New York artists David Humphrey and Kate Javens have curated a group show at Castleberry Hill’s Marcia Wood Gallery centered on the idea of bed. Or as they see it, “Bed, explores a place of resting—historically, culturally, even geologically—it’s about sleep, a physical bed, a flower bed, death, soil, home…so much.”
As is so often the case in such fluidly-defined group exhibitions, viewers should perhaps approach the show with little expectation of finding insight or epiphanies related to the organizing theme. Even if “Bed” was a meaningful connective tissue between these disparate works, it might not be an especially compelling idea. What does unite many of the works is a humble, intimate, day-in-the-life quality, a sense that we are peeking in at the fleeting, personal moments in someone else’s reality.
The best way to experience “Bed” might be to just soak in some interesting artwork from a selection of artists outside Atlanta and enjoy the opportunity to see another point of view. I found artist Nicolas V. Sanchez’s endearingly humble, precise drawings using the unexpected medium of ballpoint pen especially appealing, delicate, tender and full of affection that flows from that utilitarian tool like lifeblood. Sanchez’s small works zero in on the intimacy of family life, sketching his grandmother in “Abuelita Blanca” in vivid hues against a spare black and white bedroom or family members in “Sketchbook from artist’s commute” napping in a large bed. His drawings are sweet evocations of the cozy companionship of kin. “Bed” takes on a more erotically-charged dimension in Melissa Brown‘s work “Morning Shunga” whose flat, deceptively cartoonish painting style rubs up against the complex layers of visual information embedded in her work, where reflections and subterfuge detail provide a knowing, intimate approach to domestic life. Port-au-Prince born Didier William combines wood carving, collage and paint on a panel to create his strange, extraterrestrial figures and Sarah Faux takes a similarly canted, disorienting approach to her subjects in her painterly red and pink valentines to male bodies.
A longtime artist at Marcia Wood Gallery whose paintings buzz with punchy, acerbic color, “Bed” co-curator Humphrey offers quirky takes on the affection exchanged between humans and their pets. In “Companions” a man and dog “spoon” in an echo of Sanchez’s drawing of a family napping together. “Pleasing the Pet” is a humorously off-kilter view of a spread-eagled dog ecstatically accepting a belly rub. It’s a small but creatively conveyed insight; that bed can be synonymous with intimacy, affection, sex but also the plain and satisfying joy of companionship.
Like Humphrey, co-curator Javens, who has long created romantic renditions of animals, also has the animal kingdom on her mind in a surprisingly eros-laden “Untitled” work in oil on muslin. Rendered in soft sepia tones, the painting features a horse whose body is luxuriantly draped in fabric like a classical odalisque, its lower torso almost human in appearance. The creature looks back over its shoulder in a gesture that seems to acknowledge our gaze, as if captured in its boudoir unaware.
Less related to the theme but interesting in their own right are Cuban artist Ariel Cabrera Montejo‘s multilayered, dream-like paintings whose dappled, hazy surfaces seem to represent the ever-morphing nature of history—as it is told, remembered, memorialized—in his country. “Hudson’s Memories” in oil on canvas superimposes four different people in period garb at the same ocean dock in a sophisticated evocation of the changing nature of time and perspective.
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