by Jonathan Goodman
A Goosh Noosh
ZURCHER STUDIO | SEPTEMBER 18 – NOVEMBER 4, 2012
Brian Belott’s enthusiasm for glittering decoration is amply evident in this excellent show, which proves that even preciousness can be transformed into something inspired and forceful, that is, if you parody your own treatment of materials. Using a reverse-glass method, Belott employs things like cellophane—he loves shiny, reflective surfaces—to build a world that is somewhere out there in the ether of innocence, where a material decision like a girl’s socks adds to the general impression that we are in the land of Oz. Belott simply does not let up: he does a fine job of parodying himself parodying someone else; in a funny performance the night of the opening, he channeled Frank Sinatra and other lounge lizards, but to the point where his vocal excesses, composed of pure sound as much as actual wordage, became the point of the presentation. In Belott’s case, too much is not nearly enough—he is remarkably well informed about art history and music, which greatly influence his art and improvisational process. What results is a personal mythology lifting him beyond the dreariness of everyday life.
Indeed, the seduction of the viewer is something close to the artist’s heart. Belott holds Liberace up as a liberating influence, someone whose cultural tics could be imitated in fine art. You can see it in his choice of materials, bought at cheap stationery stores, which glitter and sparkle and generally offend one’s sense of Modernist good taste. But Belott knows how to distort Modernism for his own purposes, manifested in “Grid Locked Sock” (2012), a marvelously imprecise grid with a blue sock in the upper-right corner of the composition. (Just to make sure you get it, the artist has placed a patterned arrow pointing to the sock’s orange frame.) Here, as almost always, Belott distinguishes himself by using common materials. In “Dirty Sock Bling—Red” (2012), he collages to the back of a glass a green and orange rectangle against a bright red background; a dirty sock stands upside down between them. Small paper rectangles cross over the sock, which has a painted, light purple triangle above it and a roughly geometric grayish-brown form beneath. The work’s graphic strength, based on improvisation, proves that Belott knows exactly what he is doing.
In some ways, Belott’s installation of laminated drawings steals the show. Silly, jazzy, syncopated, and immensely colorful, the drawings demonstrate a gifted artist improvising a process as much as completing a work of art. In the sense of improvisation, Belott is inspired by great jazz musicians like John Coltrane, whose music he loves. But he isn’t mining the depths as much as he is celebrating the surface of things. One drawing may have a gray squiggle with a hot pink background, while another is a beautiful, mostly blue abstraction that seems to mimic the color of the water in Greece. If it seems dashed off, that is exactly the point. Belott’s strength is found in his long conversation with color, which beguiles the viewer in its turn. “Ball Caldron” (2012) presents diagonal rows of tinfoil balled up and colored black; they rest on circular pieces of white paper colored pink. Unusually for Belott, the black spheres extend roughly three inches into space, making the work close to a high relief. A few of the pink circles are empty; they contrast sharply with the soot-colored black of the balls. Here Belott undermines his penchant for impetuosity, creating a work in linear form. He is both arbitrary and capricious in the extreme, which accounts for the discipline and vigor of his art.
33 Bleecker St. // New York, NY
Jonathan Goodman is a teacher and author specializing in Asian art, about which he has been writing for more than twenty years.