Brad Kahlhamer: A Referential Narrative

NEW YORK–Brad Kahlhamer has infused Jack Shainman Gallery with a spiritual/cult vibe. “Fort Gotham Girls + Boys Club” includes drawings, watercolors, paintings, sculpture and installations. The exhibition invokes traditional Native American motifs such as dream catchers and Hopi dolls and conjures the hand-crafted, narrative aesthetics of outsider art.

Last year, in its review of Kahlhamer’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, the New York Times reports on his backstory: “A Native American born in Tucson, he was adopted by a German-American family as an infant and has lived in New York City, near the Bowery for decades.”

This is the final weekend of the exhibition on view March 28 to April 26, 2014 at Jack Shainman’s 513 West 20th Street location.

All photos by Arts Observer

Installation view.

A circle of about 30 “Next Level Figures.”

The gallery notes the significance of the figures: “In the circular formation of the ‘Next Level Figures,’ Kahlhamer continues to build his army of sculptures birthed from the remix of Hopi Katsina dolls and outsider totems. Similar to how the Katsina are used to describe and teach Hopi cosmology, the ‘Next Level Figures’ form their own social landscape. The circle in which they are configured asserts itself throughout the exhibition in various iterations.

“As a unifying geometry which anchors ideas around physical and spiritual existence, the circle represents life and death through the movement of time and space. The openings between the figures represent the ‘four corners,’ North, West, East and South, referencing Wyoming’s Bighorn medicine wheel constructed by Plains Indians and which stands as part of a larger complex of interrelated archeological sites in the surrounding area.”

Detail view of “Next Level Figures.”

Framed paintings and drawings hung gallery style are on display at the front of the gallery.

At left, “Super Catcher,” (industrial wire, jingle bells).

The gallery describes the work thus: “‘Super Catcher’ is a constellation of dream catchers made of industrial metal wire and jingle bells, 10 feet in diameter, marks a new direction for Kahlhamer. Using the ubiquitous symbol of the dream catcher, perhaps the most recognizable and appropriated object of American Indian culture, it hangs as an intricate, sprawling, sieve-like chain link net.

“‘Super Catcher’ looms suspended from the ceiling as a swarm of elements in what Kahlhamer describes as ‘aftermarket spiritual rebar.’ He combines the sacred with the commonplace, emblematic of the contradictions for which he is well known.”

Installation view.

“Fort Gotham Girls + Boys Club,” (oil on canvas).

According to the gallery, “Fort Gotham Girls + Boys Club,” the work after which the exhibition is named, is “a continuation of Kahlhamer’s downtown Bowery aesthetic, including painterly elements that open up to a conversation with modernist art history, underscoring his ever ambitious refinement of his unique visual language.”

Detail view of “Super Catchers.”

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