More Simply Put, a group exhibition up at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in Chelsea through June 30, brings together the work of artists working in different mediums and traditions but with a common aesthetic of rich color, nuance, and a love of embellishment and humor. Work by Lucas Blalock, Arturo Herrera, Sheila Hicks, and Maria Nepomuceno toy with the viewer and each other across the gallery space.
Together they emphasize the humor and joy of using humble materials, often from or recalling the everyday. The clearly manipulated photographic images of Lucas Blalock (above left) help the viewer see how Arturo Herrera’s multilayered paintings (above center), rather than being straightforward abstractions, assert the process of their making and recall the layers of manipulation as in Photoshop. A jumbled aesthetic of piling on more and more is paramount in three-dimensional space in Maria Nepomuceno’s sculptural assemblages (above right) but exists equally in the two-dimensional works hanging around it. Given the different generations and geographies that the artists are coming from, the coherence of the show is all the more a pleasant surprise.
Beaded and bulging, the sculptures of Maria Nepomuceno delighted me, recalling toys and the surreal, penetration and sexual organs; they are objects of excess and subversion rather than utility. The artist relies on Brazilian craft traditions and unexpected materials to create these organic forms, which seem to multiply out like mushrooms or spores. Made by a woman artist and incorporating craft, textile, and humble materials in her work, these funny nightmares also prod one to consider the valences of “women’s work” in today’s society.
Photographs by Lucas Blalock contradict the evidentiary nature of photography with their patent manipulation. Reliance on recognizable Photoshop textures, flat layering, unnaturally sharp edges create impossible pictures. This tension with the real is amplified by, for example, a shadow cast at an impossible angle. These still lifes become poignant through signs like the tragi-comic message “sigh” imprinted on a balloon or a colorful jumble of erasers and pom-poms that claims another kind of art making. The images are heaped with quotidian objects and textures, highlighting the constructive nature of the image and reveling in its potential.
The lively play with common objects in both the works of Nepomuceno and Blalock, as well as the more serious intellectual investigation that the artists participate in, is all the richer for appearing alongside one another and others in the gallery. More Simply Put is on view at Sikkema Jenkins through June 30, 2017.