For his second solo at Zach Feuer, titled “Another Time Man,” New York-based artist Johannes VanDerBeek divided the gallery into three sections, filling them with ad hoc, slightly manic assemblages that, according to the poetic (and lengthy) press release, are meant to reflect on “transformation, the passage of time, dreams, being broke but resilient, and searching for stories within holey pockets of thought” (all works 2009 and ’10). Whether or not VanDerBeek entirely succeeded in this, his works do indeed suggest resilience in the face of penury, perhaps in part because they conjure the backyard of a hyper-prolific Outsider artist.
Upon entering the gallery, viewers were confronted by three imposing pieces made of 8-foot-high, worn, gently warped boards leaning against overturned chairs, works that crowded the entrance like overeager hosts. Each board is stained with a faint wash of color and features one tiny, blank, roughly 2-by-3-inch swatch of canvas at eye level, which makes it feel as though the work is staring straight back at you. Hanging on the walls of the first room were 12 “Towel Tablets,” 4-foot-square grids of 16 paper towels painted with polka dots or batik patterns, which reinforced the general kooky vibe.
Standing nearby were perhaps the zaniest works in the show: four “ghosts” made of aluminum mesh. Transparent yet solid, each of these life-size figures has been spray-painted to fill out colors and details. Hippie Ghost seems right at home in his tie-dye T-shirt, shades and flip-flops. Indian Ghost sports an impressive feathered headdress, while Woman Ghost looks like the Wicked Witch of the West. A 10-foot-wide cardboard screen—one side painted black and white, the other hues of blue and gray, and carved with Louise Nevelson-esque shapes—divided the room(The Big Stone Flatscreen with Static). Just beyond a cylindrical, foil-covered barrier was a mini-exhibition of aluminum-can sculptures. The cans had been stripped of their labels and painted in monochromes, then stacked in various formations.
Two adjacent walls in the back room contained foil reliefs, eight altogether, resembling rusty car hoods, the surfaces scored with linear patterns and coated in pastel. Opposite were five found aluminum display boxes, each approximately 2 feet wide, mounted on pedestals. Within each is placed a photograph cut from a magazine and torn to create a kind of face, with eyes and a mouth. VanDerBeek’s interest in the fantastic is well served by his throwaway materials, which counteract the potentially twee tendencies that can result from indulging flights of fancy. (For his previous show, he included, for example, a medieval knight asleep on a tomb made out of old copies of Life magazine.) While perhaps not quite achieving the dreamlike quality alluded to in the press release, the exhibition demonstrated a strikingly original sensibility.
Photo: View of Johannes VanDerBeek’s exhibition “Another Time Man,” 2010; at Zach Feuer