Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ryo Toyonaga at The Vilcek Foundation

From 18 March to 15 May 2009, The Vilcek Foundation presents an exhibition of eighteen ceramic-based sculptural works by Ryo Toyonaga, curated by Midori Yamamura. Created in the seclusion of a cabin in the Catskill Mountains from 1991 to 2003, these works seem to arise from both organic and man-made sources. To contemplate these objects pulls the mind through the paradoxes of appearance and reality. This duality between archaic and contemporary, of organic and constructed, brings to mind the similar duality in the best work of Martin Puryear. As either fossils from the future or distant past, the question is unavoidable: How did these things come to be? And the corollary question, Why can't I take my eyes off of them? The creative impulse that birthed this work—and their organic quality makes the metaphor of birth particularly apt—had to have been a well-spring, the sculptures in this show were selected from a body of 300 pieces. Each is a perfectly conceived unity, almost with its own DNA, making sense by the force of its own presence. We all have thoughts, fantasies, obsessions, whose force on our lives is as powerful as any physical object; sometimes these unseen forces are stronger than reality. Toyonaga has given form, shape, and physical presence to the actors of our unconscious theater, and offers the chance to confront them face to face.

From part 15 of Esthétique du Mal by Wallace Stevens

And out of what one sees and hears and out
Of what one feels, who could have thought to make
So many selves, so many sensuous worlds,
As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarming
With the metaphysical changes that occur,
Merely in living as and where we live.

Ryo Toyonaga: Mephistophelean
18 March through 15 May 2009
The Vilcek Foundation
167 East 73rd Street
New York City
(212) 472-2500

Viewing from
Wednesday through Saturday
Noon to 6:00 P.M. and by appointment
Catalog available

Sunday, March 01, 2009

On Paper

The crush of major art fairs is coming! Among them, my favorite is the Stanford L. Smith Works on Paper Show running through Monday at the Park Avenue Armory.

The materials an artist employs affect what she says, and paper brings out the lyrical impulse, the poetic, and the intimate. Ink, paint, charcoal, pencil, and the acts of mark making all change not just the surface of the paper, but the paper itself as it accepts the artist's marks. Stretched canvas projects a picture out into the room, creating a dramatic stage for the theater of the artist's imagination. Paper is used (or once was) for personal correspondence, for documenting life's achievements, births, deaths, weddings, for books, for newspapers, for menus, for sheet music, for money. Paper is in our hands everyday and nothing is quite as meaningful as a handwritten note from a friend, a unique object expressing a personal idea, intended just for you; no saved version on the hard drive, rejected drafts crumpled in the author's wastebasket. Art on paper inhabits this intimate touchability. It speaks in private, sometimes intense, whispers, right in your ear.

Exploring this most explorable of art fairs is like searching for just such a personal message from an artist. So many works, so many sizes, such intimate mark making, and then you see it, the message to you. It's signed and dated. You were very young when this message was sent out into the world, but it found its mark. There is a rush standing in front of an immense Titian canvas in a museum, overwhelming, transporting, a feeling experienced and shared publicly and from a distance. The private rush of realizing a work on paper speaks its secret message just to you is a thrill I associate with love and affection.

"Would you like to hold it? Bring it over into the light," I was asked.

Once in your home, the the work and its messages enrich your life; revealing its secrets over the course of a life time.

Many thanks, to Stuart Denenberg of Denenberg Fine Arts.