Exhibition Review: Artists and Allies
By Maura Monaghan
Signs and Symbols is a contemporary art space grounded in performance that has been operating nomadically since 2012. Signs and Symbols’ first physical space, a minimalistic gallery that beautifully accentuates the pieces on display, has been open at 102 Forsyth Street since April 2018. Co-founders Mitra Khorasheh and Elise Herget have combined their separate areas of expertise to create a gallery that is both a curatorial platform and a “multi-disciplinary incubator” bringing together every medium from performance to photography.
For the month of August, Signs and Symbols is exhibiting a selection of work that previews artists with forthcoming solo exhibitions. Allies of the gallery will also contribute their work, hence the series title Artists and Allies. The series opened on Tuesday, August 7th with an evening reception, which included the first of the rotating pieces on display.
For spectators stepping into the stylish space on Tuesday evening, one exhibit immediately demanded attention. Tony Orrico’s composed tribute to Yvonne Rainer’s 1966 “Hand Movie" piece is prominently displayed on a small screen, in which Orrico has synced the finger movements in Rainer’s video to the sound of delicate piano keys.
Equally as striking is a colorful corner display, loudly contrasted against the gallery’s white walls, of pillow art by Rachel Libeskind. On the pillows, Libeskind uses splashy colors and fabric to distort the images of political dictators. One pillow, titled Kim Jong Una, shows the infamous North Korean leader in pink sunglasses, with neon lips and long hair. There is enough risk in these pieces to indicate Libeskind’s subversive intent, but the fashion mag-esque results leave just enough room for interpretation.
These pieces and more are currently on display at the Forsyth Street space, and the total number of artists whose work will be exhibited throughout the series exceeds nineteen. Aside from exhibitions, the Artists and Allies series is set to include a screening and/or performance every Thursday at 7pm. Thursday evening content will range from politically themed standup comedy to dance workshops and a sci-fi rap concert.
The photography featured in the first round of summer exhibitions includes a black-and-white piece by Stephen Barker, a New York-based artist who has done notable work with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), an advocacy group working to bring about legislation and medical research to benefit those effected by AIDS. As part of his work with ACT UP, Barker managed the Brooklyn Needle Exchange for two years.
The wide-ranging, experimental content in this summer series is an exciting step for the Signs and Symbols gallery, a refreshing new space that continues to give voice and exposure to artists of unconventional mediums. The Artists and Allies series is on until September 7th, and will be showcasing a rotating selection of artwork until then – all of which is worth a good look.