There are effectively three shows, two are solo shows for Ronnie Rysz and Gail Biederman, and three artists grouped together to explore is what it means to be masculine, or maybe how men acquire their masculinity.
First the guys tackling their guyness, Dave Sinaguglia's Skin in the Game is an installation of a cabin named the Modular Men's Library, works of various media on the wall, and stand out photographs of Sinaguglia performing his masculinity. The Cabin is a retreat where men can learn to be a specific type of man-- think cast-iron fried meat, scotch-soaked full-grain leather, and artisanal wood splitting chores. Each of his subjects wear uniforms rather than clothes and the iconic nature of each outfit rings true to me. A beard isn't decoration, it's a buffer from the work, or has been earned by learning to be more masculine.
Samuel Rowlett's An Unnamed Flowing, Nowhere relies on the simple action of wearing and carrying art in streams, fields, suburban streets; really bringing his raw art materials anywhere. They are installed in a strongly graphically space that has a number of objects that indicate a mixture of the adolescent Boy Scout experience and being a man who guides others. His work is only partially fabricated when it's in the studio, the handmade object part of his work is not the point. Instead his work is activated when the object encounters public spaces. In the same way that much conceptual art is not self-contained, it needs a happening or a moment to be, everything clicks together when Rowlett leaves his studio with these objects. The objects in the display are latent, capable of being activated by someone at any point.
Brad Guarino's What Manner of Men? is the most problematic collection on display for me. Though they are fantastic technical drawings, I can't get over the stated subject that they explore. Guarino explores the fear of being enough of a man, positioning his work as "The male fear of homosexuality and femininity." To me, it is contradictory to the objects on display. These innuendo soaked explorations of realness don't seem to be about fear or even conventions, but the unique self-assured displays that every man constructs for himself. Guarino has recorded and displayed lavish manifestations of how we construct gender. He has captured a range of displays that set off our radar for who the person might be. The bird in Guarino's painting The Illusion of Nothing Real is the key of it for me, as that bird is as on display as the humans are and it doesn't seem that anyone in these works are fearful. The drawings are so deftly handled that if Guarino had said something else in his statement, I'd have to praise them to the ends of the earth, but because his stated message is not what he presents in his work, I'm nonplussed. I wish I had never read the material provided with this show because I keep returning to those words.
I was instantly attracted to Gail Biederman's solo installation You & Me, Together & Apart solely for the complexity of its installation. The felt object on the wall felt illustrative, and sure enough, it was a map for Biederman and her twin sister's travels together and apart. The mapping explains their relationship in a removed way, created as a chart that collects their movement, but not the time or location of each interaction or disconnection. It's a impassive account, yet the more you see the map, the more you begin mapping it out in your mind. This abstract relationship creates a bond in the viewer's mind as much as it was, at times, a link or a detachment for the two sisters. We can't tell where those moments begin or end, or how long they continued for, but we can notice the patterns and invent their pasts.
Ronnie Rysz's Closed Circle is the first show you see when entering Real Art Ways and, formally, it's the most inventive. Rysz has lived the printmaker lifestyle (teacher, master printer, etc. It's the same world I came from) and clearly knows when something just looks right. These images are strongly graphic, lined renditions of people, made out of found materials-- mesh screens, low-relief objects, textured or pre-printed papers-- that have been cut and positioned in the frame to make portraits of distinct individuals. For the most part, the formal color relationships enhance the implied three-dimensional relationships and the textures border on trompe l'oeil in their deceptions. I was sure when I saw them that they had to be prints and had to be complicated to make, say with some large number of silkscreen layers that would intimidate the most printerly among us. Instead, it's a much more complicated set of objects. These specific materials had to be sourced individually for each image, and while I recognize some of them from my days working at Utrecht, others are so banal, that their use is inspired.
All five installations will be on display at Real Art Ways for various lengths.
Dave Sinaguglia, Samuel Rowlett and Brad Guarino will be on display through Sunday September 9, 2012
Ronnie Rysz will be on display through Sunday, September 16, 2012
Gail Biederman will be on display through Sunday, October 7, 2012