Sunday, September 6, 2015

No Dead Artists 2015 at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

The only predictable thing about the annual No Dead Artists expo at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery is that it is always unpredictable. One never knows exactly what to expect, and this 19th iteration is no exception. Although many of the memes, themes and tropes rooted in the theory-based art of recent decades are sometimes, if not always obviously, evident, many of the works by the twelve artists selected by this year's jurors  defy easy categorization and provide us with a provocative intermingling of paradox and continuity. This is as it should be, because No Dead Artists functions as a combined thermometer, barometer and seismometer that measures the vital signs lurking below the art world's glossy, if often opaque, surfaces. As one of the premier emerging artist venues, No Dead Artists can be oracular if occasionally arcane, and has proven over the decades that its featured participants have had something significant, even portentous, to contribute to the broader art world discourse at large.


Culled from over 2500 art works submitted by over 500 artists, the over 40 works on view reflect something of the paradoxical nature of the present moment, an epoch of digital atomization, conflicting subcurrents and the shifting sands of individual and group identities. All of the above can be seen in the colored pencil paintings of Michelle Ramin, top, who has her subjects--fellow millennials, for the most part--wear ski masks as she depicts them in playful, prosaic or poetic situations. Although most appear to be West Coast, garden variety hipsters, slackers and the like, their ski masks give them a sinister aura reminiscent of bank robbers, or vintage terrorists, though her nudes can sometimes suggest kinky parlor games. But the masks are more about the survival games millennials play, and underlying it all are the not so subtle hints of a generation adrift in an age of socio-economic uncertainty.Michelle Ramin, top, who has her subjects--fellow millennials, for the most part--wear ski masks as she depicts them in playful, prosaic or poetic situations. Although most appear to be West Coast, garden variety hipsters, slackers and the like, their ski masks give them a sinister aura reminiscent of bank robbers, or vintage terrorists, though her nudes can sometimes suggest kinky parlor games. But the masks are more about the survival games millennials play, and underlying it all are the not so subtle hints of a generation adrift in an age of socio-economic uncertainty.

All of which makes for a striking contrast with the more medieval looking maskers in Herb Roe's meticulous paintings of the annual Courir de Mardi Gras festivities that take place in the rural Cajun hinterlands of southwest Louisiana. Here harlequinesque men on horseback wear traditional homemade costumes as they playfully reenact medieval French shrovetide rituals passed along from time immemorial in rites that date back to the Lupercalia and Saturnalia festivals of ancient Rome. What Roe and Ramin share in common is a psychological sensibility expressed via deftly executed modes of figurative realism. More>>