We Build the World Inside Our Heads

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Bwog staffer Julia Butareva reviews the Freight and Volume Gallery’s exhibit featuring works by Alexia Stamatiou, Elizabeth Huey, Todd Herbert, Daniel Rich, and Scott Anderson.

Elizabeth Huey’s painting “The Inquisition” easily dominates the small space that is the Freight and Volume Gallery. The gallery really is tiny and makeshift: two employees sit at their computers in a darkened nook about the size of a bathroom, and carelessly stored artwork spills out into the exhibition space.

Among the glossy, simplified suburb-scapes, Huey’s imposing collage can’t help but stand out. It’s a landscape with a Gothic mansion atop a mountain. A town full of rustic houses can be seen in the distance. The sky is gray.

In accord with the exhibition’s title, “We Build the Worlds Inside Our Heads,” Huey’s giant collage is a bizarre amalgam of people, places, and things, with no obvious unifying principle – rather like the exhibition itself. The sky has squares of varying shades of blue on it, as if it is remembering all the other colors that skies have been. Some of the houses look like they belong in fairy tales, others in conservative suburbs. The Gothic mansion is dilapidated and spooky at the top, but at the bottom it bears a closer resemblance to a marble castle. An angel in a corner looks as if stepped out of some expulsion-from-Eden scene—it brandishes a sword and its mouth is open in an angry cry. But its sword is some sort of ninja weapon and it wears a distinctly science-fiction costume. It also happens to be attacking a fox…which is standing upright. Up the hill from this duo, a magician conjures a desktop computer. It’s a game in free-association, and all the players are familiar, but the very familiarity of the references is nauseating. It’s gimmicky, irredeemable kitsch.

The same can be said for Alexia Stamatiou’s cloying drawings of jungle creatures. They are cute humanoid things with cartoon penises, small crosses on their throats, and brightly colored patches of hair on their chests and armpits. They inhabit a jungle of multicolored leaves that seem to float in the air independently of one another and of the trees. The gouache paintings have quasi-religious connotations: one is called “Palm Sunday” and another, “They Had Found It,” shows the creatures gathered around a blue cross on the jungle floor. The undulating shapes of the flat trees and the utter lack of illusionary space evoke Matisse, but they also bring to mind Rousseau’s naiveté and Gauguin’s trick of transposing religious allegory in exotic locations. And it is a trick. These drawings are cloying, small, neat, and banal. If you’re were in the mood for innocently empty charm, you might like them. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

Huey’s painting dominates this disconnected show by virtue of its sheer size. There’s no discernible organizing principle. Try another show, one that doesn’t require such a trek through the cold.

“We Build the Worlds Inside Our Heads”: works by Alexia Stamatiou, Elizabeth Huey, Todd Herbert, Daniel Rich, and Scott Anderson.

On view until March 4, 2006

Freight and Volume Gallery

542 West 24th Street

To Get There: Take the 1 to 23rd Street, then walk a block north and about three blocks west.

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  1. rachel

    i can't see the picture too clearly, but i think the "magician" is isaac newton...

  2. rachel

    ...which doesn't make it less gimmicky, irredeemable, or kitschy, of course...

  3. Lucifer

    Even though her name is not posted, I know who wrote this angry rant!

  4. Hitler


  5. Claire

    how can a painting be irredeemable?

  6. Jerry

    funny....I strongly disagree with the Columbia student who reviewed this show. I'm a very big fan of Freight and Volume, Elizabeth Huey and Alexia Stamatiou!!!!!

  7. Jeremiah Clancy

    To whom it may concern:

    Not only is your review childish and hurtful, the critique is second-rate. Instead of wasting your time on this blog, you should go brush up on art history/contemorary art. Also, what is with only reviewing and attacking the female artists? Nice touch not claiming ownership of this review- it paints you as the small, irrelevant person you are.


    Jeremiah Clancy

  8. Dr. Xanadu

    Hopefully Ms. Buttraver (sp?) has paid off most of her student loans at this point, so she can start saving diligently for a bigger challenge. The surgical operation to remove her cranium from her gluteus maximi is not only lengthly, but very costly. Fortunately, once the procedure is complete, she might be able to actually view the artwork she attempts to critique...

  9. Julia

    Heh, well, I'm glad to know that people read this stuff. Unfortunately, instead of offering a defense of the work I don't like when they disagree with me, they make fun of my name. I'm clearly just learning, but this show did nothing for me, and, after reading all these thoughtful comments, I still have no idea why it should have. As for the quality of the images, sorry -- F and V didn't reply to my request for some until long after this was up.

  10. Prof. Greenberg

    Julia-I wouldn't flatter yourself, there's really only about three people who've read this and posted comments under various names. Your "review" is only relevant to about a half dozen people in this entire world, and really only relevant for a snicker. The problem really is your writing. Thoughtful criticism is one thing - often helpful to artists and the cultural and commercial systems that support them. But, honestly, your writing is poor. Because of your very poor writing, it causes everything you write to loose credibility. The reason everyone is making fun of you is not because they couldn't defend the work that you so easily dismissed, but it's because your writing reveals your naivety in so many ways. It's apparent that you recently read Greenberg, that you have a thesarus within reach, and that you have a little bit of an ego problem. I'd encourage you to spend more time in this particular gallery looking at the work and engaging those people in the dark cubby - chances are their insight and experience could greatly benefit you.

  11. Editor

    You should employ an editor.

  12. Headhunter

    Hi Julia...just out of curiosity, what qualifications do you have to even write about art? I'll call you, don't call me.

  13. Employee One

    Dear Julia,

    I challenge you to an online debate! You name the time and place!

  14. henry Jones

    I think Alexia is amazing, she's not only uniquely talented but she is beautiful and her paintings are sexy, nudity and nature as religion.

  15. Nick Thorn

    "Cloying" is defined as being too filling, rich, or sweet." On the contrary, I find her paintings to be the exact opposite. On the surface there is a sweetness to them-- due to the quality of the painting and the subtle palette she uses so expertly. This very sweetness is underscored by the depth of her chosen themes which range from memory, death, the afterlife and the notion of who will or will not get into heaven. There is also an irony to these particular works that further keeps them from being either too rich or too sweet: The 'cute humanoids' represent the rapturists who believe they will go to heaven while everyone else is left to suffer on earth. Their behavior and sexuality are often quite inconsistent with what we might believe would get you into heaven. I would agree with the person above who suggested talking to the people in the gallery, or the artist herself, about the work before jumping to conclusions about its 'innocently empty charm'. Not everything is always going to be spelled out for you at first glance.

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