For two weeks in May, we were treated to the luminous brushstrokes of Gencay Kasapci’s acrylics on canvas, to Keth Morant’s subtle and playful sketches on paper, to the explosive fury in Vera’s Arutyunyan’s provocative and energetic abstracts, to the delightful Clifford Faust’s disturbing paper cuts of charming, voluptuous women feasting and feeding their desires, to Yilmaz Zenger’s sublime transpositions of
pomegranates and female genitalia and the mixed media of Milena Jovicevic, a hands down favorite of the show, whose simple but provocative portrayal of a fragile heart stopped ours for an instant. Twenty-two artists participated in the Broadway Gallery group exhibition, “Apple II: Temptation”; in addition to those just
mentioned. Other artists exhibiting included Terrence Allen, Aviva Beigel, Carruco, John F. Champoli, Vincent Elliott, Patrick Fenech, IRIS Genevieve Lahens, Peter Harrap, Hans Johansson, Milena Jovicevic, Saroushka K., Gencay Kasapci, Aleksandra Jarosz Laszlo, Pietro Maffei, Francesco Mai, Gunilla Oldenburg, Mark Rodriguez and Irina Urumova.88The original “Apple” show recently returned to New York City after two successful sojourns in Valencia and in Beijing, but when curator Tchera Niyego offered us “Apple II” last month, we took the bait, tempted by her promise of works that would engage and inspire. This would be an exhibition to speak to temptations, to love and lust and to the most primal component of temptation: our attraction to all things worldly. This show promised to unearth temptation as a fundamental misstep of perception, one that has us believing in the material world, its existence, integrity, stability and value. Temptation, on Niyego’s premise, names a human propensity to ignore the primacy of the “one”; it separates and divides. It names our downfall.88Oddly, none of the artists exhibiting opted to comment on the metaphysics of temptation. To the contrary, nearly of them all engaged the theme of temptation by exposing and mobilizing psychic and cultural fault lines in traditional and historical constructions of desire. There was less of a consensus among these artists than a fall into multiplicity, with each artist and each work offering idiomatic versions of temptation. The likes of tracking devices are needed to get at these mechanisms, and the artists in the “Apple” show were inventive to that end.
The majority of “Apple II” artists focused on the ambiguity of desire and the cultural construction of identity. Some of the highlights included a photo-simulation of Eve in the Garden of Eden in which the narrative of a lost paradise, which has adeptly served as a pretext for lost innocence, invariably recoils. If a subtle cynicism mars the credibility of such fables, it is the pathos of the figure of “the feminine” that is finally upset. Paradise is demythologized. The temptress Eve, while beautiful and enticing, is neither innocent nor calculating, but bored.
“Bad artist,” the pseudonym of Saroushka K, whose minimalist outline of the male form beckoned us from the far wall of the gallery space, won attention with her humor. This simple graphic nod to the ubiquity of the phallic signifier could only be taken with tongue in cheek. “Bad Artist” gave a manifesto, and her position within the show underscored a sentiment that any facile acceptance of cultural and hegemonic constructions of desire must be resisted. Aleksandra Jarosz Laszlo’s portraits of a woman and a man, placed side by side, addressed gender-specific differences in the experience of desire. Any theory here of an essential difference in perspective is undermined by a sense of abandonment and loneliness marking each portrait. Loss is figured as the space of an irreparable chasm, the consequence of a non-relational relation, and a failure. Our attention is drawn to the blank wall in between, to that limit where perspective fails; ultimately we are separate and alone. Irina Urumova’s sinister pre-pubescent children in self-reflective defiance menaced our perceptions of this time of innocence. However cute these girls may be, you can bet they are headed for reformatory school. Repetition succeeded as a motif in Aviva Beigel’s Look!, and in the work of Australian artist, Terrence Allen. An addition to his work at the original “Apple” show, Allen introduced us to yet another facet of the complicated work of desire. His luminous panels of color, composed of thousands of minute dots, possessed the power of the hypnotic that attested to rapture or a compulsive pleasure inscribed in obscure details.
From the lure of Francesco Mai’s digital images of cold, semi-organic mechanisms to Pietro Maffei’s oil paintings of phantasmatic blue vixens, to an emphasis on texture in Iris’ oils and mixed media on canvas to the iconic and elemental in Hans Johansson’s whimsical oils, temptation takes on a myriad of shapes and forms. Like a serpent’s tongue, it tantalizes, teases and threatens; from every corner, muffled desire beckons, speaking its breathy, earthly tones of joy, spinning, a tale repeated, refurbished, renewed. 8th exhibition “Apple II: Temptation” delivered in unexpected ways. It magnified worldly concerns, loss, abject longings and unconscious networks of desire. There is neither before nor after the fall, only a hiatus—no step beyond, only here and now.
NY Arts Magazine, September / October 2007.