The name of the exhibit at the Fred Giampetro Gallery featuring art by Zachary Keeting and Anahita Vossoughi is “Rockless Volume.” I find this both confusing and a little silly. Unfortunately, the press release doesn’t fully clear things up: “Rockless (without rocks, between reckless and raucous) Volume (three-dimensional space, mind-space, loudness).” Phonetically, the explanation is sort of clever: “Rockless” combines reckless and raucous. But was the art really “*between* reckless and raucous” or was it just “reckless and raucous?” And though volume is “three-dimensional space,” is it also “mind-space?”
Usually when I encounter such curatorial explanations, I just hope that I’ll find the art appealing. After all, I’m only a freshman non-artist who has trouble grasping conceptual art. Luckily, the art of “Rockless Volume” is appealing — wildly, deliciously appealing. Moreover, the press release made sense to me, providing conceptual grounding for work that could have just been emotional expression.
Keeting’s paintings immediately struck me, and I found the explanations of his work compelling. According to the press release, his work is “down in the orchestra pit under the timpani, and watching quietly from the back of a café … This is an art of more. More complexity, more concealment, more fluidity, more radical balance.” It’s not a bad assessment.
As someone who can live on rich colors, textures and sharp edges, I was enraptured by his paintings. The works were intensely physical, involving peeling paint and impasto, and the results of such physicality were addictive. But the handy press release promised more than eye candy, and the art made good on that promise. There was something claustrophobic yet vibrant to the diversity of independent textures and colors. Yes, this art was exactly “down in the orchestra pit under the timpani!”
As “art of more,” the largest paintings were the best. They weren’t mood pieces; they depicted experience. Some of the smaller ones, on the other hand, were more emotionally limited. “December (1)” reminded me of ’90s psychedelia, something like Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica.” “August (2)” felt like a cool Asian landscape. These canvases weren’t bad, but they weren’t “radical balance.” That would be “November (2),” or the epic — and for art connoisseurs, much more expensive — “July (2).” In these two paintings, the colors and textures really overlapped, neither colliding nor fitting together like puzzle pieces. Flat blue, then a derelict, dry brown, and a rich, swirling red.
I liked Vossoughi’s sculptures just as much, though I was more skeptical of the corresponding press release explanations. Her works were described as “bodies in-between, self-aware of their inherent social and cultural contradictions, their limitations and vulnerabilities … these bodies call into question accepted notions of harmony, excess and beauty.” I had to pick up the exhibit’s catalogue, because without it, I couldn’t discern that her creations “referenc[ed] body parts.” (I still don’t fully see it.)
She made these works over a long stretch of time, and the careful consideration is easy to see. Her sculptures had a kind of awkward beauty — like Keeting’s paintings, they derived meaning from their details. Found objects clashed with the clay’s organic forms, drawing me in.
Humor and whimsy were a necessary part of her work. “Untitled: Water Bottle” could have been a corny environmentalist gimmick, but I loved the heavy, shell-incrusted fecal shape precariously set on sticks. The most beautiful sculpture was “Untitled: Necklace and Head”: foil and a necklace rested on a smooth, imperfectly marked bust-like mass of clay. While this was a new kind of harmony, excess and beauty, I wasn’t sure that “Untitled: Necklace and Head” really “called into question” these three concepts.
I still find the name “Rockless Volume” silly. Keeting’s paintings have mind-space, but volume isn’t mind space. Vossoughi is reckless and raucous, but not “rockless.” Nevertheless, the work is presented cleanly and the infamous press release really did help me engage with the exhibit. Be sure to ask the receptionist for a copy — your experience is incomplete without it.