Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brian Gaman, an exhibition

installation view, ArtHelix, photography Kevin Noble

B R I A N    G A M A N
An Exhibition of Works: 1987-2014
ArtHelix  |  Bushwick

Untitled, 1987, cast aluminum, 63 x 93 x 62 in, photography Kevin Noble

On view at ArtHelix through this weekend, an extraordinary exhibition of works by the artist Brian Gaman, who died earlier this year -- well before his time. The art, the installation, Gaman's visual precision and his bright and immaculate intelligence -- taken altogether, it's a revelation. 

Organized by Bonnie Rychlak, the artist's wife, and ArtHelix owner and gallery impresario Peter Hopkins, the show circles Gaman's oeuvre with sublime acuity, inviting historic works to resonate alongside recent ink jet prints, some mural size, video and other manifestations of the artist's thinking. 

A poet friend once said to me, "There's nothing vague about great poetry. The language is precise, exacting. It's not obtuse." And so it is with Gaman's work. What may first appear unknowable is the result of meticulous clarity -- a sort of aesthetic bull's eye -- that permeates the breadth of his focus. Take it from me, Gaman's art will live on but there will never again be an exhibition of his work so pure of heart as this one. I urge you to see this stunning show.

Below, a few thoughts about Brian's art from myself and others, along with an excerpt from his own writing. 

installation of untitled globes, circa 1980s, steel, cast iron, aluminum, photography Kevin Noble

"The older work, from the 80s and then into the 90s, was iconographic groupings, 
looking like world globes and eyeglasses and some other things; images and objects congruent, bound up in minimalist seriality and meant to have something to do with the decay of the programmatic. It was precise, but presented as degraded, never cleaned residue left from casting, or mill sale, or rust."

Brian Gaman

above/below: untitled globes at LongHouse Reserve in Diversities of Sculpture/Derivations from Nature, 2012

"This current work is now more disposed toward what's around media and images -- images as such are gone from the current work -- in wider and wider spectacular use. 
Elements and parts from the older work get scanned and pushed through a 
digital sieve and stood up against what's taken to be immaculate is 
scuffed up, scratched, dusty and soiled."

Brian Gaman, courtesy ArtHelix

installation, ArtHelix, photography Kevin Noble

"Sweeping from micro to macro vision, 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.

...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 [Bruce Naumann, George Kubler, Robert Smithson], 
embracing the sorts of ambivalence that define (or seek to define) the existentialist mind."

From Blinnk, December 2013

Untitled, 2011, ink jet print on paper, (2 sections), 98 x 88 in, photography Kevin Noble

"At Yale in grad school Gaman was interested in artists concerned with the gap between 
knowing and saying.  That means neither knowing nor saying. So the work is terse 
bordering on mute—hence the difficulty of discovering that occasionally those 
spheres are actually bubbles of hilarity, hiccups escaping from a 
Beckettian black humor hole. Indeed, inebriation 
is the genesis of pieces from the late 90’s"

Howard Foster, Romanov Grave, 2011

"'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."
excerpt from Blinnk, 2013

Untitled, 2010, ink jet print on paper, 153 x 448 in, edition of 5, photography Kevin Noble

installation view, photography by Kevin Noble

Untitled, 2013, inkjet prints, Parrish Art Museum, Artists Choose Artists

In 2013, Gaman was selected by the artist Keith Sonnier for Artists Choose Artists at the Parrish Art Museum. His installation, above, was breathtaking. Two immense ink jet prints on multiple sheets of paper -- titanic in scale -- dominated one wall of the museum, holding their own amid soaring ceilings and the building's velvety, natural light. Enigmatic and absolute, the works were majestic. 

I had the privilege of working with Brian Gaman on a few occasions. Below, his installation for The Moby Project in East Hampton made powerful connections to the moon and sky, to compasses, and to the circles and spheres that have been a constant in his work.  

Untitled, 2013, installation at Mulford Farm, The Moby Project

Earlier this year, Gaman also participated in Redacted, a show I curated for Islip Art Museum. We selected a piece (on view at ArtHelix, below) that functioned a bit like a gigantic sampler of pixels from a digital film or video.  Huge rectangles of white, gray, and black hovered in the image field while a minuscule photo peered out from the lower margin -- like a view to another world.

The work arrived at the museum in a long, cardboard box. The crew and I donned our white gloves and opened the box. I cautioned my young crew to use the utmost care, but they had no idea what we were about to see. We pulled the paper roll from its protective sleeve, and allowed it to slowly unfurl. Everyone in the room gasped. 

"Oh my God!" they said. It was the blackest black, the richest pigment, the most beautiful, big, big page. The moment was spine-tingling, with everyone in the room a bit frozen. 

Brian had advised that the print should be installed with only three push pins, which he provided. I winced as I ran the pins into each corner, and then in the center. When we let go, the sides of the paper were curled dramatically.

"It's so sculptural," said one of the staff members.

I've never had an experience quite like that and it's one I'll never forget. We stepped back from the wall and everyone stared quietly for a very long time.

Untitled ink jet prints, c. 2013, photography Kevin Noble

Brian Gaman (1948 - 2014)

exhibition on view through  October 19, 2014

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