After weeks of advance promotion by word of mouth and various social media outlets, the much anticipated Alchemy and Metaphysics opened this past June 7th at Trestle Art Projects in Brooklyn. (the show ran from June 7th – July 3rd). The show curated by Kiley Ames, Jacob Hicks, and Lily Koto Olive transformed the art studio collective Trestle Art Projects into an extended gallery space featuring the work of 17 artists. The curators (and many of the artists) are alumni of the New York Academy of Art and were received with strong support from their community at the opening. Many of the artists featured in the exhibition come from highly academic, atelier modeled training; as such nearly all of the work has a figurative lean. Despite their roots, all of the artists’ work represents a refreshing departure from academia as each has honed their voice since leaving school.
The Alchemy and Metaphysics exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue of essays of the same title. According to the press release both the essays and the work capture each artist’s elucidations of “mythology, spirituality, metamorphosis, religion, science and ritual”. Ritual and metamorphosis were in full view in the performance of Maeshelle West-Davies entitled Hollow. West-Davies was the furthest artist from home opening night, having flown in from Germany to perform. Her two hour piece was preformed throughout the duration of the opening and involved the artist making intense, ritualistic movements while nude in a rubber pool and eventually covering herself in hot, melted chocolate which she rubbed from her body to paper squares attached to the proximal wall.
Upstairs in the main gallery is an installation by Jehdy Vargas. Vargas explores the mythology and reality of Santeria, the religion of her family, which employs spells and ritual objects to realize desires; in this case a love spell. Across from the abundant installation sits a small humble, box containing a different kind of mysticism and metamorphosis. The piece by Jacob Hicks features a cocooned caterpillar along with a photograph of a Death Head Moth and a statement instructing viewers that this is the potential creature hidden away in the box.
Further into the space are hallways and converted studio spaces containing paintings and installations. Many of the paintings suggest mythical and transformative themes. The paintings by Jane Lafarge Hamill, Greg Lindquist and Nadene Grey construct other-worldly realities, transforming the familiar into the unknown and back again. Jean-Pierre Roy’s Tintenklecks riffs on Rorschach blots, asking viewers to project meaning onto his carefully rendered, reflective shards. And Jonathan Beer’s painting combines paint, textures, and objects to create a conglomerate sense of Americana without actually depicting it.
The back 2 rooms of the show contain another work by Maeshelle West-Davies, a video installation Baggage, and an interactive installation by Lily Koto Olive entitled Transmutation. The installation includes, among other things, a suitcase full of fortune cookies, as well as instructions for the audience to interact and take part in the alchemical ritual with the objects in the room.
Alchemy and Metaphysics full list of artists included: Kiley Ames, Lasse Antonsen, Jason Bereswill, Jonathan Beer, Jessie Brugger, Barbara Cartier, Jeff Gipe, Nadene Grey, Jane Lafarge Hamill, Jacob Hicks, Greg Lindquist, Lily Koto Olive, Jean-Pierre Roy, Kaitlyn Stubbs, Jehdy Vargas, Maeshelle West-Davies, and Sarah Williamson.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nikki Vail is an artist and freelance writer from Denver living and working in Brooklyn. Her work may be viewed at NikkiVail.com.