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AMERICAN BEAUTY Curated by William Villalongo 12 December 2013 – 1 February 2014

Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

Challenging the notion that socially or politically charged content cannot coexist with Beauty and Form, these twelve artists skillfully employ imagination, observation and humor to produce works that engage the viewer with thought and feeling. Informed by a particularly American experience and diverse cultural backgrounds, the artists (conceptually) tow a line between their local environments and a global existence. Lines between form and content do not exist or are blurred purposefully to insist on an art that both interrogates and gives pleasure. Though message and medium varies, these artists make clear that beauty does not have to exist in a vacuum, nor in the eye of the beholder, that a work of art can be conscious of the larger world. Villalongo puts to rest hackneyed strictures that “good” art communicates as a selfcontained dialogue of “formal” qualities and the idea that the purest expression of art lies inside some mysterious universal ideal. “American Beauty” makes clear that truth and beauty are indeed the natural order. Artist include: Nicole Awai, SunTek Chung, Rico Gatson, Mark Thomas Gibson, Alejandro Guzman, Maren Hassinger, Ariel Jackson, Matthew Day Jackson, Dawit L. Petros, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Naomi Reis and Michael Vahrenwald.

NICOLE AWAI presents works from her “Vistas” series; inspired by a natural asphaltum lake in her native Trinidad. This “Pitch” lake has been figuratively bubbling in the artist’s mind since childhood. Since visiting the lake as an adult the artist finds connections between her imagination and reality. As an American citizen for most of her life, Awai’s work often explores the body or the natural environment as an expressive container of personal and cultural memory yet also as site of displacement and fiction.

Vista 1 – Curling, 2013. Graphite, acrylic paint, paper, nail polish, resin, filter charcoal, paper/synthetic paper, 20 x 22 in.

Vista 2 – Where is Joe?, 2013. Graphite, acrylic paint, paper, nail polish, resin, filter charcoal on synthetic paper, 21 x 19 in.

Vista 3 – Emerging Properties A, 2013. Acrylic paint, paper, nail polish, resin, vinyl, filter charcoal, nylon mesh on synthetic paper, 28 x 25 in.

SUNTEK CHUNG works in between sculpture, video and photography often conflating Eastern and Western values systems and cultural identities. For the exhibition the artist presents a bronze head of a Buddha seemingly stressed under the weight of being part human, part deity, part novelty commerce. Buddha’s face is ripped on one side exposing flesh and bone.

For what will they be for?, 2013. Bronze, 7 1/2 x 6 x 9 1/2 in. Edition of 3.

RICO GATSON merges Hollywood perceptions of history and current events in an array of media such as painting, video and sculpture. As a whole the work comments on the social and political gestures enacted on the American landscape. The painting on display is from a series of abstracted landscapes appropriated from footage of the Watts riots in 1965.

Watts Painting #4, 2011. Paint and glitter on wood panel, 48 x 48 in.

MARK THOMAS GIBSON explores the dark underbelly of American history within a personal mythology. Heroic stories of Americana as told to school children find themselves in a twisted world haunted by ghosts and werewolves. In his latest creation the Heavens open up to a drunken orgy at Benjamin Franklin’s deathbed.

The Death of Benjamin Franklin, 2013, Acrylic and glitter/canvas, 80 x 60 in.

ALEJANDRO GUZMAN makes sculptures that double as performance objects. Informed by the idea of “creative misunderstanding”, Guzman’s sculptures are mound or tower like forms whose surfaces are covered with natural and man-made materials that express a global array of cultural influences. The sculpture and performances underscore absurdities and contradictions when layering cultural meaning.

The Fatalist, 2013. Wood, screws, chicken wire, casters, plastic, silicone, foam, plaster, coroplast, mirrors, glitter, crystals, aluminum, copper, brass, bamboo, nKisi head figure, Nok beads, polish beads, clothes, fabric trim, oil paint, ink on paper, rabbit fur, elephant tusk, bull horns, 42 x 24 x 90 in.

MAREN HASSINGER presents Pink Sky, 2013 an installation on the gallery’s ceiling that has its historical roots in the 1970’s when the artist painted pink paths through the abandoned and destroyed Lynwood area of Los Angeles. Interested in both the color interaction of the pink with the green or natural environs and the irony of this generally ‘sexy’ or ‘happy’ color to the urban decay, the artist has used the color in a number of ways over the years. Pink Sky, made with pink plastic shopping bags, forms a canopy within the space of the gallery. A gesture of gathering or communion, it is also about creating a place for daydreaming.

Pink Sky, 2013. Pink plastic shopping bags inflated with human breath and a love note inside, dimensions variable.

ARIEL JACKSON works with video projection and sculpture. Reacting to the over saturation and demographic maneuvering of sitcoms, advertisements and YouTube videos, Jackson questions notions of group identity, cultural propriety and individualism. Through the creation of personal mythology, she positions protagonists in a parallel universe inundated by cultural and historical ephemera. Her characters are often confused, attempting to make sense of contested histories and assertions of identity from visual culture. Her narratives come in the form of video that is projected on to a sculptural form that doubles as a screen and a body.

Here's hoping AKA The Blues (Episode 1), 2013. Stop-motion animation and greenscreen, 7:30 Min.

MATTHEW DAY JACKSON explores the crossroads of Biology, Technology and American history in visual culture often using his own body and personal history as a container for seemingly disparate ideas. The artist presents an excerpt from an ongoing collaboration with his mother, Karen Jackson, in which the artist cuts out images on old LIFE magazine covers that have documented large historical and cultural events. Karen then mends these cuts with needlepoint embroidery.


Domestic Drawing (LIFE, May 1, 1964), 2013. LIFE Magazine cover needlepointed by artist's mother Karen Jackson, 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1/4 in.

Domestic Drawing (LIFE, April 11, 1969), 2013. LIFE Magazine cover needlepointed by artist's mother Karen Jackson, 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1/4 in.

Domestic Drawing (LIFE, November 7, 1960), 2013. LIFE Magazine cover needlepointed by artist's mother Karen Jackson, 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1/4 in.

DAWIT L. PETROS investigates boundaries in artistic geographic and cultural contexts. The works in this exhibition present a meditation or play on a basic form of the cardboard box both as a signifier of commerce and of a modernist form. Petros’ relates this to the East African alphabet Tigrinya, the artist’s first language. The Tigrinya alphabet is built from variations on a basic form in order to create compound sounds. In his photos he manipulates the cardboard box and moves it through various locations from Nazareth, Ethiopia; Santa Barbara, California; Marfa, Texas; and Saskatoon, SK- Canada respectfully marking both his personal journey and a visual journey through the history of Modernism.

Single Cube Formation, No. 3, Marfa, TX, 2011. Archive digital print, 30 x 36 in., Edition of 5.

Single Cube Formation, No. 2, Santa Barbara, CA, 2011. Archive digital print, 30 x 36 in., Edition of 5.

Single Cube Formation, No. 4, Nazareth, Ethiopia, 2011. Archive digital print, 30 x 36 in., Edition of 5.

Quadruple Cube Formation, No. 1, Saskatoon, SK, 2011. Archive digital print, 30 x 36 in., Edition of 5.

NATHANIEL MARY QUINN brings to image a notion of individual identity or subjectivity that is formed by a wide array of social constructs. His collage-like portraits are actually drawings made with traditional art materials such as pencil, gouache and charcoal on paper. The artist pulls images from many sources such as magazines, advertisements and found family photos.


Irene, 2013. Black charcoal, gouache/Lenox paper, 50 x 38 in.

Wretched, 2013. Black charcoal, gouache, oil pastel/Lenox paper, 50 x 38 in.

NAOMI REIS examines artificial landscapes as a means of understanding our changing relationship to the natural world. Reis presents a wall installation from her ongoing series “Borrowed Landscapes�. The artist highlights the absurdities in American desires for the exotic as displayed in climate-controlled botanical conservatories: artificial environs manufactured out of flora gathered from around the globe. The installation incorporates a number of artificial and illusionistic gestures starting with a digitally manipulated image from the Tropical Pavilion at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, blurring the lines between artificial and natural, inside and out, native and foreign.


Borrowed Landscape II (Tropics of Africa, Asia and the Amazon via Brooklyn), 2013. Digital print on vinyl, mixed media collage on paper in frame, dimensions variable. Edition of 10.

MICHAEL VAHRENWALD exhibits a piece from his photographic series “Forest Floor”. These works survey nature’s uprooted germination and detritus throughout city streets, cracks in sidewalks and industrial parks. Each wild plant is photographed on the site in which it is growing. The scene is littered with the remains from the environment surrounding it. Isolated by a backdrop and highlighted with studio lights, the plants are native to their locations but each explains existences outside of its natural arrangements.

Untitled, 2013. Archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 in., Edition of 5.

Untitled, 2013. Archival inkjet print, 30 x 24 in., Edition of 5.


Curated by William Villalongo 12 December 2013- 1 February 2014 Artists include: Nicole Awai, SunTek Chung, Rico Gatson, Mark Thomas Gibson...

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