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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jason Coates on Art of This Century

Jason Coates wrote a review of Art of This Century, my 2006 show at the Markel Building. The review was never published... UNTIL NOW!

I've added links to things -

Redefining the Center
Jason Coates

When discussing Martin Bromirski's one person show at Haigh Jamgochian's wonderfully out of place Markel Building in Richmond, VA, it is quite possible to focus only on the near-perfect matchup between the small group of paintings and the site. For starters, Jamgochian's office building- which resembles a gigantic flying saucer plopped down amid the car dealerships and strip malls on West Broad Street, has the same future-as-imagined-from-the-past quality that Bromirski's misty abstracts capture. Bromirski has a knack for redefining the center, often creating art venues where there were none. He's accomplished this with his popular art blog anaba.blogspot.com, his mock Art Basel at Stuffy's Sub Shop in Richmond, and now this show at what Bromirski deems the "Bizzarro Guggenheim". But equally as interesting is the way that the paintings ask you to imagine where they have been.

The handful of small paintings are hung in a circular lobby among an elevator entrance and vending machines. Yet, even in this modest setting, Bromirski's paintings appear unassuming- almost tailor made to blend into the space. It is this unassuming quality- bordering on sweetness and pathos- that sets this work apart from his earlier, grander paintings. Previously, Bromirski's large scale work would center around a tiny, barely recognizable figure dwarfed by it's surroundings . In the new body of work, the individual paintings become characters themselves, ready to be crammed into a suitcase like a stack of dog-eared postcards and rushed off to the next adventure.

The vocabulary in the paintings is limited: each containing one or more circular elements fixed atop a hazy backdrop. Many Japanese landscape drawings make use of the sun as a balancing device, acting like a free-floating punctuation mark above the picture plane. Bromirski focuses only on this sun-shape, doing away with the rest of the picture. The sun-shapes have various colors and moods. Some rub up against each another and appear to socialize, some seem quite and contemplative.

If Bromirski's work has always dealt, in some way or another, with accumulation of experience, the new paintings wear that experience on their skin. Often the sun-shapes are cut from the paintings, reveling the layers beneath. Bromirski uses colored sand and acrylic paint to build complex, pockmarked surfaces. The result is a nebulous environment that is both ethereal and terrestrial, like the surface of the moon. In my favorite work in the show, hung just to the right of a snack machine, Bromirski lovingly repairs a large gash formed at the center of the painting by weaving it back together and dousing it with silver paint. The care with which the painting is mended is visible, and makes one wonder how (or why) it got gashed in the first place.

In an art world where the more-is-more aesthetic has become so commonplace that it can't be called brash anymore, it is nice to see an off-the-beaten-path and understated show like Art of This Century. It is a show that stokes a desire to see more, rather than pounding the viewer over the head with everything within reach. While many artists confuse making a lot with saying a lot, Bromirski clearly knows better.


- THanKS, Jason!

PLUS: Vittorio Colaizzi's review of the same show... An Assault on Taste!!!

Markel Building
Haigh Jamgochian's Markel Building, Richmond VA.... FROM SPACE.

11 comments:

vc said...

Jason, great job, refreshingly absent is the shrieking rhetoric from the other guy.
Poking around I see you had many other reviews published, why not this one? Was it deemed unfit cuz it was in a non-traditional space? Or maybe Style didnt have enough "room" (read: commitment).
I'm being a little paranoid and combative on the part of art coverage, I know.

Martin said...

this was not for style weekly.

it was for a nyc thing - i was contacted by an editor after sending out my announcements. he said that if i could hook him up with a writer they could run a review. but it got lost on the desk or something... and they went through a few editors quickly. so it fell through the cracks.

vc said...

That's a real shame it didn't run, but at least it's in the public record now.

Barnaby said...

I love it Martin. Congratsz.. I am glad you could post it.

Nomi Lubin said...

Wow, nice. Really a shame it didn't run.

Do you feel like it was a good description of your work? Just wondering.

Martin said...

hi nomi -

i like that he understood how important the site was... that it wasn't just like someone said "hey do you wanna show your paintings here". i spent like three years admiring that building and thinking about that architect and his building/story, and the idea to try to have a show there gradually built up.

i had to find out who the owner of the building was and contact him, meet with him...

you probably don't know richmond but that place is not in an art district or even a place that gets any foot traffic at all. it's like strip mall area. even most of the people who visit that building for business didn't see them, because when you walk in the front door the wall you are standing in front of is the elevator. nobody really walks around to the other side. so it was really very much about my affinity for the building and wanting to see my paintings in that space... and the relationship that i was having with the space.

same thing for stuffy's, where i always ate and had two shows, although stuffy's gets a lot more traffic.

PLUS

- i like that he connected the show with the blog, and the larger idea of redefining a center...

- the idea of "individual paintings become characters themselves, ready to be crammed into a suitcase like a stack of dog-eared postcards and rushed off to the next adventure"... which is certainly true... if you follow the blog you will see the same paintings over and over, in a thumbs-up photo, floating in the ocean, photgraphed half-buried in snow, used in more than one exhibition, etc...

- "accumulation of experience"
- "a nebulous environment that is both ethereal and terrestrial, like the surface of the moon"

- and he mentions japan... which doesn't get picked up on very much.

so yes, it was a pretty good description.

Nomi Lubin said...

Thanks, Martin. Thanks for taking the time to write all that. Very helpful. I knew about that show from reading bits on here, but I didn't know that you'd spent that much time thinking about the space.

And, although I knew that it was an odd commercial non-art space, I did not realize that you'd put your pieces where they really could be missed. How strange and great.

Nomi Lubin said...

vc called your work "gloriously awful." That's funny.

That's good, right?

Better than awfully glorious.

vc said...

I'm also happy to read Martin's musings on the project and the space, and thinking about it again, both the building and the paintings togther were like a subversion of the giant Frank Stella in the bank lobby.

But subversion is the wrong word, more like a revelation that art in a corporate space, and a corporate space itself, does not have to have the same flavor all the time. And although the paintings were easy to miss, I hope some of the office workers got to see and enjoy them. I mean we're all working stiffs, right? I also wonder how many gallery frequenters in Richmond made the trek. It was a short walk from Kroger, but from the Kroger that was further out from town.

You know, one always hears about "initiatives" about bringing "the arts" to people, and all that is laudable and necessary, but Martin did it on a grass roots level, and without committees, and without compromising an inch on his own vision.

Martin said...

i'm awesome!

i made cards and promoted the show... so i think a number of art people who may have been curious about the building but had never been up close had a good excuse to make a visit.

nomi - i shouldn't leave the impression that i was trying to put them in a place people can't see them... that was incidental... i definitely wanted people to see them.

but, the show/space came first... and getting people to see them came after.

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