Serban Ionescu was born in Communist Romania and did not speak until he was six. That’s what it says in Dede Young’s essay for Secret History, his solo show at Bridge Gallery on the Lower East Side.
Even if you didn’t know that biographical detail, or that the artist “remembers tales about Dracula’s castle, Werewolves, Vampires, and Vlad the Impaler, and recalls there were many more demons than heroes,” you’d know something was up with this work.
Ionescu moved with his family to New York when he was ten, in 1993, yet his art is absolutely embedded in the Eastern European aesthetic of the Polish painter and theater director Tadeusz Kantor, the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer and the Czech-American architect and poet John Hejduk. The range of associations, though, goes very far afield, from African masks to Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Unabashedly theatrical, literary and pictorial — all high sins of high modernism — “Secret History” is as complicated as the Blajini, a creature from Romanian folklore, which Ionescu has rendered into a sculpture that greets you at the gallery door.
The Blajini, according to Young’s essay, is “anthropomorphic and short, sometimes having the head of a rat.” It has the capacity to be “malicious or have great respect for God and lead a sinless life.”
Ionescu’s monstrosities are undergirded by the same uncomfortable conjunction of maliciousness and innocence as this mythical rat. To my eye, they are the work of an outraged idealist wandering a world where life as it should be hasn’t got a prayer.
The show concludes today.
Serban Ionescu: Secret History continues at the Bridge Gallery (98 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through today, April 29.
Robert Legorreta, also known as “Cyclona,” discusses the origins of his performance art and ongoing political activism.
A caustic New York Times review from 1975 almost destroyed his career, but he remained one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
How do we consider land-inspired art in an age when huge swaths of our shared world are being clear cut, mined, drilled, and desertified?
A documentary trilogy follows the life of Thich Nhat Hanh, who expounded the principles of engaged Buddhism.
Ten artists will receive studio space and access to faculty, staff, students, workshops, and programming at an arts institution in the heart of Philadelphia.
Sea View, conceived by Jorge Pardo as both an artwork and a residence, embraced the dissolution of borders between disciplines.
The Legion of Honor in San Francisco says it’s the first exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance artist’s drawings.
“Untitled” (1961) by George Morrison is the first work by a Native American artist to join the museum’s Abstract Expressionist collection.
“You can’t have idols; it’s in the second commandment,” he screamed before being arrested.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
Manhattan now has its own, downscaled version of the artist’s famous Chicago sculpture, oddly squished under a luxury condo tower.
Increased oil tanker truck traffic would “seriously degrade” the experience of viewing the canyon’s Indigenous rock art, said one advocate of the site.