Two To Tango



296 Main Street Bernayfineart (296 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230)

TWO TO TANGO—Bernay Fine Art, 14 May—June 12, 2022 Press Release

Bernay Fine Arts is proud to present “Two to Tango,” a group show featuring the work of twelve artists who happen to be six couples. In fact, these six couples have been together for a total of 186 years, give or take a few. Though there’s no way to generalize about duration in marriage, one through-line for these couples is their like-minded drive to make art. If artworks provide answers to the questions artists ask, couples function as first responders. Privy to incidental talk, they are never far from declarations of intent. For couples, “solutions” to artistic problems are part of an untraceable mix of aesthetic decisions otherwise known as risk and reward.
Janet Rickus is committed to natural light falling on an arrangement of things on a tabletop. But within this given, all manner of delight can be found in the wit and care with which she arrays pottery, citrus, tablecloth. There are allusions to horizon lines in the glaze on her cups and there is the playful pointing of citrus nipples, among other things to notice, not the least of which is light delicately touching each thing. Like family photos, her objects pose, as if to say, this is who we are. The subtle play of shape and color within her arrangements is a field of endless seduction.
Close observation is the rule in the work of Sue Muskat and Warner Friedman, as well. Muskat represents classic things, as “figures” in a field. There is nothing lowly (though there is something nostalgic), about an expresso machine when it has been designed by Italian craftsmen. Muskat’s steady line and exacting color choice thrive in presenting expresso machine (or Fiat 500 or statue of the robot C3PO), as fit subjects for painting. Prods to memory, Muskat’s objects point a finger at beauty, as they rekindle the social pleasure of experience.

Friedman’s landscapes, as if perceived through window or porch structure, are accurate sidereal accounts of light and shadow—out of respect for what he knows is real—as well as complex one-shot movies. The angle of Friedman’s light meets the variety of his grays in a perfect marriage. You can put your imaginary foot up on his railing, sit back, looking at what’s out there—wide field, wet lake, horizon line, cloudy sky--and become the protagonist in his flick.
In Sara Okamura’s use of monarch butterflies and turtles, I wonder, is she thinking aesthetically or environmentally? Both? Is no species safe, as humans despoil air, seas, land? By her hand, the paint looks fast, wet, and sensuous; the artworks get their lively charm from her confident brushwork and from her funky daubs of white paint. Like snow, or piles of eggs, these spots of white bring us closer to nature in the raw. Can we live and let live, in an unspoiled world?
Jenny Holzer’s plaques isolate single sentences from Survival, her text series from 1983-85. Cast in aluminum, featuring bold, sans-serif type in all-caps, they make their statements without fuss. We consider their flat clarity, even as they give pause. Whose voice do they resemble? Friend or foe? Do they admonish, or permit? What IS remorse in advance, I wonder? Or will we always be sorry? The work on paper, “Fingerpaint 24,” reveals another side of Holzer’s gifts. Abstract daubs of gouache define shapes on the paper, paper noticeable for having the words “Top Secret” printed on it. “Fingerpaint 24” is composition by touch, color by feel, structure by intention. Stacked rectangles lined in by multi-colored fingerings dominate the center. Far from the politics of surveillance, this “hand-made” work embraces the romance of art.

Great pictures preserve otherwise passing moments. As a photographic team, Connie Hanson, and Russell Peacock, known as Guzman, preserve the image of popular players at their peak. As artists they get close to their subjects, shoot hungrily, then move on, as sensitive in their use of color as in black and white. Magical light on skin, incidents of body as shape or canvas, fame’s face as fact. Guzman knows how they do it, even if we don’t. Just as Nadar got Baudelaire in the 1850s, Guzman has captured generations of icons for our time, and for our delectation.
Bold abstract swaths of paint flow through Mike Glier’s new paintings—lavender and green sweeps of horizontal energy—until these sweeps segue into leaf, stem, and floral cluster. Profusion is what is felt, and profusion is what is seen in these new “action” paintings. As if winged creatures were agitating the air, a kind of visual music emerges, rolling and tumbling, with Glier as the mad conductor whose job is only complete when harmony prevails. And in these paintings, his harmonies make for a rough and tumble but palpable excitement.
Philip Knoll’s bestiary, “Poly Nation,” is a generous array of same-size representations of an ark’s worth of animals, non-hierarchically distributed in a design defined by concentric squares, as if Frank Stella were in the next room playing squash. Frontally presented, wombat no less honored than lion, nature provides, art transforms, taxonomy is satisfied, order manages sensation. And in smaller works on paper, Knoll the pollinator is only too happy to buzz as a winged creature, his winning smile, and fluttering wings intent on generating the next crop.
When it comes to nature, Katia Santibanez is both keen observer and archangel of storms. Her hand swirls, spins, agitates. That she can slow the spectacle down (as if in slow-motion), allows her the time and attention it takes to share her turbid vision with us. Nothing is stable, all things are flowing as in a whirlwind, if not blowing up. Dorothy has landed in Oz, again. Santibanez feels the precarity of climate crisis and finds a way to deliver her apprehension as ocular treat and judicious forewarning.
Hideyo Okamura wears two hats. Ever alert to compositional balance and the arbitrary, his small, smart works —handmade, playful, formally self-aware—are filled with quasi-geometric shapes lined with stripes of multi-colored ink. A re-animated Malevich would be quick to hire Hideyo’s T-square to help build an addition to Suprematism’s dacha. Wearing his other hat, Okamura cuts loose, encourages spontaneity in child-like daubs and paint clusters that run and puddle and defy good taste, in the serious interest of making something new and fresh.
James Siena knows what order is, and what expectations are. He knows the center when he sees one, and the periphery as it surrounds. As a lark that became a challenge, he made works that purposefully went against the grain, by de-centering a drawing, driving it far to the left or right, finding itself outside the conventional matte window. The viewer must deal with his freedom to mess with us. But no less than before, his touch is the thing. The newly located image is different now, but it’s all art. Siena’s methods lead him beyond the still waters. When his complex abstractions surface, they are seen as feats, as well as feasts.