Andrew Edlin Gallery features two simultaneous shows, or two related shows, or a show with a prologue. However you parse PURPLE STATES and Cafe Dancer Pop Up, remember to consider the source. Sam Gordon, the curator, has explored in his own art the slippery space between art objects and their surroundings. So it follows that his curated projects would have similarly porous boundaries.
That is, his tromp l’oeil paintings, exhibited at Feature in 2012, dissolved hierarchies between painting materials, such paint and canvas, and personal artifacts, like clothing remnants, studio sweepings, hair, and used matches. Likewise, these shows at Edlin stitch themselves to each other and carry along the social artifacts supporting them. Moreover, these shows take on the “insider-outsider” binary, employing it to reconsider each category and to synthesize hybrid results.
The “insider” part comes from Cafe Dancer Pop Up, for which Sam Gordon collaborates with artists/dancers Jessie Gold and Elizabeth Hart. Together, they dress up the gallery’s reception area into a Cafe Dancer “satellite” titled Gone Fishin’, which is inspired by Gold’s and Hart’s real-life Cafe Dancer at 96 Orchard Street, a reliable site for performances and exhibitions, and a partner of the NADA art fair. (See? Deep inside.) Works by artists from the Cafe Dancer scene line the long corridor of the gallery, especially artists with significant exposure that includes solo shows, art fairs, and/or residencies. Some exceptions are Arley Marks and Monique Mouton, artists whose work I haven’t seen, but will follow.
The “outsider” part is PURPLE STATES. A serigraph print by Sister Corita Kent literally points visitors “One Way” from the corridor to the main gallery space, where new and older art fuel each other. Dense zoning and bold layering open up the breadth and potency of individual works. We see how insider art often shares phylogenetic traits with outsider art, each occasionally passing as the other, and how insider art might be excused of the obsessive and pathological myths of outsider art. Lest we forget. Otherwise, a viewer can at least appreciate being steeped among art made by skilled artists who engage with their work through materials just as much as through concept.
Paul Chan’s crisp matrix of girls with penises pairs up with super-outsider Henry Darger’s Flamingo Abbieannian Girlscouts and reminds us that well-established artists like Chan can be indebted to (and just as freaky as) outsiders like Darger, for whom girls weren’t always female. Elisabeth Kley’s ceramic cage alone would strike me as complex and crafty, but Howard Finster’s apocalypse diorama turns it into a cage or disaster-bound vessel, while her ink filigree scroll maps out as spiraling missiles or black flowers from heaven. Tenuous landscape unites Brian Adam Douglas’ A Quietus with the hallucinatory facescape watercolor by Agatha Wojciechowsky.
A cosmic target icon made of thread and paint by Tony Cox accompanies a provocative naturalist motif by Forrest Bess, a “visionary” (which means “outsider”) recently resurrected for the 2012 Whitney Biennial, who earned six shows with Betty Parsons Gallery, the leading AbEx gallery, a historical fact that “demonstrates the extent to which this outsider was also very much an insider.” Next to it, the guitar-shaped icon by Guo Fengyi reminds me of Bess’ self-administered genital modification, the documents of which he unsuccessfully attempted to exhibit alongside his paintings at Betty Parsons.
Josh Blackwell’s embroidered plastic bags reanimate remnants, a meaningful process especially next to a pistachio shell painting by Lucky De Bellevue, who is also in the Dancer show, and who pairs well with Thornton Dial. And the Morton Bartlett bare-legged doll photos, combined with Gina Beavers’ sculptural hand paintings, could spawn a new show about animism (or spanking). Almost everything in this show is worth mentioning, and the connections are as fluid as observation allows. But the mystic launch happens in a symmetrical shrine ensemble that includes Brion Gysin, Steve DiBenedetto, Emery Blagdon, Richard Tuttle, an anonymous artist’s Tantric paintings, and drawings from the Korwa people of Uttar Pradesh. In this corner of the show, automatic writing, ritual, and asceticism join forces with itinerancy and travel – of the body, mind, and soul.