Subscribe to Blog via Email
The other day, I was reading art critic Peter Schjeldahl’s (The New Yorker magazine) review of “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon”, the multi-media group show that just opened at the New Museum in NYC, and was somewhat surprised to read his parenthetical aside that “a little boredom may come as welcome relief to our lately adrenaline-overdosed body politic.” What, is art no longer supposed to shock and awe us? But now I wish I’d seen that show instead of viewing “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Collection, 1940-2017” at the Whitney Museum. Concentrating nearly eight decades of heart-sickening miseries, it so effectively shocked and awed me that I was fairly reeling when I left. To right myself, I visited three photography exhibits that are engaging in a distinctly sublime and soothing manner: Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s “Central Park New York: 24 Solar Terms” (Foley Gallery), Michael Massaia’s “Deep in a Dream: New York City” (ClampArt), and Matthew Pillsbury’s “Sanctuary” (Benrubi Gallery). Neither boring nor soul-crushing, these solo exhibits revive the spirit.
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao pays tribute to his native Taiwan and his adopted home of New York City in his series, “Central Park New York: 24 Solar Terms” on view at Foley Gallery through October 15th, 2017. Synthesizing a traditional Chinese vertical landscape format and the 24 solar periods of the Chinese calendar with his digitally captured and composited B&W imagery, Liao expresses the visual and emotional allure that Central Park holds in this city’s dense center. Graceful composition, lush tonality and a deep focal range endow Liao’s images with timelessness and universality. At times communal and other times solitary, Liao’s viewpoint prompts a proverbial breath of fresh air, allowing both eyes and thoughts to flow freely. And his appealing variety of scale invites us to plunge into the subtle details or grand sweep of an oasis that, like us, seeks to thrive in urban surroundings.
Michael Massaia’s “Deep in a Dream: New York City” depicts Central Park in a visually and metaphorically unique light at ClampArt through November 25th, 2017. Wandering the vacant park in the hours just before dawn, Massaia makes long exposures with B&W film and a large format camera, then prints oversized, toned gelatin silver photographs in his customized darkroom to create images as mysterious and stirring as they are unusual. Massaia’s photographs are filled with pathways and bridges, as if possessed by a ghostly, searching soul who is enjoined by silhouetted trees with spidery branches, serenaded by the looming city beyond. But they aren’t cold or scary. To the contrary, the exquisite detail and luminous glow in Massaia’s photographs make Central Park appear like a magical still-life, at once fantastical and real, awe-inspiring and intimate.
Matthew Pillsbury embraces city backdrops as a context for the blurred, motion-filled subjects of his colorful photographs in “Sanctuary” at Benrubi Gallery through November 22nd, 2017. Using his characteristic, long exposures to encapsulate the feeling of action, Pillsbury explores a variety of urban settings with people gathering in joy, protest or contemplation, seeking support or respite. Even his photographs of demonstrations emanate positive energy. An image of the recent DACA protest at Columbus Circle outside Trump Tower in Manhattan looks more like a swirling dance than discordant cacophony, as does the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with its field of cheerful pink hats and the Washington Monument rising like a triumphant spear in the background. In all of these public places, Pillsbury identifies a desire for communal belonging, whether resting by the fountains at the symbolic Unisphere on the old NY World’s Fairgrounds, contemplating Manhattan’s skyscrapers as a new day dawns or taking stock of anti-Trump messages scrawled on Post-It notes colorfully plastering a wall at Union Station in Washington, D.C. (Feature Image). Through Pillsbury’s distinctive play of composition, color and movement, “Sanctuary” celebrates the joy and humanity of congregation. May peace be with you.
For information about Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s exhibit at Foley Gallery, go to: http://www.foleygallery.com/exhibitions/focus/central_park_new_york_24_solar_terms_jeff_chien-hsing_liao/pressrelease
For information about Michael Massaia’s exhibit at ClampArt, go to: https://clampart.com/2017/09/deep-in-a-dream-new-york-city/
For information about Matthew Pillsbury’s exhibit at Benrubi Gallery, go to: http://benrubigallery.com/exhibition/545/sanctuary
Feature Image: “Artist Therapy, 2017” (Detail) by Matthew Pillsbury (courtesy of the artist and Benrubi Gallery, NYC).