Visual artist Dennis McNett unveiled his newest creations at The Stanton Chapter (176 Stanton St. btwn. Clinton and Attorney Streets) this past Friday. Titled The Old Horned Deity, McNett utilized artists to pen in his dark ideas.
I asked McNett where he got his inspiration from and he said it was during a road trip. The endless sky stimulated him and he wanted to convey how overwhelming it was. This was why he decided to cover the gallery walls in almost pastel psychedelic patterns.
The art on display is fantastic and extremely detailed. From the giant paper mache tiger, which is decorated in black and white tiger faces, to the large eagle, also paper mache, the tiny gallery felt overwhelmed with images.
McNett’s dark and sinister drawings will have you staring at the walls and sculptures for hours, rocked in the spell of immense nature.
Skyler Chen’s “Republic of Norman” opened March 18th at Doma Cafe and Gallery in the West Village. Chen’s characters show distress in their sad eyes and droopy mouths. Many of his paintings feature young men and woman in red and white striped party hats with smeared, tired looking clown make-up on their lips. The titles are, “Unspoken Words,” “Eyes That Know Me,” “Til Kingdom Come,” among others.
I particularly liked “Isolated,” which showed a young girl with long brow hair looking very much alone. At first glance she seemed to have a chunk of her head missing, but upon closer inspection, it was actually a small bowler hat that blended into the dark background.
While some of the images were sloppy, there were other gems in Chen’s work. My roommate loved the picture below, though the title escapes me.
The art is not meant to be pretty. It’s there to make you think, to be horrified and even turned off. Kara Walker’s tragically seductive silhouettes in her exhibition at the Whitney American Museum of Art depict images of slavery, of desperation and fighting back. “It’s this lure to look at things that are hard to look at,” Walker said about her work. The show, My Compliment, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, runs until Feb. 3, 2008 and features dozens of her sketches, three videos, and large rooms with panorama scenes done in black cut-outs.
The first piece the visitor is confronted with is Gone, an Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. If you find this display too lewd or over the top, I suggest turning around and walking right out, because it doesn’t change. Most of Walker’s images force the viewer to be uncomfortable. Images of boys floating by the support of a blown up phallus, slave girls performing fellatio on white men, butchered bodies and even a dancing child spewing excrement, are seen in Walkers work. In Mistress Demand a Swift and Dramatic Empathetic Reaction Which We Obliged Her, a young black girl pushes a machete through the breast of a bound “mistress” while a slave stands to the left of her, his head contained in a strange cage type device and his arms shackles.
Walker does something that most modern artists fail to convey—feeling. Whether you are turned off, saddened, amused or educated, her silhouettes evoke some emotion. Even her loosely done Negress Notes, a series of 64 framed sketches, cause a stir. One shows a slave girl suspended between two men, performing fellatio on the father while his son sodomizes her. The simple watercolor and pen drawing induces disgust for the actions of the men but not tenderness for the girl. This example can also serve as an allegory to the American society’s repulsion at what happened to African slaves and the mild reactions we have today.
In a circular room Walker shows a young white boy wearing a soldier’s cap copulating with an older black girl with bouncing pigtails. The girl drops her watermelon slice and it falls toward a black man who watches as a baby is being born like a chick from another watermelon. Two white women peak at him through a keyhole in a door that blends into his body. On one part of the wall slaves try to escape through a wagon filled with straw, but on the other side they can’t. The circular room brings you around and around the issue, like Walker’s work, which takes slavery and human v. human to the extreme.
There are a lot of people who don’t like Kara Walker’s work. When she won the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award she was criticized harshly and called “undeserving.” So, she responded by doing more art.
But, people also love Kara Walker’s vision and this is a sign that something is moving. Despite the repetition of her theme, it is apparent that this woman has something to say and has done an amazing job telling it. The future for this artist remains exciting and the direction of her creativity is unknown. And she wrote on one of the drawings, “And what does this imply? That ARTS function to Black people is to verify the TRUTH all the time and to express collective experience.” – L. Covington