Thursday, August 2, 2007

Whispers in the Crowd

I attended the opening at Flowers Gallery of three alumni from the New York Academy: Christian Johnson, Amy Mahnick, and Vithya Truong Moreau.

As a preface, in the interest of full disclosure and fair journalism (though art criticism never is), I must admit I have a clear bias in opinion. I have known and been friends with Vithya for some time. I have seen Christian and Amy, but never really met them.

Christian Johnson produced some beautiful charcoal drawings of figures in dynamic poses, which evokes the linear searching of Degas' sketches. His piece Nightsong is a wonderfull amalgam of Klimt and an emotionally controlled German expressionism. I found his compositions to be inquisitive and powerful.

However, the room was completely dominated by Vithya's triptych of sinks (the picture above does them no justice). They loomed over the crowd with the emotional intensity of the Eschaton or Rothko's Seagram's series, and actually created a physical abscess around which the viewers paused. It was almost uncomfortable to get too close, yet you were inexorably drawn to the beauty of the brush, the opalescent glimmer of each glaze of color, and the foggy light of Rembrandt filtered through the lenses of Turner and Whistler.

Yet, not in contest with their beauty, these paintings were not without intellectual fruition. I could almost hear the very voices of Rothko, Rembrandt, and Turner in a whispered debate over the precepts of Duchamp.

[The lights dim, and the various conversations merge into a gentle background hum. A slight chill runs through the air.]

[Almost inaudibly]

Rembrandt: The subject of the spirit is light.

Rothko, Turner: Yes, Absolutely!

Turner: But expression resides in the soul and not the mind. The hand can communicate the soul, but the found object cannot convey what is most meaningful to man.

Rothko: Yet, there are emotions which are colored by the intellect, which are only revealed through the intellect.

Rembrant: The contrast of the grotesque serves to emphasize the beauty. The intellect must be subservient to the expression of these.

Rothko: But we are thinking creatures. We must cut through this but somehow harness this for pure expression.

The lights return to normal, but it doesn't appear that anyone else has noticed. Was I the only one who heard the voices? I am not certain, but there is one thing I know. This is very nearly the answer to the chasm of passion splitting through the art world. Vithya is on to something, something which evokes the stirrings within the human heart through harnessing the human mind. This work has sincerity. This work has passion. And I think it merits the greatest compliment that Rothko could bestow upon anyone's work. This work has humanity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


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Gallery Reviewing Portfolios
Deadline May 31, 2008 / No jury fee
Galeria Sanchez - Contemporary Fine Art Gallery
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is
Reviewing portfolios of Photo Realism artworks.
Academy studies required.
For artist representation & exhibitions.
Submit: resume, artist statement and 10-15 jpgs to
Sonia Zayas, Director Galeria Sanchez
320 Fortaleza St. SoFo Old San Juan, PR 00901 /