to curse the darkness!
took a walk down to Chelsea the other day to take in something old
and new….the ancient art of charcoal drawing which gets a
marvelous modern update in Robert Longo's exhibition of recent
work, Surrendering the Absolutes.
art of representation is really the art of drawing light - of
light itself, of the way light reflects off objects or bodies, of
shadows, of darkness. With charcoal, color is reduced to
black and white and all the shades of gray. A softer, more
romanticized vision, for it is really the art of shadows….
The play of light on soft darkness, of the reductionism of
black-and-white, the subtle effect of chiaroscuro, a
technique used by artists as different as Caravaggio and de la
Tour, all used to powerful effect by the former bad boy of the
80's downtown art scene. Longo's work borders on tenebrism,
exaggerated contrasts of light and dark, which make these drawings
almost abstractions, less about naturalistic rendering.
centerpiece of the show is a brilliant five-panel drawing Untitled
(Cathedral of Light). Sunlight floods the space of a
church-like interior -- these worshippers are here, like Longo, to
pay homage to the light. Then there is the eerie light that
tentatively filters through the trees in a primeval-looking forest
in Untitled (Et in Arcadia Ego) -- the title alluding to
Poussin's titles for two of his 17th century pastoral paintings (Poussin
himself alluded to Virgil - even in Arcadia, death
lighted windows of an airplane at night in Untitled (Windows at
Night) (above) become an abstract composition of lighted plane windows
against hull, of hull against the glowing darkness of space….in
this and every work here, one is intensely conscious of light.
(City of Glass) is based on a satellite view of Tokyo….roadways
that look like fissures in a piece of shattered glass. A
city fragile, lighted filaments that stretch out like a web.
Longo, famous for his Men in the Cities series in the 80s
offers something far more luminous in this small and perfect show….
and well worth a stroll to visit on a sunny May day….
Longo, Surrendering the Absolutes, Metro Pictures