Back in late August, as if awakening from a dream, New Yorkers began to warily return to the city and their jobs. Venturing out into the streets for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, there was an overwhelming sense that nothing was as it once was. At first, those trepidations were pushed aside and the city’s good citizens bravely picked up where they had left off before the pandemic as if almost nothing had happened; but deep down they knew that everything had changed.
As New Yorkers slowly, albeit resentfully, accepted the reality of an unrecognizable world, they came to understand that the symbols, signs and relationships they depended upon to situate themselves in community with others, and to give their lives meaning, were no longer valid. Stripped of the superficial trappings that dull the senses to the fragility of culture, there arose an urgent need to reevaluate what in this life is true, real and worth knowing better.
The curators of Intersections came together, as cautiously as the city’s populace, with the intention of mounting an exhibition that would explore the strands of production they were encountering that seemingly gave voice to the conflicting impulses of tenacity and fragility arising simultaneously in a wounded city determined to heal itself. Of singular importance to the development of Intersections is its location -- an unconventional retail space in the heart of Union Square, generously donated by Chashama, that symbolized a utopian and inclusive impulse the curators favored. Union Square is the city’s wild card— the poker face of the city’s ever shifting fortunes and serial enthusiasms. For an art show to exist as essential and intrinsic to the culture of Union Square, it would need to risk being all things to all people —an egalitarian open portal to art appreciation that would be accessible and engaging regardless of the viewer’s predisposition. In a word, the show would need to be equitable.
The curators also believed that the works should aim to forge new narratives, conversations and formalist connections. Hence the show is diverse and representative of a myriad of expressions with undeniable currents that connect the artists to each other and to a community of viewers.
In an overarching manner, the poetics of color offers the first bridge. Forsaking irony as passé, color insists on announcing itself—feisty in its outré claim to universality. Artist Kylie Manning for example, spreads luscious waves of yellow ochre across miles of canvas in an ode to a never was August. Leslie Ford and Brooks Frederick take a different tack and deploy high chroma squares, no more than a foot in any direction, to arrive at an impactful expression of the universal. Frederick opens the viewer to the beauty of nature’s fleeting forms while Ford offers a momentary glimpse past those forms to the infinite unknowable that lies beyond the veil of appearances.
Color conspires with form to animate Matthew Wood’s layered cutout paintings; a similar confluence occurs in Wade Schaming’s found object sculptures and in the collage works by the artist duo Nataša Prljević and Joshua Nierodzinski. All present works that connect through an expression of tension brought on by fragmentation or the adjoining of disparate parts that form tenuous compositions uncertain of their unity.
Many of the works on display in Intersections privilege a composited abstraction—a union of forms that span from the harmonious to the discordant. Julia Brandão, Allen Hansen, Erika Ranee, and Jamel Robinson break-up their painted surfaces with distinct fields of expression that subtlety vie for supremacy; Eveline Luppi’s planar surfaces are animated with a well-tuned orchestration of shapes and lines. Contrarily, Sara Jimenez and Barbara Rosenthal disrupt the surfaces of their works with an energetic dash of sharply cut and collaged imagery seemingly sparring in white space. The dramatic contrast of chiaroscuro connects the works of artists that seem to inhabit a monochromatic dream. Recalling the surrealism of a film noir classic, the black and white photographs of Paul Clemence, Anita Goes and Michael Meadors present carefully crafted narratives juxtaposing the man-made with nature. Sculpture historically suppresses chroma in service to form and we see this effect well demonstrated with large scale pieces by sculptors Hannah Bigeleisen and Christopher Scott Marshall. Both sculptors toy with scale. Bigeleisen’s oversized geometric shapes invite interaction and active play; Marshall’s dumpster dive assemblages, comprised of suspended refrigerator doors, crashed car seats and burnt wood shipping pallets are fossil specimens from an industrial age run amuck.
Alongside the deeply intuitive, sublime and meditative process works by artists Henry Biber, Karlos Cárcamo, Katherine D. Crone, Augustus Goertz, and Robert Solomon, the curators give equal presence to the exuberant figurative works of JoAnne McFarland, Kyle Hackett, Andrew Hockenberry, Carlo Cittandi and Bradley Wood and the playful ceramic sculptures of Claudia Alvarez’s. For these polarities need to be in conversation too.
In closing, perhaps the installation of fractured spheres by the sculptor Miguel Otero Fuentes best conjures the reality and aspirations informing Intersections—an exhibition that explores the fissures and joinings of an impermanent and fragile world strained yet committed to renewal.
In the interest of safeguarding our community members, the priority viewings for Intersections:The Union Square Show will take place outdoors, with staggered viewing of the exhibition staged throughout the opening hours. Invited guests are requested to wear masks and follow social distancing protocol. The opening will occur rain or shine.