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That Sinking Sense of Wonder


Almost every artwork comes with questions. If not related to subject matter or meaning, then to maker or context. Great art, and art shows as it were, is about asking great questions. I offer this as portent and introduction to the quizzical and engaging group show currently on view at Southfirst (60 N. 6th St.), That Sinking Sense of Wonder curated by artist Jesse Bransford. The only press release offered from Bransford is a set of free associative drawings which randomly rotate on the Southfirst website. This seems cryptic until one considers that a major key to answering at least some of the questions in this show lies in appreciating the artist’s works and interests which include the occult, icons and motifs of antiquity, and the categorization / ordering of celestial bodies.

The most evident kinship between the artist’s oeuvre and his curatorial choices exists in an allegorical ink drawing entitled, “Double Man” by Max Razdow. Depicting a thin, dual figure, partly engulfed in flames and partly composed of crystalline shards, the image recalls the Rebis, an alchemical symbol for the dichotomy between man and woman, earth and heaven, and the human mind and material universe. This interplay between the material environment and the human passage looms large within the show.

A suite of anonymous tantra drawings, which read like small Suprematist works, depicts contiguous line and graphic shape (produced as a repetitious prayer practice) competing for visual primacy with environmental contributions (water stains, pock marks, random graphics) on a found paper support. The environmental determinant reaches further as gallerist Maika Pollack explains that the mystifying “Portrait of Kali, the Goddess, the Black One” (a near indiscernible black triangle atop a black square atop mottled found paper) could only be hung on the western wall as it is this wall that also emblematizes sunsets, destruction, and death.

Nearby are two absorbing graphite drawings on paper by Juliet Jacobson, one image-free and completely covered with densely layered graphite, the other depicting an emerging lunar surface. This reflection upon the influence of cast light relates also to the reading of three sculptural works by Iranian born Afruz Amighi. Comprised of metal chains and cylindrical aluminum, these partially lit shapes read like glittering jewelry or elegant chandeliers from one side and from the other, like silhouetted line drawings of missile or bullet-like shapes.

Corinne Jones offers two, seemingly monochromatic paintings, under different lighting conditions (one is installed in the gallery entryway), which illuminates her practice’s subtle nuances and offers the viewer further evidence of a sensory dependence upon environmental factors.

Lastly, an understated photograph entitled “Point of Rocks” by Dan Torop seems an iconic encapsulation of the show. Two diverging trees have soil between them that happens to form the shape of a pyramid. I couldn’t help but see this pile of rocky earth as stand-in for a carbon-based self within a cosmological whole; part in shadow, part in light, monumental, inconsequential, and subject to immutable law and random chance in equal measure. (through July 22nd)