At the freshly squeezed Galerie Lélia Mordoch in Wynwood, a new exhibit explores the fleeting nature of time and how its ceaseless cycles affect the mind and the natural world. Meanwhile, at the ArtRouge Gallery, nightmarish works fathom the dark depths of the psyche.
Mordoch, who has operated a successful gallery in Paris for 20 years, inaugurated her new space in December during Art Basel. She is quietly imposing her brand locally with quirky, well-curated offerings such as "The Aesthetics of Time."
The group show gathers disparate approaches to making art and features works by Patrice Girard, Daniel Fiorda, Julio Le Parc, Emmanuel Fillot, and Keith Long. Their eclectic visions of the subject range from barnyard musings on whether the chicken came before the egg to micro geologies in motion that convey a sense of time on a massive scale.
Pieces on display are mostly paintings and works in mixed media. The cutting-edge videos or installations one expects to find in a high-powered European gallery are sadly absent here.
Girard lives on a farm in the South of France. He raises his own livestock, and the remnants of his chickens and ducks often find their way into his paintings and mixed-media constructions after a meal.
Big Brother, a medium-size painting on a wood panel, depicts a closeup of a crimson-cockled rooster lording over a harem of unseen hens. Below the fowl's haughty visage, a horizontal aperture in the painting contains four taxidermied chicken's feet and four eggs. The painting's surface has been slicked over with an egg yolk tempera, giving the cock's feathers a sallow, urine-yellow glaze.
The work's title and the rooster's penetrating gaze bring to mind George Orwell's Animal Farm and how the chickens destroyed their eggs rather than turning them over to their porcine masters in a corrupt utopian world.
Perhaps more suggestive of time's passage are Girard's quixotic still lifes in which he mires rows of dissected herrings in cement inside glass-covered oval frames. The tiny fish migrating in swarms appear frozen in midleap — their briny, translucent scales refracting the gallery lights.
These elegant mementos suggest that time is cyclic and repetitive and that birth and death are a part of life that leaves the substance of the universe unchanged.
Fiorda is another artist who uses cement or concrete in his box pieces to convey a notion of fossils trapped in time. He cleverly propels viewers to a distant future where a back-yard archaeologist might rake up evidence of our techno age. Black Boxes are highly burnished wooden constructions painted a velvety black hue and featuring a postcard-size opening at the center. Embedded inside each is an implement of modern life, such as an automobile cell phone charger or a light switch, hinting that temporal awareness might depend upon frames of reference within a block of time.
Fillot's elegant Plexiglas pieces evoke a sense of the inexorable tides of change. Poetic amalgams of feathers, twigs, and stones collected from the beaches of Cameroon and suspended inside clear frames look like sundry relics cocooned in an amber mass. His Other Land in Sight series recalls Alexander Calder's mobiles stripped of motion, unmooring the idea that time is infinite, open, and continuous.
Mordoch's vision and faith in Wynwood is a welcome sign at a time when big-name galleries are closing or relocating.
Upwind in the Design District, at the Art-Rouge Gallery, Russian dealer Gala Kvachnina is undergoing some growing pains of her own.
She is revamping her program to include more contemporary art, rather than the collection of decorative, easy-on-the-eye works her space was known for.
She recently refurbished her gallery next to a used car lot on NW 36th Street and is in the process of changing or replacing the gaudy sculptures clotting her parking lot like a cholesterol-choked artery.
Her new show, "Self, Symbol & the Spirit," features photography, mixed-media works, and paintings by Sergio Garcia, Evelyn Valdirio, Nicolas Leiva, Mariano Costa Peuser, and a woman who goes by the odd moniker Lili(ana) as if considering herself a household name.
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Garcia's large canvas Bed-Man is a self-portrait of the artist paralyzed on a cot under a menacing cloud of dark gray pencil-scribbled dashes, loops, and slashes, suggesting the psychic carnage battering his brain. Garcia is unafraid to lay himself bare. In the background floats a disembodied hand pierced by a dagger and dripping blood in a pan. Above it, a fanged demon snarls at the crudely rendered figure of the artist as if ready to gorge itself on his tortured soul. Garcia's raw, unself-conscious imagery exudes a toxic, gritty street vibe that reflects a U-turn from the gallery's previous offerings.
Likewise, Leiva's sprawling, garage-door-sized opus, Oscuro y Verde Ajeno, is a nightmarish version of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Smokestacks belch noxious fumes, blue glitter clouds float across the haunting twilight surfaces, and three gorgeously executed ceramic figures of bat-like creatures appear ready to guide the spectator to the depths of the netherworld.
Peuser is represented by several large lambda prints depicting the iconic blockhead painter's dummy used by artists across time. His marionette-like wooden figure represents the anti-art man and juggles empty picture frames that often tumble into an empty void. Peuser speaks to the follies of the art world and the Sisyphean challenges confronting artists attempting to make a name for themselves in these dire economic times.
The exhibit shows promise that ArtRouge is determined to turn a corner. But the gallerist would have done better to close off the rear of the space, which gives the impression she's still selling cut-rate material out of the trunk of a car. Nikolai Yezhov, chief of Stalin's secret police, once said, "When you chop wood, chips fly!" Kvachnina would do well to sharpen her ax and get rid of the dead wood that's been a canker on her cred.