Issue 777 : Aug 19–25, 2010

Inspired by the Zen proverb “sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself,” independent curator Sima Familant has assembled a group exhibition that links artworks of a spiritual nature across distant generations and a variety of media into a dynamic display. With 18 artists spread over the two floors of Marlborough’s stylish, Richard Gluckman–designed Chelsea space, Familant constructs a poetic show that reveals unexpected relationships in the way the pieces are hung. Wade Guyton’s stainless steel sculpture of an elongated letter U plays off Jim Hodges’s gold-leaf drawing of a fractured tree, Mark Bradford’s street-poster collages of sundry signs riff off Conceptual word works by his former professor Daniel Joseph Martinez, and Cameron Martin’s nearly monochromatic landscape painting complements Carmen Herrera’s minimally marked canvases.

A highlight of the show is recent Yale M.F.A. grad Kianja Strobert’s wall of 15 abstract works on paper—equivalent to a solo show in a smaller gallery—that deftly mixes media and art-historical references, such as Barnett Newman’s zips and Jasper Johns’s handprints, to engaging ends. Another standout is Robert Zungu, who exhibits four completely different works—two representational sculptures, including one of several precariously stacked and blackened flour bags; a photograph of a curious display in an outsider artist’s studio; and a mixed-media drawing, made from tawdry materials, that conveys a sense of healing. Meanwhile, Leigh Ruple scores big with a single, abstract painting of a figure in a watery realm threatened by a snake, which ironically could have risen from the show’s metaphorical grass.