HOLDING A MIRROR TO A MIRROR OF THE PAST BY CAROL KINO
TWO days before the opening of his latest show, the artist Adam Cvijanovic took a break to size up his new installation, which he and two gallery employees had just erected in the back of Bellwether Gallery in Chelsea.
Although he had been working furiously in his tiny Chinatown studio for the last four months, this was the fist time he had seen his paintings as he had intended them to be displayed: glued onto nine 16 ?-foot-high wooden panels, each of which was attached to a section of wooden scaffolding. Visually it was as if the paintings had been propped on giant easels around the room.
"I never got to see it all in one piece before," he said. "I never got to see the height." He still had plenty left to complete: half a panel here, several details there, and a last-minute portrait of his brother, who had just arrived from Los Angeles for the opening. But Mr. Cvijanovic (pronounced svee-YAHN-o-vitch) didn't seem to care. "It really does what I was hoping it would do," he said. In recent years Mr. Cvijanovic, 47, has become known for his "wallpaper" painting installations, which typically render a landscape (a 52-foot-wide meadow, say, or a 21-foot-high glacier) at a relatively monumental size.
But this time he has tackled a more mythic monument: D. W. Griffith's 1916 silent epic "Intolerance," in particular the portion that unfolds in the court of ancient Babylon.
ADAM CVIJANOVICâ€™S THIRD SOLO SHOW AT BELLWETHER GALLERY BY KATIE STONE SONNENBORN
For Adam Cvijanovicâ€™s third solo show at Bellwether Gallery, Love Poem (10 Minutes After the End of Gravity), he has created two monumental paintings that hark back to the triumphant decoration of late eighteenth-century Rococo. Painted on Tyvek, the indestructible, fibrous, synthetic used for FedEx envelopes and house construction, the works are affixed directly onto the wall; it is a process the artist terms â€śmobile frescoes.â€ť They are ambitious works and it is easy to understand why Bellwetherâ€™s Becky Smith has been trumpeting the show all summer.
For those who have followed Cvijanovicâ€™s career at the gallery, it is refreshing to see the transformation of this adroit painter as he addresses increasingly complex compositions. Earlier large-scale murals tended towards straightforward subject matterâ€”natural landscapes, newsworthy (but normal) scenes (baseball games, spring break on a beach, the launch of a space shuttle, etc.)â€”and their power and impact was a result of the scale rather than the scope of their content. Like many of the photo-realists, much of Cvijanovicâ€™s work documents rather than deconstructs the conditions of contemporary American life, and while the verisimilitude is always engaging, there is often little beyond the feat of his execution.
The current installation, however, is pure imagination. It presents an unattainable situation made evident through the artistâ€™s own musings, and it is vividly explored through a series of elaborate and detailed studies, one of which is also on view. In the front gallery, Cvijanovic evokes Tintorettoâ€™s exultant heavens through a twelve-foot oval ceiling painting, Iolanthe (2005), where spatial boundaries dissolve in the illusionistic openings of the pale blue sky. Instead of clouds and angels, his is a scene of domestic disarray where a bed, linens, chairs, and the like float through space, propelled by unknown forces. It is neither frenetic, nor frightening, but rather more dream-like, as if the objects of oneâ€™s life could simply float away, and wouldnâ€™t it be lovely to watch them go.
PHILADELPHIA STORY BY ROBERTA FALLON
Adam Cvijanovic, who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s and is now represented by Bellwether Gallery in Brooklyn, is gaining increasing praise for large-scale, deftly done illustrational landscapes and other scenes, ranging from cowboys in the West to a beach thronged with young people (he was also featured in the traveling "On the Wall" exhibition organized last year by RISD Museum's Judith Tannenbaum). For his exhibition in Philadelphia, he was inspired by local history to produce two frescoes about the city's most famous utopian thinkers -- the Quakers and MOVE, the controversial "back to nature" commune.
Utopias are by definition doomed to failure. And the Quakers and MOVE never really achieved their respective goals of universal peace and a return to nature. So Cvijanovic's walk through Philadelphia history is a sad one. It's also more overtly political than most work by the artist.