Friday, July 19, 2013

Edward del Rosario at The Nancy Margolis Gallery

Nancy Margolis traditionally has very thought-provoking and imaginative pieces at her gallery in Chelsea.

I found the work of Edward del Rosario to be amazing.  I wasn't able to get good photos of his work because the surface of his paintings is very glossy (he creates a beautiful sheen on his canvases) and so it was impossible to take photos without getting reflections from the gallery lights. I would recommend a trip to the Margolis Gallery at any time, because she consistently puts up amazing stuff!

Margolis writes that del Rosario paints "imaginary characters in stage-like environments" and that the work is deliberately "enigmatic." 

In the piece above, we see that some figures look over a type of parapet at a few folks of varying types who seem to have differing relations to the fort-like structure.  Among the figures outside are some who are simply dressed and wearing masks while some figures (from a rival or neighboring fort?) are elaborately dressed and circling the fort.

There's a definite class structure among the folks inside the fort - one guy is wearing a crown while two women are dressed as maids and there seems to be one military guy - and the beautifully dressed folks walking outside the fort seem to have a class structure as well (one is also crowned).

The three simply dressed figures seem more egalitarian in orientation. The two male figures, with masks, seem to be acting furtively, while the topless female character ingenuously stands watching after having gathered some type of food. Has she been caught in the act of 'poaching' (along with the male figures) by the approaching figures?  Is she a decoy to distract attention? Just what is going on here?  The "indigenous" two male figures have cans of gasoline and one of the approaching figures, with an elaborate dress, carries a fire on the end of her stick.

The piece is called "Civilization II," in fact, and it almost looks like an allegory on state development or 'tribal conflict' based on something like Fukuyama's The Origins of Political Order.  What I liked is the ambiguity of the story and relationship of the figures, but also the implication that once you urbanize, a totally different culture is created that embraces and reifies social class while concomitantly promoting the ideals of freedom and equality as a type of social lubricant (you have a type of common identity and equality of social obligation on the parapet - everyone is keeping watch). 

The religion of 'outsiders' or 'rural dwellers' often involves intense social bonding, self-sacrifice and a relationship of the whole society to nature.  The religion of 'cities' is traditionally a religion of tolerance, harmony and individual self-development within a structured social group. 

However, folks outside of this social group are often perceived as a 'threat' and the toleration, harmony and brotherly love are often not applicable to them.  When Ho Chi Minh visited Paris and New York, he was amazed by the rights that even very poor people had within those societies.  He was also appalled by how heartless the French and Americans were to his own society.  This seems to be the most salient message to me from the work of del Rosario.

Here's a link to the gallery. It's been one of my favorites for a long time.

Me in my art hat...yes I know I need to drop a few pounds...


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