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Crossing the Bridge

Luther Davis,
Luther Davis, "Queen of the Night," limited edition print.

Axelle Fine Arts

The wine is served in goblets at the opening of Crossing the Bridge at Axelle Fine Arts, an international organization founded in 1994 to bring French art to the States. This evening on Smith Street, however, Axelle is showcasing its own young artist-employees. The handsomely clad bartender jives with the 1963 Porsche parked at the rear of the gallery. The gallery owner, M. Bertrand Delacroix, also uses his space to house his sports cars. Healthy looking men and women drift with the summer air through the hangar style doors to see what Axelle bills as "New York City’s hottest up & coming artists." While not all the work in the show merits this overwrought title, there is much that deserves the attention it’s getting thanks to M. Delacroix’s decision to offer his employees the opportunity to exhibit in his space.

Among those employees is David Kesting, co-proprietor of CaplaKesting Gallery in Williamsburg. He exhibits a series of figurative paintings from 2002 along with a more recent piece entitled "Medicine Cabinet." The latter consists of a white, steel cabinet hung horizontally on the wall with small ink jet images of the artist in goggles set at intervals along its length. The artist explains his appearance in the photo as "some kind of psychotic doctor," and proceeds to lift the lid of the cabinet to reveal painted portraits of the ink jet images on its cover. The whole represents a welcome evolution from his paintings. While the photographic image, painted image, and found object are not yet fully integrated, the project has an honest narcissism about it and seems likely to bear fruit.

Kesting introduces me to young Chris Caruso, "head of the shipping department" (actually the only person in the shipping department) at Axelle. Caruso, who hails from Detroit, makes mountain-like white-on-white abstractions, visual interpretations of the peaks of sound waves. Caruso informs me that any sound—even that of a sentence—can inspire the rising geometry of his paintings.

Mikaël Petraccia reveals an entirely different approach to abstraction. He exhibits immaculate prints of black geometric forms alongside equally immaculate prints of hotel lighting fixtures and barbecues. Petraccia, a French native, explains in broken English that his work has to do with lines and forms and relating the two. His work speaks brilliantly for him though, demonstrating clearly the relationship between seeing in the world and perceiving in the abstract.

For a more eclectic taste, Nellie Davis exhibits dolls, dresses, and drawings. Trained as a puppeteer, and a self-styled Renaissance woman, her work demonstrates how skills perfected in one trade can translate into another. Her drawing, "Trophy Fish," stuck over wood cut so thinly it serves as paper, blending the illusionistic with the real to evoke a fish on the cutting board. Her seamless draftsmanship derives perhaps from her skills as a seamstress on display at the gallery entrance in "Turquoise Ball Gown in Red and Orange." Equally interesting are the drawings of Luther Davis, Nellie Davis’s husband. He trained as a printmaker and carries these skills over into painting on glass. The whimsical, somewhat melancholy mood he creates by layering delicately painted panes of garden imagery is touching in its fragility.

Although it is somewhat jarring to see such disparate artists pushed together with no uniting principle beyond the fact that they all work at Axelle, the strength of their work is adequate compensation. M. Delacroix’s decision to show his employees’ work remains commendable, as does his taste in cars.


Ben La Rocco


The Brooklyn Rail

JUN 2004

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