By BENJAMIN GENOCCHIO
THE latest exhibition in Glyndor House, a historic home and gallery on the 28-acre grounds of Wave Hill in the Bronx, is a group show by nine artists whose works here exploit, reference or have inadvertently absorbed the surrounding natural environment. ”It is about bringing the landscape inside,” the staff curator Jennifer McGregor told me. But since it is winter, or winter’s end, most of the artworks are pretty spare.
Late last year, over six weeks, each of the artists was invited to visit the house and grounds to prepare for the project. Somewhat surprisingly, all but one—Ulrike Heydenreich—have left the gallery spaces empty, preferring instead to paint, draw or graft their installations directly onto the walls or other architectural supports. The result is an exhibition that points up the home’s Georgian revival-style interior as much as it plays off external garden vistas.
On the oval-shaped wall of the entrance foyer, for instance, Amy Chan has installed a soft-toned, imagination-fuelled mural painting of the sky filled with images of free-floating residential homes and dainty landforms referencing, according to the exhibition room brochure, ”the built, natural and historic landscape” of Riverdale and surrounding Hudson River area. It is like a realtor’s fantasy, you might say, mapping the region’s most desirable private dwellings.
Ideas of maps and mapping recur throughout the works here, from Geraldine Lau’s joyous distillation of New York State topographical maps, cribbed and reconfigured as a wall installation in a stairwell using bite-sized bits of colored vinyl, to Vargas-Suarez Universal’s devilishly intricate, velvety surfaced, panoramic wall drawing that blends oddball references to architecture, biology, astronomy and nature. It is like a mix of Star Trek, the Amazon and Sol LeWitt.
Jeffrey Gibson, an experienced wall illustrator, has used mostly non-traditional materials like painted plastic forms, quartz crystals and pigmented silicone to cook up a luxuriant, free-flowing ensemble that, in my experience, has no precedent in contemporary art or any kind of art, anytime, anywhere, for that matter. The application of iridescent paint and prevalence of swirling, organic forms gives his painting liveliness, even a kind of effusiveness.
Intense visual pleasure also flows from an encounter with Amy Yoes’s twirling decorative motifs, painted loosely in red ink on the walls and architectural features of the sunroom, and picking up nicely on a nearby, outdoor arbor, now covered with snow.
Then there is Yvonne Estrada’s coolly improvisatory, serenely meditative installation-like wall drawing in the south gallery. Encompassing a sequence of linked wall panels around the room, and largely white, Ms. Estrada’s piece offers a subtle evocation of the Wave Hill landscape in winter.
Ms. Estrada’s installation looks a tad like wallpaper, although with a minimal, random kind of patterning. This is partly because the artist preferred to work on temporary sheetrock panels, which could be removed and reconfigured after the exhibition. It was a smart move, I think, for otherwise the physical drawing, which relies heavily on spontaneity and chance for its intensity and charm, would be lost forever.
Lucas Monaco had similar concerns, I guess, for he also worked on a temporary support, in this case canvas, to do mixed-media drawings chronicling changes in streets, buildings, and the natural topography of the Bronx. These are probably the most traditional artworks on view here, sampling conventional painting and drawing techniques like fixed-point perspective, scale and realistic representation.
Hilda Shen works directly onto the wall, although without making marks. Instead she layers wax-coated pieces of randomly torn, inky paper to make low-relief sculptural versions of traditional Chinese landscape paintings.
Her multi-paneled piece here is superlative, the textured, black and white imagery flowing from panel to panel across the room like some wintry, windswept landscape seen from the window of a car. It also matches the landscape outside.
Ms. Shen is considerably older than most of the other artists in the exhibition, and, in part, it shows. The form, space and content of the work are perfectly attuned; the artist pre-assembled the work in her studio to conform roughly to the wall spaces, and then transported it in sections to the gallery, where she touched up the surface. There is something to be said for this kind of expertise, and it is to the curator’s credit that she included an artist of Ms. Shen’s caliber.
”Out of Bounds,” Glyndor Gallery, Wave Hill, 675 West 252nd Street, Bronx, through May 30. Information (718)549 3200 or www.wavehill.org.