Sunday, November 20, 2016

Parable of the Wave and Rock

The Ocean kissed the beach as it always had thanks to the Tides, who kept their regular schedule in and out to smooth the sands and nurture the little sea creatures because.

One day part of a cliff that had been still forever fell, sending down a giant boulder to the sea edge and many small rocks behind it, covering the beach.

Keyhole Rock (c) courtesy Jacqueline Sferra Rada
The Tides said, bad things happen, we will keep doing what we always do and that will set things right. But a Wave refused, saying “No, I must get rid of the rock that brought this down on us.” And it began to break against the boulder.

The Tides continued to flow around the rock without constraint or complaint while the Wave, over and over again, smashed into the boulder and shattered into a spray that landed in the ocean again like rain, leaving the rock unmoved and undamaged.

“Why not join us?” said the Tides. “Most of the small rocks have already been swept to sea to join the sand. The rest, no matter how large, will soon follow...”

“Because I am doing something about the rock,” replied the Wave. “You are just being you. You don’t care.”

The Tides made no reply and kept about their business as always. Soon their ebb and flow shifted the stones beneath the boulder, it toppled and was buried in the shifting sands and forgotten by the sea creatures.

The Tides keep flowing in and out because that is they way they keep safe that which they love.

The Wave went to find another rock...

Anonymous. Translated from the Florinese by Linda DiGusta 2016 (c) All Rights Reserved

dedicated to all the lifelong peaceful activists for the greater good who will walk the walk and talk the talk as long as we have breath...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fedele Spadafora's Creative Geography

“By blending tradition and modernity, abstract and figurative, I hope to tell the tale of two unique places that have long been considered crossroads of civilization.”
--Fedele Spadafora


What is place?  Is it where we are on a GPS? Is it a location in space-time of which we can barely grasp the nature, or simply what we see around us at the moment?

For each of us, where we are is a spot on a unique continuum. The time line of an individual life travels through each location, and the nature of the place and its position on that line is only perceived, understood, and given character in relation to the rest of the line, by the person engaged in contemplating being there.
In a recent series of paintings, New York artist Fedele Spadafora, already known for intimate portrayals of the inner life of the City, explores and evokes his captured impressions of two faraway places that spurred his interest and imagination.

“In these new paintings I am exploring memory and impressions set in the post-revolutionary societies of Tunisia (2010) and the Czech Republic (1989), where I observed these monumental moments in world history firsthand,” says Spadafora, who lived in Prague for 6 years and now spends time in Tunisia, the homeland of his wife, photographer Aida Ben Hamouda. “Drawing upon these experiences, coupled with imagination, I'm filling my canvases with vivid colors and designs that evoke references to the transformative works of Paul Klee in Tunisia, along with heavier and darker atmospheres calling to mind the graphic works of Bruno Schultz. “

Spadafora approached these works in various ways – some were plein air paintings, others studio paintings created from field studies, photographs and/or memory. The common palette, subtle yet distinctive, is a visual through line clearly stating that these works belong together in a world that is very real, yet not like any we have ever seen. But that is not the first characteristic that strikes the viewer and impels us to find coherence in the group. There is a sense, upon entering the space with these paintings, that you have entered a story because, in fact, you have. 

 The Bridge

Seeing in the artist’s studio that these works pulled together visions from across his travels in space-time to bring you to an impossible landscape, I recalled a term from my early studies in film – creative geography. It refers to the practice of editing together footage from more than one location in such a way that they appear to be contiguous, thus making real for the audience a location that only exists in the film. 

In this case, the geography being depicted is real and whole in the mind of the artist. Through his gifts and efforts we are able to actually see and respond to his unique vision of these pivotal places in his life. As the auteur of this body of work, Spadafora composed a visual intertextuality that incorporates these locations into one world. We are invited to leap into this world, to experience his singular memory.

The smaller work serving as the point of entry to this intention, “The Bridge, ” is an abstracted representation of the Charles Bridge in Prague designated by the artist to fill just that need: “In this piece I wanted to show the mark making impulse that I started in the larger pieces in a reduced and simple form. The concept of the bridge is important to me. There are things that need to be connected,” he explains. “The bridge is a kind of self portrait as I, the artist, am what connects these works … they are my experiences. I have had a foot in both civilizations.”

 Phase IV

While bringing together a group of paintings into one seamless, transparent visual narrative, Spadafora stepped slightly out of frame to punctuate the series with 2 small canvases that, while readable as part of the whole also underline and acknowledge the connection between how this series works and filmic paradigms by depicting images from films of the speculative fiction genre – “Phase IV,” from the eponymous 1974 sci-fi film, and “Tusken Raider” from the Star Wars canon of George Lucas. Despite being twice removed from what we call “real” (by virtue of being set in the invented reality of movies, plus, in this case, realities that are unlike our own), they are as concrete and believable as the other works, and perhaps even more so – emphasizing the power of art to suspend disbelief, heighten experience and transform perception.

Falling Star in Djerba Sky (study)

An artist can  transform even his own perception during the exploration of subject.
Another small piece, “Falling Star in Djerba Sky,” was originally imagined as “as an apocalyptic event bringing mass destruction.” In contemplation of Tunisia and the events of the Arab Spring (he depicts a pivotal tragic act, the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor in protest of his brutal treatment by the government, in another canvas), Spadafora came to see it as more of an event that alters the consciousness of the people. “In Muslim tradition, it is said that demons can be found listening at the gates of heaven where they hope to acquire fragments of knowledge of things that are to happen in the future. This knowledge can be used against humanity,” he said. “When seen by angels, these demons are pelted by shooting stars to drive them away.”

Linda DiGusta
New York City, March, 2013

Fedele Spadafora
New Paintings

Slag Contemporary, Bushwick
56 Bogart Street
March 22-April 20, 2013
Opening reception: March 22, 6-9 p.m.

Falling Star in Djerba Sky (triptych)

all images courtesy and (c) Fedele Spadafora, all rights reserved

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mixed Messages

So much importance in the media and gallery settings is placed upon what an artist says about the meaning of their own creations and/or how the anointed writer understands and contextualizes the art -- intelligible mainly to the equally anointed reader. Is this is visual art for the viewer to experience according to his or her own context, or is there only one way to “see” the art?

In June, it will be 3 years since the studio I share with life and work partner Mark Wiener moved to Chelsea, and with that tenure (and alas the life of the 551 Arts “Castle”) slated to end later this year, I am trying to make the most of the here and now, especially my time with the 1 – 100 people who flow in and out of our open door daily. From them, I have learned more about my art, and why I make it, than I have learned about any other artist in decades of reading wall text and criticism.

The predominate subject of my line-based works on paper is definitely a conversation starter, visitors to my studio find themselves face-to-face with pears – walls of pears, tables of pears, books of pears, as well as a few models arranged under a light. The mixed messages here are pear as figure, pear as model, pear as food. 

Most often people ask why, and if I knew the whole answer myself I would probably not still be doing it (All the more reason my attempt to state “why” for an audience would be clear as mud) so everyone who asks teaches me more. I do know that I  “saw something” in some local Greenmarket Potomac Pears (grown by Samascott Orchards BTW), and photography did not capture my vision, so I started to draw, capturing something, but what that is exactly is and perhaps should be out of my verbal range. If it were expressible in words alone I would not have been exploring it visually since the 2006 harvest (“How long” is the usual follow-up question).

Do I eat the pears? Sometimes, but since gallerist Matther Foster asked my how I could eat the fruit after drawing it like that, much less. Up to that point I had not given it  a thought. Do I draw apples? Rarely, the smooth surface tends to make them look alike. Peaches work. In the 2010 growing season, when local peaches were plentiful , I acquired them by the bagful from the farmers and filled several “Peachbooks” with portraits, small groupings, and even piles of peaches. When summer 2011 began I realized I was totally  “peached out.” But anything, especially from the farm, that catches my eye can wind up on a page or two.

The fact that people have life experience with pears is a bridge between art and life supporting a flow of ideas between the two… All pears are sexy and look like nudes, pears grew in their back yard, the last pear they ate was red…  Recipes abound  -- as I write this I just received a canning recipe for spiced pears -- oh dear, if my models had ears I would have to cover them! Only once did someone try pick up one of my models for a snack. (I gave them a substitute pear but I think they were still put out!) The logic inside my studio is just different from how the world sees pears,  but most people seem to get it. Another artist once caught Mark hungrily (fresh food is tough to find west of 10th Avenue) washing a pear in the slop sink and would not allow him to eat it until Mark explained that he had called me for permission.

Still, even I find it a little weird when I catch myself chatting with the pears as I pose them, let alone looking and saying, “Look at you!” or “Aren’t you cute?” I hope the sentiment comes through my art, and when a collector started saying similar things when leafing through a book, it made me very, very happy. Another collector looking at peaches told me who he related to each piece in terms of how he saw the subjects as characters relating to one another. Two special moments that would never have happened if I had been explaining my content.

Hopefully my flexibility encourages suggestions too – visitors have recommended that I explore sculpture, fashion, accessories, tiles etc. One such prompt led to exploration of printmaking and an ongoing series of unique block prints. If you have every been to the studio and recommended that I  try something out, know that your idea was taken to heart and has influenced the work you see today.

Please join us Thursday, July 26th for one of the last chances to visit the pears as well as all the artists in our storied studio building,  551 West 21st Street, nicknamed  “Cold Castle,” which will be departing this timeline forever come autumn.  Chelsea Art Walk, 5 - 8 PM 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day one...

A step ahead of most you, dear readers, The Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory has it's public opening tomorrow (tonight's preview gala benefits Henry Street Settlement and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ADAA). What I saw was a temporally and stylistically eclectic array of works via many of the world's top dealers, some booths naturally in a marketplace vein but also several monographic installations.

Standouts among the latter were Metro Pictures' presentation of Cindy Sherman's virtuosic "Murder Mystery" series (1976), Rudy Burckhardt at Tibor de Nagy, and L&M's striking installation of John Baldessari.

A few museum-worthy collections were of note. Mary-Anne Martin showcased a strong and intriguing group of 20th Century Latin American artists, including works by surrealist Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo , and Diego Rivera. Washburn Gallery celebrated Jackson Pollock's centenary with some unusual and captivating pieces, as well selection by several artists created 50 years ago. Galerie St. Etienne brought nearly 60 pieces to the fair, mainly showcasing their focus on Expressionism - numerous selections by Egon Schiele and Otto Dix were especially impressive.

Finally, if you enjoy as I do some flash and drama at a big New York art fair, James Cohan Gallery, as usual, does not disappoint. To say much more would be a spoiler, but please do give my regards to the gentleman at the front desk...

Note... Mark will be first on scene at tomorrow's Armory Show preview, and we'll be at Scope for the evening's First View. We will stream the highlights for Resolve40's Listings Live, to get them please subscribe to our Twitter on the home page at - ld

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Farewell, Hello and Welcome Back... Armory Week 2012

551 West 21st St, Studio 210, works by Mark Wiener

First days of March find us already in a whirlwind, pulling highlights together at Resolve40, still trying to absorb the fresh approach at the Whitney Biennial, and getting ready for the fairs and activities collectively know as Armory Arts Week.

As artists, we are also gearing up for "Chelsea Saturday" - and our participation in the
High Line Open Studios (March 10, 12-6), bittersweet this time around. It is our last such event at Studio 210, 551 West 21st is slated to close its doors later this year. We will miss this venerable and storied magnet for art and culture, please join us one last time!

A trek that same evening will bring us to Williamsburg for Brooklyn Armory Night and another look at Sideshow's "Mic:Check" exhibition featuring almost 500 artists, and many other galleries staying open from 7-11.

All week we'll be racing to catch the best shows, which we continue to compile on the home page of Resolve40. Subscribe to our Twitter updates there - it's the only way to get "Listings Live" streaming videos from on the scene!

Passing through midtown at lunchtime of your way up to the Armory or across to the Piers? Make a stop for one of the coolest and tastiest traditions on the New York art scene:
Molly is coming to town with two notable Chelsea art dealers...

Thursday, March 8th: Pavel Zoubok, director of the Pavel Zoubok Gallery specializes in collage and will talk on the history of collage.

Friday, March 9th: Douglas Walla, brilliant author and owner of Kent Fine Art has shown artists Richard Artschwager, Richard Prince, Llyn Foulkes, Mike Cockrill, and DorotheaTanning.

At the Penthouse of the Roger Smith Hotel, N.E. corner of Lexington Avenue and 47th Street in Manhattan. They start at 12:00 noon, but please plan to arrive earlier for a complimentary Brown Bag lunch, lively conversation, and of course, a good seat. If you have any questions, please call the Roger Smith at 212 755-1400. (via Fran Kornfeld - thank you Fran!)
Hungry for novelty and nightlife? Welcome the first edition of the curator-driven fair, Spring Break Art Show -- it runs 'til 9 each evening at Prince & Mott Streets, and you can register for the after-party each night! But do save Friday for a special Armory Show After Party at the Hole, 312 Bowery, co-hosting with The Serve LLC and Art Station -- remember the cool show at Chelsea's Lukoil Station last fall? (deets below)

Also Friday only, Pink Gallery of Seoul, Korea presents a pop-up show by artists Chris Twomey, Nikki Johnson and Linda Levit for the opening of the Pool Art Fair on the mezzanine of the gorgeous new Flatiron Hotel, open to the public from 3-6 pm at 9 W 26th St (corner B'way)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

Untitled (Local Bosc Pear ) 2011, chalk on paper, 6 x 6 inches, private collection

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Earthly Delights - paintings by Lena Viddo

"I'm an observer, a witness, and in the end and most importantly I am an image maker" -- Lena Viddo

Light My Fire

In conversation with Lena Viddo, any subject will elicit an interesting story that has moved her – some are personal, like a bikini-clad, too-close encounter with a colony of wasps in an unwanted shrub. She gathers interesting information as well – the personal habits of bees, camps of immigrants living along the Thames River who survive by hunting the swans … Lena brings all of her enthusiasm for narrative and detail to her current series, “Earthly Delights,” without sacrificing painterly values. Her surface is fine and almost irresistible to touch.

Viddo’s points of reference reflect the location of her two studios -- rural Vermont, and the deep woods of human nature known as Manhattan. She draws on her responses to both, and much more, to inspire and inform her allegorical portraits and mindscapes -- found and sourced objects, live models (including herself and her daughter), and a library of hundreds of wildlife and nature reference books. Animals are not rendered placeholders for symbols and icons, they thrive in her invented world.

Depicting a sharp reality not tethered to realism, Viddo’s canvases evoke a life on the edge of the incarnate. Imagined in motion, her strong characters radiate an energy that suggests puppetry over animation. The notion of these edgy stories in performance for children is not outlandish, these matinees recall the gruesome, ancient fairy tales we asked our parents to “read over again,” and every child’s fascination with all things ooky and natural – alive or dead. So it comes as no surprise that Lena is also a devoted mom with keen insight into the inner lives of children, and a pathway to the child in each of her viewers.

Jungle of Insatiable Lust

As in a good bedtime story, the wide eyes of an “Earthly Delights” heroine in her particular predicament -- with playful mice (she’s eating one), curious swans craning severed necks, enormous ticks in the curly golden locks of a nymph, loosely stitched incisions (a reference to cosmetic surgery), giant bees, menacing toys or an amorous frog -- are the window on her vulnerability as well as on her power to endure and vanquish. Lena says ,“Once I get the eyes, the rest of the painting flows.”

One can trace this dynamic in the history of her works to a series depicting submissive characters in bondage situations, “Ties That Bind,” which are composed tightly around a single figure with the eyes sometimes all or partially out of view. The physical gesture so strongly radiates the angst and desire of anticipation that, when the eyes are in play, it overwhelms. For the more loosely composed “Earthly Delights,” the artist restrains her own powers to dominate the emotions of the viewer, confining that energy to the depths of liquid eyes, from which it escapes in flashes she allows to appear seemingly against her will.


Unlike many artists who shy away from discussing underlying messages in their work, Lena acknowledges her intention to address certain issues and themes – a food/oral motif, male-female love, the tyranny of beauty, the relationship of victim and predator. Some of these visions and characterizations populate the works of a poet who particularly sparks her imagination, Pablo Neruda.

From Viddo’s own translation of “A Cat’s Dream:

“I should like to sleep like a cat,

with all the fur of the ages,

with a tongue rough as flint,

with the dry sex of fire;

and after speaking to no one,

stretch myself over the world,

over roofs and landscapes,

with a passionate desire

to hunt the rats in my dreams.”

Ocean of Insatiable Lust

Lena’s work appeals to and inspires other artists. Her portrait of a roaring big cat ,“Water Tiger” -- from her other current series of close up-works in vertiginously layered detail with a fauvist twist and appropriately named “Sexy Beast,” -- was acquired last year by Shepard Fairey.

Another artist well known for his difficult content and great detail, Ahmed Alsoudani, enjoys the contradiction in the childlike form and angry eyes of Viddo’s free-standing piece in his collection, painted on a “Dunny” toy figure, called “Hide and Secret.” “I like the idea,” he says, “that I have to look all around the piece to see all the details, heavy in some places open in others.” He pointed out a shared element in their visual vocabulary -- a zipper -- which appears in his recent painting as well as Lena’s work.

Manifest Destiny

On message, current events can affect the evolution of a painting. Viddo explained that a vignette depicting torture in a section of the large landscape, “Manifest Destiny,” was inspired by the news and images of the inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In this series, she says, “Torture becomes fashion and fashion in the end becomes torture.”

Lena’s powerful paintings don’t evoke feeling first, they make you see, and see again. I don’t necessarily trust her not to show more than I can handle, but I know I will never resist looking. The artist possesses the insight and skill-set to transparently disturb and entertain us at the same time, and also disturb us with the fact that we are entertained… which of course teaches us something about ourselves. At her visual cocktail party, she has put her mousetrap in the potato chip bowl, and, even though it snaps and hurts, we just can’t get enough.

Dining with the Cannibals

Essay to accompany the works of Lena Viddo at the 2011 Florence Biennale. Her work will also appear in the group exhibitions Curate NYC at Bill Hodges Gallery and Curate NYC at Rush Arts

All images (c) Lena Viddo, website