Fortunately, I continue to be impressed by what I’m seeing on my (limited) gallery rounds. Moskowitz Bayse just finished a sold-out show of Eleanor Swordy, “Earth Signs.” Swordy’s oil paintings offer up witty, thought-provoking worlds of myth and metaphor, with the aid of plump figures floating through fanciful landscapes. In the large painting Salomé (2020), a rotund Salomé holds up a tray with the mashed head of John the Baptist, against a gridded background. Ever curious, Yours Truly decided to look up the original accounts in the Bible—which tell of a girl dancing for Herod, then asking for John’s head at the prompting of her mother, Herodias, whose marriage to Herod had been opposed by John. Did you get that? I had to read the passages a couple times myself. The dancer was not named in the accounts by Mark and Matthew, and her motive was not, as I had gleaned from popular lore, because she was angry at John’s rejection of her. No, she was not a woman scorned, but rather a woman who listened too well to her embittered Mom.
GAVLAK seems to be on a winning streak presenting the exceptional work of emerging young artists. “Wisdom Embedded in the Treads” is the first solo at the gallery for Kim Dacres, a Jamaican-American artist based in Harlem. It features 11 busts made out of recycled bicycle and automobile tires, with head and facial features made from wrapping, twisting and combining parts of tires, then screwing them together. Especially fascinating is how the artist uses tread patterns to recreate dreadlock, braiding and other hair ornamentation. These sculptures, some of them inspired by people the artist knows, have an undeniably powerful presence.