Alchemy as Art |:| Radical Takes on Dualism |:| Cheese and Wine

"Abraxas," by Marina Korenfeld

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hobnobbing it up at the Observatory in Gowanus, Brooklyn where I got to check out “Alchemically Yours,” a new (and absolutely fantastic!) art exhibit curated by the mystically-inclined Pam Grossman, best known for her work as Phantasmaphile, the specter of all that is strange in fine art.

Check it: Who knew alchemy was so pop*ular? Proteus Gowanus, the larger facility that houses the Observatory, was busting at the seams! There were people everywhere, giggly over images of the bifurcated Self, spilling into the Morbid Anatomy Library…

Irresistable shelves in the Morbid Anatomy Library

…when they weren’t chumming it up in the Hall of Gowanus….

Walls of fun in the Hall of Gowanus

Of particular interest was getting up close and personal with a few prints by Robert M. Place, best known for his work in the world of tarot, having created the gorgeous Alchemical Tarot deck.

"Caduceus" detail, Robert M. Place, 2011

Place is also the author of The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, and although he’s all sorts of neggie-core on reversals (reading inverted cards differently than those that fall-right-side up, so to speak), the book is a super informative and yet oddly comforting read, a noble tome covering exactly what the title says in a way that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself. (Read: I don’t have room in my mind-grapes to file what color shoes the people of Marseilles wore in 1748).

Other artists of note were pretty much everyone on the walls: Jesse Bransford, Molly Crabapple, Ted Enik, Marina Korenfeld, Adela Leibowitz, Sara Antoinette Martin, Ann McCoy, Robert M. Place, Ron Regé, Jr., J.L. Schnabel, Hunter Stabler, and Panos Tsagaris. It’d be great if I could point out the few that I loved the most, but I really can’t. A. because I have a policy that in order to undercut the art world’s inherent elitism I have decided to “like” everything, and B. because I actually did “like” everything.

My suggestion: Check this exhibit out while you still can. Judging by the popularity of the event, I’d say we’re gonna be seeing a (second? third?) wave of quasi-“Western” takes on the gnostic psychedelic. Seeing as the past ten years of art has been teaming with reappropriations of 60s/70s/80s cult aesthetic (think: hmmm…anything out of Williamsburg and Bushwick, really), it looks like we’ve finally got something with a bit of the ole, dare I say, substance.

Now if I can find someone who’s into this as not just “art,” and who’s humble enough to release the self that is his/her identity to the God of All That Is and Is Not, leaving him/her in a disembodied puddle of his/her own always already suchness, I’d be a happy chap!

Location: The Observatory, 543 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
On View: May 8th – June 12th, 2011
Hours: Thursdays & Fridays 3-6pm; Saturdays & Sundays 12-6pm

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