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1/27/2010

The Arts

Bright young things

 

Bright young things
Fresh From Chelsea:
21 Young NYC Artists
Through Feb. 26
UCF Art Gallery,
University of Central Florida
407-823-3161
www.art.ucf.edu
Free

Fresh can connote something sparkling and unjaded, or it can signal green, callow and half-baked. Fortunately, most of the works Fresh From Chelsea, culled from the collection of Winter Park residents Lisa and Robert Feldman, are robust examples of artists just beginning to approach and solve the problems that will occupy them throughout their careers. The artists’ age, the location of most of their dealers, and the catholic taste of the Feldmans is all that defines the show. As such, there’s a lack of focus, but many of the works are delightful, and several of the artists are names we’ll follow for years to come.

Twenty-seven pieces by 21 artists are stuffed into the UCF Art Gallery, a visual treasure that could have sprawled out into twice the space. A few pieces suffer in the close quarters – most notably Matthew Weinstein’s computer animation, “Siam,” which is easy to miss in the back and difficult to hear.

Some of the trends covered: The influence of street art is felt in the paintings of Nathan Redwood, Erica Svec, G. Bradley Rhodes and Suling Wang, and in Nicola López’s woodblock-on-Mylar print. A certain postmodern playfulness attaches to Jason Middlebrook’s riffs on established artists; his appropriations of/commentary on Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” and Jeff Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” dominate the front of the gallery. Anna Von Mertens, Orly Genger and Margarita Cabrera work in soft sculpture and textiles reminiscent of Anni Albers, Eva Hesse and Claes Oldenburg. But these young wizards of Chelsea are none too radical; most are plain old painters, working with color and light on a single plane.

The in-your-face showstoppers are by Gandalf Gavan and Diana Al-Hadid, already established as rising stars. Gavan’s installation is a nightmarish stage set of slumped and blown glass; dripping letters spelling “ORDER” on a distorted mirror face a melting glass armchair, as in some Manson-as-envisioned-by-Cronenberg scene, the sense of dread and foreboding heightened by the hovering intestinal tangle of pink neon.

Al-Hadid’s work is also cinematic in tone, shaped by the golden age of ’80s fantasy films like Star Wars and The Neverending Story. “Tomorrow’s Superstitions” recalls a small-scale set for one of those films, a pueblo castle inhabited by desert droids – perhaps that’s not an inviting description to those without an Atari/Lucasfilm/Tolkien childhood, but it’s a shimmering and strangely
emotional sculpture.

My best in show goes to Luis Gispert, whose film, “Smother,” is brutal and breathtaking, and demands a full beginning-to-end viewing. Suffused with anger, longing and the struggle between classes, genders and generations, the 26 minutes of dreamlike imagery are perma-lodged in my mind’s eye.

Quieter than Al-Hadid, Gispert and Gavan but making an impression nonetheless are Cabrera, Beth Campbell and Kristopher Benedict. Cabrera’s soft sculpture, “Backpack (Pink),” explores Mexican identity with a water bottle, a stack of tortillas and a string of rosary beads, all stitched out of vinyl. Campbell’s charming and oddly personable watercolor, “Thinking Toothbrush,” channels the anxiety of inanimate objects in a decision tree with branches like “The Listerine will make me feel insecure”; “I’ll sit on the shelf”; “Collecting dust & soap film” and other twitters of unease. And “Kid on Shoulders” showcases Benedict’s luscious, acid color sense and disdain for trend. The smallish oil in the Impressionist style is not only lovely, but affirms that Benedict is unafraid to take on a style that’s been radioactive for decades (labeled fluffy, femme-y, couch art) to illustrate thoroughly modern moments like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Los Angeles freeway system.

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