Levy.Delval at Fahrenheit 451 House, Catskill NY
date_from 6 22/12/2019
"The Poisonous Charm of Vernacular"
On a quiet evening, the sun strikes the furniture you’ve carefully selected, lighting their unique shades up. You feel at home. The year is uncertain. It’s an accumulation of memories. The richly ornamented wallpaper tells you it may be the Sixties, but it could be the XIXth Century. It may as well be a contemporary reenactment, by a meticulous antique collector. But you’re most probably in a fiction.
You could meet Jerry Cornelius*, the David Bowie-inspired Victorian Hippy-cum-spy in the cosy interiors designed by Canadian artist Alex Morrison. Morrison’s artworks are the concretion of several historic trends, of high and popular arts, that his trained eye sees as cycles: how certain aesthetics travel in time, playing different roles, sometimes as the Avant-Garde, then as the mainstream, then as the margins etc. Just like Cornelius who also lives in a distant future in Moebius’ Comic Books. Is he the same, is he another one?
The reference to pop-culture, its cycles and its inspiration, is pretty relevant when talking about Alex Morrison’s works. As a painter and sculptor, he is a human encyclopedia of the many forms of decorative arts. He knows that design, architecture and pop-culture like to feed on their predecessors. He also knows how they interact with the Fine Arts.
The new series he’s showing at Fahrenheit 451 House is a clear reference to a pictural cliché: floral still lives, but it also tackles many references to design. The shapes of the vessels are inspired by crown molding. They are first conceived by computer by the artist, but as if they were then meant to become ceramics. The 3D models are then translated to painting, hence the unique feeling produced by objects that could be vernacular yet appear artificial.
The dialogue/interferences between different aesthetics and cultural styles is thus not only theoretical. It’s also drawn from the practice itself. Alex Morrison was influenced by architect Michael Graves who believed in painting his designs as part of his architectural practice. Morrison masters computer as much as ceramic, and oil painting as well—very different techniques from very different times. Though in the end, it’s not the virtuoso demonstration that matters; what matters is that it mimics how we built ourselves as individuals. And our domestic interiors are just a reflection of this: we’re subject to different timelines, to heteroclite influences and we’re all, in our intimacy, deeply not-contemporary.
*From Michael Moorcock’s series of novels of the same name.
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