I’ve thought a lot about the booth from the Minneapolis gallery Dreamsong at The Armory Show this year, held recently at the Javits Center in New York City.
Dreamsong’s was another where, though the presentation included multiple artists, everyone — and everything — in the collection fit together with remarkable clarity — not a given within the broader context of the show, considering the lean sometimes towards sampling from a longer artistic roster. Dreamsong featured two artists, Alexa Horochowski and David Goldes, both of whom hail presently from the same city where the gallery is based.
Still Life, Outside the Canvas
Horochowski’s work on display included the remarkable “Naturaleza Muerta con una Liebre (Still Life with a Hare),” 2023, which is a collection of items spread above and upon a low-rising table. With materials including gold-plated bronze, bronze, pewter, lead, wood, and formica, Horochowski depicts a version of a still life scene that includes small plates, cups that appear (to me) Styrofoam in their shape but aren’t actually made of that material, strewn napkins, and even a few small mice inspecting things! The small, sculpted items assembled here are all evocative of the outside. Also present (and utilizing what looks like that gold-plated bronze!) is a depiction of a hare that partly rests upon the table. (See an image right here.)
I’m reminded, in part, of the Dutch still life paintings I’ve seen at The Met. I was instantly hooked to these paintings, probably beyond any other iteration of the still life approach throughout the art history with which I’m familiar. The manner in which these centuries-old works combined signs of decay with decadence was striking — and the artists, like Willem Kalf, balanced these trends in a rather direct blend of harmony and contradiction.
Horochowski’s still life moves similarly, though obviously with distinct histories underlying the artist’s expansive creation. You’re instantly struck with how the assemblage represents what was clearly a brief moment created by an extensive succession of other brief moments that have all been solidified — extending into the future what could be indefinitely, unless Horochowski rearranges the components. You almost feel like you weren’t meant to see such a thing, though you’d have to then imagine some unseen force setting that intention within the work’s created world. It’s essentially the eternal — or at least indefinite — on top of the very, very temporary.
Horochowski isolates feelings of decay, of loss, and of isolation as though posing the question: Where are the people whose actions clearly created this setting? Why has time suddenly frozen? A sense of paradigm-altering permanence suddenly arrives at the fore. Fragile picnic cups and a point somewhere in the process of preparing a hare for dinner aren’t things you expect to suddenly see completely frozen, entrenched in a precise moment. The piece, overall, is startling.
With “Naturaleza Muerta con una Liebre (Still Life with a Hare),” you’re pushed existentially and comprehensively outside of the scene. The viewer is left observing the captured progression of a lively environment into the inverse, somewhere that the distinct physicality of deterioration has become enshrined.
Microbes (Almost) on Paper
Also at Dreamsong’s booth was “One and the Other,” 2023, by David Goldes. The artist uses a variety of rather unique materials and working methods, like the electrical burn marks in some of his works. This one, comprised of silver leaf, molding paste, and black gesso on paper, is suggestive on several levels. The silver leaf and molding paste are used to craft two oblong shapes that slightly overlap, while the black gesso forms the background (if I’m seeing this materials breakdown correctly). (See it here.) Looking at the work again after having read a bit more about the artist, I’m struck by how the shapes are clearly evocative of those of microbes — and such small elements to our collective world, whether individual organisms or not, have certainly been on the collective mind in recent years!
Monumentalizing that level of existence necessarily freshens our perspective, perhaps both highlighting and actually assuaging some of the associated primal fear. After all, wouldn’t our lives have been easier if anybody living anywhere could see the virus all this time?
Goldes uses assertive seriousness of form that fits the evocations. When I first viewed “One and the Other,” I wasn’t thinking of microbes but instead of memories, spurred by a brief look at some of the exhibition materials. And the shapes, looking solidly constructed to the point that recognition was just around that metaphorical bend, instantly made me think of a memory taking shape as you turn towards the inner well where they’re stored and try to draw it up.
The piece has, as its subject, both specificity and the lack of it, since even the roughly complementary placement of the shapes on the paper evokes the symmetry of language — but you’re not reading anything. You’re instead left simply recalling memories that have coalesced into this internal shape — something perhaps slightly discomforting in its formidability but nonetheless somewhat smoothly accepted. Embodying the lines of Goldes’s work, you’re moving through life! It’s not perfect, considering that actually turning these shapes upon themselves as though trying at wheels wouldn’t create a smooth ride, but the movement continues.
Not Knowing Where You’ve Arrived
“El Pais de Nomeacuerdo (The Land of I-Don’t-Remember),” by Horochowski, was also a striking piece. Seven feet in height, it’s an alteration of the concept of a weather vane, with a rigid, felt wind sock at the top that reads Nomeacuerdo — meaning, “I don’t remember.” You’re instantly left imagining the scene in which the creation would find its natural place, somewhere in which identifying details have been stripped, perhaps to an extreme level. If you arrived to the moment in front of you with almost no memory, rather feeling instead like you’ve emerged anew in that very second, without connection to a pillar of existence behind you — this captures that moment and its shifting experiences. It’s an isolation of the moment right in front of you, strictly confined to, well, its confines — which is something that is always present but not always seen or understood. See the piece right here.
Via Artsy, you can find images of Dreamsong’s collection for The Armory Show 2023 right here.