Gallery-Going: The Tide Is High

At Nino Mier, the summer group show to end all summer group shows.

Copyright the artist and Nino Mier Gallery / Photo: New Document
Matthew F. Fisher, 'Promise and Loss,' 2023. Acrylic on canvas, 29" x 36". Copyright the artist and Nino Mier Gallery / Photo: New Document

Nino Mier Gallery
62 Crosby St and 380 Broadway, New York, New York
June 23 – August 5, 2023

‘Title IX’
The Hole
312 Bowery and 86 Walker St., New York, New York
Until August 27, 2023

What initially appears to be a large abstract expressionist canvas beckons from across the room. This impression collapses as small images quickly begin to disclose themselves and a nautical theme emerges. 

Yet this is no tranquil picture of a sailboat on Cape Cod. Bruegel’s “Triumph of Death” comes to mind as we see burning ships, crumbling castles, and other wastes of civilization. 

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, a standout in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, here turns her gaze, which has covered everything from police violence to domestic bliss, to a grand allegory, a Turner for the 21st Century titled “Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies nothing of him that doth fade / but doth suffer a sea-change / into something rich and strange.” 

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer: ‘Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies nothing of him that doth fade / but doth suffer a sea-change / into something rich and strange,’ detail, 2023. Oil on linen with mixed media, 75″ x 60″. Copyright the artist and Nino Mier Gallery / Photo: New Document

A whale — and is that a dragon? — thrash about, along with the paint itself, which transitions abruptly, yet assuredly, from skillful, idiosyncratic rendering, to violent gestures and scratches that would make Soutine blush. 

An ambiguous form gives way to globs of what appear to be adhered palette scrapings, and even cigarette butts, as a pair of monumental, ghostly figures, the denizens of the deep, look on at the folly of humanity.

Yet it’s not all death and destruction in “Beach,” a titanic group show featuring a staggering lineup of nearly ninety artists opening Thursday evening at both Nino Mier gallery locations downtown. Quite the contrary, in fact. 

Curator Danny Moynihan has skillfully crafted the summer group show to end all summer group shows using his decades of programming experience and divides the sprawling exhibition into loose themes. 

Just across the wall from “Full Fathom,” in a section which Mr. Moynihan calls “Naturalia,” a nod to an earlier exhibition he curated, is a painting which couldn’t be more different on first glance. 

Matthew F. Fisher, whose own solo show opens just down the block at Shrine the next night, here presents “Promise and Loss,” an eerily serene tableau of highly detailed seashells rendered in a precise, yet otherworldly, technique that brings to mind both Chicago Imagists and American folk art. 

Mr. Fisher appears compelled to paint every individual grain of sand on the beach and every glint of sun on the calm sea, with a horizon line seemingly taken from automotive pin-striping and a masterfully rendered sky gradient subtly suggesting sun in the distance but darkness overhead.

A short walk uptown, at the SoHo location, Walter Robinson’s “Bathers (Three Women),” recalls bygone posters of the French Riviera, depicting female swimmers in states of undress looking askance in a “retro” palette. 

In Katherine Bradford’s work, “Beach Fire Circle,” by contrast, the figures’ genders, like the painting’s edges, are more ambiguous, while the campfire shoots upward like an inferno against a beautifully atmospheric, Rothko-esque sky. 

Nearby, at the Hole, a buzzy New York outlet that expanded westward to LA last year, a group show called “Title IX” focuses on issues of women and inclusivity in sports. 

Wendy White here presents two works in her signature mixed media style, one depicting tennis legend Billie Jean King, who supports an amendment to Title IX to include transgender athletes, the other, fellow player Martina Navratilova, who supported the inclusion of women in sports, but has raised concerns about including transgender women today. 

Both works feature a combination of photo-derived black and white portraiture and action shots submerged in atmospheric washes of color and graphic renderings of brushstrokes and paint drips adding a sense of movement and urgency.

The New York Sun

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