An Exhibition Review for “Here and Beyond”
written by Michael David Higgins.
My thoughts on “Here and Beyond,” at the Progress Gallery, Pomona, from August 14th 2021, till August 28th 2021. Two weeks seems short for an art show. Is 14 days enough time for word of mouth to be effective?
The art comes from a couple working in town. In fact most of the work was realized just feet from the gallery. Romantically linked, Shnyx, as they go by as a couple, are Alexandra Garcia (Nyx), and Shayne Mitchell.
Their styles are distinct from each other yet they frequently collaborate on many of the paintings for Here & Beyond. As I looked at these I was never moved towards an understanding of why they do this or what is meant by working in this way. The piece “Mycellium” is my favorite of these. Yet for me, it does not function as a collaboration. Garcia’s fiery root-like abstraction dominates, leaving me with an impression of one rather then both.
As for Mitchell’s solo pieces, they are aesthetically dark, and emotionally inquisitive. Deep gradients of purples, maroons, greens, and blues; over black space, indicative of the mind’s peripheral. His perspective is soft, but not indifferent, curious with a pure and gentle touch, like interacting with an invisible baby.
Of his figurative paintings, “Truth Desire and the Binding Shadow” stands out. It is like a still life of the subconscious, floating pieces of mind and memory: an apple core, a looming monster deity, and nudes of himself and Alexandra; each arched back and looking off, again reminding me of the mind’s peripheral gaze.
In “Hadal Snailfish,” a bio luminous fish alone in a field of black. Striking and stark, it feels, not like an actual fish, but an unnoticed fish from the deep background of a dream.
“Selfless Portrait,” is like when his search backwards and to the side, brings him face to face with a messed up mirror, or maybe a convoluted memory of an old friend; who’s been hiding back there.
His abstractions remind me of psychedelic art in general, without diluting into empty mirroring of entheogenic experience. Through these mostly geometric, and gradient patterns, he eloquates the subtle desires of discovery. His piece “Implanted Into the Relentless” is my favorite of these. Softly spiraling inwards towards the world behind our own face. It relates emotional weight through curiosity, and is full of transparent intricacies.
Other noteworthy pieces of Mitchell’s include a collection of found objects painted in value denying black. The objects are in plain view, yet defy your attention, and remain in your peripheral; like seeing spots as you walk around the exhibition.
There is also a delirious dragon, and a recreation of a dead head resting in profile.
When you meet Shayne you’re taken with this quiet manner and speech, he strokes you like he strokes his canvas. Though, sometimes I do wish he would speak up.
Alexandra’s paintings are more outwardly oriented than Shayne’s. Some are impressions of realist scenes imbued with hope for wonder.
“Intertwined” is my favorite of these. We follow a young woman on a hike through nature. The perspective of the woman reminds me of the famous Wyeth. But in that painting the subject feels alone, looked at from an otherworldly perspective; here the gaze feels wholly human. This scene, and it’s impressionist-like texture, shrewdly resists a dreamlike label, instead focusing on something found in the depth of waking surface.
In the piece "Necessary Bonding" we enter a similar scene, as three women gather in nature for what looks like a picnic. Here Garcia does not seem interested in simple nostalgia. Instead, like in “Intertwined,” I sense a preoccupation with emotional distance.
The pieces from her lovely “Kitty Corner” also fit here. A series of common cat scenes from around the neighborhood, observed by you or me. At first glance these may seem like casual plein air. But the intense cat faces, and expressive settings do more to create an emotive space, leading us to the frayed mind of the artist.
In all of these, through Alexandra’s wooly stroke, I sense an inner angst, indicative of an inability to hold on to those around her, a disappointment with her connections to others.
As I said, her paintings often have what I labeled a “hope for wonder.” It is important to note this is opposed to the more common, “since of wonder.” What stands out here, is the apparent dearth of wonder, and the remaining hope it may eventually be found. These are not simple reflections on events in ones life, but rather an expression of isolation and perhaps even intellectual crisis.
The jewel of the exhibition is Alexandra’s epic reimagining of “The Mirror of Venus” titled “Reimagination of the Mirror of Venus.” Women gather together, looking down into their own reflections. She adorns them in a spectrum of color. (What’s also noteworthy here, is the artist’s growing confidence in articulating light, and especially facial expressions, each of which tells a story.)
Furthermore, by offering a recreation in this manner, Alexandra shows us she is more than willing to assert herself into creating new social mythology. Looking at this painting I am exhilarated, because Alexandra is declaring herself like never before. Flexing as an artist, she will not be content with what has worked before, but with bravery, willing to thrust towards what may become. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Before concluding, I’d like to note, that not everything Nyx does is outward. Some of her paintings are of nightmare scenes of orgies, as well as weird rituals performed in dreamlike trapped spaces. May we visit these another day.
I’d like to end by mentioning her fish tank painting. Beautiful and memorable, “Pure Observation” seems to be the outlier here. It seems sarcastic to me, like a nod to her disillusionment with human relationships present in most of her other paintings. Here we are left seemingly void of any human signifiers, except perhaps for our gaze itself. With this one, we might actually have “wonder for wonders sake.”
Presented by the Progress Gallery 2021