When I hopped into the the White Rabbit Lounge with all Alice in Wonderland characters prancing through my mind, to the tune of Jefferson Airplane psychedelia, I was rather disappointed to find the patrons were not dripping from their stools. The bar was set at a disappointingly predictable 90 angle, and save for the odd patron who may have had too much, those seated at it were too. No hookah smoking caterpillars or men on the chessboard getting up to tell me where to go.
However, someone was paying homage to the Red Queen and her famous utterance, “Off with her head!”
In a cool palette of antiseptic blues and greys, Buddy Nestor crisply presents to us the “heads” of 13 women. I am happy to still use the word “heads” because terms conventionally associated with portraiture or anatomy do not quite apply here. Bringing to portrait painting the opposite of what Photoshop has brought to profile pics, Nestor imbues his tidily-maned, posturely sound subjects with a certain ugliness. ” All of the models I use for these portraits are very beautiful. However, when I paint them, they are very ugly.” After submitting to Buddy Nestor’s subjects emerge from their sittings with not a hair out of place. But everything it surrounds is. Beneath the feathered bangs, the hairline is a border beyond which Nestor eschews representational intricacies.
Each face is effectively defaced. Or perhaps refaced? The skeletal and muscular nuances that would have formed had his use of realism continued, are replaced with swirling, blurring, dripping, melting configurations that twist and churn- their locomotion emphasized by the seemingly frozen surrounding elements.
Josh Graham and Julie Mann
It’s like looking at Magic Eye pictures- that moment when all the bits slot into place and the 3D image rises off a flat plane. I had the same visceral response to the facelessness- but it happened in reverse. As if the whole world around me suddenly veered from 3 dimensions into 2. After studying a few of them, I was able to transcend the jarring experience and approach the abstract portion either first or alone.
The throbs of red, encircled by royal and sky blue rings that I could not help but compare to ulcers and wounds when taking in the organic context, approached alone did not have the same ) effect.
Viewing the abstractions as entirely different works in their own right helped me appreciate the looser, non representational forms (Kadinsky and Mondrian came to mind, not flesh eating bacteria or ebola).
I also noticed the “ghosts” of some realistic features floating within the abstractions. Half a set of teeth or the traces of an eyeball would occasionally become apparent (it was v dark)- carrying with them the same eery disembodied vibe that an x-ray does.
I asked Nestor whether the “configurations” mean anything. I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was more endearing to look reallllllly messed up as opposed to slightly warped. But Nestor’s, shall we say, modifications, are spontaneous.
Marcus Poston and Jeff Billon
Sonja, Nestor’s wife, was my first earthly encounter with one who had been Angellically Posessed. I was overcome with a sense of anticipation, waiting for her a large primary colored geometric sphere to erupt from her face. However, her features remained even and aesthetically pleasing.
Nestor had told me about how he was faced with a deficit of artist’s models once the nature of his paintings became known. Nestor now mostly paints female artists he knows; his contemporaries. Incidentally, one of them, Katie Perdue, happened to be painting away in the corner adjacent to me. The “live” Katie contrasted nicely with the “Nestortured ” version, hanging 48″x60″ in acrylic, spray, and graphite. She and Scott Cranmer, had participated in the live painting portion of the evening.
In the back of the room, Josh Graham‘s snow video was on constancy loop. His work is always very ambient and simple, and usually very dark. Curator Samantha Levin was caught off guard by the latest work, “all the white snow surprised me, but I really liked the change.” The evening had been riddled with ironies and synchronicities, so it should not come as a surprise to hear that, like the Hare in the book, I was late for what turned out to be a very important date at the White Rabbit Lounge.