Monday, September 29, 2008

The Marriage of Form and Content

It has been weeks since my visit to NYC and my last post. Like many in Cincinnati, I’ve been recovering from the storm, but mostly, I’ve been reviewing many of the works I saw on my trip. Unlike most visits, this time I devoted a couple of days to the Chelsea galleries.

Up until last year, I’ve spent most of my time working as an historian so would more likely venture into museums, so my visit to Chelsea caught me off guard. The number of galleries truly surprised me and I was not sure where to start. Because I was not in the city on a Thursday, I was unable to take advantage of the gallery openings that are normally scheduled that evening. But the handful I did visit proved there are incredibly interesting discussions in the art world from social, political, to formal that challenge.

At Stefan Stux Gallery I was confronted by Aaron Johnson’s large paintings that make up the show Star-Crossed. Many were humorous and yet others were frightening as the artist combines a comedic style to very serious subjects that implicate the current American culture. His subjects include the linking of church and state, patriotism, and the current wars. But it is not these themes that are as interesting as Johnson’s reverse painted acrylic polymer peel method. He paints completely in reverse onto plastic film building multiple layers of acrylic polymer. Then he applies these directly onto American flags peeling away the plastic. These frightening images on the American flag indict our patriotism. Johnson's painting method captures best his political message.

I’m not sure Cincinnati’s average gallery hopper would be comfortable walking into a gallery filled with Johnson’s work, but I am certain Cincinnati’s artists would lap it up. Not just content, but the focus on form, style, and medium as integral to the work is what filled the galleries I visited in NYC. I think this recognition of the marriage of form and content is what is missing in many local exhibitions. Cincinnati's arts calendar is filled with thematic shows and exhibitions centered around medium, but I seldom see works that recognize both as integral to the whole. This is what I hope to see in the coming season.

2 comments:

johnson.aaron@yahoo.com said...

Thanks for being a thoughtful viewer and expanding on my work in your report. Appreciated.

Anne said...

That Mt. Rushmore is so much more interesting than the real one (which is a total waste of a nice mountainside).