The May Salon at Plan B Gallery

June 26, 2011

The 27th of May marked yet another collective opening in the well accustomed manner of the Paintbrushes Factory. Plan B’s contribution was a show entitled The May Salon, curated by Mircea Cantor, that brought together the gallery’s main featured artists along with some guest artists.

The name of the show itself poses an interesting question that remains largely unanswered: is the salon reference directed towards the idea of the salon as a well established institution that has the power to make or break artists? Or is it an ironic and bittersweet reference to the salons organized in the communist era? Even though there is no definitive answer that I can provide, I must say the name is rather appropriate for a show that seems to have no particularly strong conceptual link between the presented pieces, this being doubled by the fact that it presents a large number of artists – some of which are among the best known names of the Romanian contemporary art scene.

Having artists such as Ion Grigorescu, Ciprian Muresan, Serban Savu, Cristi Pogăcean, Ioana Bătrânu, Corneliu Brudascu, Rudolf Bone, Mircea Cantor, Victor Man, Miklos Onucsan, Cristian Opris, Eugenia Pop and Gabriela Vanga in the same room is evidently a tour de force on behalf of Plan B, but I keep wondering if the inconsistent aspect of the show is not too high of a price to pay for this… The selected works are mighty different from one another in terms of topic, concept, medium, and –on lesser level– quality. However, this creates some confusion as you enter the gallery space and thus the works suddenly become less enjoyable and dare I say even annoying due to the fact that you just can’t seem to view them right.

Victor Man and Anna Bella Papp’s work is visually appealing and intriguing even though I found it quite hard to grasp. Cristian Opris’ realistic portrait engravings are highly elegant and well executed from a technical point of view, and they were also really nicely showcased. And even more than that – they are just simply very clever and ironic! The “portraits” corner of the show is then continued by Ciprian Muresan’s Family Portraits – snapshot-like photographs in color, that want to come through as sincere and informal.

Ioana Bătrânu’s Melancholic Interior is a masterful painting, reminiscing of Bonnard, in terms of color, composition, and even theme, but with an extra dose of surrealism to it. The color scheme is rich, and along with the strong brushworks it makes for a great visual treat. Corneliu Brudascu’s two paintings are gestural and highly expressive, with muted, yet sophisticated colors.

Both of Mircea Cantor’s works are interesting enough, but special attention must be paid to his video, Vertical Attempt. It shows a little boy trying to cut the stream of water running from the faucet with a pair of scissors. It is short, with a clear message, and it sure gets the message across.

The centerpiece of the show (literally) is Rudolf Bone’s installation Clouds Over Picnic, a large setup of a picnic, complete with grass all around and the scattered leftovers of a luncheon. Above this whole scene hang two large, childish clouds made out of tinfoil. At the opening, this particular artwork also had an interactive role, the artist inviting people over for the picnic, but if you happened to be there at some other time, this interactive dimension falls out of the picture. The downside to this installation, and what, in my opinion, affects the entire show is that because of it being rather large the space seems unfit for it, especially since it is surrounded by small works (the engravings and the photographs can be seen in the background), neither of which can “breathe” properly because of it.

The rest of the featured works include a painting by Serban Savu (Procession), very much in the painter’s known style; another installation, this time belonging to Eugenia Pop and called History of Europe – a wooden “frame” with bidimensional ceramics figurines representing soldiers from different eras, hanging from the frame… Also Gabriela Vanga’s Magnum opus – an ultrasound image of a fetus inside a womb, a work I honestly have mixed feelings about: is it supposed to be a sincere and feminist statement on the power of creation… or is it a bitter irony towards the condition of the woman artist?!? …or maybe I am just trying to over-think this…

As an overall conclusion, the show brings out many worthy pieces of art, and it does indeed have the appearance of a salon, and with this I mean both the good and the bad of it, by the later meaning incongruity.

 

Text by Voica Puscasiu

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