Galleries: German Gomez's men, mixed and matched, at Bridgette Mayer

From German Gomez’s “De Padres y de Hijos,” a photographic exploration of the theme of fathers and sons, at Bridgette Mayer Gallery.
From German Gomez’s “De Padres y de Hijos,” a photographic exploration of the theme of fathers and sons, at Bridgette Mayer Gallery.
Posted: April 22, 2012

German Gomez’s exhibition at Bridgette Mayer Gallery offers further proof of this gallery’s increasingly international focus.

Gomez’s life-size color photographs of nude and partially clothed men, one series of which re-creates Michelangelo’s “The Damned” from his Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel and many of which are composites of several male figures or faces torn from their original photographs and reassembled, are clearly the work of an artist steeped in European painting. Gomez, who lives in Madrid and received both his B.F.A. and his M.F.A. from the Complutense University there, must also have more than a passing knowledge of the affichistes, those European artists who became known in the 1950s and 1960s for their paintings and collages fashioned from fragments of posters they removed from walls.

Gomez’s photographs are as layered in meaning as they are layered physically. “Fichados-Tatuados,” the first of several series represented in this show, are full-length frontal portraits of solitary young men displaying tattoos on various parts of their bodies, accompanied by framed photographs of what appear to be police records showing two lateral views of each subject.

These are not real convicts, as one might assume, nor are the tattoos authentic. The men are friends of Gomez’s, the “tattoos” are paintings by Gomez, and Gomez has referred to the series as “an invented historical self-portrait, a biography in images using the skin of fifty characters, who have accepted to be the ‘support’ to narrate my life.”

In the photos that make up “Compuestos,” Gomez has assembled a single face from portions of two or three of his photographs of male faces, and in “De Padres y de Hijos,” he explores the theme of fathers and sons by superimposing several images of younger and older male faces atop each other.

Gomez’s ”The Damned,” which comprises several framed photographs and takes up the entire back wall of the gallery, is a remarkable effort — each panel depicts two or three men in a complicated pose reminiscent of those in the mural — but the expressions on the faces of his figures are surprisingly peaceful, even reflective. The “damned” are his friends, again, just ordinary sinners.

My favorite works are the theatrical ones that display stitching, crumples, and other surface tensions that align them most obviously with painting and collage.

Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-413-8893 or www.bridgettemayergallery.com. Through Saturday.

So it goes

The American Philosophical Society Museum has commissioned numerous art projects over the years, but its latest exhibition marks the first time it has invited an artist to select and interpret objects from the APS collections. In “Tempus Fugit,” Antonia Contro has given new life to relics few of us have ever glimpsed, making them the centerpieces of her own dioramas in the museum’s display niches.

In a tempo, for instance, Contro chose a 1778 book by Joseph Priestley, A Description of a Chart of Biography, which could not be opened for this show because of its delicacy. Contro’s interaction with the tome by the discoverer of oxygen was to attach to it a long sheet of paper printed with a facsimile of the chart within the book. The effect is of a chart magically flowing out of the closed book.

An 1882 ticket to Charles Darwin’s funeral sits at the back of another diorama whose exaggeratedly deep perspective makes the invitation appear to be a wall at the back of a vast empty room suitable for a Victorian celebrity send-off. In the foreground, Contro has put a tiny video animation of butterflies inside a sculptural book.

Her whimsy and affection for the past — especially old books — carries through in each of her dioramas, which often bring the boxes of Joseph Cornell to mind. More often than not, she smartly allows the objects to be her stars. Who, after all, would try to compete with a carved slate dodecahedron, maker unknown, found in Ohio before 1792?

American Philosophical Society Museum, 104 S. Fifth St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. 215-440-3440 or apsmuseum.org. Through Dec. 30.

Little gem

During his lifetime, Roman Cotosman (1935-2006) was recognized internationally for his minimal paintings and sculptures, which sprang from constructivism and have an affinity with contemporaneous works by Ellsworth Kelly.

In Philadelphia, where Cotosman settled in 1972 after leaving his native Romania, he was included in an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1979, “Philadelphia Contemporary Drawings II,” organized by Ann Percy, but he showed his work mainly in Europe, and represented Romania in the Venice Biennale in 1995.

Art on the Avenue Gallery is remembering Cotosman with a small, beautifully installed survey of his sublime paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Art on the Avenue Gallery, 3808 Lancaster Ave., 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 215-387-0401 or www.artonave.org. Through May 5.

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