fine Art, a forklift weaved perilously close to pricey marble and bronze sculptures in the main gallery.

The driver was hauling several crated Pablo Atchugarry works to a loading dock where a truck waited to transport the Uruguayan's striking Carrara pieces to their new owners.

"He sold really well during Art Basel," Nader gushed while introducing the artist, who was there to direct traffic.

One of scads of Botero's butterball bronzes at Nader's gallery
One of scads of Botero's butterball bronzes at Nader's gallery

Atchugarry cocked off a nod as he waved his mitts at the forklift jockey. His airy abstract marbles are on display in the "Masters in Sculpture" show at the gallery, as are works by Fernando Botero, Mark di Suvero, Sandro Chia, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Rufino Tamayo, and others from Nader's blue-chip inventory.

The first-floor gallery is packed with small and medium-size sculptures, including scads of Botero's butterball bronzes. Outside in the parking lot are the monumental works. This "sculpture garden" extends almost the width of a city block and is ringed by an anemic strip of small trees and shrubbery.

Nader, whose sprawling 50,000-square-foot space is coated in an institutional gray veneer and festooned with colorful banners, had the area paved this past November to celebrate his first anniversary in Wynwood.

It's difficult to imagine anywhere else one could station a jalopy next to a seven-million-dollar Lichtenstein other than the onion-domed dealer's joint. "These sculptures have appeared on the Champs lysées in Paris and in New York's Central Park," Nader mentioned while overlooking the drive-in playpen where his snazzy Bentley was docked.

Those accustomed to encountering monumental outdoor sculptures in urban plazas or atop rolling hills will likely find difficulty in appreciating some of these works in their current setting. Any way you cut it, they seem hijacked from a lush park and plopped down like massive turds into the glorified asphalt courtyard of a shabby hood.

Lichtenstein's Three Brushstrokes is a fabricated and painted aluminum piece that represents three sweeping brushstrokes rendered in primary colors as if suspended in midair. The red, yellow, and blue paint slashes curl skyward in a frozen gesture in this exuberantly playful piece that that exudes a totemic vibe. Although the work intends to convey a sense of paint dynamically rippling across an invisible giant canvas, its luster nearly fades against the drab gray walls where it is exhibited. It gives off a whiff of unripe graffiti.

Located at the far end of Nader's lot, John Henry's soaring Chiefadds a sunny splash of color to the gritty environment. The 60-foot-tall steel sculpture is painted bright yellow, its cantilevered beams suggesting a starburst.

Desert Flower, another cheery Henry piece, constructed from aluminum and painted a fire-engine red, rests near a wall like a giant angular knot of industrial tumbleweed.

A trio of Fernando Botero's signature blubbery nude colossi also clots the area. One of them represents a reclining female, another a male torso, and the last a Baby Huey-like bumpkin whose droopy, uncut pecker resembles a garden spigot.

More of an elephant graveyard than public-friendly sculpture garden, Nader's outdoor display has something in common with those cloud-buster balloons advertising the local pawnshop.

In stark contrast, Walter Goldfarb's "Lysergic Garden: An Exercise of Reason on the Border of Insanity" makes a head-rattling statement in one of Nader's capacious second-floor spaces. The Brazilian's solo exhibit flexes muscular mixed-media canvases that are some of the better works among the gallery's 2000-plus pieces.

Goldfarb paints as if he were trying to render his personal vision of Xanadu while snockered on the home-brewed milk of paradise. He often spends weeks on a single piece, embroidering the canvas, building his webs of imagery by injecting multiple coats of lacquer onto the surface with a syringe, applying charcoal, and then putting the canvas through several washes of color. In the end, the canvases appear part tattoo, part batik, and part a psychedelic network of membranes with lush rain-forest hues.

In his Lysergic Roses series, he applies rich coats of Chinese lacquer to build up the image of a single white rose in the center of the raw canvas. He then embroiders the skeletal outlines of the flower throughout the rest of the canvas, soaking it in a riot of violently shimmering monochromatic tones. The white roses burst forth from fields of orange and gold, deep river blues, wild jungle greens, and sudsy lavenders. Hidden within the hallucinatory confections, the embroidered silhouettes of the roses manifest themselves like apparitions.

In Lysergic Last Supper I, Goldfarb re-creates da Vinci's famous scene of Jesus announcing that one of his twelve apostles was to betray him. The artist barely suggests their ghostly figures with a batter of white lacquer against a tarry black swath across the upper half of the canvas. The table where the subjects sit is suggested by washes of ochre; pink and rust hues complement embroidered roses throughout the whopping seven-by-eighteen-foot work.

Lysergic Passion at the Opera House I is another breathtaking mural-size piece. It depicts the highly ornate, bleached-bone interior of an opera house set against an inky sky. A broad section of liquid blue color pools at the bottom of the composition and seems to trap the grand edifice's reflection.

Goldfarb's paintings are a revelation that oscillates between nightmare and fantasy. They seethe with a severe austerity. They fascinate and then overwhelm by seeming to yank the rug out from under reality.

 
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