June 01, 2009
Lehman College Art Gallery
By GRACIELA KARTOFEL - An exhibition by two artists in the double exhibiting space section at the Lehman College Art Gallery introduces the spectator to a duet of individualities that connect without merging with each other. Grand Canyon is the title of the exhibit by Tony Bechara that is presented on the left wall if the exhibiting space. This vibrating interplay among white, grey, and black generates an evocative resonance, because the author does not wish to represent scenes. This large-scale triptych, rendered by Bechara with the dynamic multiplicity of touches and tones that characterize him, create a zone of abstinence, of quiet conservations, profound and tranquil, that continually resonate against the variety of colors used in the works on the opposite wall. Geometry and color are part of Bechara’s work; they are the skin of a conceptual aesthetic body.
Tony Bechara expands the use of the grid, expresses the richness created with contrasts, the exploration and the surprising effect of an organicity of matter, which is also an attribute of the installation of three smaller shaped canvases entitled Geometry and Color that hang on the facing wall. There, these three paintings – respectively shaped as a rectangle, a triangle, and a circle – compliment the three square frames of the opposite wall. Formalism and geometry are the components of this artist’s pictorial development. The vibrations of the primary and secondary juxtaposed colors increase a kinetic sensation in the spectator who observes Bechara’s paintings, although it is important to stress that he nourishes from a conceptual approach to the analysis and use of color. This was also evident in other exhibitions and was observed in the Minima Visibilia, Tony Bechara Grey Paintings exhibit at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, which took place nearly concurrently with this exhibit. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation supported the exhibition.
Bechara builds bridges among the diverse authors who have created paintings of light and color. He is not confined to the well-known Latin-American kinetic current, or to the guidelines set by British artist Bridget Riley, nor to the compositional pattern of the grid and its alterations. On referring to composition, one must remember the subtle references to rocky surfaces to which both artists resort. Bechara does this evoking the Grand Canyon- the nevertheless does not discard the possibility of an urban reading. Elizabeth Jobim references the mineral element through the display cabinet that shows aspects of her artistic process. Located at the side and separated from the rest of the site-specific pictorial installation, the display cabinet presents the spectator with mock-ups/mini-paintings by Jobim, as well as drawings, sketches, and rocks. This excellent grouping of elements is both motivating and didactic, two indispensable aspects to consider in a place dedicated to teaching; something that Susan Hoeltzel, the gallery director, always bears in mind as she curates the exhibit along with Claudia Calirman.
Having already introduced both artists, it is time to point out that because of the layout of the exhibition space, the gaze cannot help but contemplate the works of both artists at the same time. The grey, dynamic, and checkered tunnel and the enclosed reverberations give way to the release of light generated by Elizabeth Jobim’s paintings. This artist celebrates the great pictorial gesture with tones of blue. Her large abstract embrace is also readable as something urban that is, nonetheless, not representational or descriptive. Endless Lines is the title of a work with which Jobim draws the spectator closer to her experiencing of lines, something achieved through movement that also does not seek to interpret or represent. Her painting accentuates the width and length of the movement executed. Matter flows in the color blue set over white. The paintings become an installation with the enveloping participation of the gallery space. This Brazilian artist who lives in Rio de Janeiro studied the space to create this site-specific installation. The points of contact between the paintings as they touch laterally offer a sensuous rhythm the inhabits the use of cold colors. This is perceived inside-out and vice versa. The planes, the straight, significant but non-representational lines, indicate movement. In a context of flat inks and uncommon fractional forms, large-scale canvases interact with others in a discourse aided by their lateral proximity. They are like masterful gems, faceted ancient stones. Jobim takes us through spaces that envelop us but that also are beyond our reach.
Like a magnet, the intense light in Endless Lines draws the spectator to the Gallery’s interior. The installation occupies an intensely illuminated space. The duo of colors used by Jobim establishes a formal contrast that is nearly like the tracing of an architectonic plan. Both exhibits are infused with a contemporaneous rituality. Both create a passage, like a path toward a dispossessed altar that is not religious, but rather visual and inhabited by stones from ancient cities. Jobim and Bechara master the controlled and vibrant gesture as if these were part of a special dance from which light emanates in a life-affirming fashion.