Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wells Chandler

Here we are stuck in the middle of another winter with an incredibly daunting 2017 on our hands and slushy trash-filled snow at our feet. So it couldn't be more timely that I turn my attitude around by reflecting back on a visit I made just before the end of the year. If you don't already know the wondrous world of Wells Chandler and his celebratory figures, I am thrilled to make the introduction. Wells and I spent a day together at the end of 2016 sipping on juicy IPA's, eating guac, and engaging in life affirming conversations on the art world and what it needs from us. Most of the work in his Sharpe-Walentas  studio was up on the walls while he got ready for his two person show at Fred Giampietro Gallery opening January 14th. The space couldn't be more prime for drawing.

I first came across Wells' work at an art fair a few years back. It was a relief to see a wall full of larger than life personalities encouraging me to dance away the stuffiness of the exhibition space. Like drawings, his forms are made up of intertwining marks with contour lines of contrasting values highlighting their free-form shapes. Alternating from neon pink to deep greens to subtle taupes, I find myself taking as much pleasure in their color as I do in their unabashed elation. The wall acts like both a canvas and a stage. But, in suspending ones disbelief, these creatures, or trolls, as Chandler adoringly calls them, begin to float around independently in the space, attached to nothing but a kindred spirit. Some of their titles refer to inspirational contemporary artists by their first name: Kathy, EJ, Tamara, and Jennifer, to name a few  a deserving homage to our community through portraiture. A group of smaller crotchet works synthesize stretched-out legs and vivid sunsets. They hover around the larger figures like musical notes reverberating exaltations and good vibrations. A rounded rainbow on the far wall is joined by two running torsos. The torsos seem to be helping one another along with their burdens by connecting their kaleidoscopic powers. Using the often marginalized medium of crotchet, Chandler is helping us along by expanding our sometimes narrow view of art, its history, how it is made, and who makes it. My favorite work up on the wall was of Wells, as his younger self, being held in the arms of his partner, Angela. As artists, we can all relate to the capacity of love as encouragement.

I hope the next time you are at an art fair you come across the friends I made sitting in Wells' studio that afternoon. They have a lot to teach us. Chandler's show is up at Fred Giampietro Gallery until February 14th and to see more of his work go here

Friday, January 6, 2017

Paul DeMuro

I met Paul DeMuro just outside the N train at the 59th St station last fall. His studio is located deep within the historical Brooklyn Army Terminal. We stopped in to see the desolate, but grandiose railroad tracks on our way. The heavy cement balconies that diagonally line its walls and the massive atrium towering above it astonished me as much as the fact that I had no idea this place existed. Block-long superstructures with slits for windows were connected by a footbridge similar to an ancient aqueduct. The whole compound seemed like a set for a sci-fi movie. But it was no surprise that the real marvel came when we finally got up to Paul's studio. The space positively glowed from the new suite of paintings he was working on. The love was instant.

I remember growing crystals when I was young. I think the recipe went like this: fill a jar with very salty water, attach a string across the top of it, and put it in the sunlight. They took time, but in the early 80's I had a lot of that. Using patience, sensitivity to light and a powerful center of intuition, DeMuro has been growing something even more astonishing in his studio. Three massive paintings were slowly being consumed by clusters of pattern and color, and I was there to watch it. Chaotic phenomena came sailing out of DeMuro's hand hour after hour. His palettes refract light like air on water. It was easy to relate his wildy trippy networks of mark-making to those found in crystalline structures. DeMuro explained that he works on his paintings instinctively, that each section informs the next. He also collages images like his sister playing football or the outline of a bouquet of flowers onto the paintings in order to get the ball rolling. Gradients and rainbows radiate from the collages' centers illuminating them like the sound of a gospel choir during the chorus of a pop song. I have yet to see these paintings in their completed form, but I can only imagine they have the same healing power that crystals and choirs do.

Behind the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Pier 4 juts out into the East River and is lined with fishermen and kids speeding by on their bikes. In the distance you can see a tiny green Statue of Liberty and the tip of Manhattan. Paul and I walked out on it at the end of our session. Our conversations didn't stop that day until we finished our lap and parted ways. It isn't only Paul's paintings that relate to the mysteries and beauties of nature, he does too. Paul has a show opening on January 8th at Essex Flowers and it is up until February 5th. To see more of his work go here