Thursday, December 26, 2013

vanishing point

Brian Gaman
Artists Choose Artists, Parrish Art Museum
Lost or Not, Art Helix, Bushwick

On view at the Parrish Art Museum, two immense inkjet prints stretch across a long passage of white wall with a combination of silence and grandeur. Sweeping from micro to macro vision, Brian Gaman's works on paper seem to move toward distant space, identifying a future that is neither seen nor unseen. Extracted from the artist's video sequences, the works infer the phenomenon of sight and the evidence of vision as opposed to the merely visible, with imagery that is both fleeting and at the same time persistent -- bursting open and dissolving into memory simultaneously. 
Brian Gaman, Untitled, 2013

The little pictures inserted along the perimeter of both prints represent the photographic origins of the larger images, and they provide evidence of a more finite reality. It's as if an invisible lens was morphing the visual target from big to small and back again, and in this way the works possess a sense of velocity. Here, vision seems to be pulled from consciousness and from the smallest fractions of the act of sight. That zap of apprehension -- the Gestalt of it -- is riveting. 

Untitled, 2013, in the studio

The recent spate of essays on the work of the remarkable and sometimes misunderstood artist Ad Reinhardt has reopened those existentialist gates in which works by artists the likes of Samuel Beckett, Bruce Nauman, George Kubler and Robert Smithson are framed. Absurdity, existence, absence, presence -- these are the seductive and unknowable concepts that permeate much of these artist's historic works of art and literature. Gaman, an unabashed Beckett devotee, has referred to perceptual endgames in his art and the process of seeing, and in this he breaks bread with the aforementioned, embracing the sorts of ambivalence that define (or seek to define) the existentialist mind.

I might be getting in a little over my head here, but it's not possible to discuss Gaman's work without acknowledging its philosophical margins and the sense of an imagery that is constantly going away or moving toward an inevitable void. His imagery, a language of circles, spheres and lenses that function both to focus in and focus out is at once simplistic in the absurd and all encompassing in its magnitude. Like Gaman's antecedents, it places the ironic squarely in his field of vision, and this is key to his work. 

Gaman was selected for the Parrish's biannual exhibition, Artists Choose Artists, by Keith Sonnier whose dazzling work in the same gallery electrifies the room. Sonnier's and Gaman's works do something together -- a divine occurrence or, more likely, the vision of exhibition organizer, Andrea Grover -- that allows them to explode into view from the long, vaulted hallways that have come to define the Parrish.

Keith Sonnier, ACA, 2013

They are side by side, more or less, divided by a huge corner of the gallery. Both works flirt with gestural form, with Sonnier's radiant lines stopping and starting with such alarming grace that the work seems to coalesce and deconstruct in front of you. 

In not an altogether dissimilar way, Gaman's work moves toward a visual field that is so optically maximal that it transcends vision -- and then it ricochets back again with hypnotic effect. The gash of form that travels horizontally across the surface seems to move with the speed of light in a logic-bending visual expanse.

Concurrent with the Parrish show, Gaman's work can be seen in Bushwick at an outpost of Art Helix, Peter Hopkins' immersive and refreshingly inventive gallery concept. Curated by the artist Bonnie Rychlak, Lost or Not is a paean to the sorts of ghosts and shadowy afterimages that circulate within histories of place.

Brian Gaman, Untitled

For Gaman, the concept dovetails nicely with his long research into the process of seeing and the development of a language that employs variants of the visual process. Here, the artist's sculptures invoke pairs of eyeglasses (one might even deduce they are the famed spectacles of Samuel Beckett) that maintain a broad and infinite upward gaze. Affixed to elaborate steel frames, the structures appear designed to collapse into a huge pocket. That there are two works that echo one another adds another layer to Gaman's episodic investigations into the visual field. 

What they see is another matter altogether.

Lost or Not is situated in an empty lot on Harrison Place where Gaman shares the geography with sculptors John Monti and Jennie Nichols. The effect of the installation is not unlike a Zen garden, with works selected by Rychlak that are contemplative, exuding multiple associations to the interior mind and eye. 

John Monti

John Monti's glistening black lozenge seems to cap off the top of the world, its underneath a secret place of unknown proportion, place or mood. Jennie Nichols' cast wax cases and books are layered with the notion of temporality, as if the works have been staged for departure from an invisible train station. They look like aged chocolate, and references to antiquity and the passage of time haunt the installation. Together, the works move through an array of metaphors that leap from solitude to fraternity to identity, absoluteness and poetry.

Jennie Nichols, Stacked Cases and Books, 2013

This is a wonderful show that you won't want to miss -- on view in Bushwick through December 30th. You can see the Parrish Art Museum's Artists Choose Artists through January 19, 2014.

Brian Gaman, Lost or Not

And check out more of Brian Gaman's work at


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved Brian Gaman's work at the Parrish.