Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ménage à trois as never imagined...

The islands of myth and the participles of pain, the tree of knowledge and the aching emptiness of lost love or childhood… They are all here, here in this room where the trio comes together to confide in whispered essences. Ménage à trois, the fabled threesome assembled here under “A Very Old Tree” (Marichal) where the watchers are also seekers, brings together the work of three very distinct printmakers. Poli Marichal, Victor Rosas and Marianne Sadowski, a group that represents, in many ways, the antithesis of the triumvirate, have launched much of their radically different work from Self-Help Graphics and its Los de Abajo Collective, perhaps the most sincere and community-based arts institution in East LA if not the entire metropolis.

As creators, they live and breathe and dream a world and a space where love and longing are tempered by life and still informed by myth and fantasy. They are all here. In this room, this room that has been transformed, that has become for brief moments a Los Angeles or Washington D.C. skyline, the bleak underbelly of urban landscapes, political surfaces where hypocrisy and corruption are rooted out and underscored.

Here in this room, a room that has also become a shifting, a transcendence and an escape from those things marked by the fear and the violence and the excess that have become emblematic of sex and the simultaneous violation or debauchery of our planet… here in the sweetness of three disparate voices, three gentle artists who work quietly into the wee hours with images carved from wood or etched into linoleum or scratched into plexiglass, here we are also transported to the “Island of Mysterious Flowers” (Sadowski) and a realm where memories and myth float across the maps of our innocence and a time when fantastical beasts and creatures roamed both land and sea.

All soft spoken and serious, Sadowski, Marichal and Rosas come together here in this room as necessary elements, as a tri-colored banner or tri-part whole. Incredibly, their conversation here is not hermetic. It is not sealed and inaccessible. Instead, it resounds with the pain and pleasure of creation, of birth and death surrounded by the flora and fauna of timelessness and written in the hues of a public entreaty, a call to the common good.

These images are thus missives to our subconscious desire for the exotic that does not turn other beings or objects into fetish but imbues them with their primordial significance, unlocks their grace and allows us to peer into entirely new dimensions. This is the secret. This is what makes us voyeurs. We are the seekers and the watchers. We are the eyes that float eerily inside the tree of knowledge. We are drawn, fascinated by the idea, the sense that these images and these artists have learned a hidden dance, uncovered a buried ritual and that—in their voyage from beyond—they have broken the code and created a universe where the work and images speak among themselves to each other. We can imagine a conversation that occurs on the walls at Self Help’s Boccalero Gallery after night falls in the dim light when no one is there, when no one is looking.

It is a ménage of epic proportions and a simple a menagerie, a skeletal reduction where we see ourselves reflected in the dark foreboding knowledge that not all is well, that the world is not always accommodating and kind, a place where we say, “Fuck Hope” (Rosas) with almost no irony or sarcastic humor, a place where the blueprints of injustice are conceived and executed.
Yet in the context of that conversation, the dialogue that occurs as Rosas, Sadowski and Marichal share their witty and—at times caustically bemused— vision, we are flown directly on the wings of desire and yearning to a geography of hope populated by magical hybrids and the beaming tides of imagination unchecked, unhinged and unleashed without fury, without the glare of a gallery spotlight or a Hollywood cliché.

We travel to “The Day the Nests Were Left Alone” (Sadowski), an antidote to a place where gumball machines are all that remain to dispense the deer, the turtle and the honeybee for profit in a private “Zoo” (Rosas), the terrain where “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys express outrage (Marichal) at the havoc the “Ciego/Blind” (Rosas) continue to wreak upon the earth. Yet we can still awaken, we are made to understand here, in the world where “Trees Can Dream” (Marichal) and where the possibility of change is real in spite of the insomnia, the strong coffee well into the dawn when we are compelled to share a story, a picture, a song, in spite of our anger at what is often done to nature in our names. We can float over and beyond the residual sadness and the idea that our lives are bleak or that we are unequipped to make things better. In the hands of these three, the images have become totems of fire and rebirth. There can, in fact, be a tender unfolding, a renewal of the psyche.

(Excerpted from "Ménage à trois: A Tender Unfolding," a review of the last exhibition at Self Help Graphics. Images: Poli Marichal)

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