Review of “Sublimation Simulacrum” and “The Mericle Paintings” at Cohn Drennan Contemporary (2012)

Variety of style and reference, scale and medium, motivation and effect — with Angel Fernandez and Kit Reisch’s “Sublimation Simulacrum” and Cande Aguilar’s “The Mericle Paintings,” Cohn Drennan Contemporary offers two shows that work together as an eccentric motley. And though the work occasionally leans towards derivation, it is its overall quality and aspiration that leaves the bigger impression.

Cande Aguilar’s more successful works hang in a separate room at the back of the space. They are frenetic mixed media pieces, heavily textured and worked with common or discarded materials, like some impulsive art experiment in urban pop culture. We find all kinds of colors and all kinds of paint applied all kinds of ways. And while our eye finds nowhere to rest with these three paintings, it’s fine; the work is fun and the frenzy not too unsettling. One minor complaint: all Aguilar’s diminutive work in the front of the gallery, Gallery A, comes across gimmicky and uninspired.

What really takes over the gallery space is the work of Fernandez and Reisch. Fernandez’s sculptures give shape to his whimsical imagination. We find them mounted on the wall and hanging from the ceiling. Their size commands the space and appropriates us. They mostly seem like soft, playful shapes you can half recognize, as if Oldenburg were dreaming beyond the bounds of real objects. And all the odd spires and spheres and nipples suggest a blithe eroticism. Unfortunately Fernandez’s charcoal drawings do little for his sculptures and even less for the show, but that’s only a small quibble; it’s nice work.

Reisch’s work comes off a bit more challenging. Not in an intellectual or aesthetic sense, rather in deciding whether it flirts too closely with derivation. His humorous and self-referencing sculptures featuring fairly naturalistic representations of the lower of half of the body, “Dead Me” and “Take Me with You,” look like he collaborated with Robert Gober. His light installations, winding slowly and mechanically, seem like reductions of Hans Peter Feldmann’s “Schattenspeil” (Shadowplay). Yet they are so well done, so thoughtful, that their striking similarity to other work is ultimately only a minor distraction. “Cleansing Light” is in fact mesmerizing. Reisch also exhibits drawings, and though fine in their own right, like Fernandez’s, they do little for the show. Otherwise the work, while heavily referential, still impresses.

It should be noted that Aguilar’s exhibition closes a week ahead of Fernandez and Reisch’s.

—Andy Amato, PhD
Andy Amato is an artist, writer and teacher

(This review originally appeared in Arts+Culture Magazine)

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