Sifting “Thru the Rabbit Hole” at Sideshow Gallery “Nation IV”

Sideshow Gallery, Jan 9—March 20, 2016

Sideshow 1Walking the quiet weekday streets of Williamsburg, a bit stunned from a marital battle more pitched than usual, I turned into Sideshow Gallery’s “Thru the Rabbit Hole,” the 15th annual loosely uncurated show of all the painters of NYC. Or what would be all, if there weren’t so many of us. And there is sculpture, too.

It’s a magnificent munificent junk shop–don’t take offense, listen to what I’m saying! Almost all our shopping takes place in supermarkets where rows of identical products are lined up, branded and heavily advertised and most art galleries are like that, too. But ahhh… in a flea market, we look for a “find”. The eye, with difficulty, sorts out the gems from the chaff for itself and then, and only then , reads the tiny label containing just the name of the artist (and not the intentions blah,blah,blah of the artist like in “Greater New York”, thank God).

It’s not surprising, then, that the gallery is filled to bursting (on a weekday!) with artlovers and collectors of all types taking the opportunity to find out for themselves what their hearts and brains respond to. A hushed, avaricious atmosphere prevails.

It makes me so happy—painting does matter!

Elbowing my way in, I started on my collection. As can be seen from my pictures, there is no more than an inch or two between the works; that doesn’t matter at all and neither does the crowd so long as they don’t impede my view. When I look at a painting, I’m alone with it and it is alone with me.

Rachel Youens
Laura Newman









The first two paintings that grab me are by two painters whose work I know very well, Rachel Youens and Laura Newman, but the works are uncharacteristic and I don’t recognize them. The Youens is a watercolor seascape. Nothing special, really, except that the white of the paper dances around being reflections of the sea and sunlight in the air and paper, too –it’s entrancing.

The Newman is densely spaced, mostly vertical brushstrokes of ink and watercolor that effortlessly make a mountain. I wonder if it started as a way to clean a brush being used for some other work and then looked so good it captured her attention. A lot of artists these days seem to be trying to work with a few simple gestures of the brush (maybe influenced by Chinese painting?) to create a spontaneous appearance. This painting does.

Eric Holzman

I’ve seen a few shows of Eric Holzman’s paintings, so I recognized his right away and I knew to wait until it began to shimmer into a beautiful atmospheric landscape. I don’t understand his technique at all, there’s nothing spontaneous in the making, for sure, and it doesn’t even try to be beautiful until you look at it for a few minutes.

I wonder if this article is getting too long? For the short attention span that the internet creates, I mean.

Thaddeus Radell

The portrait by Radell is a little Rouault and a little Giacometti. Sometimes I think that the whole genre of painted portraiture just isn’t interesting any more, but when I saw this I wondered if that were true.

Bruce Gagnier

Ditto for this red chalk male nude. The face is so delicately boyish and the genitalia are beautifully drawn—my eye kept flitting between them. If it was hanging with the Del Sartos in the Frick, I think it would be accepted. Not because it looks old-fashioned, but because Del Sarto doesn’t.

And furthermore, the del Sartos are all taken and this Gagnier isn’t.

Lori Ellison

And Lori Ellison’s labyrinth medallion.

There are other wonderful works that the artists might be glad I would mention and maybe I will on another day when they are the ones that move me. And there is some awful stuff, too that the artists might be glad I didn’t. – CNQ


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