DANCING WITH RHINOS
Featuring Konstantin Bokov, Thomas Cox, Sally Eckhoff, Fred Gutzeit, Leslie Kerby, Yolanda Mesa, Elizabeth Riley, and Nicholas Sperakis
July 7 – July 20, 2017
Reception July 15th from 6-8PM
Dancing with Rhinos
From Rhino Horn to the Present
Back in 1969, a group of New York painters decided to elevate a kind of figurative art-making that would bring back the human condition as subject matter. Social consciousness would reverberate in the conversation of art once again. Thus Rhino Horn was born. Some of the names of its artists will resonate—Benny Andrews, June Leaf, and Red Grooms, for example—while others, like Peter Passuntino and Michael Feuerbach, might be familiar only if you were there. Between these two categories you’ll find artist and printmaker Nick Sperakis, who passed away last spring. “My work is about people at war with themselves,” Sperakis said. “I am completely opposed to cruelty, sadism, and brutality.” His woodcuts from the late 1960s show a Goya-like scrutiny of violence with a writhing, loopy line as wild as Dubuffet. Rhino Horn art is figurative expressionism: lively, confrontational, and at times grotesque. Sperakis’ two works in this show, a nude and a portrait, are by turns expansive and aggressive. The contemporary artists who accompany him are similarly cranky. Leslie Kerby’s small social-narrative painting of yuppies weighing Tiffany boxes is strongly reminiscent of Florine Stettheimer. Tom Cox’s montages of paintings and 3D objects are innocently crude and yet graceful. You’ll also find primitive and fantastic animals, odes to recycling, and dirty old work gloves. Fred Gutzeit, long-time Bowery resident and East Village art champion, worked alongside the Rhino Horn movement in the late 1960s, though he never officially joined the group. At the time he collided with the East Village art scene, he’d begun scavenging old work gloves and putting them into his paintings. Whether this was a rebuke to New York’s enslavement to style or a rousing call to people who still work with their hands, Gutzeit’s reverent treatment of these humble items turns them into a force for good, with a sly wink at those of us who are still in the art game for fun. In contrast, the cathedral-like space in his large paintings suggests a theatre of light for the mind.
The rear of the gallery is devoted to Konstantin Bokov, a Van Der Plas staple and longtime Far Rockaway resident who emigrated from Russia more than fifty years ago. Romantic, eclectic, and fearless, he indulges himself in his subject matter. He’ll paint anything from a tugboat speeding up the East River to a scattering of white marks on silver paper, an imitation Ojibway Indian artifact, or a woman’s ass. That last piece, displayed in a larger collage, was an accident; a response to conditions. “A crack in the surface is a crack. I mean a crack,” says Adriaan Van Der Plas. It’s been said that great art walks the line between corniness and eternity.
“Dancing with Rhinos” treads recklessly along it—and sometimes falls off.
Written by Sally Eckhoff