By Jess Rizkallah
South Boston, MA – When you first walk into the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery, the contrast in the expression of Beverly Sky and Mario Kon’s work is staggering. On the left: Sky’s visual narrative exploration. On the right: Kon’s bold trail of ideas exploring technique. The work that compiles “Narrative/Non-Narrative: Two Artistic Approaches” was juried by Barbara Krakow Gallery gallery director Andrew Witkin.
In her series, “We Shall Not Cease from Exploration: Windows on the Universe,” Beverly Sky has literally designed the fabric of the Universe — well, a fabric of the Universe — and out of a lot of fabric and a lot of ideas.
Using fragmentation and recombination, Sky constructs an exploration of the Universe both technically and narratively. A fusion of fabric, poetry, science, pop culture, social issues and spirituality, she translates the innate desperation we all have to apply the human element to the unknown — to the things that are more magnificent than humanity.
When we do this, we are finding a comfortable way to navigate the un-navigable; to come to terms with the possibility that we don’t matter, but also the reality that when we assign meaning to our experiences, it matters anyway. We still require humanity to connect to what surrounds us. We need to see ourselves in the Universe to care, to be less afraid — and then we can face the magnitude of the elements and how they exist regardless of how we feel about them.
Sky’s work begins with a line of red tape representing Carl Sagan’s “Timeline Of The Cosmic Year” beginning under the first window and running through the end of the piece, which is made up of nine windows each inviting the viewer into a different facet of both humanity’s impositions on the Universe, and the Universe’s superiority over human attempt. We begin at The Big Bang, this “shattering of the light,” according to Jewish Kabalistic thinking. This idea manifests itself technically as well, with the shattered light finding its way into other canvases in the piece by way of metallic leafing over fabric.
Another motif leading you through each window is a larger than life dragon — a pseudo guide through the universe, one who represents the ego. Sky explains that the reason you don’t see the whole dragon until the end of the piece is because one must explore the self, and then the self in relation to the external in order to understand both and to allow the ego to dissolve into something able to come together with another soul.
This idea is reflected in the final dragon in “Window #8, Amore e Morte: Love and Death Share The Same Root.” In it, the entire dragon has reached the end, which is also the beginning. It is holding the globe in its claw while breathing fire over a rose. Where it was silver in “Window #1’s” illustration of The Big Bang, the metal leafing is gold in “Window #8,” almost like the Universe has finally warmed up at this point in the timeline. Pieces of TS Eliot’s “Little Gidding, verse V” from “The Four Quartets” makes an overarching appearance around the border to remind us “All manner of things shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one.”
“A picture really is worth a thousand words,” Sky said, “but so many of those words are ‘love.’”
Meanwhile, Mario Kon’s work refuses a narrative. His paintings are inviting because of their subtle shifts. The viewer wants to watch the lines interact with each other, but the lines themselves aren’t going to tell you their life story — they’re going to tell you what is happening right then and there and what they’re all about is how you are reacting. Kon’s work varies in medium – at first glance, everything looks very deliberate, and to an extent there is definitely precision there. But there’s a lingering spontaneity to his work that hides between the mark making, and its presence is evident in how the energy changes depending on if he is carving, sculpting or painting on wood.
In a three-part piece called “Aftershock,” Kon uses a limited palette of red, black and white. The first panel is gridded, with lines coming undone. The next panel is still gridded, but some of the lines are now curled. The colors have jumped to different lines, with the curls being the most subtle shade, falling to the background – there’s a movement in the piece like a low rumble the viewer senses while still letting the bold lines dictate their reaction. The last panel has the curls at the forefront, competing for attention with the lines – or are they working together? It’s up to you.
Kon himself said the tension between the lines and shapes is something he enjoys recreating and building upon, but insists there is no narrative intention otherwise. Even the pieces titled “Letting Go” only suggest a different tone in the process. Indeed, this piece stands out on Kon’s side of the gallery, as it is softer. Spray-painted, the hard lines fall to the back while the waves emblazon the forefront. This is letting go boldly, presenting itself to the space between itself and the viewer.
In my visit to the gallery, Kon talked about his process, how his work environment and living environment are the same one. There are lines he can find in each piece and trace back to what he was thinking about while marking it. Maybe he was drinking coffee at his kitchen table. Maybe he was opening an electrical bill. Maybe there are places you can still see where the sun spilled itself through the window and got into the paint.
There’s the kaleidoscopic existential mystery to life and art that tries to figure out why we’re all here and there’s the fascinating study of the energy of routine and technique, of how much we can push the tension of existing in the moment. Both of Beverly Sky and Mario Kon’s art concerns itself here — you walk into the gallery not being able to fathom what they have in common, walk out not being able to stop seeing parallels.
(“Beverly Sky & Mario Kon: Narrative/Non-Narrative: Two Artistic Approaches” continues through December 4 at the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery, 300 Summer Street, Boston. The gallery is opened Wednesday through Friday from noon-6 p.m. or by appointment. For more information or to confirm gallery times (due to the Thanksgiving holiday), call (617) 423-4299.)