Long Island City’s skyline has metamorphosed drastically in a few short years: whereas before one saw cab companies or factories from the subway, now skyscrapers shoot up, full of well-tailored inhabitants. While still emblematic of New York’s industrial grit, there’s a new sheen to this Westernmost Queens neighborhood, and its art scene is concurrently expanding.
Merriam-Webster defines “transmogrify” as “to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect.” Curators Tun Myaing and Panos Papamichael’s group exhibition, “Transmogrification,” which opened June 21st, includes work from twenty-five contemporary realists exploring this theme. Located at 2320 Jackson Avenue off the Court Square train stations, the exhibition achieves the unusual in that both show and gallery so adeptly embody its title. The gallery will become a real estate development, and the artwork inside transcribes and navigates change—and, in some cases, mourns it.
Hanging arrangements emphasize the curators’ dexterity. James Rackowski’s tromp l’oeil “Wound #12” hangs alongside Jorge Vascano’s three-dimensional painting “The Seeker,” Raczkowski’s displaying the environmental alterations caused by war, Vascano’s its psychological upheaval. Both are unapologetically raw in execution, though Raczkowski’s narrative is subtler and Vascano’s more gutteral. However, this dichotomy between exterior and interior scarring is deceptive: which one, in reality, is more malicious?
In the same room, a wall with Kendall Klingbeil’s “Journey in Purple,” Michael Meadors’ “All Alright,” and Angela Gram’s “Spoonbill” presents the most feminine formal qualities in an otherwise muscular, angular exhibition. The three pieces, tied together by splashes of warm purples and pinks, speak of change in their varying degrees of kinetic abstraction: Klingbeil’s storming, Meadors’ and Gram’s in emoting and fracturing their subjects, respectively.
On a perpendicular wall, Yunsang Jang’s enigmatic, Velázquez-inspired “A Man of Constant Doubt” presents confusion clotting in contrast with a luminous, craggy body. Like Jang, Brett F. Harvey’s “Together,” located in another room, presents susceptibility at odds with its intimidating bulk. For both figures, the stigmas of heroism yield an atypical distress, indicating a pensive and involuntary evolution.
Next to Harvey’s sculpture, Christopher Pugliese’s three-figure “The Rose of Youth” is lusciously painted, its sensuality laced with a warning about the fleeting mortality of its own exquisite flesh. Adroitly, Will Kurtz’s “Adam and Eva at Coney Island” stands on Pugliese’s other side, a morality parable interpreted cleverly and colloquially. Pugliese’s is the “before” and Kurtz’s the “after,” a reminder that Pugliese’s blushing forms can transform into the hyper-perceptive and unabashed candor of Kurtz’s.
The smallest room in “Transmogrification” holds its smallest works, and wonderfully acts like a set of Russian nesting dolls within the show: the viewers walk into the gallery, then walk into the room, and then peer into the tiny windows that constitute each piece. Paintings from Dina Brodsky’s “Cycling Guide to Lilliput” series depict heady memories inverse to their scale. Brodsky’s rendering is so replete with light and atmosphere that the viewer can almost hear breezes and crickets within the paintings, funneling the senses into diminutive portals. In the same room, Daniel Bilodeau’s “Upend” is as hypnotic as Brodsky’s paintings are intimate. Bilodeau blends a bit of Lewis Carroll with Freud’s ego, and “Upend” serves as a softly-glowing pendulum vacillating between the two.
Though individually distinct, Tun Myaing’s series of 5Pointz paintings, Alex Smith’s “First Coat,” and Rob Plater’s exterior murals combine to form a narrative of Long Island City. Myaing’s fastidious curiosity and Plater’s swelling lines weave a tale for which Smith’s graphic piece provides the epilogue. There is some solid draftsmanship running throughout this show, but don’t miss Plater’s superb mastery of it. As a native New Yorker, his voice—amplified with such sophistication by his sheer ability to draw—is one of the strongest proofs of the exhibition’s inspiration. Like Plater’s murals, Brad Craig’s electric guitar, playfully named “Gowannosaurus Rex,” is another curatorial masterstroke. The instrument is meticulously crafted from locally recycled building scraps and is fully functional, adeptly demonstrated by Craig himself during the opening reception, the most phoenix-like of the exhibition’s pieces.
Running until July 16th, “Transmogrification” is neither mirror nor argument, but rather a circular dialogue between art and environment. Whereas most exhibitions consist of artwork neatly slotted into any alien, impersonal space, “Transmogrification” proves original and fascinating due to the unique conversation Myaing and Papamichael have prompted between the show’s artists and its location.
The show is being extended for two more dates:
Wednesday, July 12th, 5:00pm – 8pm and Sunday July 16th, 1:00pm – 4pm
2320 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY, 11101
Check out the online gallery of the show: http://paintanyway.com/?p=1445