Great Art:Tony Feher

"Just So" by Feher

“Just So” by Feher

The Bronx Museum has mounted two exhibitions, both of them positive affirmations of the continued power of art to be moving and relevant to people’s lives. One comes first upon a large gallery displaying memorabilia and documentation of Paul Bruscky’s work. Bruscky is a Brazilian artist who began making art in the 60s about political repression that he and his fellow countrymen were subject to. His work exhibits a Fluxus sensiblity, with text and documentation of live events including his own funeral procession though he was not dead.

In the next gallery space, was a survey of work made over the last 20 years by Tony Feher. I walked into the space and first felt my excitement mount as I perused the white wall facing the gallery entrance. It had a line of tiny colored shapes affixed to it in an orderly row. I walked closer. I could not believe it. It was a display of printer’s registration marks that are printed onto the edges of commercial print jobs, so for example if you flatten out a box of Kellogg’s cornflakes, you will find one of these colorful grids showing the basic printing colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Each one on that wall was slightly different just as they are in real life. It may be because I worked for many years in packaging and design, but these little pragmatic grids spoke to me. They were now separated from their utility, and dependent solely on their ability to measure up as mini artworks. Poignant and hilarious. When I walked into the next room and saw “Mountain Home”, my happiness began to swell. It was a carefully and perfectly stacked pyramid of those green plastic baskets that hold berries. I felt a mixture of incredible relief that someone had thought of something really nice to make with these. Stacked like that, they made a crisp geometric assertive shape; delicate and ephemeral, yet resiliant if knocked apart as one could easily imagine stacking them the same way again. I felt the relief, because I am the kind of person to whom people give their used egg cartons (I keep chickens) and their cleaned out maple syrup bottles and honey bottles (husband keeps bees, I tap trees) and sometimes, people even try to hand me other disposables that I really do not know what to do with. Like most people, I want to reuse and recycle, but you should see what the room behind my kitchen looks like. I could supply Tony with some great raw materials with which to create.FEHER1-articleLarge
I walked around, slowly taking in the amazing casual ease with which Feher had utilized the most mundane and not particularly aesthetic items from our lives. Glass jars, lids from glass jars, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and bits of junk arranged by type…like circles with holes in them arranged in a circle. And then I walked through a door in the back wall of the gallery space and stopped in front of an elliptical shape on the wall made by small ripped off pieces of blue painter’s tape stuck rhythmically, yet randomly, one next to another, each curling up off the wall and lit so as to each display a beautiful shadow. The resulting blue ellipse was delicate, hand made, simple, and elaborate at the same time. And yes, anyone could have made that. That is I think, what is really inspiring about Feher’s work. He makes it look so easy. Is it just the gallery lighting that gives those pieces of tape their casual beauty? His practice is one of isolating mundane mass produced items from the use and clutter of daily life. He identifies something as an art material with an intuitive sensitivity to it’s materiality and structural potential. If a piece of tape is best used to stick to something, then that is how the art work will be made. He has a brash confidence in the innate materiality of the objects he uses. He is delighted with cheap plastic and crumpled mylar and curling baling twine.
I turned around from looking at the blue tape ellipse and encountered the friend who had accompanied me to the show. She had suggested visiting the museum as she lives in the Bronx. I smiled at her and realized that a smile didn’t quite do it. She was making a silent “OMG” expression, and so I walked right up to her and gave her a huge hug saying, “Isn’t this amazing??!” It was.
IF you are anywhere near the Bronx in the next month, it is well worth the effort to park the car or walk the extra blocks to see these shows that are up until April 12 and Feb 16 respectively.

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