Trent’s Top Gallery Picks—January 2011

MICKI PELLERANO, “HERE LIES TRUTH”
Live With Animals Gallery, 210 Kent Ave., through 1/30

Best known as a performance and video artist who dabbles in occult mythology, Micki Pellerano demonstrates talent as a draughtsman in this exhibition of allegorical drawings. While Pellerano’s style carries on the classical tradition of idealized bodily form, much of his iconography comes from Rosicrucian mysticism. Hooded figures open a portal to another world in “Solar Temple,” causing a magnificent nude god and anthropomorphic Zodiac symbols to spill out of a hazy light. In this piece, Pellerano’s depiction of the temple’s carved ceiling and polished marble floor is damn near photorealistic.

Other drawings demonstrate a more personal mysticism. “Fledgling Sorceress” shows a fearless priestess conjuring spirits from the heavens as her young apprentice looks away in distress, and a man in “The Magician” derives powers from a sacred goat.

It’s worth noting that Live With Animals perhaps looks more like a traditional gallery for this show than it ever has before. Pellerano has mounted his rococo drawings in gaudy antique frames, and the gallery walls are painted dark gray. When I visited, classical music played over the sound system. Generally, one would find such conventionalities ironic coming from a bold young artist, but Pellerano seems sincere in his embrace of ritual.

KEIKO TOKUSHIMA & SHIGEKO OKADA, “TIME TRAVELER”
graphite., 38 Marcy Ave., 1/8 – 1/16

Shigeko Okada and Keiko Tokushima have a few things in common: both are female artists from Japan, both display vivid flatness in their paintings, and both look back nostalgically to simpler times in “Time Traveler.” But they also have their differences.

Okada’s gouache paintings show people and animals working and playing in symbiotic tandem. In “Sewing Machine,” a seamstress stitches wings onto hatchery fish, liberating them as flying fish. A Jazz Age woman pilots a hot-air balloon high in the sky in “The Captain of Blowfish-Ship.” As the title suggests, this airship is not a conventional balloon but a pumped up puffer fish. A little girl in “Cheap Sweet Store (Dagashiya)” visits a candy kiosk with her cat and frog companions, as a nearby bird chomps on a gummy worm.

These paintings turn a blissful eye toward the Taisho period (1912–26), a time of increased wealth and democracy in Japan, with the added fantasy of inter-species cooperation. Through her subject matter and an artistic style reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints, Okada displays a reverence for craft.

Tokushima, meanwhile, casts no characters in her paintings. Rather, she creates narratives out of empty rooms populated by mysterious objects. A tea bowl, whisk, and ladle rest on a tatami mat in “Tea Ceremony,” leaving the viewer to wonder whether the matcha has already been drunk or if it’s anticipating a guest who has yet to arrive. In “Floating Salon,” two chairs are pulled away from a table, where a package in yellow wrapping paper sits unopened, and a book lies face down on the floor.

Tokushima’s skill is most evident in her obsessively rendered wallpapers, carpets, and upholstery, in which bright green and yellow floral motifs clash with blue waves and stylized clouds. Nearly every surface of Tokushima’s interiors reverberates in ornate textile patterns, which never quaver, no matter how many times she repeats them.

TATYANA YANISHEVSKY, “THE KNIT LIFE”
Brooklyn Art Library, 103A N. 3rd St., through 1/28

For her exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Library, Rhode Island-based artist Tatyana Yanishevsky knits yarn into sculptural specimens of the natural world. The show is divided into three categories: “Rupture” (plants), “All Hung Up” (sea life), and “Human” (human organs). One would expect the plants to be the most innocent pieces, but they turn out to contain unnerving connotations. In “Cavernous Rage,” an oversized flower droops toward the ground as if spent, exhausted, dead. From its anther, or male sex organ, drips blood—in the form of red yarn and LED lights—in place of sperm-filled pollen grains.

Yanishevsky’s semi-abstract sea creatures, though perhaps equally morbid, project a more jovial existence. Stretching from ropes, they transform from identifiable animals (a starfish, for example) to elongated water drops. One piece even brings olfaction into the equation. “Parasitic Fish” contains robust packets of cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and cumin that seep through the tawny yarn sacks in which they burrow. (A sign on the wall encourages visitors to “please smell.”)

Which brings us to possibly the most relatable category: “Human.” Here, Yanishevsky shows her mechanical chops. For “You Take My Breath Away,” a trachea extends down from the ceiling to yarn-covered lungs that automatically inhale and exhale with the regularity of a respirator. In front of the lungs hangs an anatomically correct heart, with its aorta, vena cava, coronaries, and myocardium exposed to the world.

Inevitably, any knit works will evoke hats and scarves and mittens, but Yanishevsky’s creations transcend the cliché of winter wear to become lively sculptural objects in their own right.