In a post-election week marked by sleeplessness, a stomach-churning sense of dread, and a need for solace, a visit to Sanctuary, a newly-opened group show at Sunset Park's Tabla Rasa gallery seemed like the right idea. This beautifully balanced exhibition features the work of sixteen, mostly NYC-based artists, who explore varieties of religious faith & influence.
SANCTUARY is an exhibition of spiritually inspired paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
The works (utilize, incorporate) both traditional symbols of religions as harnessed by the individual artist, as well as abstractions from less literal interpretations of faith. The word "sanctuary" is defined as "a sacred place" or the"holiest part of a sacred place." But it is also defined as "a place of refuge and protection." For many artists, their"place of refuge" is immersion in the creative process.
There's much to enjoy here, including Beatrice Coron's Tyvek sculptured Fashion Warrior figure, Terry Marks' serigraph Fear of Flying, and a jewel of a Madonna & Child, painted on glass by Ukrainean artist Bokov, and marked with a bold stroke that recalls Rouault. Detroit-born artist Alfonse Borysewicz's art is a direct expression of his deep Catholic faith. The large, mixed-media works he shows here refine Orthodox icons into forms of expressionist abstraction that are both spare and luminous, The materials he uses - wax, linen, oil, gold and silver leaf - create an effect that is biblically resonant and sensuous. Another mixed-media artist, Rodriguez Calero (RoCa), brings Byzantine & Renaissance art traditions into the sphere of her Catholic, Puerto Rican heritage. In RoCa's vision, classical form is subverted and transcended by her choice of medium - a highly refined use of collage - and by the presence of contemporary Black figures, the "Urban Martyrs and Latter Day Santos." Her work is charged with political and cultural ambiguity. In Victor, a young man faces the viewer impassively. In his hand he holds a glue gun, with which he appears to have made the delicately patterned halo about his head. Carle No. 2 shows another young man, seen from behind, with his arms raised - in praise, supplication or arrest? - as a single white feather drifts over his back. Photographer Larry Racioppo explores religious observance in the context of modern urban settings. He is present at the apse of a fire-damaged Baptist church in Bushwick, and documents a street-corner mural painted to honor a life cut short. The smallest gestures of faith are observed. A worker's tool box bears an on-the-job talisman - a picture of Jesus secured by duct tape. It's as potent as any painted icon. In the beautifully composed Pablo's Cross a modest home-made memorial, painted on wood and attached to the structure of the elevated A, finds its own church setting there in in the lines of pillars stretching towards the horizon, and the line of trees to its left might be poplars. An Italian medieval landscape in the twenty-first century Rockaways.
The exhibition is a fitting one for the times we live in, when a demagogue and his henchmen await their reign of terror, when the voices of hate are loud and divisive, and the news media responds to them with weak gestures of conciliation. Art, like religion, can never be a cure-all, but at its best it can bear witness, inspire, transform and translate, honor and shame. Appealing to our better selves, it can bolster our energy and send us away with a sharper, clearer, less-blinkered vision. Today we need that more than ever. Sanctuary runs until Januarty 8, 2017.
TABLA RASA GALLERY
224 48 Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Gallery hours: 1:00 - 5:00 pm
THURSDAY, FRIDAY & SATURDAY