The West at Sunset

The Abrons Arts Center is proud to present The West at Sunset, a multidisciplinary group exhibition in response to a masterwork of spiritual literature, Rene Daumal’s 1952 novelMount Analogue.

Jaq Belcher
Alberto Borea
Amy Finkbeiner
MaryKate Maher
Rachel Pollak
Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff
Adam Parker Smith
Panos Tsagaris

Adrian Geraldo Saldaña

Mount Analogue, a surrealist allegory of an expedition to the top of a holy mountain, garnered Daumal considerable recognition in France as a poet and student of mysticism. Unfinished due to his death from tuberculosis, the text notably provided the premise for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain. The West at Sunset displays, in works installed throughout the Abrons Arts Center’s multiple gallery spaces, the imagined remnants of this journey.

The concept of the mountain climb appealed to Daumal because, like his vision of spirituality, it involves both transcendent impulses and practical considerations. The novel, and the exhibition, seeks the possibility of holy sparks, but embedded in the world of matter — physical bodies, topographies and landscapes, water and air. The exhibition brings together a group of contemporary artists whose practice considers our perception of space and geography with a second group whose forms and concepts depict ritualized human behavior.

The title of the exhibition refers to the particular alignment of the travelers’ ship that allows it to access the mountain, bridging the invisible and material worlds. Multiple installations in the exhibition are likewise modified by the shadows and the light created by the changing position of the sun, forging a living environment that shifts from day to night and back again.

Adam Parker Smith’s site-specific installation of white golf umbrellas, Umbrella Cloud, creates an environment of smoke, clouds, and mist. Evoking the elements found at the summit of Mount Analogue, it imagines a climax to the unfinished novel. The eleven conjoined wooden ladders that create And There Was Evening, And There Was Morning byRachel Pollak surrender their load-bearing histories to the whole, forging a new mountainous landscape suggestive of pilgrimages to come. Lacking a uniform peak, the work exists as a monument to a journey in process. Drawings from Pollak’s series Delectable Mountains harness the inspiration from the communal rituals and patterns of everyday life.

The pieces Transition and Ascending by Jaq Belcher contain delicate, almost invisible blade cuts made on a single expanse of white paper. A third work, 14,695 moments in time, exists as a “time pile” a collection of hand-cut paper seeds representing every day of the artist’s life up to the opening of the exhibit, December 9, 2010. Apareces is a one-channel video projection by Alberto Borea, documenting himself climbing a Peruvian mountain, a study of loneliness and spiritual longing.

MaryKate Maher transmutes common and basic elements into totems of greater significance. Mountains, charred wood, and splintered branches — all unite into greasy, ashen forms as fragments of a landscape that tells a larger story of destruction and transformation. Whale Lore is a guided imagery program and audio piece by Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff developed out of research the study of whale acoustics and the ability of whales to traverse unimaginable vertical distances in the ocean. In his performative workshop, the artist serves as a spiritual guide as participants listen to the audio program, navigating the vastness of the ocean and mapping a pathway in the dark, empty waters.

Panos Tsagaris uses the projection of light and geometric angles to represent the union between the divine and the three-fold nature of man (body-soul-spirit). The photographic diptych I Am An Infinity In the Becoming reflects the emanation of the divine energy through the higher planes to the material world. A shelf mounted below the work holding a bundle of flowers anointed with oils represents the plane we live in — material and finite. Moving between many different mediums, Amy Finkbeiner uses religious and devotional imagery to evoke a palpable sense of longing by the entranced mystics and saints of medieval times. In the sculptures Within My Breast and Cat-O-Nine Tails self-flagellation and matyrdom explore and surpass the limits of the body, conjuring an ecstatic state simultaneously religious and erotic.

Taken as a whole, The West at Sunset explores and finally confirms the spiritual and transcendent potential of human behavior within the natural world.