Gallery Hop: Lesley Heller Workspace & James Fuentes

David Storey - Old Turtle, 2009 oil on canvas 16" x 20" - at Leslies Heller Workspace through Nov. 27th, 2011 (photo courtesy of Leslie Heller)

Lower East Side galleries including Lesley Heller Workspace and James Fuentes debuted provocative new shows last night.

Lesley Heller’s Head Case makes a case for crazy. Curated by painter and guest curator Laurel Farrin, Head Case posits that madness isn’t so bad really, affirming what we’ve known all along: Being a little off-kilter stirs the imagination, invites strange machinations and stimulates creative visions all of which, by the way, open the possibility for transformation. Occasionally, it’s been harnessed to produce great art. Farrin plays with the double meaning of head case -– it’s a term coined to cover a crazy person, yes, but also is used to describe the part of a chrysalis that covers a developing insect’s head. (We didn’t know that…!)

A couple of highlights: Julia Schwadron’s Self Help series features actual titles of self-help books, holding up a mirror to the constantly shifting notion of self-hood and identity. Alex O’Neal’s Delta CityYou bursts with pride and color, a majestic vision –- real or imagined.

Most notable is John Haskell’s audio recording “I am Not Jackson Pollock” which consists of a more than 10-minute monologue by the artist relating a story about Pollock’s struggle with the subconscious and his tortured sense of self.  Set at the Cedar Tavern, a favorite haunt of Pollock’s and other painters in the 40s and 50s, the tale is told, quite convincingly, as if it happened last night. Engaging and surreal at once, the listener is left to wonder how the story was constructed and whether, in fact, parts of it are real.

Tom Kotik Prelude, 2010 plywood, latex paint, painters tape 46" x 75" x 48" at Leslie Heller Workspace (photo courtesy of Leslie Heller)

In addition to the group show, Heller presents a solo show in her front gallery — Tom Kotik’s Tone. Kotik, a musician and artist, offers elegantly produced photographs of his guitar collection –- each portrait seems to appear as a living, breathing organism. The guitars, to this viewer, look like people. In addition, amplifiers, the dimensions of which are altered, hang from the wall like paintings on canvas. Their lines are clean, spare and clinical. In this work, Kotik explores the intersection between sound and architecture.

Give, 2010-2011 Oil on limestone polymer on panel 56.25" x 53" by Jessica Dickinson at James Fuentes Gallery through Dec. 11, 2011

At James Fuentes, painter Jessica Dickinson’s Before/Bedside probes the breakdown of binary structures that separate inside from outside, subject from object, and suspension from closure. For more than a year, Dickinson labored over her canvases, adding and subtracting, layering, notching, scraping and staining, all of which conspire to offer the viewer multiple dimensions and delights.

Always-Also, 2011 Oil on limestone on polymer panel 54.25" x 48" by Jessica Dikinson

Look once, twice, or three times at the gorgeous, orange Always-Also and see new images and ideas emerge with each glance. Artifacts, leftover etchings and tracings, stainings and hieroglyphics appear in the rich blueness of Give. While they don’t have the visceral impact of the aforementioned Always-Also and Give, the grey works Close/Close and Before/Bedside challenge the viewer to stick with the work to seek its truth.

Remainder: Toward 2, 2011 Graphite on paper by Jessica Dickinson. Photo courtesy of James Fuentes LLC.

Dickinson’s Remainder series is large-scale graphite works on paper. This series consists of graphite rubbings of each painting while in progress, which produce an impression every time the surface has changed significantly. The works evoke absence and presence as the artist has worked to make the original image invisible, partial or erased. For Before/Beside Dickinson exhibits a sequence of Remainders created from the painting Towards (2010) - which wasn’t included in the exhibition.

Head Case and Tom Kotik are on view at Lesley Heller Workspace at 54 Orchard St. through November 27. Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat. 11 am-6pm and Sun 12-6pm. Jessica Dickinson’s Before/Beside is on view at James Fuentes at 55 Delancey St. through December 11. Gallery Hours: Wed.-Sun. 11am-6pm.