Olaf Breuning‘s recent solo exhibition at Metro Pictures were a step away from magnificent. I walked through the show on the last day, glad to have caught it before it was over and left feeling a few pounds lighter in the mind. Drawings and sketches were transferred and transformed to wall installations and wooden sculptures, all uniform in the ever ubiquitous black, allowing for a contemplative reflection that is part depressing part humorous, playful and non-serious. One-liner questions about the meaning of life are tainted with an ominous pessimism that if approached by any other artist, or individual, would risk a phone call to your nearby therapist. A philosophical ruse carelessly and unsuccessfully hides beneath these cartooned concoctions and their execution of paint direct on wall and small wooden blocks layered to form moved me with carefree ease. It made me envy the artist, his seeming effortlessness to not take life’s qualms too seriously, to take what you get and absorb what you see in the everyday and make fun of it, make fun out of it. Let’s mock pop culture and consume the overwhelming load of information we face everyday perusing the internet and living in this city and take a quiet moment to comically reflect what we’ve digested and how it plays within our deepest and darkest of souls. I responded this way to the show because it released my own wish to grapple with life’s quandaries by creating my own sanctuary of sorts. One that relishes in imagination and creativity, playfulness and presentness, all without losing grasp of what’s out there and leaving room for the distractions of the everyday to peek in and pester us with its unignorable presence. It’s a dreamy world, the one Breuning depicts, but not without its antagonist, the “what if” anxiety-stimulating monster that can coat our vision in black, it’s ability to oversimplify and upturn any aphorism with mocking and critical irony.
Tag Archives: Olaf Breuning
4 shows during my art crawl displayed a nostalgic creepy yearning for childhood, images that might have been created by a disturbed demon child, or something more somber and reaching for a grounded history where one is supported and taken care of by a larger force.
My initial reaction to Amy Wilson’s drawings at BravinLee programs were dismissive and unapproving. I was overwhelmed by the overproduction of text looming over each drawing taking all focus away from the scenery that didn’t seem to require much attention anyway because of its crude and childish execution. But, that seemed to be the whole point, that beneath these childish girly drawings about gardening, sweeping, caretaking, and daydreaming lies an inquisitive, communicative, deeply psychological and personal narrative, an illustrated diary full of half-schizophrenic thoughts and mental meanderings. I walked around reading as much as I could and learned to actually really appreciate and almost love them. They were intimate and precious and I wanted to take them home and hang it above my bed and read it to sleep. Her blog and website can be found and should be read.
Olaf Breuning’s show at Metro Pictures was a perfect reflection of a oeuvre with drawings, photographs, scultpures, and wall vinyls packing the show space with all its silly, childish, cartoonish reflections of our oh so crooked world. The works at times gimmicky and irrelevant, as if they were doodles of a child at school suffering through ADD, incapable on focusing on anything but his alternative world but in actuality, each image tells an easily read commentary: for example a drawing of a rollercoaster with the sign roller coaster right above. You don’t have to think too hard to get his work and they can be cheesy sometimes but the fact alone that he has executed them successfully without being completely dismissed is what makes them great and irresistable. His website here, NYT review here.
Steve DeFrank’s anal retentive process-perfect works were shown at Margaret Thatcher Projects and again, I was dismissive at first but ended being quite impressed by the process more than the content of his work. His foolproof method is rigorous and time consuming and unconventional. He uses wood which is hidden beneath paint depicting wood which then seems to be carved by childish graffiti or images depicting disney shaped themes, magical sparkles, seemingly computerized color shades, its all very conniving, as if performed by that schoolboy prankster deceiving us with his perfected schemes but we can’t be fooled for long because beneath the surface lays a weakness for hapless destruction and a search for balance and understanding. It seems to be one of many means of interpreting a cruel, relentless and unforgiving world.