Alienation and Elation at Art During the Occupation

FIRST LOOK  at Sharilyn Neidhardt’s solo exhibition

Opening later this week

Sharilyn Neidhardt , If I Can’t Find You There, I Don’t Care, 2017
oil on unframed canvas, approx 54 x 70 in, photo courtesy of the artist

Sharilyn Neidhardt’s vivid paintings in SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE, at Art During the Occupation Gallery resonate with the zeitgeist of late-stage capitalism, when human connections are strained by a barrage of information and convenience. The fractured urban landscapes she portrays bring to mind reflective surfaces and fragmentation, altogether projecting a simultaneous sense of alienation and elation that are associated with any big city life.

Sharilyn Neidhardt , I Thought I Found A Connector, 2017, Oil on unstretched canvas, approx 36 x 60 in, photo courtesy of the artist

Related to her work as a photojournalist, Neidhardt’s paintings are closely linked to photographic processes. The artist says that as she was starting to work with double exposures, she noted that they surround us in the city due to the multiple transparent and reflective surfaces. For example, the imagery in her painting from 2017, I Thought I Found A Connector, is based on a single exposure and throughout the painting process she started thinking about the distinction between what is reflected and what is real.

In a later painting from 2018, Lick Your Wounds to Get Blood On My Teeth,  she uses a double exposure imagery based on a photograph she took on Bedford Ave in Brooklyn. Neidhardt says that as she was painting, it occurred to her that the rapid gentrification of her North Brooklyn neighborhood gave her a double-exposure-vision:  she simultaneously saw in each storefront the half-dozen businesses or residences that had been there before.

Sharilyn Neidhardt , Lick Your Wounds to Get Blood On My Teeth, 2018 oil on unstretched linen, approx 70 x 55 in, photo courtesy of the artist

Gentrification plays a central role in much of her imagery. In What Does It Take to Get A Drink in This Place, Neidhardt references gentrification in the West Village. “In that NYC neighborhood in the painting, gentrification has vacuumed up all but the toniest gay bars and most active beer-pong parlors. Even the once-vibrant street life is mostly just rides for hire and a few drunk college girls looking for a nightcap,” she says.

 I’ll Never Let You Sweep Me Off My Feet, an earlier painting based on double-exposure, depicts gentrification in SoHo.  In this part of downtown, she says, the storefronts and restaurants  are evaporating so rapidly that it’s hard to keep track – “every other storefront is vacant or has a pop-up shop in it. Crowds of would-be shoppers still wander around, mingling with impatient commuters, and bewildered residents.”

Sharilyn Neidhardt , What Does It Take To Get A Drink In This Place, 2018, oil on canvas, approx 60 x 55 in, photo courtesy of the artist
Sharilyn Neidhardt , I’ll Never Let You Sweep Me Off My Feet, oil on unstretched canvas, approx 96 x 56 in, photo courtesy of the artist

In her paintings the figures that populate these city streets are inseparable from their surroundings – fragments of people, cars and streets intertwine into an intense and rhythmic entity. In some formal respects her paintings may recall early modernist works like the Italian Futurists, who coalesced  fragmented images of city, technology, and people into one dynamic essence. But while the Futurists’ fractured surfaces carried a promise for a better future, Neidhardt’s fragmentation bring to mind a more dystopian underscore, albeit an alluring one. After all, rootlessness and erased boundaries can be also interpreted as “freedom.”

Supermassive Black Hole,  solo exhibition by Sharilyn Neidhardt at Art During the Occupation Gallery

119 Ingraham St (at Porter), Brooklyn NY (L to Morgan Ave) Gallery hours: Fri – Sun 12 – 6pm,  Sept 7 – 30, 2018
Opening Reception, Friday Sept 7, 6-9pm
Artist Talk with Heather Morgan: Sunday Sept 9, 3pm