Space & Specters: From Calvino to Tarantino

A work by Daniel Wiener at Frosch & Portmann.

A couple group shows currently on view on the Lower East Side are winsome and diverting in different ways, and they transport their viewers into very different, indeed differently distant realms.

Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, the eponymously titled exhibit at Frosch & Portmann, curated by gallery artist Vicki Sher, does a fine job of paying homage to the Italian author’s meanderingly, pensively, insouciantly exploratory narrative mode, not least insofar as the show presents a visual sphere that is both cosmic, at times almost blatantly so, and comical. A work by Katherine Bradford on handmade paper, for example, features one of her trademark caped superheroes in flight, a swath of red along the work’s bottom register suggesting that the character’s point of departure was Mars, perhaps, or maybe some imagined lava pit on Venus. Fantastically flying person notwithstanding, Bradford’s piece is one of the show’s grounding elements, so to speak, given its figurative frankness, and one might say it provides the viewer with a protagonist-cum-navigational companion while confronting the bizarreness of David Finn’s Weight, which reads a bit like a crazily appendaged space rover taken over by a cast of cartoon characters, or Daniel Wiener’s We Go To Their Faltering, a wall sculpture that would look like an extraterrestrial monster even in the absence of the show’s operative context. So, too, would Jay Henderson’s Roof, and his Disk would be of lunar suggestivity anyway, not unlike Ye Qin Zhu’s series of lumpily preservational, delightfully mixed-media wax sculptures in the window, which look like a researcher’s trove of outer-space-culled seedballs—in which the ‘seeds’ include spiders, flies, pieces of fruit and art supplies. Sher has included a piece of her own in the show as well, a mixed-media work on paper called The Little Prince, a spare composition featuring a splotchily blotted, long-limbed form that seems to tiptoe along moments after alighting upon some far-flung surface—while cosmic whatevers dangle daintily and zip along dashingly throughout a fathomless galactic canopy.

Left, a work by Jay Henderson. Right, a work by David Finn. Sculpture by Jay Henderson. The current exhibit at Shoot the Lobster Gallery.

Far more terrestrial—if not subterranean—and differently comical—if not also a tad terrifying—is the world of Charmed, organized by Tamara Gonzales and Maggie Lee at Shoot the Lobster Gallery. Here, you are greeted outdoors by a talismanic, grave-marker-like death doll festooned with desiccate organica and wacky bric-a-brac. Once you descend a few steps into the gallery’s exhibition space, it becomes clear that this welcoming piece, by Gonzales herself, has played very well her role as a posthumous hostess, for what you find inside is a 13-artist strong share of much more of the same—all partially illumined in neon pink, no less, while the blackish floor is itself bedazzled with a purplish glitter veneer. The exhibit hums with spectrality; works are stewed and askew. A centerpiece sculpture by Sophie Stone, Kinky Boots, is an impressively enlivened assembly of otherwise unliving leaves, branches, blossoms and little boots. A work on paper by Anna De Los Reyes depicts some shadowy bringer or harbinger of death. Ink and watercolor works by Cameron feature weightless phantoms that are there, not there, hinter-liminal. Maggie Lee’s handmade candles creeping along walls and fixtures are accordingly post-use drippy. Photographs by Michelle Tarantelli hang krooked; works by Tom Forkin feature rust and vapor; Taboo!’s collage is a fanatic’s altar to Cher; and Bill Saylor’s Cobra will probably, quite simply, fucking kill you. Charmed is a den of darkish doom, in other words. A Tim-Burtonian, Tarantinian treat. It’s also a ton of fun.

Situated not too far from one another, Cosmicomics and Charmed are up through August 16th. A third group show in their vicinity—Material Myth at Catinca Tabacaru, up through September 6th—slivers, looms and purrs most fittingly into the visio-thematic middleground of the other two. Check out this one as well to round off your day of examining, exploring and interloping.

Gonzales' posthumous hostess. A work by Anna De Los Reyes. Works by Meg Lipke at Catinca Tabacaru.

Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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