28 September 2014 06:47PM
Over the past months, Chelsea gallerist Zack Feuer has taken a bold step opening his “Retrospective” outpost on upper Warren with a series of incisive showings of young artists with outlandish graphic skills. Recent work by the highly talented Haley Mellin, co-producer at the Bruce High Quality Foundation, extends the trend and tops the lot. Her oil-and-ink riffs on Giorgione and Leonardo, and optical abstracts are powerful efforts to integrate high technology with traditional media. Even when appropriating familiar images, Mellin succeeds in creating transformations of great refinement and beauty, combining her mastery of painterly precision with the obscurity, mystery, and indeed range, that have until now been the preserve of Gerhard Richter and his ilk. (I wasn’t clear whether the Apple box with the dollop of paint in the window was actually a Mellin, but it was gloriously tongue-in-cheek and determinedly iconic.)
Past and present coalesce again in Feuer’s other new show in the (not quite) adjacent space he has just acquired. The dramatic dimensions of 711 Warren Street are ideally suited to larger scale work. In this inaugural exhibit, Feuer is showing a series by the Belgian artist Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, another excellent painter with something of the Richter in him. In this case, Bernadet has created a series of abstracts, of varying size, appropriately inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1861 “Our Banner in the Sky”, which celebrated the attack on Fort Sumter during the Civil War. Church’s little oil is actually a monumental piece of kitsch, but that’s no reflection on Bernadet, who has created a glorious array of multi-hued panels exuding an almost mystical degree of optimism, untainted by sentimentality. Seeing these packed into a single eighty-foot long wall space has almost the impact of Bernadet’s countryman James Ensor’s triumphant “Christ’s Entry Into Brussels”.
These are two modest but barrier-breaking exhibits well worth investigating for their stylish integration of the traditional and the avant-garde.
1: The black-and-white crowd
2: Haley Mellin installation (with fingers)
3: Haley Mellin, “St. John”, “The Magi’
4: Box and paint
5, 6 Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, “Studies for Sunsets”