“The Unpainted Landscape” at Mihai Nicodim Gallery

“The Unpainted Landscape” is a group multimedia show comprised mostly of sculpture.  The show is based on the original “Unpainted Landscape” touring group exhibition from 1987 in Scotland, featuring work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Andy Goldsworthy, and David Tremlett.  The artists featured at this new show, Olga Balema, Keltie Ferris, Jack Lavender, and Hannah Lees, were inspired by their predecessors and the concept of the “unpainted landscape.”  They take the ideas from the 1987 exhibition, which consisted of landscape as sculpture in a literal sense with the artists’ use of natural elements, and reexamine them with a contemporary vision.  They reinterpreted the idea of the “unpainted landscape” in a more conceptual way, creating metaphysical landscapes, and referencing cultural, political, and social discourses.  Three of the pieces, Dreams Chunky 2, 4 & 5, by Jack Lavender, are sculptural wall hangings made out of metal bar grids which are bent and folded.  In these grids, which act as sort of metal nets, he has placed multiple items, both ordinary and strange, from a lightbulb to an hourglass.  Two of the other pieces, Tablet IX &X, by Hannah Lees, are smooth, flat plaster tablets with various items, both man-made and from nature, placed within it.  Keltie Ferris also contributes an oil and acrylic abstract painting on canvas, and Olga Balema contributes a mixed media sculpture which lies on the floor in the center of the gallery space.

In Jack Lavender’s sculptures, I see the landscape as being represented by the metal grid, which is reminiscent of topographical maps, and the somewhat random objects seem to be representative of different aspects of our human footprint on this landscape.  The hourglass, of course, always seems to be representative of the passage of time, and these objects, like the crumpled energy drink can, take on the feeling of snapshots of our gradual effect on the world around us.  Hannah Lees sculptures are notable as well, as they capture a capture a similar essence to those of Lavender.  The objects which are placed in these plaster tablets are set inside, with holes in the plaster left for them to be seen, making them reminiscent of fossils.  The objects range from small stones, wood, and animal bones to glass and plastic.  I’m not entirely sure if this was intentional or not, but one of the tablets even has a small nike symbol carved it’s surface.  This juxtaposition of natural elements and very man-made ones seems to be a commentary on, again, our footprint on the landscape in which we live, including industrial and commercial forms.

I found this show to be really interesting.  I loved the way each of these sculptures was able to make a very subtle commentary, getting across their ideas, while still maintaining an actual connection, however vague, to landscape.  Lees’ sculptures were probably my favorite, simply because of their aesthetic value.  Lavenders’ are equally strong conceptually, but not as aesthetically pleasing in a clean and simple way.  I don’t think that Ferris’ and Balema’s works fit as cohesively together with the show, but overall I think it was successful.

Image

Tablet IX, Hannah Lees, 2013

IMG_2817

Dreams Chunky 5, Jack Lavender, 2013

 

 

-Erin O’Brien

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