My general experience with gallery openings is that about half of the people attending come to be seen and meet other people, and crowded shows often resemble singles bars, except that the wine and munchies are free. This was borne out by several openings I attended that evening, including one where a man holding a very full glass of wine strolled out of an elevator saying, “There's good wine on the fifth floor!”
The first thing that struck me at the packed opening reception at the James Cohan Gallery for Cosmologies was that the attendees were actually looking intently at the art and discussing it! I watched as people walked through the rooms of works animatedly pointing and discussing, and then came around again.
Fred Tomaselli charts Marjorie's life, her passions and habits, such as “nicotine” giving them reference points as if they are stars in her own private galaxy. The personal is reflected in the cosmos.
Further along, also in black and white is Ad Reinhardt's A Portend of the Artist as a Yhung Mandela, a satiric Mandela of the modern art world, including the cult hero status many artists had and have, showing “Artist as Art-Director-Holy-Monkey-Wrench” and “Artist as Doodle-Kaboodle Scumble-Bumpkin.” Here the exterior opinion becomes one's interior reality charted on a Mandela, a personal meditation for the soul. If one moves through this show only viewing the black and white type works there is a splendid and deeply meaningful show within a show.
But our souls also know color, riotous color, so let's take a different “walk”. This one begins at the entry vestibule with Kimsooja's dynamic Mandela: Zone of Zero , 2004 pulsating with light and jukebox sound mixing Tibetan, Gregorian and Islamic Chants. Works interweaving colors, using colors to map the rainbow of human spiritual experience continue with a decal over the entry by assume astro vivid focus, Abravana Cosmocock, 2007 to two works by Alfred Jensen, including #7. Wherein the Numerals 7 & 11 Occur, 1976, and across the wall to Matthew Ritchie's Wave of Translation , 2006 to Ingrid Calame's #231 Drawing (Tracings up the L.A. River Placed in the Clark Telescope Dome, Lowell observatory, Flagstaff, AZ), 2006. Each of these works relies strongly on colors to represent (rather than merely help illustrate) ideas, symbols and perhaps beliefs.
There are many other “walks” and ways to experience the stimulating juxtapositions of the numerous excellent works in this show. It deserves a full catalogue or learned article in an art magazine, which I hope also details the similarities and differences of the antique religious and scientifically based works, such as the original book by Roger Fludd, the Mongolian, Tibetan, Christian and Indian works, etc.
Artists explore reality, then allow us to see through their eyes, inspiring us to see the our own worlds in new ways. That is the job description I personally adhere to and the artists I admire and it seems to me all the recognized greatest artists follow that path. Religious or spiritual artists seem to fall well into this job description and have created some of the world's most incredible art, even though their theologies and cultures may differ.
This blog owes many thanks to Benjamin Tischer, director at Sara Tecchia Roma for providing information and allowing the use of the Mercy Seat image. I never could have managed my “walks” through Cosmologies without the kindness of Jane Cohan who allowed me to use one special Cosmologies Checklist as I wended my way through the show. Christopher Rawson, Archivist, emailed the perfect photos, one being the Gallery View, when unbeknownst to him I had described that very scene! Yonni Walker, Press Assistant, continues to be most helpful and again came to my aid, this time by emailing me both a pdf of the Checklist and a press release, which is now also available on the James Cohan Gallery web site. I strongly urge you to visit these shows and also their gallery web sites (the links here should work) where you will find more information and images.