“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
A single sentence from Anne Frank encapsulates Manifest Gallery’s “DARK: Shadows, Nightscapes, and Darkness” exhibition.
From a pool of 359 works by 103 artists representing five countries, 30 states, and the District of Columbia, the blind jury selected 17 pieces by 15 artists. The artists’ brief was to “submit works, which address the theme of Dark, including any manner of interpretation, from literal to symbolic and philosophical.”
It doesn’t require pitting the ends of the spectrum against each other to make a statement. Jordan Kornreich exploits the middle using a luscious range of grays in his charcoal-on-paper Moving Again.
This quiet and elegant palette lends gravitas to a chaotic kitchen scene. The room is being packed up in a higgledy-piggledy fashion for yet another move. Some books have been pulled out of the bookshelf and are stacked on the floor, ignoring the empty box next to them ready to be filled. Arrayed on the floor are a basketball, dustpan and broom, a two-liter water bottle, a dish for the dog that almost didn’t make it into the composition, cut off as he is by the painting’s bottom edge. An open laptop sits on the counter; its glowing rectangular screen is “partnered” by a Windex bottle, making an odd couple. The glass cleaner is set on a draped cloth that, although elegantly draped, is just a rag. The idea of yet another move, that there is no permanence, recalls the 18th-century Dutch and Flemish vanitas paintings, which remind viewers of the brevity of life and the inevitability of death.
Most of the works on view are tone poems expressed in a wide range of tints (with white added) and shades (with black) of black and white, noncolors. Less Fun by Joseph Kameen takes a different approach, one that is color-full. Kameen’s stylized kitchen is lit by an overhead fixture casting a conical light that functions like a spotlight and lightens only a sharply defined portion of the brilliantly colored domestic scene.
The room is dominated by a neon-orange table with a hole just off center with a golf flag the same color of the tabletop. The hole focuses a circle of light on the floor in the shadow of the rectangular table. An odd-looking fairway-green slide runs up from the floor to the center of the table. On the slide, which looks like a lolling tongue, is a neon-orange ball that may be sliding down or moving upward, propelled by a stroke by an insomniac golfer outside the painting.
Kameen contrasts the colors of the setting in light and in the dark. When lit, the striped wallpaper is coral and pink, but becomes two shades of army green when in shadow. The tile floor is coral and pink when illuminated, but eggplant and hunter green when not.
Less Fun stands out in an exhibition dominated by the noncolors of white and black. It is likely the least expected, but it may be the one that makes us think the most about what dark means.