We are pleased to announce an
artist talk with
Len Bellinger and Denise Sfraga
Alexandra Rutsch Brock and Paul D'Agostino
Sunday, June 2nd at 4pm
Come celebrate these great shows with libations and snacks !
A review by Paul D’Agostino of every each and Poison Garden in: Art Spiel. Paul D’Agostino, Ph.D. is an artist, writer, translator and curator based in Brooklyn, New York.
42" x 35”
oil, acrylic, plaster, watercolor, ink, glue, staples on repro mounted on wood
flashe, photograph on wood
M. David & Co. is proud to present
New work by Len Bellinger
exhibition catalog: Len Bellinger - every each
Denise Sfraga in the Project Space
exhibition catalog: Denise Sfraga - Poison Garden
Opening Reception: Friday, April 26 - 6 to 9pm
Exhibition continues: April 26 - June 2
Len Bellinger every each
Click here to view work in the catalog: Len Bellinger - every each
A Thing’s Thingness
We are extremely excited to present Len Bellinger’s show, every each. After decades of painting in anonymity and developing a singular, complex language all his own, I believe this current body of work places Bellinger directly in conversation with the most authentic, original abstraction being done at this moment.
To achieve this, Bellinger uses all kinds of eccentric materials including but not limited to plaster, glue, metal, etching ink, modeling paste, staples, sawdust, gold leaf, pumice, watercolor, ink and oil. He draws inspiration from great literature (Joyce especially), is endlessly fascinated with cosmology and the night sky, finds solace in the awkward geometry of medieval and pre-renaissance painting, is enamored with the solemnity and presence of Byzantine art, and of course there is always Goya and Piero lurking in the shadows. Along with his love of early minimal material-based painting, all of it culminates in a wild chaotic brew that is the essence of Joyce’s ‘thingness’. Bellinger’s great intellectual curiosity and passion for painting is at the heart and soul of his work. It’s why he’s creating some of the most powerful work being done today.
Bellinger chose to title this exhibition every each (a follow up to last year’s exhibition painting notes), a quick turn of words culled from Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce’s endlessly entertaining and thought provoking word play manages to take everyday common phrasing like ‘each and every’ and by simply reversing their order, manages to add an additional layer of poignancy.
The reversal of these two words puts a heavier emphasis on the “each” element, giving the singular identity of “each” an even greater emphasis on individuality.
This is particularly relevant with this group of paintings as this show includes work from a few different ongoing series, some decades old, whose individual concerns involving imagery, material, and conceptual underpinnings range vastly.
Each series of paintings is imbued with its own unique history, internal structure and means of paint application, and ultimately come across as unique universes in and of themselves. Thus “every each” - from his reproduction based ‘repro’ paintings and drawings with imagery derived from various periods throughout art history, and his ‘ttm.marga’ series which explores the surreal shadows in Goya’s ‘tauromaquia’ etchings, to a fantastic sculpture from his ongoing ‘mob’ series (a logical extension of his wall reliefs), all of it resulting in work that’s a cross somewhere between Louise Bourgeois, Jim Dine and Goya.
As Bill Brown writes in his essay "Thing Theory":
“We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the window gets filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily. The story of objects asserting themselves as things, then, is the story of a changed relationship to the human subject and thus the story of how the thing really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation. As they circulate through our lives, we look through objects (to see what they disclose about history, society, nature, or culture - above all, what they disclose about us), but we only catch a glimpse of things.”
Bellinger belongs in the company of Mark Bradford, Forrest Bess, Daniel John Gadd, Brenda Goodman, Rosy Keyser, Sterling Ruby, and Jack Whitten. They all deconstruct the original meanings and use their materials to create a more contemporary view of abstract theories and practices. These artists infuse abstraction with a deeply personal meaning and place themselves directly in the crosshairs of the 21st century and the outside world. By slowing down the viewers’ read of work through a handmade, deconstructed, and recontextualized use of material and form, this brand of abstraction subverts the speed of human dissociation we all share these days. Thereby, returning abstraction to a revolutionary form of aesthetic entropy.
For over four decades, Len Bellinger quietly, tirelessly, and brilliantly has been re-asserting the individual, the human touch, and humanity expressed by that touch - a thing’s thingness.
- Michael David artist/curator
Denise Sfraga - in the Project Space
Denise Sfraga - Poison Garden
Click here to view work in the catalog: Denise Sfraga - Poison Garden
We are honored to present Denise’s first solo exhibition of works on paper and paintings, Poison Garden.
Over the last 18 months, this body of work by Denise Sfraga has been gaining momentum and a great deal of attention as well. It has been widely exhibited in group shows such as HyperAccumulators at the Pelham Art Center, Ear to the Ground at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art in New Haven, Cosi Via at Centotto, Chain Reaction at the Painting Center and numerous other unique venues.
Below is a portion of the intro of the wonderful book Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. Sfraga cites it as an inspiration and one that provides great insight into this body of work.
Consider Yourself Warned
“A tree sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed stops the heart; a shrub causes intolerable pain; a vine intoxicates; a leaf triggers a war. Within the plant kingdom lurk unfathomable evils.
In his 1844 story “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Nathaniel Hawthorne described an elderly doctor who tended a mysterious walled garden of poisonous plants. The old man’s demeanor in the presence of his shrubs and vines “was that of one walking among malignant influences, such as savage beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits, which, should he allow them one moment of license, would wreak upon him some terrible fatality.” The story’s hero, young Giovanni, watched from a window and found it most disturbing “to see this air of insecurity in a person cultivating a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils.”
Some of the plants in this book have quite a scandalous history. A weed killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother. A shrub nearly blinded Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most famous landscape architect. A flowering bulb sickened members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Poison hemlock killed Socrates, and the most wicked weed of all—tobacco—has claimed ninety million lives. A stimulating little bush in Colombia and Bolivia called Erythroxylum coca has fueled a global drug war, and hellebore was used by the ancient Greeks in one of the earliest instances of chemical warfare.”
Artist/ Curator Mary DeVincentis wrote about Denise’s work in her exhibition Aporia for Curating Contemporary:
“The first thing about Denise Sfraga's work that strikes the viewer’s eye is the perfect pitch integration of vibrant and subtle color variations paired with the strength and elegance of her biomorphic compositions. The eye lingers in pleasure on these elements until a figurative implication intrudes. Her shapes suggest eyes, mouths, teeth and hearts burst open. They have a botanical feel which is initially soothing . But then, like a fly wandering into a Venus Fly Trap, one is suddenly in the stickiness of human concerns.”
Elizabeth Saperstein in her essay for the exhibition HyperAccumulators which she co-curated with Alexandra Rutsch Brock writes…
“In 2015, a photograph depicting a group of mutant daisies spread across Twitter. The cause of the mutation was purportedly due to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown years earlier. This theory was debunked: the deformity is now attributed to a hormonal imbalance called fasciation, though the causes of such imbalances are uncertain. Regardless of such assurances, strange imagery of multi-headed flower heads and enormous stems appeared, like something out of a dream or environmental sci-fi, adding to a growing unease about cause and effect, and what is real. Such fantasies are explored in the work of Denise Sfraga whose imagery of unusual plant forms tap into this swirling universe. Sfraga’s luminous drawings conjure beautiful but poisonous plants with exotic names, like calla lilies or bloodroot. Her glowing, surreal forms recall the cutout animation of Fantastic Planet, the 1970’s sci-fi film about humans living on a strange planet. Biomorphic tentacles and pods have a dreamy, psychedelic quality. Glowing edges contrast with the chalky, burnished quality achieved by layering marker and pencil.”
For this exhibition, Sfraga has transformed our Project Space into her own private poison garden. By painting the space a deep purple, populating the walls with paintings and works on paper, mixing mediums and scales, she creates a salon style installation where the beauty of each piece can be seen individually and the underlying and overt meaning of her practice can be experienced as a whole. Enter at your own risk.
Sfraga’s process is obsessive and deceptive just like her complex subjective matter. Her work first appears smooth and without overt gesture, but upon closer inspection, we see surfaces that are tirelessly reworked and made up of countless micro-adjustments. They’re infused with lyrically lurid color which creates a surface and image simultaneously violent and subsumed. The results are beautiful, dark, luminous. seductive, and disturbing all at once. It’s Myron Stout meets Tim Burton and is a cautionary fairy tale for the Anthropocene Age.
M. David & Co.
56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday 1pm-6pm