Into the Maelstrom by Etty Yaniv in the Plus/Space
& Four Artist – two painters and two sculptors
Kathleen Maximin, Michael Filan, Gerard McCarthy, and Gunnar Theel
Co-curated by Charlotta Kotik and Hanne Tierney
Currently on view through February 21, 2021, at Five Myles Gallery is a solo exhibition by Etty Yaniv in the front Plus/Space aptly entitled Into the Maelstrom. In the main gallery, there is a four-person exhibition co-curated by Charlotta Kotik and Hanne Tierney. It matches up two sculptors, Gerard McCarthy and Gunnar Theeland with two painters, Kathleen Maximin and Michael Filan. Their work collectively explores abstraction, materiality, and process/technique.
Intending to write only about Yaniv’s work, I started my gallery visit in the front space where the artist has created an installation with her sculptural mixed media work hung on the walls, wrapping around corners, nearly reaching the ceiling, and cascading to the floor. I was fortunate to see this exhibition both in a darkened room illuminated by spotlights for a dramatic effect, and when the metal roll door was lifted, seeing both the street view and inside view with natural light. The darkened view is quite stunning as there’s a sense of theatricality and otherworldliness because the concrete architectural reality of the space recedes into the less visible background. The second sunlit view becomes much more of a conversation between the work, the space, and the world outside of the gallery. This may resonate with Yaniv’s interest in showing how artwork can merge with lived life and the space of the viewer. At first, it’s a little disorienting because it’s hard to understand what I’m looking at – in a good way though. All the similarly toned but diverse materials merge together to create a cluster of form and texture. The artist’s techniques reveal themselves slowly, drawing marks, paint applications, general assembly, and the seeming gravity-defying weight of the sculpture. As soon as I walked into the exhibition, the word Maelstrom came to mind, unclear if it emerged in response to the experience or came from a recollection of the title of the show. (I always try to read press releases after seeing the work on view.)
The dictionary definition of the maelstrom is a powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river. It can also be a state of confused movement or violent turmoil. And in this case, both of these descriptions resonate because the work has an organic life force through the sheer ambitious assembling of pieces of paper and plastic, crumpled, ripped, cut, and adhered together. Overlaid on all of this is a range of drawing, collaging, painting, and writing. There is a lot of care and tenderness with which all this chaos and fragility are hung together and articulated. The continuity and tendrils of these out-reaching chromatic grey clusters form a megastructure that feels weightless and heavy – perhaps a paradox, perhaps a balance. My favorite moments are the oscillation between seeing forms that grow into large consuming clusters on the wall and finding moments of the artist’s written notations and daily experiences such as “Turn off English Translation, I’m feeling lucky, I’m feeling lucky.” We get a bird’s eye view of the artist’s mind and intimate studio practice. It’s finished but not overly polished, it’s a raw, visceral, and porous experience. Seeing striated rainbow ribbon cables running through the sculptural component on the right hand side closest to the doorway is a surprising break from the overall tonal greys in the rest of the exhibition. Upon closer inspection, it registers as some kind of computer technology – a departure from the more familiar and analog papers and plastics. The chromatic boldness and the density of the ribbon called to mind the pulsating through-line of digital technology in contemporary life: the connectivity of almost everyone through the internet. Like social media, the digital cable feels both exciting and invasive, like an unnatural vine creeping through the work in a beautiful yet intrusive way that parallels how technology interrupts our physical and psychological spaces.
At some point since the exhibition opened, a few leaves had blown in from the sidewalk inching into the world that Yaniv made, joining the other things that had, I imagine, flown around the artist’s life and studio before making it into this installation. This felt akin to quick whirlwinds of life’s ephemera that sometimes happen in densely populated cities, but with the lack of people, similar to quarantine in a pandemic.
In contrast, the four-artist exhibition in the main gallery is anything but amorphous and windswept. The grouping produces a nice visual dialogue between form and structure in the paintings with a heavy emphasis on color and paint application that results in organically structured patterns. Michael Filan’s painting palettes stunningly create harmonies of the closely considered color ranges as in the grey and violets in The Dignity is This.
Thickly textured, and energetic overall compositions show themselves in Kathleen Maximin’s spatially complex acrylic painting, making me wonder about the tool used by the artist to achieve the recurring vertical and horizontal hatch marks. The sculpture groupings had a nice relationship to one another, in that they were all of a tabletop size with a bent towards angular geometry. Though the narrative pitches were different, both leaned towards the miniature, Gunnar Theel’s steel metal sculptures appear as architectural inquiries or models with negative space playing a central role in the streamlined elegant compositions.
Gerard McCarthy’s quite different series of stoneware blocky figures explores the structural geometry of the otherwise organic body in various dynamic poses. Collectively the work in this exhibition generated a sense of presentness with its focus on solid form, process, and material.
Both exhibitions run from January 16 – February 21, 2021.
558 St Johns Place, Brooklyn 718-783-4438 Open Th-Sun 1-6 PM and by appointment
Katerina Lanfranco works on her art, art writing, and curatorial projects in Brooklyn, NY. She founded POVarts as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, and interviews with artists. For more details contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org