“Amulets Ethereal,” the thought provoking group exhibition curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman at Barney Savage features works by Kharis Kennedy, Adam Krueger & Tableaux Vivants, Victoria Manganiello & Julian Goldman, Qinza Najm, Cheryl R. Riley, and Ashley Zelinskie. The artworks in this show run the gamut from manipulated found objects, like Cheryl Riley’s old farm tools and Qinza Najm’s carpet, to fabricated sculptures like Ashley Zelinskie’s 3-d printed futuristic cyborgs and Victoria Manganiello / Julian Goldman’s computerized weaving; from wearable art like the sewn tattooed silicon mask by the duo Adam Krueger and Tableaux Vivants to Kharis Kennedy’s mysterious painting of a masked figure with a goat. Collectively the artworks are recontextualized as open-ended ritualized objects and images endowed with the questionable power to shield the viewer from the most tenuous of perceived dangers.
Through manipulating farm and domestic tools such as a shovel or an old Singer sewing machine, Cheryl R. Riley’s explores ideas of identity and preservation. Once ubiquitous in the daily life of her African American family in the deep south, these found objects are encased in custom transparent vinyl slipcovers with golden sims – both repelling and inviting, shielding and exposing, precious and cheap, customized and mass produced, nostalgic and ironic.
The curator says that Riley’s sculptures can read as nostalgic not only because of their familiarity as functional farm or domestic tools, but also because their coverings conjure associations of inhospitable living rooms furnished with plastic covered couches and objects not meant to be touched. Riley applies gold paint where human hands would have touched the objects, elevating these laborers’ tools from ordinary to sacred.
The Pakistani born and raised artist Qinza Najm also uses a found object which is associated with labor and domesticity to conjure her cultural roots. In her painting “Xenia,” she utilizes a Persian-style rug as her canvas to represent traditional domestic life throughout the Middle East. Painted in acrylic upon this backdrop is an elongated woman who appears to be stretching against the gossamer fabric that envelops her. It resonates with women’s struggle to attain empowerment, while simultaneously navigating within ingrained cultural norms. The translucent veil brings to mind the hijab, the traditional head covering worn by some Islamic women, and an Arabic word that can be literally translated as “veil” or “barrier.”
Adam Krueger and Tableaux Vivants mask “Take Out. Stay In. Lock Down” explores the most intimate covering we all share- human skin. They reflect with dark humor on the physical and psychological mechanisms we create to hide our vulnerable core self from the outside world. The mask is made of sewn silicone pieces tattooed with take-out menu imagery, altogether resonating with urban cool. Its eye-slits can open and close with zippers- simultaneously creepy and funny: the illusive safety of staying in at night with a comforting take out conjures the dangers lurking out there.
Kharis Kennedy’s evocative painting “Woman with Goat and Surgical Mask” ties with the notions of revealing and concealing through a different kind of portrait. It depicts an abstracted draped bust whose face is mostly covered by a protective surgical mask. The figure is holding a goat, altogether bringing to mind multiple associations – Madonna and Child, as well as other iconography associated with purity, sacrifice, and disease. Kennedy’s contrasting light and dark colors create a flickering effect with a haunting light quality – her brush strokes are both tentative and incisive, sharp edged and soft. The image prompts the viewer to contemplate on what we instinctively reveal, or in the case of this enigmatic portrait, conceal.
Ashley Zelinskie depicts portraits from the future. She fuses machine and human into cyborg busts created through 3D printing. The binary codes that shape her three printed sculptures “Android 3,” “Android 4,” and “AI Skull” are all based on DNA sequences, forming objects that both humans and computers can identify. Although it seems that Zelinskie’s work contemplates technology with fascination, the disquieting memento mori-like cyborg skulls alludes to our existential tremors at a moment where singularity may become plausible.
Victoria Manganiello & Julian Goldman’s meditative kinetic installation thematically link Riley’s old tools to Zelinskie ‘s futuristic cyborgs. “Computer1, Untitled 1 & 2” invites the viewer to reflect on the evolution of the loom – from the traditional skill of weaving to today’s computerized technology. Tiny computer programmed bluish dye particles flow through clear plastic tubes across 2 pieces of weaved fabrics hanging against the wide gallery windows. The movement creates rhythmic patterns which bring to mind an array of associations – a colony of ants, micro-organisms, blood cells, bustling traffic, or the flow of passers by in the street bellow.
Jenny Mushkin Goldman says that like the Luddites of the 19th century who destroyed the automated loom in fear that it would replace them, the concerns that automation will render jobs obsolete persists today. Overall this installation work examines how computers have also become analogous with textile’s universal symbolic intimacy and protection. As Manganiello says “we are born into a swaddle and we die with a burial shroud.”
“Amulets Ethereal” overall weaves intricate threads of connectivity loaded with historical and personal narratives. Within the historical context of technology and labor, the artworks oscillate between nostalgia towards the past and fascination mixed with dread towards an unknown future. Above all the exhibition reflects on one of the key questions related to our existence in a civilized world: what does it mean to be human?
Exhibition Dates: May 5 – June 3, 2018
Location: Barney Savage Gallery, 87 Franklin Street, Floor # 2, NYC
Gallery Hours: Wed.- Sat. 11-6pm, Sun. 12-6pm