What do we long for in a perfect world? A homogeneity where conflicts never arise, or something more jagged and unpredictable — a polyphony of disharmonies, resonant of reality while lifting us, however fleetingly, above it?
A vision of disruptive, gritty perfection can be glimpsed at Valentine in Ridgewood, Queens, where the paintings of Patricia Satterlee and the sculptures of David Henderson and Jude Tallichet cohabit the space with bristling singularity.
The dissimilarities among the three sets of artworks couldn’t be more pronounced — Satterlee’s boldly graphic abstractions are self-contained universes of color, line and texture; Henderson’s wickedly squeezed geometries protrude into the viewer’s space, defying both gravity and logic; Tallichet’s bronzes of castoff clothing, littering the floor of an adjacent corridor, are as earthy and erotic as the others are sublime — making for a unity as inexplicable as it is enthralling.
The artist Fred Valentine, who has run his eponymous gallery on Seneca Avenue since the summer of 2011, has created an installation in which the individual artworks, while afforded ample room for focused viewing, meld into an overarching entity with an aesthetic punch of its own — an upsweep of color and form torquing across the gallery’s walls, working the spaces between the paintings and sculptures in fluid legato beats.
Patricia Satterlee works in flashe — a matte, water-based paint — on linen stretched over rigid panels. Her surfaces bear the scars of their making: applications of color repeatedly washed off and reapplied, a process of deletion that supplants navigable moorings with a formal vacuum, devoid of directionality or scaffolding.
The consequent layering of translucence, texture and pentimenti eventually resolves into a succession of amorphous, interlacing forms, which the artist divides, interrupts and obscures with strongly articulated lines and flatly painted shapes that can be sharp and collage-like (the Moon series, 2005), soft and bulbous (the Gloria series, 2012) or delicately subsumed into scarified marmoreal surfaces (the Love Knot series, 2013).
For all that they go through, Satterlee’s paintings, especially the more recent ones, retain a keen sensuality, the colors bejeweled and vaporous, the fields of flat paint — diaphanous here, opaque there — brushed across the polychrome ground with the soft tingle of lips grazing a cheek.
A strangely dissonant form of sensuality is at play in David Henderson’s sculptures, at once Space Age and spore-like, trading in seemingly impossible displays of tensile strength. In the most attention-getting pieces, large globular forms on either end of the sculpture are connected, like a double teardrop, by absurdly attenuated stems, often barely a half-inch in diameter — a feat accomplished by the carbon fiber Henderson uses to create the works.
The effect is unnerving to say the least, as if a misdirected elbow, or even a gust of wind, could snap the sculpture in two. This is especially the case with “Colossus” (undated), a black, fittingly enormous piece of work that greets you like a hungry alien as you enter the gallery space.
Several other works are grouped on two adjacent walls, their colors a glorious array of muted amber, maraschino red and aqua-blue. Their ensemble constitutes perhaps the most striking moment of an altogether extraordinary installation, curving upward from an amber sculpture resembling a calla lily mounted low on the wall to a cluster of three spheres, the same color, planted at eye level.
Their silken, almost translucent surfaces and hybrid botanical/techno-fetish shapes are set in exquisite counterpoint to Satterlee’s paintings, which join their arc as it progresses across the wall. In the most unlikely juxtaposition of the show, a shiny, pure-white double-teardrop Henderson is installed in the middle of three Gloria paintings, one on the right and two on the adjacent wall to the left. What could have felt like an intrusion instead comes across as an intuitive leap that heightens the distinctive qualities of each artist: Henderson’s meticulously honed plotting and Satterlee’s viscerally hand-worked aggregations.
Jude Tallichet’s sly, sexy sculptures accent the ripe physicality teeming throughout the show with just the right dash of desire. Introduced into Henderson and Satterlee’s abstract domain by a bronze sock on the floor draping the base of a doorjamb, Tallichet’s quasi-hyper-realism is all heat and musk.
Like a cinematic tracking shot made real, the bronze and fibercol sculptures take the form of a trail of clothing, both outer garments and underwear, strewn about a shadow-shrouded corridor. A few articles are gold-colored; others are blindingly white. Their color and detail, however, cannot fully disguise their considerable weight: even the sock feels firmly anchored to the floor.
The last piece in the corridor, just before it terminates in darkness, is a voluminous skirt the color of a faded red rose. The largest of Tallichet’s sculptures, its material density adds a few extra layers to its allusions and meanings: a collapsed building; a spent volcano; a roiling, toxic cloud. Its implicit sexuality feels freighted with exhaustion.
It is curious, then, to compare the overt but earthbound desire embodied in the castoff clothing with the sublimated buoyancy of the abstractions: two drives that appear to be antithetical but remain, like the red and violet ends of the spectrum, inextricably linked — a settling of impulses that could very well account for why this show feels so perfect, so complete. If you go, be prepared to linger.
David Henderson, Patricia Satterlee, Jude Tallichet continues at Valentine (464 Seneca Ave, Ridgewood, Queens) through March 9.