Art

In the Digital Era, Old Media Still Packs a Knockout Punch

Bernard Hopkins (Ed Mulholland / USA TODAY Sports)
Bernard Hopkins (Ed Mulholland / USA Today Sports)

Editor’s note: Today, we are publishing two reviews of Radiator Arts’s So Real exhibition. The other review by Patrick Neal is titled “The End of the World as We Know It.”

I want to preface my review of Radiator Arts‘s current show So Real with a brief shout-out to Bernard Hopkins. On Saturday, March 9, 2013, Bernard Hopkins defeated Tavoris Cloud to win the Light Heavyweight World Championship at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. At 48, Hopkins became the oldest fighter in history to win a major belt.

Boxing is not for old men. It’s a brutal, unforgiving sport — at his age, Hopkins is an anachronism in the fight world. Why would I want to watch a 48-year-old man fight, and what does Hopkins have to do with the exhibition So Real? Hopkins, by nature, is a conservative fighter. At all costs, he avoids risks. For him, boxing is as much about avoiding punishment as it is administering it. Hopkins had to rely on skill, guile, and grit. He ducked, feinted, bobbed, and weaved. He threw multiple punch combinations. To defeat Cloud, a boxer 17 years his junior, Hopkins had to deliver a master class in the “sweet science.” Artists often have to accomplish much the same feat.

So Real (installation shot) @ Radiator Arts (Photo courtesy of Hyperallergic staff)
“So Real” installation shot at Radiator Arts (All photos by author)

Artist Alan Lupiani organized So Real. On view in Long Island City through April 20, the exhibition features seven artists who range in age and professional experience. The pairing of emerging and established artists makes for a compelling show. Participating artists include Pedro Barbeito, Eve K. Tremblay, Jack Henry, Karlis Rekevics, Kati Vilim, John Gerrard, and Christopher Saunders. The show is modest but compelling, with its balanced mix of Brutalist architecture, geometric abstraction, color photography, and minimalist sculpture.

Radiator Arts is a multiuse gallery and workspace. Lupiani deserves commendation for organizing such an engaging show in such a nonconventional space. (You can’t walk two feet without seeing a skylight, a radiator, a door, a sink, or a random passerby.) Despite the limited real estate, or maybe because of it, Lupiani pairs certain artworks together, and the synergy between them is palpable. Kati Vilim and Jack Henry form the liveliest pairing in the show. At first glance, I noticed a bond between Vilim’s flat geometric paintings and Henry’s compact, minimalist sculptures. Vilim’s compositions recall Russian constructivism as much as rudimentary computer graphics. Despite her paintings’ modest scale and rigidity, they command (and reward) attention. In “After All” (2013), short colorful bands intersect at diverse meeting points that suggest compact latticework. The result is both atmospheric and solid.

So Real, Jake Henry (left) and Kati Vilim (right). (Courtesy of Hyperallergic Staff)
At “So Real,” Jack Henry (left) and Kati Vilim (right).

Adjacent to “After All” is Henry’s stout obelisk “Untitled (Core Sample #14)” (2012). Similar in scale to a cinder block, the sculpture rests on shelf at waist height. Embedded into the sculpture is common city detritus — a plastic bag, a girl’s shiny beret, a green plastic funnel, and confetti, among other things. Did Henry excavate this object from some vacant lot in Brooklyn? In the next room, Henry’s “Untitled (Core Sample#15)” (2012) holds center court. Much taller than his preceding work, this sculpture stands like a totem pole in the middle of the gallery. It’s a low-key vertical amalgam of trash and industrial materials.

Kati Vilim (right) and Jake Henry (left)
Kati Vilim (right) and Jack Henry (left)

To counterbalance the concrete pillar, Lupiani hung Vilim’s second painting “Rule of Four” (2013) nearby. The composition intersperses gray polygons over a quartet of vibrant U-shapes, which are set against a flat white ground. The gray polygons, which block the U-shapes, read like the uninvited guest to a party, or the lumbering fool that obscures your view during a show. What I find interesting about this artist pairing is how the works simultaneously supports and negates each other. Each artist investigates the expressive qualities of form, color, line, and space. But whereas Vilim’s paintings defy narrative content, Henry’s sculptures embrace it. As I looked at his obelisks, I could see them as a geological collective portrait of New York.

Here’s the link to Bernard Hopkins and his boxing style. Given today’s digital climate, painting and sculpture have never seemed as out of place and outdated as they do now. They’re mute, unmoving, and susceptible to the laws of gravity. They do not move or flicker across a screen or multiple screens, and they cannot be digitally transmitted to millions of people in GIF format at the click of a mouse. Yet despite their limitations, as this show proves, they still deliver a knockout punch.

So Real (installation shot). Pedro Barbeito (right), Jake Henry (middle), Christopher Saunders (left). (Courtesy of Hyperallergic)
“So Real” installation shot: Pedro Barbeito (right), Jack Henry (middle), Christopher Saunders (left)

So Real continues at Radiator Arts (10-61 Jackson Ave, Long Island City) through April 20

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