The downtown hotel Bobby may be best known for its rooftop bar and dog-in-residence program. But a new partnership with art gallery Tinney Contemporary is making the hotel a destination for art lovers who want to take in contemporary colors, forms and textures between their pedal-tavern rides and honky-tonk hangovers. Tinney is programming quarterly exhibitions at the hotel, and The Collection at Bobby’s inaugural show is a win for both the gallery and the hotel.
The fantastically titled A Fluid & Emphatic Now is organized by Tinney’s gallery manager and curator Joshua Edward Bennett. The display is a mostly abstract affair, featuring works that highlight the unique materials they’re made of. Bennett is also an artist whose sculptural creations often use palettes and materials viewers are used to seeing in commercial signage applications. Bennett organized a roster of creators who make similarly unique choices regarding what art might be made from, the colors it might display and the textures it might embrace. In a time when so much contemporary art is focused on content, A Fluid & Emphatic Now reminds viewers that form will always be the capstone of the form-content-subject trifecta of art components, and it christens a new space in which to experience the pure pleasures of shape and space, tone and texture, color and composition.
Some of my favorite works in the show are the folded-paper-currency photographs by New Orleans-based artist D-TAG. The works remind viewers of the beauty of paper currency’s complex aesthetics of symbols, codes, portraits, landscapes, unique colors and textures. The artist folds various bills in a practice that reads like obsessive abstract origami. D-TAG’s folded bills are also combined and overlapped. Through this process, he teases out unexpected designs and phrases that read like secret messages: “Living the Dream,” “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” “The Future Is Bright.” D-TAG’s images are unique, and the text he reveals by rearranging and recombining the letters on the bills is refreshingly ambiguous, ranging from capitalist critiques to aspirational assertions.
Viewers will be forgiven for thinking that Andy Mister’s gorgeous images of Mount Everest are photographs. These exquisitely detailed works look like pictures taken through colored filters or digital shots that have had layers of transparent color added via Photoshop. In fact, Mister uses carbon pencil, charcoal and acrylics to painstakingly re-create photographic images that he finds in magazines and textbooks, and in random corners of the internet. Removed from their editorial and historic contexts, Mister’s copies are actually about the act of copying, and both the ethics and aesthetics of reproducing images. But the reason viewers might dig deeper into the more meta themes of Mister’s images is because they’re big — “Everest (Cyan)” and “Everest (Permanent Green Light)” are both mounted on panels that are nearly 5 feet tall — and they’re beautiful. I prefer black-and-white images to be balanced a little on the chilly side, and “Everest (Cyan)” cranks the cool to 11, rendering the inscrutable and icy face of the highest peak in the world in frozen tones that crackle with the ominous brutality of silent isolation.
Francesco Lo Castro’s works like “Amalgama” and “Deep Zero” read like colorful, plump but graceful sculptures. Or maybe they’re chubby soft paintings? These works are 3D, but they’re also wall-mounted. They occupy an ambiguous space between sculpture and painting that’s simultaneously playful and provocative. These abstract works are made up of arrangements of smooth, curving, puffy forms that are colored in muted tones of pink, blue and lavender. The pieces are all about form — they’re made out of heavy, dense MDF, but they look so soft and smooth that viewers will have to resist the urge to cuddle up with these unique pieces.
I want to bear-hug Lo Castro’s wall sculptures, but I want to take a bite out of Elise Thompson’s multimedia works on paper and vinyl. Thompson’s paintings are about layers — painterly and personal. She explores these themes by combining materials like clear vinyl and transparent washes of acrylic paints to add layers to her surfaces while allowing elements to show through and overlapping colors to combine into unique hues. But she also employs heavy pours of thick paint, and even attaches elements like glass beads to obscure and distort other elements, gestures and spaces. It’s not exactly a palimpsestic practice, but one feels like an archaeologist looking at these paintings, wondering at their origins, attempting to peer into the various versions of a work that might have existed before Thompson applied her last layers. These are paintings for people who love painting. They’re full of bold colors in unexpected combinations, applied in gobs and drips — thick cake-frosting layers and delicate gushes of transparent tones.