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April 18, 2014
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A rose by any other name


I’m pretty sure that it’s not just the dry weather that has me scratching my head. As I dug out the truck and headed off to the Alliance Gallery ( ArtsAllianceSite.org ) in Narrowsburg, NY, I was struck by how quickly another year has elapsed. Once again, love is in the air—but not for me. “Be Mine Also,” a group show celebrating love, kicked off a three-week exhibit, curated by Mary Greene and Rocky Pinciotti, with poetry, “found art” and enough romance to easily last me another 12 months.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, but after being bowled over by the show last year, I was hoping for something that would pick up where that left off. Instead, though the place was packed and the crowd enthusiastic, I still found myself a little bit, well... let down. Maybe I’m jaded, possibly bitter but (IMHO) the whole affair was a bit of a retread and my search for romantic enlightenment continues. Oh, Romeo...

Wherefore art thou?

Having missed the reception last week at the CAS Arts Center ( catskillartsociety.org ) in Livingston Manor, NY, I did a quick drive-by to check out the new show “Figure/Ground,” featuring the work of artists Richard Brachman, GG Stankiewicz and Richard J Kreznar. Kreznar’s artist statement informs the viewer that “If someone is going to spend time studying my paintings, it’s my obligation to give them something challenging to see. In the end, the work has to justify itself. If it succeeds, it is because I reacted to the painting and led it along to where it wanted to go.”

Granted, I did not spend a lot of time “studying” the various works, but left the beautiful gallery still unchallenged, still scratching, still searching, still seeking a way for the work to justify itself.

Can you say Dada?

Yes, I can, but even (way back) in college, when studying Dadaism, I didn’t want to—and frankly, still don’t.

Also in Livingston Manor, Claire Colemans’ latest group show, “Dada,” at her Main Street emporium, the Plunk Shop ( facebook.com/pages/The-Plunk-Shop ) is, if nothing else, challenging. Discussing the “movement” (which began in Zurich, Switzerland during World War One and peaked between 1916 and 1922) with Coleman turned out to be stimulating and provocative and I was a bit relieved to have the show elicit a response from within.

Wikipedia describes Dadaism as a “cultural phenomenon that involved visual arts, literature, theatre and graphic design which is anti-war, anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature.” The website goes on to describe this period in art history by stating that “Dada was not art, it was anti-art. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend. Through their rejection of traditional culture and aesthetics, the Dadaists hoped to destroy the same.”

Well, all I can say is: “Job well done!” I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that the work offends me or my sensibilities, but it still leaves me cold (presently, three degrees) and scratching my weary head. Coleman is passionate about art and our conversation was illuminating, but the light bulb remains off for me. Dadaism clearly had impact on the art world and created a unique, new approach to what one considers artistic expression, which influenced later styles such as avant-garde, surrealism, pop art and punk rock. (Oy!)

While far from new at this point, the style still stirs the emotions, good, bad and ugly. During its heyday, one reviewer from the American Art News described Dada philosophy as “the sickest, most paralyzing and destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man.” Ouch. Just when I thought I was being too harsh, or critical of something I simply failed to understand, I find that I am not alone in my evaluation, which, quite naturally, serves to validate me in a way that no Valentine ever could.

At the very least, all things Dada can still get a rise out of me and makes it clear that true artists could not care less what my opinion is, humble or otherwise. As my search continues, I am reminded that all artistic expression is valid (even mine!) and that abstract art and sound poetry have their place, so I will keep on looking for it.