The approximately 80 small-scale collages, drawings, and mixed media works on view by Robert Seydel offer a multitude of ways of experiencing visual art as poetry. Karen Azoulay's exhibition features new sculptures, photographs, and a site-specific installation and seascapes represented in staged scenarios reminiscent of the tradition of tableaux vivant.
Robert Seydel, Solo Show + Karen Azoulay, Wading Under A Crackling Sky
He is a strong believer in art-making as a process not just of representing but of uncovering a world that would otherwise remain hidden. The uncanny likenesses rendered in his various portraits show a love of metamorphic intensity and of mysteries on the verge of being revealed. ─Peter Gizzi
The approximately 80 small-scale collages, drawings, and mixed media works on view by Robert Seydel offer a multitude of ways of experiencing visual art as poetry. Working in notebooks and on found paper materials, according to Gizzi, "so many of his tools are a writer's: whiteout, pencil and pen, erasers, tape, type, and newsprint, which he uses to capture light and color, the movement between what is lasting and fleeting, conducting acts of salvage rather than consumption." By treating letters, numbers, and punctuation marks as aesthetic visuals, he blurs the lines between visual and textual art in work that vibrantly details how poetry can be a visible, tangible experience of the artist's process.
Seydel's works on view incorporate fictional strategies, hybrid visual forms, collage, drawing, photography, and extensive textual matter often laced with private meanings and references. Many of the pasted-in elements and typography featured are cut out of old books or found materials, and the style of collage mixed with hand-drawn elements adds the impression of pages held over from a kind of mid-century archive. Several works on view feature and follow the vast narrative of Seydel's alter ego: Ruth Greisman, both eponymous and real aunt and artist of The Book of Saul, 2000-present.
Seydel's ability to simultaneously work on and rotate between multiple series allows for flexibility within his creative process, and for experimentation with new content. Reflecting the interlocking nature of his practice, a composite installation on view along the main gallery wall will feature a selection of works compiled from the following series: New Droon Works, 2002-2004, a series of drawings in pencil and ink; Siselnamés (Mixed Melodies), 2000, a series of collages and mixed media on paper from Greece and Turkey; Series Homages, 2002-present, a set of collages, oils, and mixed media on paper devoted to Ted Berrigan, Velimir Klebnikov, and numerous other art and literary luminary figures; Flattened Paper Paste-Ups and A Fauna, 2003-present, a series of collages and mixed media on paper representing a variety of anthropomorphic visions of imagined animals; and a number of miscellaneous pieces.
The adjacent gallery walls will feature a significant grouping from Seydel's longest ongoing project, The Book of Saul, 2000-present, an epic series incorporating collage, writing, and other works, all ostensibly made by the artist's aunt. The Book chronicles the lives of its two main protagonists, aunt and uncle, Ruth and Saul (or Sol) Greisman, and their relationships with Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. A fifth character, mostly invisible, is "Robt," or Robert Cornell, Joseph's homebound brother, a sometime stand-in for Seydel himself. In real life, Saul was a plumber, and Ruth, among other things, a Sunday painter, who attempted to teach Seydel oil painting on occasion. In The Book, they meet Cornell (and through him, Duchamp), both of whom Ruth proceeds to falls in love with. Selections of Ruth's artwork on view take the form of mailings to Joseph, such as Untitled [to Joseph C.], 2000-2007, (pictured above right), numerous journal writings, along with various serial and other pieces composed of fragments and encompassing a rotation of styles to form a biography of Ruth's (and Seydel's) own making.
Karen Azoulay, Wading Under A Crackling Sky
Curated by Glenn Ligon
The belief that runs through Ovid's Metamorphoses ─ that all things are connected because all things can be transformed ─ is at the heart of Karen Azoulay's project. In sculptural tableaus, performance pieces, and digital images, she creates worlds in which the line between body and object; material fact and representation; and the perceptible and the imperceptible is blurred."
The fleeting and fluid aspects found in nature continue to captivate Canadian artist Karen Azoulay. Wading Under A Crackling Sky, features new sculptures, photographs, and a site-specific installation incorporating imagery of fireworks, nightscapes, and seascapes represented in staged scenarios reminiscent of the tradition of tableaux vivant. Azoulay captures these transitory atmospheric events through a performance-based aesthetic that enables the viewer to appreciate the stillness and poignancy at play. In her recent fantasy landscapes and environments, the artist employs set pieces and simple props constructed from basic materials and motifs culled from sources ranging from Renaissance figurative allegories, flat turn-of-the-century theatre props, and abstracted organic forms with eye-dazzling effect. By using meaningful motifs, which may appear static but contain a fluid ancestry, Azoulay explores the interrelationship between nature and the decorative.
Inspired by the dramatic stage sets often featured in Las Vegas reviews, Azoulay's site-specific installation depicts a night sky formed from large panels, painted in dark colors with small areas embedded with stained glass, and features abstracted imagery of fireworks. Representing an expansive sea, yards of fabric replete with details of waves tumble forth directly in front of the panels. These compositional elements fill up the visual field like a 19th century panorama and offer multiple narratives. Adding to the mis-en scene, accompanying photographs of performers reacting to fireworks and cosmic explosions, or immersed in the turbulent blue-green water depicted in the installation, address the overall theme of being pulled up from the familiar and pushed into the unknown.
Azoulay's visual alchemy involves deconstructing the structure and harnessing the tensile energy of select, ordinary materials in order to transform them into icons and symbols of natural phenomena. In Catching the Star, 2007, one of the photographs on view, the artist employs the cloth of a battered umbrella to create the illusion of a shooting star. Through the process of transformation, what once was a stationary means of protection from inclement weather is now free to roam through the skies without limitation. Wooden parasols, which form the basis for a grouping of five mixed-media sculptures, ranging in height from 6' to 8', become spectacles of color and light, and are placed together against a dark background to form a grand vision of fireworks exploding in the night.
The dynamism, scale, and handmade quality of the works on view vibrantly signal the artist's desire to evoke the profound allure that a nature imagined holds over human emotions. Representing a study in contrasts, they harbor a degree of somberness within their dark tonality, yet also sustain impressions of enchantment and lightness. Ultimately, Azoulay's sublime impressions engage the viewer to cast his or her own mood on to the surrounding scenes.
Image Karen Azoulay, from CUE Art Foundation.
Opening: Thursday, March 15, 6:00PM - 8:00PM
CUE Art Foundation
511 West 25th Street New York