Sunday, October 19, 2014

Altoon Sultan. McKenzie Gallery

When one exits the D train at Grand Street on the lower east side, one is transported to another place. It’s like being drawn into a whirlwind of color, smells and busy human activity involving a lot of food and shopping and is mostly Asian. I feel like I am being carried away, lifted in the air and carried off to some giant Mosh pit. This is not a neighborhood that one leisurely strolls. I come here very infrequently usually to take in a gallery exhibition so I always find this part of my city always new, vivid and exciting, and a dreamscape for my camera. This is no longer the neighborhood of my Jewish ancestors, although some of this long gone history can still be found here. No now it’s a mixture of the large Chinese community spreading out from Chinatown and fast moving gentrified blocks of here today gone tomorrow galleries, trendy bars and restaurants. I have to say that I found it a relief from all the movement and collaged city streets to enter the serene and beautiful exhibition of Altoon Sultan that is now on view at the McKenzie Gallery on Orchard Street. Comprised of three intimate groupings of drawings, paintings and works in wool each group works beautifully on their own, but also work as a conversation piece. A complete set of amazing small strong works. The first group I came to were her framed drawings using egg tempera on paper that are made up of patterns circles, diamonds, triangles and spheres. All are rich in colors and line and according to the press release were influenced by a visit to the new Islamic wing at the Met. Actually all of the work shown was influenced and inspired by various art going experiences, but I would think that the artist’s life on her Vermont farm has also played an important role in her creative life. On the opposite walls are these very small paintings using egg tempera on parchment paper that are stretched on wood panels with most of them measuring a mere 6 x 8 inches. The paintings are of segments of machinery up close and tightly edited and cropped that Sultan based on photographs. One thinks of the Precisionist painters of the early 20th century especially Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth as a starting point but Sultan adds to this starting point by paring these “industrial images ”down to tight areas of abstraction with rich and beautiful colors. The final group of works are comprised of abstractions made from hand tied wool on linen and again are small in size but large in the attention that they command. These works will no doubt bring to mind for some the arts and crafts of women in their solitude making hooked rugs for their families to keep warm on those long cold winter nights. We know better because they transcend their folksy origins and sources and hang on the walls in strong tactile textures of hand dyed wool that are like kisses on the cheek. I should add that Altoon is a cherished Facebook friend of mine, along with many others who also writes about nature and cooking on her blog along with notes about her day to day life living in Vermont and the making of her wonderful works of art. This exhibitions is one of the treasures of the Fall art season and will be up until November 16th.


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