Stefan Bondell: The Black Box
New York, USA
Until 28 December 2013
The Hole is proud to present The Black Box, a solo exhibition by New York artist Stefan Bondell. Opening November 29, Black Friday, the exhibition will run through the end of the year in our Gallery 3 exhibition space. This is Bondell’s first exhibition at the gallery.
The Black Box is conceived as an exhibition about the secrets paintings can contain. Like the black box of an airplane or the expression as applied to covert ops, insider trading or government surveillance, the painter thought of this installation as his own black box, where his concerns and opinions are thrashed out in each of the paintings. Four ten-by-ten-foot paintings are installed in the room, each a deep black gouache and oil on canvas, and through the suggestion of shapes in each work, a narrative emerges.
Inspired by religious and history paintings as much as the current vicissitudes of the contemporary art world, these works were produced from years of meditation in the world’s museums on masterworks by Goya, Friedrich, Delacroix and Velasquez amongst many others. In the manner that old masters like Velasquez were employed by the court and were prescribed to paint what they were told in a style that was considered acceptable, but filled their paintings with hidden and even subversive content that could be deciphered by clues or hints in the canvas, so too does Bondell hope to address issues and ideas popular painting shies away from through his imagery or the juxtaposition of elements.
The four paintings feature silhouetted shapes painted meticulously in graduated oil paint against a deep flowing back background, whose aqueous pigments look like sand or water or dust and clouds, mist, a kind of dark ether. The silhouetted shapes are filled with mercury-looking illusionistic droplets that the artist sees as the building blocks of the universe, a visual representation of the energy and unity in the world. Some of the shapes are more ambiguous, an oceanic oil derrick for example looking like a strange satellite, while others have more specific cultural signifiers like a drone, a skeleton or a praying figure.
The floor of the gallery will be covered with over a million dollars of shredded US currency. In tiny fragments barely recognizable as money, these bills will be crushed under your feet and muffle the sound echoing in the space. In a moment where skyrocketing auction prices distract the compassionate art viewer from looking at and engaging with art, this show puts the financial side of the art market like so much waste underfoot, instead of infecting the paintings themselves. Conversely, the paintings could be seen as addressing the way money ties together the various cultural signifiers in each work, but that may be perhaps one of the secrets inside this Black Box.
The exhibition The Black Box will host one of Bondell’s well-known poetry readings that he has been organizing around the city for years, where he will read his poem “Black Box” alongside other poets Jonas Mekas, Bob Holman, Lizzi Bougatsos, Suheir Hammad and many others on December 12th.
Bondell (b. 1981 NYC) has exhibited this past year in “White Collar Crimes” at Acquavella Gallery “DSM-V” curated by David Rimanelli, and “Xstraction” here at the Hole. He has also been in exhibitions at Agnès B and “Pax Americana” and “Oil Kills” at the New York Marble Cemetery, as well as group exhibitions in Miami, LA and Italy.
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