Art

Minimalism’s Lateral Move at The Hogar Collection

Left, James Woodfill’s “Untitled (Fragment B)” (2010) and, right, Stephen Westfall, “Chakra Marimba Mandala (For Alan Shields)” (2008) (photo courtesy Hogar)
The entrance to the Hogar Collection with two “Untitled” oil on canvas paintings by Ben Dowell (both 2010). (photo courtesy Hogar) (click to enlarge)

I’m not sure Lateralism, a small show curated by artist Matt Wycoff, bares out the premise put forth in the press release (it promises to assess “a slice of the ever-shifting boundaries and implications of post minimal painting and sculptural installation”), but the exhibition at The Hogar Collection is definitely a strong installation of six works by four artists that look great together.

From Dike Blair’s cool post-modern bricolage to Ben Dowell’s handcrafted take on hard-edge painting, the show careens from rhythmic paintings informed as much by folk art quilts and Buddhist mandalas as Op-art or modernist abstraction to sculptural objects that integrate their own light source.

Ben Dowell’s high-keyed paintings are the first things that greet you when you enter the gallery, and they are luscious and enthralling. The artist obviously loves paint and he applies it to the surface like a pastry chef trying to tantalize you to dive right in. They appear to reverberate with light and don’t have the coolness of more formal abstractions since the artist’s hand is always present.

Two works by James Woodfill: (left) “Untitled (Fragment A)” and “Untitled (Fragment B)” (photo courtesy Hogar) (click to enlarge)

Inside, James Woodfill dominates the show with his low installations that literally project fluorescent light in ways that make them feel delicate and sculptural. As the light in the gallery fluctuates with the time of day, Woodfill’s works change to reveal  (or hide) layers of light that have a drawing-like quality as they are projected onto neighboring surfaces. If at first they felt a little hermeneutic, I found they opened up with the more time you spent with them. My only criticism is that both of the works were installed a little too close together (I initially thought they were one piece), and I think art like this needs space to breathe.

I don’t know why Wycoff chose to quote Michael Fried’s essay “Art and Objecthood” for this curatorial project but it made me wonder if minimalism, sorry Minimalism, is still relevant today? Do we have to go back to explore critical ideas from the 1960s to talk about art now? I have my apprehensions about that notion but I understand how it is essential to revisit historical moments to remind us how far we’ve come. Fried could not have imagined Minimalism would morph into the varieties we see today. Is Dowell a minimalist? Not really, but I think it’s hard to see his paintings without relating it to the 1960s and the era’s changing attitudes towards art.

Dike Blair’s “In” (2007) and (right) Ben Dowell’s “Untitled” (2010) (photo courtesy Hogar) (click to enlarge)

Dike Blair’s contribution, “In” (2007), is a key part of the exhibition even if I don’t think it is a particularly strong piece. It’s an art work that comes with its own shipping container that when packed away resembles a Minimalist box. Yet installed the work transforms to reveal a world that was hiding inside. I see Blair’s work as a symbolic unpacking of minimalism. It made me realize that maybe that was the point to Wycoff’s show … namely that the richness of Minimalism comes from its success at inspiring generations of artists to look inside and find new things.

Lateralisms features the work of Dike Blair, Ben Dowell, Stephen Westfall, and James Woodfill. It is curated by Matt Wycoff. It continues at The Hogar Collection (362 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) until this Sunday, August 8.

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