ReviewArt

Art Experiences in Bloomington, Indiana, and elsewhere

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Don Geyra - Dark Star

Bloomington's most accomplished and interesting artist may be Don Geyra...
Detail of "The Reluctant Draftsman"

Geyra is a member of a special tribe,  of people who have graduated from Indiana University (with a 1977 MFA in painting in Don's case) and left Bloomington, and later returned.   Don has done a lot in between.   Moving to New York City after graduating from IU, Geyra found himself in the middle of one of New York City's creative heydays.  

detail of  "Ramones at Shadow Creek"

Don worked at CBGB, showed in Galleries, painted murals and became a skilled scenic painter for Broadway, television and film.  After a long and successful career Geyra has returned to his roots, both geographically and in terms of focusing on easel paintings.

Studio Diptych o/c

Most prominently, Don Geyra's current show at The Bellevue Gallery features a set of five paintings called The Five Senses ...

The solid black frames of these paintings recall perhaps the most sensual period in the history of painting - 17th century dutch painting...


The thought of such delectable eats hovers as we study the first painting in Geyra's "Five Senses" series, which appears to show  a fitting Indiana variant: fair food:
This painting seems to remind us that taste is at the same time the most selfish sense and the most shared, the most social, nor can taste be separated from the other senses.  To taste is also to smell and to feel.  Aromas may waft.  Biting and chewing is heard and felt.  Juices may squirt or dribble.  There are feelings of emptiness and fullness.  The boy on the right looks embarrassed to be seen dripping his catsup or salsa on his shirt...
The next painting in the series seems to represent sight - situating the viewer on a sofa in a lush room,  looking up at a lovely landscape just outside a picture window ...
If taste is a sense that bursts past limits, spurting across boundaries, is sight to be thought of as a sense that recedes from the world?  Geyra seems to suggest that it is.  Like the cats in his picture, we want to be voyeurs. The record player and the couches are indications that we want our other senses to be calmed and tamed so that our eyes can drink their fill , as the two goblets suggest.
The next painting in the show, which seems to represent the sense of hearing, is one of the most charming.  A young man seems to have moved into a new apartment, and he is filling the empty halls and rooms with his violin music.  The sound that must  booming through the hallways in the painting reminds one of the way sound reverberates through the chambers in one's ear.  The violinist looks like he is becoming one with the space around him as he concentrates.

One of Geyra's most moving paintings, for me, is his painting of the sense of smell....

For me this painting is about the revulsion we often feel about our own bodies, about our physical natures.  The woman in this picture seems to be at war with herself, a feeling that I think anyone can relate to...
The next picture in the series seems to explore this war against self that the senses can arouse further...

This picture could almost be a pulp fiction paperback cover...

There is always a sense of humor imbedded in Geyra's paintings that makes their sometimes dark contemplations more palatable while sharpening them.  Touch inevitably leads to pain and loss.  But even so Geyra's painted hand yearns for touch and doesn't pull away from it .  One painting in the show loses its way in the darkness ...
"Bowery Staircase, NYC"
It's another of my favorite paintings in the show, a gritty evocation of an urban creative oasis.

Geyra is very interested in the way space can bend and turn, challenging - but not defying - unified understandings.  Sometimes he uses multiple panels to explore that...
There is often a narrative woven into the different views of the same scene, but what I like is the way these arrangements of panels encourage us to see the same things as existing in both space and time.  In this painting, more is hidden than is revealed, and we are made to feel that we may be intruding.  There are some Hopper paintings this reminds me of...
Hopper

Hopper uses shafts of light to fragment the unified space, where Geyra uses separate panels;  this allows Geyra to suggest larger shifts of time.

Another favorite painting of mine from Geyra's show is "The Reluctant Draftsman":
For me, this wonderful painting speaks to the unwillingness most of us have to look at the living world around us.  We are, as the postmodernists predicted, completely spellbound by simulacra, or so it seems at times.  Rather than paint his selfportrait from life, the depicted artist attempts to paint a projected image onto his canvas, which in turn comes from a computer.  Geyra's painting calls to mind a famous Durer...

In Geyra's dystopian vision of what was already an image of separation and alienation and anxiety both artist and model are absent and the simulacra seem to be busy constructing an infinite loop...

Don Geyra's show of paintings at the Bellevue Gallery is a very special show.  His paintings are dark, but also funny.  They are painted with a touch that is gentle and loving, and they show an eye for detail that is thoughtful and alert.  Most of all they have tremendous presence and they create a contemplative atmosphere.  They refuse to surrender to a world of simulacra.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Adventures of a 'Famous New York Art Critic' in Bloomington

The 'Famous New York Art Critic' did Bloomington again recently.  As always, art was popping out all over.

Some art in public spaces is very extroverted.  Some is less so...
... and some is just out in the middle of everything...
Some art isn't thought  of as art, especially when it's been there for a while...
Store windows can be so amazing...
Take pottery,  add famous art critic and cue photo-documentarian -  it's so arty!
But artists' books makes it even better...
Assessment...
contemplation...
Life along the seashore?




 Museum specimens?



Plants from another planet?
Cosmic paper folds?
to be continued...



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Velvet Underground in Bloomington

As I was walking with a friend around Bloomington, one hot summer day, I chanced upon the new art complex at the corner of Rogers and Fourth st.   An industrial scale garage door was open, and inside, instead of heavy equipment to be seen, were giant velvet pillows and balloons, all seemingly inscribed with complex diagrams that might be suitable for crop circles...

I couldn't get a better picture, because my camera ran out of card space, but I did notice that the exhibit is going to have a closing reception this weekend ...
... on Saturday, July 26.  The show is by Carrie Weaver and is called Velvet Equilibrium.

Bloomington's   famous NYC art critic manque,  and trend consultant, was intrigued...

Today was a good day for seeing textures while walking.  Sometimes a building looks like it might be more interesting while it is being built...
I especially like the snaky wire wrapping the fence pipe.

Interesting mystery objects are left around on construction sites...

It's interesting too to compare wild graffiti...
... with more tame graffiti (just as fun though)...
Sometimes one cannot resist an impromptu fashion shoot...
Bloomington - not for the feint of art...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fire into Dark

Yesterday was Taste of Bloomington, in Bloomington ...

What a festive occasion it was.  Human beings looking so beautiful were heading in droves to the plazas around City Hall for a celebration of human sensuality, of food and music.  Cover bands' music was booming through downtown, and it sounded great too.  So many people were out and about.  Bloomington was booming.

 As marvelous as all that was, it was a relief and a joy to find a more quiet place where people were creating and finding new delights, rather than well rehearsed ones.  As the evening softly fell through the fragrant air, full of voices and food smells and tree blossoms, I found my way through the darkening to the Fluorescent Gallery, for a collaborative installation show called Summer Solstice Freakout...

  The 'Fluorescent Gallery' is  a raw, cinder block basement space underneath The Back Door club.  I've seen two shows there now, both involving the installation art collaborative Cloud Preaser, with others, and three shows altogether involving  Cloud Preaser.


 Each has seemed more transformed and transformative.

 One of the members of Cloud Preaser talked to me before I went into the gallery.  He was  a painter who took a  leap of faith  towards a way of making art that he felt would be more involved with the community  and more collaborative.  Cloud Preaser's next project, he told me, will be a traveling piece.  Large circular pieces of fabric - parachutes - will be covered by people in various locations with spontaneous outpourings of creativity, using tools such as markers.  In each location, more creative energy will gather to each circle, in one way or another, as more people add their markings.  The ultimate result will , presumably, be some kind of collective mirror.

A circle seems to be a perfect form for the expression of collective energy.  One thinks of a dance circle...
 ... one of the most important themes in art ...
Summer Solstice Freakout participants included:


Sitar Outreach Ministry
John Flannelly
John Dawson
Dunsten Kissinger
Colin Jenkins
Cloud Preaser
Nathan Warrick
Brick Daniel Kyle
Bethy Squires
Lillian Rushlove



The stereotype about installation art is that it is usually confrontational in some way.  One can even feel a bit intimidated by installation art.  The moment I entered Summer Solstice Freakout, though, I felt that it was very loving.
Right by the door as one came in was a kind of hearth, a glass window decorated with colored paper and plastic and blinking lights and foil to look like a softly burning fire.  Going into the room behind this decorated window, one could see how intricately achieved the soft affect of the light was...


... the ambient light of the room was filtered through a shroud of golden mylar, which seemed to create a kind of sacred chamber.

Fire seemed to be a common theme of the Summer Solstice show.  On the wall to the other side of the door as you came in a video of a fire in a hearth was projected on the cinderblock wall...

I love this side view, where one sees lights on the side wall and can barely tell that it is flames in a hearth.  Beyond that, on the far wall, is a glorious sunset, seemingly crafted out of various materials, such as brown packing paper and gold foil, overlaid with a projected image of sun rays.  This was the backdrop to a stage (a cloth laid on the floor) where two groups played.

At first a sitar group played, Sitar Outreach Ministry.  Their music was intricate and gentle, like breezes constantly moving through the tall grasses and flowers of a wild field.  Later an electronic group played noise music, much louder.  Their sound was harsher,  and roaring, but at the same time, it was a sound one could float into, as though one were floating on vibrations of the universe.  As I listened to it, and floated, I thought about the surging emotions inside a person, a maelstrom that goes on even when one is seemingly calm and peaceful.

One of my favorite things in the installation was a giant, golden Stone Henge that stood in the center of the room.
This seemingly massive piece gave the whole installation a center of gravity.  At the same time, it echoed the reinforced concrete pillar and lintel construction of the room, playfully mocking its utilitarian ethic. 


Also humorous was the play between the miniature Stone Henge and the massively overscaled fireplace.  One began to feel that if a relentlessly plain cinderblock room could be revealed to hold so many dimensions within it, how could anything ever be boring?
A whole corner of the room was taken up by one of the strongest pieces.  
This was the one piece in the show that had a somewhat confrontational air, in that a tower made of children's pool toys beckoned to the viewer, but was surrounded by a slightly threatening thicket of sticks hanging from the cieling, Sword of Damocles style, Snow White style.  Few ventured under these sticks, but perhaps that was just as well, since the tower of toys, resplendent and luminescent from a distance, might not have seemed as magical close up. At the very top, a couple of inflatable rafts with lobster arms were rigged to look like  a fiery cartoon beacon.
It's hard to convey in photos how charming and playful this display was, despite the slightly threatening hanging sticks.  I thought of Calder, as I watched the twigs slowly twirling  and dancing on their strings around the magical plastic toy tower they seemed to guard...
... or more particularly, Jason Middlebrook ...
I also thought of a magical forest, noticing that if you weren't particularly watching the sticks, they seemed to hang still, but if you focused more on them, you saw that they were continually moving.

Another really charming piece was one of the simplest - overlapping transparencies laid onto an overhead projector and projected onto the wall...


A wall collage seems to celebrate childhood memories of Egyptian art ...


There were three small side rooms, each of which was arranged as if it were a sort or chapel.  In one of them, my pictures didn't come out, but it seemed to me to be a meditation the chatter that fills a mind even at rest.  Next to it was a room with more light in it, and one of my favorite objects in the exhibit:  a tiny television was set up like a classical altar, and draped in flowers and beeds, the whole thing creating a cacophony of textures, especially taken together with the noise pattern on the television, which looked like it might be broken down and abandoned (like a television that was, tellingly, stowed on a life raft in one of the other displays).

 A mirror sat on a chair opposite the television, suggesting something about the human mind that is bombarded by media messaging...



This room also had a beautifully decorated window...


Which brings us full circle to the first thing one sees on entering the exhibition...
The room behind this window had a kind of sacred hearth and a table for making life requests...

Summer Solstice Freakout.  The fiery sun, and the beginning of summer, was celebrated well, on its longest day, with love, and humor and a bit of social commentary.  A spoken word performance piece exhorted us, by leading the audience in chant, and in the telling of stories, to seize the notion of change from winter to summer as a chance to change from a less positive to a more positive way of living, one more informed with empathy and understanding.  It is a good time for change, and this was an exhibit that sent that message lovingly.




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