Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Pimply teenage boys have cared for and tended pterodactyls for so long. Up in the attic, these flying dinosaurs soar on their posters and swoop into action scenes of their beloved b movies. But, if I may be so poetic, the stench of unwashed clothes appears to be forcing the beasts out of their nests.
Some artists have discovered that this flying reptile have some real cross-over potential. At first, this sounds like an awfully kitschy idea, but when this airborne creature is refracted, distilled, and boiled down into a raw winged shape, it really sings rather than squawks.
Altmejd Takes Flight
David Altmejd’s recent pterodactylian sculpture in a glass case at PS1 was so entrancing. It had so many small vivid details to take in and relish, including hundreds of threads of shimmering gold, stark white, and stridently bright colors were fastidiously interwoven to form the creature. An elaborate system of transparent plastic trusses suspends the threads in mid-air and defies gravity to articulate a truly uncanny anatomy.
The room at PS1 was dim with the case brightly illuminated, pumping up the sculpture’s colors with Caravaggesque intensity. The work took that familiar experience of gazing at a skeleton in a glass case in a whole new direction. And it didn’t curdle into something that felt campy or like it was trying too hard to be scientifically precise, which is usually how appropriations can disappoint.
As a disclaimer, the work is untitled. Despite its chimerical ambiguity, it displays a corporal center, a head, legs, and wings that stretch out. It is fair to say that the work hits the pterodactyl’s semiotic dartboard — even if it’s not a bull’s-eye.
Stephen Holding paints the abstracted wings and tail of the pterodactyl in his 2007 multimedia piece “Millennium Theory,” recently on view at Art Connects New York gallery in SoHo. The abstract shape had this sense of motion like a twirling boomerang. The soaring wing chevron formation grabs the eye and leads it across the picture plane in a “U” trajectory. The mix of highly saturated colors was perfectly complimented by the blank void that surrounded them. Other works by Holding lacked this calmer area, which helps balance out his impulse towards ambitious and dense patterns. Horror vacui can be overwhelming in a bad way — like a guy who pairs a polka dot tie with a plaid shirt and pinstripe paints.
Strong compositions that cascade colors without feeling messy, pack it all into an interesting shape, and still manage to strike a graceful balance are hard to get right. “Millennium Theory” reveals the potential of a young artist who is still learning how to do what he does best without getting carried away.
Taking risks with unusual shapes can reap some handsome rewards. It was a formidable challenge to pull off the pterodactyl without it turning kitschy or weird. But when artists handle references right, like Altmejd and Holding do, you respect them more for playing with fire and not getting burned. As Scottish writer Thomas Caryle once succinctly wrote: “No pressure, no diamonds.”
Stephen Holding’s “Millennium Theory,” (2007) was part of the Feed the Kitty show at the Spattered Columns Art Space in Soho (March 10, 2010 – April 7, 2010), organized by Art Connects New York. David Altmejd’s Untitled Sculpture (2009) was part of Between Spaces at PS1 (October 25, 2009 – April 12, 2010) curated by Tim Gossens and Kate McNamara.
In a world delighted and entertained by displays of material excess, Diane Simpson shows that there is another possibility.
The animal carcass sculptures are gruesome yet their materials — the artist’s own discarded clothing — lend them some gentleness.
View work by over 40 experimental artists and collectives from throughout the Americas who contributed to New York’s art scene during the 1960s and ’70s.
Mr. Bernatowicz, in your introductory text you talk about the need for honesty, the disease of hypocrisy, overreaching governments. You do not fulfill a single one of your own ideals.
The biggest problem with turning Dune into a film is that the book appears increasingly derivative of generic sci-fi tropes.
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
Ed Roberson’s motorcycle ride from Pittsburgh to the Pacific is a quest-romance, an exploration of American culture and American mythology.
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
The legendary performer amassed a collection of about 10,000 rare books, posters, and artwork about all things esoteric.
The proceeds will benefit the BDC’s community-centered initiatives and exhibitions.