The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

4/9/14

PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery

PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery

The exhibition of new sculpture at Cavin-Morris Gallery shows a sense of curatorial care which imbues the space with the feeling of a dining room methodically organized for a dinner party, where the attention is paid not only to the detail of the space, but to the preferences and tastes of the soon to be arriving guests:
“In the case of this exhibition, PraiseSongs for the Numinous, and these artists presented we had to, as curators, build a familiarity with the artist, the work, and its context in the artists’ world to know just where that intentionality was. There are common threads here, but possibly the most common one is that of animism, the belief in spirit contained in organic and inorganic objects.”
Guillaume Couffignal Théâtre, 2014 Bronze 41.5 x 32 x 25.5 inches 105.4 x 81.3 x 64.8 cm
Guillaume Couffignal
Théâtre, 2014
Bronze
41.5 x 32 x 25.5 inches
105.4 x 81.3 x 64.8 cm
The cohesivity of the show gives rise to this collective animism which pervades the space like a unified voice, a voice both old and recognizable yet palpably new and invigorating. What might pass as a collection of anthropological finds en route to a museum of history, the sculptures collected here carry a weight of the past with them despite being so recently crafted. The dynamic animism which the curators so rightly saw in the artists they brought together is an animism of mythical spirit, an energy of old which makes the works feel like sacred relics that were uncovered rather than produced. For some of the artists, this feeling of discovery opposed to production for the purpose of sale is intrinsic to the pieces; Gregory Van Maanen’s amulets were not made for sale but as gifts to family and friends as objects of healing: “they are extensions of his intimate observations of Nature and its occult unpredictabilities.” Kevin Sampson’s works, too, are meant to be amulets; they’re the “spirit yards of the south in miniature,” tiny representations of a larger, sweeping feeling meant to preserve and pay homage to communal memory.
Gregory Van Maanen Untitled, 2014 Acrylic and ink on stone 2.75 x 2 x .25 inches 7 x 5.1 x .6 cm GVM 2344
Gregory Van Maanen
Untitled, 2014
Acrylic and ink on stone
2.75 x 2 x .25 inches
7 x 5.1 x .6 cm
GVM 2344
The curators call Mark Perez’ work “messengers,” as if their existence isn’t the ‘art’ or finished products themselves, but simply a means of conveying a larger experiential message to whomever happens to stumble across them. It’s for this reason, this sense of conveyance opposed to the explicit itinerary of selling, which makes the exhibition feel both unassuming and inviting. Ghyslaine and Sylvain Staelens’ sculptures reign over a “mystical landscape,” being more about “the voices in the woods: gypsies, pagans, witches,” than they are about the contemporary environment in which they’re situated. In this sense, all of the artists embody this sense of space/time displacement, or a place of “timelessness” which the curators themselves admit to trying to bring about in the exhibition. They say “we wanted to show work that moved backwards as well as forward temporally.” The show certainly succeeds, and the movement (the animas, spirit, and animism) makes it worthwhile to spend the time in the gallery’s space, which may or may not feel like a time in the present.
Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staelens Le Chamane, 2013 Wood, metal, cloth, found objects 68 x 37 x 25 inches 172.7 x 94 x 63.5 cm
Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staelens
Le Chamane, 2013
Wood, metal, cloth, found objects
68 x 37 x 25 inches
172.7 x 94 x 63.5 cm
Marc Perez Yak bâté , 2012 Mixed media 13.25 x 11.25 x 5.5 inches 33.7 x 28.6 x 14 cm
Marc Perez
Yak bâté , 2012
Mixed media
13.25 x 11.25 x 5.5 inches
33.7 x 28.6 x 14 cm
New sculpture by Jane Wheeler, Phyllis Sullivan, Tim Rowan, Melanie Ferguson, Monique Rutherford, Sarah Purvey, Kevin Sampson, Gregory Van Maanen, Guillaume Couffignal, Sylvain Corentin, Marc Perez, Sandra Sheehy, and Ghyslaine and Sylvain Staelens are on view now at PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery at 210 Eleventh Ave., Suite 210. The show continues through April 26, 2014.
- Amie Zimmer
All photos courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery