In his large-scale drawing and sculptural installations, Peter Bowyer creates engaging narrative tableaux with subtle critical subtexts. The charcoal drawing Greenberg’s Toe, drawn with a line that is as fine and sharp as an etching, combines empathetic satire with the quick charm of a New Yorker illustration. A middle-aged Everyman (or young Clement Greenberg) is shown standing barefoot with one foot on a rock, one arm languidly draped on his knee, directing our gaze towards his exposed big toe. It is a wry interpretation of modernism’s Achilles heel: the impossible ideal of art’s supposed autonomy and implied transcendence.
The Torrents of Spring, a curtain-like galvanized steel sculpture, is a recreation of Bridget Riley’s painting Movement in Squares (1961) and is named after a Hemingway novella that parodies the populist 20th century American writer Sherwood Anderson. The layered references contradict the work’s materiality. It is a sculpture in which meaning becomes at once clear and shifting, much like the exhibition itself.
Exhibiting alongside Bowyer is Ron Giii, whose practice as an artist spans more than three decades and incorporates body performance, film, video, theatre, improvisational music, writing, painting and drawing. Giii’s drawing is an extension of his work in performance and theatre, and this exhibition contains a cogent collection of new pieces. The doomsday tone of its title, “The Words Are Coming,” underlines the dark realities described in the work. Each drawing depicts a single figure named after a devastating and epoch-defining social or historical event, with hard facts made poetic through a philosophical turn of phrase.
Created with a delicate and intimate line reminiscent of Paul Klee, the finely drawn characters carry out a carefully staged geometric pas de deux, a dialectical exchange between figure and ground. In The Famine In Ethopia and Mr. Photograph, viewers are faced directly and calmly by figures wearing expressions sometimes weary and sometimes lit by the hint of a smile. With their warm and steady gaze, Giii’s childlike beings court the metaphysical while projecting a complicated innocence that alludes to our all-too-human folly.
This intelligent retrieval of innocence connects Giii to Bowyer and makes an object lesson of how constructive it can be to see the work of one artist in the presence of another’s.