Heroes Through March 13; Friday, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Satellite Contemporary, satellite contemporary.com.
There is no genome for artistic lineage. No way to put an artwork under a microscope and extract the creative DNA. Artists rip each other’s work. They copy, alter, revise and censure style and technique, but determining how one artist shapes and forms another remains a puzzler. While some artistic influences leave their traces behind—maybe in a type of paint stroke or a particular palette—often the evidence doesn’t show.
Yet artistic affinity remains at the secret center of most art making, as Satellite Contemporary’s Heroes reminds us. For the exhibition, Satellite curators—accomplished artists in their own right—decided to showcase the artists who inspire them. Nicole Langille Jelsing, Christopher Kane Taylor and Dennis McGinness selected 15 small-format pieces that cohabit the gallery like old friends who’ve gone in different directions and reunited, somewhat awkwardly, for the occasion. The show maintains visual coherence, despite the radically different artistic styles in the paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs.
Among the standouts is a gestural oil painting by Alan Crockett. “Chapeau Charade” is a kind of madhouse of mark-making in which new marks seem on the verge of emerging while others sink back into the picture plane. The layering of abstract pictographs, symbols and blotches alludes to Paleolithic cave painting at one end of the spectrum, jazzy painters like Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollock at the other. There’s meaning to this onslaught, “Chapeau Charade” seems to suggest. The pleasure of viewing it comes largely in the decoding. Is that a fedora or an anagram in Hindi?
Another work of note—“Painting Number 7” by Peter Adsett—belongs to an altogether different artistic planet. The minimalist black and blue canvas has nothing to do with interpreting pictorial marks and everything to do with experiencing purities of proportion, line and color. Adsett’s geometrical abstraction hinges on the weight and balance of the picture planes manifesting in front of the viewer’s eyes. Despite its simple, hard-edge forms, the composition has a weirdly soft, even fleshy, feel. “Painting Number 7” would have greater impact with more space around it, which a small gallery like Satellite cannot afford.
Heroes includes mysterious photogravures by Hanlyn Davies, an allegorical pop figure by Jerry Kerns, and a literary book sculpture with self-referential commentary by Ann Hamilton. The exhibition also presents three “outsider” art pieces that have emotional appeal without significantly enriching the outsider aesthetic. Overall, Heroes brings a perky range of interesting artists from as far away as Australia to Las Vegas, so we can readily absorb their influence here.