Alchemy & Inquiry


The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back (2011) by Fred Tomaselli.

Artistic alchemy has been thriving in New York for the past few weeks. Alchemy & Inquiry is a show which has been running at the Glyndor Gallery, Wave Hill, the Bronx, since April, featuring paintings by Philip Taaffe, Fred Tomaselli and Terry Winters. “Alchemy” here is used in its broadest sense:

The word “alchemy” in the exhibition title alludes to transformation on many levels: chemical, magical and spiritual. Creative powers are summoned to transform common elements physically and metaphorically into substances of great value. With practices and insights that prefigure many important discoveries in biology, chemistry and physics, alchemy likewise fascinated and continues to fascinate poets and painters, serving as an allegory for the physical manifestation of immaterial spirit. This tradition unites the work of Winters, Tomaselli and Taaffe. (more)

A PDF catalogue containing commentary by the always enlightening Peter Lamborn Wilson can be downloaded here. A sample:

Certain extra-formal aspects of art cannot be ruled out as irrelevant to our experience of that art or to our understanding of it. A visitor from Alpha Centauri would not know that Tomaselli’s paintings actually contain real pills, maryjane leaves, spore prints, or whatever—real illegal drugs. But we earthlings cannot fail to consider this witty provocation when thinking about Tomaselli’s works. To own one of his paintings—if the Feds ever wanted to make an issue of it—would be, simply, a crime. Is a crime, actually. This fact adds nothing formal to Tomaselli’s art. But, oh, how much it adds, let’s say, conceptually. How much weight? What an aura.

If proof were needed, contra all the puritan anti-drug fascists and priests, that genuine mystical drug states are accessible via entheogenic drugs and various (illegal) ditchweeds, then we could enter Tomaselli’s paintings as evidence. The point is that if drugs could not do this then there would be no reason to make them illegal. Imagine: icons that are also reliquaries, containing edible body parts of vegetable saints, forbidden by the Babylonian Ugly Spirit, the eternal Mind Police.

The NYT reviewed the exhibition but missed a trick in not connecting it to the Alchemically Yours group art show which has been running at Observatory, Brooklyn throughout the past month. That show ends this weekend; Alchemy & Inquiry runs until June 19th. Thanks to Jay for the tip!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alchemically Yours
Laurie Lipton’s Splendor Solis
The Arms of the Art
Splendor Solis
Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae
Cabala, Speculum Artis Et Naturae In Alchymia
Vision Quest
Digital alchemy

One thought on “Alchemy & Inquiry”

  1. J – always enjoy your site because while some of our ‘worlds’ overlap, others do not. I really like the Tomaselli bird painting; there is something intuitively satisfying/appealing/affirming about it, for me:)) mandala-like!

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