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Many of you have undoubtedly heard about the Chain Letter Show. The idea was a robust one—using the existing network of artists, create an international, artist-curated, pop up event at several locations around the world all at the same time. Ten artists were asked, and then they asked ten more, who then asked ten more. It is easy to see how you get to exponentiality very quickly, making this an idea that was clearly both crazy and very fun. How could I not go along for the ride?

On the day designated for dropping off work, my friend George Wingate and I arrived with our own work plus pieces by several of our friends at the Boston location, Samson Projects. By noon there were art objects stacked three and four deep, and a line of artists was starting to form in front. (By some accounts Samson ended up with over 1200 at the end of the day.) It was clear to George and me by mid day that this wasn’t a venue that would work for us or for our friends.

So there we were in the South End, our arms full of gorgeous pieces by artists we love. Then George and I had a “Salon des Refusés” (although in this case the “refusing” was self-inflicted) moment: Let’s decouple from the Chain Letter event and just have our own show: UNCHAINED. The first version of Unchained is here on Slow Muse, followed by a second “in the flesh” installation in George’s beautiful barn gallery in Wenham, just north of Boston, later this summer.

Here are the artists included in this first exhibit: Deborah Barlow, Kelvy Bird, Dennis Cowley, Pam Farrell, Patty Hanlon, Robert Hanlon, Don Howard, Elizabeth Mead, Holly Meade, Paula Overbay, Anne Pelikan, Mary Smith, George Wingate.

Enjoy.

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Deborah Barlow
Pyrre
18 x 18″
mixed media on wood panel

* * * *

Mary Smith
ancient string/fairy
12 1/2″ x 13 1/2″
Collage on paper

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Paula Overbay
Penelope’s Handkerchief
12 x 12″
mixed media on wood panel

* * * *

Elizabeth Mead
Internal Organs
Misc. sizes
Porcelain on wood shelf

* * * *

Pam Farrell
Chinese Whispers
18 x 18″
Beeswax over oil on mulberry paper on wood panel

* * * *

Kelvy Bird
untitled
20 x 20″
Mixed media on paper

* * * *

George Wingate
Adam Grows a Beard
8 x 10″
Acrylic on panel

* * * *

Patty Hanlon
Blue Scenery
5 x 6″
Plexiglass CD box, latex gloves, pigments

* * * *

Robert Hanlon
The Decision
5 x 10″
Pigment and shellac on panel

* * * *

Holly Meade
Young Man Trapped in War
12 x 12″
Woodblock print

* * * *

Don Howard
2010 Christmas Card
5 x 7″
Collage, paper, feather, paint, pen

* * * *

Anne Pelikan
The Lookers
4 x 6″
Paper postcard with sections cut out

* * * *

Dennis Cowley
View from Browns Island 2010
4 x 5″
silver gelatin print (pinhole)


Installation shot of works by Jacob Kassay

Trends, fads, instant celebritism, hype and its own version of insider trading, the art world (seems silly to call it a “world”—I would prefer a name that is more in line with drug trafficking or a proper noun like Wall Street) has always had its version of the tulip bubble running somewhere. Art world high jinx has been with us for some time. One of the latest hypings is a young artist named Jacob Kassay. A year or two ago he was an unknown, but now his work is selling at auction for outrageously high prices. His technique and pieces are not without charm and intrigue, but the hype is deafening. Too much too quickly. It just can’t be a good thing for Kassay’s organic development as an artist.


A welcome note on the front door to the Dark Room, by George Wingate

It is also a story that is in high contrast to an extraordinary experience I had this weekend. George Wingate, an artist I have known for most of my adult life, was offered the use of an empty storefront in Marblehead Massachusetts by a friend for a one day installation. What he assembled— paintings by himself and others, words on 3 x 5 cards, blue masking tape, found objects and even a video loop—was breathtakingly elegant in its simplicity and deeply moving to me personally. Simply called the Dark Room, this pop up installation offered a gently considered nod to the works of a few Wingate-aligned artists like Richard Tuttle, Yoko Ono and Henry Pearson. But George’s installation was as elemental and authentic a homage to his mysterious and complex journey as an artist as you can get. It was funny, it was poignant, it was sobering. And it brought a singular polyphony to his many parts—artist, thinker, seeker, reader, humorist, poet, seer. They were all there to be acknowledged, those disparate parts that have consistently informed and enriched his work over the many years I have known him.

It is hard to adequately describe why the Dark Room succeeded in being both deeply personal and yet larger than life. Without a whiff of manipulation or self-conscious posturing, George offered anyone who was lucky enough to have been invited a fascinating tour of his deep inner life as an artist.But this tour completely sidesteps the over-sharing, confessional, tediously TMI proclivities of our current culture. George takes you down deep with just a few simple objects and some words on a card. That brevity and essentiality is rare because it is hard to do. Very hard.

The number of people who saw the Dark Room is small. No artfanistas were milling around, and there will be no auctioning off of George’s blue masking taped words any time soon. But as for an unforgettably moving, extraordinarily authentic experience of how visual language operates in deep consciousness, this was a hit out of the park.


George Wingate (on the right)