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Friday, October 22, 2021

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Arts + CultureArtReview: CULT's anniversary show finds courage to examine past...

Review: CULT’s anniversary show finds courage to examine past and present

James Perkins' Black minimalism and Chris Fallon's time-skipping depictions of women's forms stand out at "Janus II."

As we move further into reopening, CULT presents “Janus II—CULT’s 7 Year Anniversary Exhibition” at Fused Space (through May 20.) In this timely themed exhibition, the gallery invokes the Roman god Janus, whose two faces reflect on the past and look toward the future. Largely featuring artists in the gallery’s roster that very broadly relate to the curatorial theme, the exhibition’s ultimate focus is showcasing the gallery’s artists, which at this moment is a laudable gesture. Most excitingly, CULT introduces James Perkins and Chris Fallon in the gallery’s repertoire, which creates a refreshing and interesting dialogue on abstraction and representation in figuration.

James Perkins, “The Weight of My Appearance” (2016)

Meeting viewers as soon as they ascend the stairs into the gallery, Perkins’ “The Weight of My Appearance (Black),” (2016) is the most subtle, yet poignant piece in the exhibition. Two marble blocks—like feet—support a vertical black rectangle, which based upon the work’s title, mirrors the artist’s body. In addition to creating a figurative reference, Perkins cunningly inverts minimalism’s dependence upon viewers, which typically employs simple forms as foils to activate onlookers’ presence in the shapes’ reflective surfaces, rigid geometry, and seriality. However, Perkins’ matte black fabric denies non-Black viewers the satisfaction of seeing ourselves reflected, as if to say, “it’s not about you” and “your gaze does not activate me.” Moreover, for Black viewers, the work holds space within the historically rather white art world that may mirror their own presence. While the work formally explores Blackness as abstract color, it actually engages in a much larger and more complicated discussion about race in an art historical context and currently in the art world and society at large.

Chris Fallon, “Loaded Compliment” (2021)

Exhibited on the wall behind Perkins’ work, Fallon’s two still-life paintings use pictorial space with a graphic flatness and layers of representation. In “Loaded Complement” (2021), Fallon draws upon art historical references for death and fertility. In his still-life, the artist paints a stylized black-and-white photographic portrait of a woman in a picture frame. With a replica of the “Venus of Willendorf” (25,000 BP) on the table (the original is held in the collection in the Natural History Museum in Vienna), the artist draws upon its symbolism of fertility. In painting both a three-dimensional and a photographic representation of women, Fallon paints representations of copies, one ancient and the other more modern. Additionally and most mysteriously, a graphic blue hand holds cut flowers, which in art historically symbolize death. As still-life in its art historical frame is nature morte, French for dead life, the artist adds cut flowers and the “Venus” to create a cascading set of references about life and death.

As CULT introduces Perkins and Fallon, the gallery takes the opportunity to expand their vocabulary. To invoke Janus—as many of us have over the last year, reflecting upon our private and professional lives—we stand at the threshold of an opportunity to reinvestigate our own practices, which for galleries could mean taking new risks, stretching their rosters, and investing in new curatorial practices and models.

“Janus II—CULT’s 7 Year Anniversary Exhibition” is open through May 7 at Fused Space. More information here.

Genevieve Quick
Genevieve Quick is an interdisciplinary artist and arts writers. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, cmagazine, and Art Practical.

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