Gandalf Gavan and Susanna Heller
Out of Line
Gandalf Gavan and Susanna Heller face off with floor to ceiling drawings at Sideshow Gallery. The exhibition is called Out of Line after the rigorous lines both artists use to pull their drawings together. The works, well installed by Richard Timperio, create an exciting atmosphere in the gallery. Gavan adds a couple of sculptures to the mix and Heller contributes over 25 small paintings of New York.
Heller integrates most of the cityscapes within her large wall drawing, the linear structure of which imitates the city grid seen from different perspectives. Lines in charcoal, pencil, blue, black, ochre, and orange crisscross on Mylar and form the “scaffolding” on which the paintings metaphorically hang. The drawing extends to parts of the ceiling and gallery columns. The paintings sequentially explore the events of 9/11, their titles moving from “Explosion in Blue” to “Clouds of Grey and Orange” to “Chunk of Ruin.”
Heller’s attempt to fuse painting and installation is exciting. Her desire to create a structured environment in which to situate the chaotic events of 9/11 is understandable. But the power of her painting is injured by the encroaching chaos of lines. It is a shame to leave so thrilling a painting as “Broken Towers” at foot level, leaning against the wall amid a tangle of lines. This shaped painting on board, in which a smooth black tower is penetrated by a painterly yellow ovoid, would benefit from some viewing space. Heller might have taken a cue from Richard Tuttle’s recent exhibition 20 Pearls, in which the space around the tiny cut-out paintings contributed largely to the success of the show. Her skills as a painter are certainly comparable to his.
Gavan, a much younger artist, is less ambitious and more eclectic in his choice of subject matter. His wall drawing, entitled “Present Frequencies,” includes trucks, monsters, Bedouins, porno, birds, and models all knit together by diagrammatic drawings of what appear to be molecular life forms. The drawing is composed of regular, rectangular sheets of paper sheathed in plexiglass. The images snake from one shiny panel to the next over the rectangular geometry of the wall mounted panels.
Gavan’s two sculptures, entitled “Nngoinggoing” and “UaahghFFF,” are spatial extensions of his drawings. He recreates his molecular forms from trellises and mirrors and incorporates flowers, feathers, dolls, and patterned objects. In his sculptures and drawings, Gavan seems to seek a synthesis of popular imagery with natural forms through constant pairing. He appears somewhat ambivalent in his attitude toward the two, as though soft porn were of equal interest to the structure of cells. Gavan’s dreamy transitions from form to form recall work by Mathew Ritchie. While his decision to confine his delicate draftsmanship behind heavy-handed fiberglass is ill-advised, his deft handling of diverse media, in three dimensions and in two, should serve him well as he matures.
ContributorBenjamin La Rocco
Susanna Hellers Beyond Pain, The Last DrawingsBy Mira Schor
JUNE 2023 | Art Books
When an artist dies before they have fully achieved the critical place their work calls for, a necessary task begins, of sharing their work and creating critical and historical context. Susanna Heller: Beyond Pain, The Last Drawings, compiled, edited, and published by two of Hellers oldest and dearest friends, artist Marlene Dumas and art historian Suzanne Styhler, is the first step in that task of celebrating and contextualizing an important body of work.