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Allan Stone Gallery Shows Accumulation with Works by Several Artists
Dan Basen, Concentration Camp, 1964, mixed media, 8 x 6 x 1 1/4 in. Photo: Courtesy Allan Stone Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Allan Stone Gallery presents Accumulation, an exhibition featuring works by Arman, César, Dan Basen, Rosamond Berg, Barry Cohen, Linda Cross, Maureen McCabe, Wayne Nowak, Kathryn Spence, the Philadelphia Wireman, Philip Sultz, Krista van Ness, Bill Will, et al.

If collage, the major innovation of early 20th century art that led to everything we now classify as “mixed media,” was born when Picasso and Braque revolutionized still life painting by pasting pieces of real newspaper into their Cubist compositions, the actual object as an autonomous entity in art truly came into its own with the advent of Dada and Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades.”

Arman was born in France but spent the longest and most productive period of his career in New York City, where he became best known for letting paint tubes speak wittily for themselves, spewing blobs of brilliant pigment within blocks of clear epoxy. Also on view are Arman’s accumulations of aspirin tubes and welded revolvers, as well as a work in which loose scraps that look like the contents of an overturned wastepaper basket coalesce into a composition with an elegance akin to a Motherwell collage.

César established himself as the most famous French sculptor of recent decades with works ranging from fantastic representations of animals and insects to sculptures made with crushed car parts that are often compared to those of John Chamberlain, another artist Allan Stone showed and collected. The brilliantly colorful, blockily compacted piece by Cesar featured in the exhibition is one of the prime examples of his “compressions.”

Both Arman and César were associated with Nouveau Realisme –– a French movement typically incorporating consumer goods and other three-dimensional objects, whose original meaning becomes muddled when translated into English, because besides being a synonym for Pop, the term New Realism has also been confusingly applied to various kinds of contemporary figurative painting.

In any case, it can be tempting to draw a line of demarcation between the European and American artists in the exhibition by pointing out that the formers’ use of mass-manufactured products is often more naked and blatant than the more poetic works by American artists.

Certainly Maureen McCabe’s accumulations of colorful feathers in bell jars are as evocative for the sense of wistfulness that they convey. The same for Barry Cohen’s metal egg crate with real eggs, straw, and miniature wooden hens arranged as in a surreal candy sampler that might at any moment hatch amid a cacophony of chirping.

Equally evocative, one of Dan Basen’s assemblages brings to mind a city skyline with vertical stacks of colored chalk, while another, “Concentration Camp,” makes the holes in an aggregation of buttons massed behind a wire grid suddenly appear as haunting as a crowd of hollow eyes and beseeching mouths. The argument can be made that Basen’s compartmentalized conglomeration of loose paint tubes, lined up like products on the shelves of an art supply store is a prime example of Nouveau Realisme.

By contrast, Linda Cross’ rocky terrains rubbled with rusty tin cans, tires, and other debris are tours de force of tactile trompe-l’oeil, flawlessly fabricated in paper and acrylic, making their accumulative aspect more virtual than actual. Yet what unites them with the rest of the work in the show is that they are chockablock with sociopolitical implications vis-à-vis the disposable culture of consumer glut, industrial waste products, and what Cross, specifically, refers to as “the encroachment of civilization” on a natural setting.

Just as germane as the aesthetic ecology that some of these artists practice simply by recycling everyday detritus through creative vision –– as well as the questions they raise concerning our compulsion to collect, classify, and create taxonomies –– is the sheer sense of wonder the viewer experiences upon encountering Bill Will’s “$100,” a block of clustered pennies suggesting the cut-rate cousin of a gold bar from Fort Knox; Philip Sultz’s “books” of weathered tree bark and paper treated with subtly faded and chipped watercolor; Rosamond Berg’s many tiny white or beige bags of “Spring Air Dust” or “Sea Flight Dust”; Krista Van Ness’ mound of cicada shells piled up behind glass; Wayne Nowak’s Victorian birdcage housing a fanciful assortment of alphabet blocks, drumsticks, cosmetics bottles, and other incongruous things; and Kathryn Spence’s surprisingly convincing little birds fashioned from unadorned wads of crumpled trash and string, positioned on a long pedestal in the winningly derelict manner of sparrows and pigeons meandering aimlessly over a city sidewalk.

Also included are mysterious and powerful wire and junk sculptures by a presumably deceased outsider artist known only as Philadelphia Wire Man, as well as selected memory vessels.

Artists in exhibition: Arman, César, Dan Basen, Rosamond Berg, Barry Cohen, Linda Cross, Maureen McCabe, Wayne Nowak, Philadelphia Wireman, Kathryn Spence, Philip Sultz, Krista van Ness, Bill Will, et al.

The Allan Stone Gallery | Accumulation | Arman | César | Dan Basen | Rosamond Berg |

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