There is a Canadian fresh, wholesome whiff of belief dispelling the smell of detached irony in Chelsea, NYC. Stan Douglas at David Zwirner, David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Marc Séguin at Mike Weiss Gallery clear the air of politicised reflections as a mature, confident conversation brings forth relief from unpredictable and eroding doubts as a result of the economic downturn.
Stan Douglas presents black and white photographs that fill the two major galleries at David Zwirner. In Midcentury Studio, retro content from the forties and fifties is propped by the elegance and dignity of a protected upper middle class where the uncluttered domain of early modernism used politeness as an option for interpreting life. These gentile images maintain dynamic aloofness so that the conservative overtones retain that necessary ounce of exertion that provokes truisms.
Marc Séguin calls up a more renegade cultural proposition as in the large painting where an immense skull covered in white feathers is the focus of a three point perspective created by classical buildings that recede into blackness. Reminiscent of the early Richard Auschwager works, Séguin’s craftsmanship is secure and provides no room for compromise with the swagger of a biker bur without the unnecessary noise. With a sensitive hand, he draws like an angel infatuated by Lucifer, or an inspired miscreant, Goethe-loving and predisposed to melancholy. His psychological dramas, more Foucault than Freud, exhibit irrepressible logic as in 15th of August where the demise of a female suicide victim dangling above black and white ruins is punctuated by her bright-as-a-beacon, flesh coloured face that suggests an implicated compromise.
Altmejd generates a creative insanity that fascinates rather than repels in two large plexi-glass encased works. Obsessive threading, stringy loopy-ness, multicoloured visual pathways, creatures great and small – animal, vegetable and mineral – recalls Yeat’s lines from Leda and the Swan – “pushing aside his feathered glory with terrified vague fingers”. Shards of plexi form wings. There are beaks and bits of beings. There are marks gouged into plaster as if those terrified vague fingers had tried in despair to scratch a way out, leaving a clawing path that would surely have worn nails to the bone. Behind this piece, affixed to the wall at an iconic height, a phantom-like figure has disembowelled himself as if plagued by the “buzzing eyed insects that heroin brings” – words of the punk songster Jim Carroll. Gouging spreads to the wall as if escaping from a grave of physicality.
Altmejd’s work resuscitates romanticism with poetic insistence. His is a gossamer realm of fractured dreams. The work is as personal and curious as a small girl’s secret drawer, with things saved and ordered that tell of whispered arrangements or indelicate liaisons between species and magic. Bees, each individual in their makeup, cross-pollinate between exotic plants with fronds a-drifting while ants crawl in lines. A face made entirely of ears looks as if it has sprouted fungi. Crystals summon telepathic messages between elements as Altmejd free-associates beyond forgiveness and back again. His work is a welcomed wonderland with just the right dash of pickling spice to twist any sugar into a more pungent potion.
Each of these three artists brings disbelief to the very edge of the frame and then tips the balance towards acceptance of their oeuvres with panache. They mystify in order to enrich and do so with unflinching conviction so that doubt is abolished. It is a confidence that stands out against the recent backdrop of detached irony that is often seen creeping through Chelsea like a dirty shirt that blends in too well with fiscal gloom.
STAN DOUGLAS AT DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY
March 23 – April 23, 2011
DAVID ALTMEJD AT ANDREA ROSEN GALLERY
March 18 – April 23, 2011
MARC SÉGUIN AT MIKE WEISS GALLERY
March 24, 2011 – April 30, 201