There’s an innate fascination with mystery that winds its way in and out of the work of Mark Van Yetter. The painter and sculptor’s work is flush with unspecified narratives, moments of confusion and abstraction that manages to carry all of his works up into an ever-shifting series of relationships and interactions. For his new show at Bridget Donahue, the artist has turned this interest towards the architectural twisting his narrative arcs through an interest in physical space, and its impacts on the objects within it.
Walking up the gallery steps to the space, the viewer is greeted with a new wall on the right-hand side of the gallery, effectively pushing the works closer to the opposite wall, and immediately confounding the spatial expectations of any visitor familiar with the Chinatown gallery. Hung on each of the walls are Van Yetter’s enigmatic conflations of paintings, drawings and prints that seem to walk a fine line between a bedroom adorned with posters, and a proper gallery space flush with art objects. This abstraction is amplified by an empty space in the middle of the wall, where a wooden framework stripped of drywall serves as a series of for small sculptures. Body parts and small figurines are arranged in the grid-like container, while across the way, a series of vitrines hold what look like letters and drawings to an unspecified recipient. Nearby, other sculptures and paintings pose surreal scenes. In one, a dejected-looking rabbit grasps a carrot, while in another, small boy stands against a pillar, surrounded by classical appointments that give the image a sort of dreamy atmosphere.
This sense of a dream, one bound by both image and architecture, pervades the show. Van Yetter’s interest in juxtaposed forms and their narrative capabilities takes center stage, allowing the fragmented images and ideas exhibited to build up gradual threads throughout the show. As one winds around the curved wall, and passes through a shadowy hallway, they are confronted by a massive landscape, all twisted branches and sinewy vines that gives the show’s layout an even more surreal effect, as if the assemblage of images, and the far off, almost haunting presence of a natural iconography underscored a gradual distance from the natural world, and a dream-state that has become more familiar to humanity than the world around us. It’s telling that a nearby image of a metro station, populated by only a few figures pacing up and down its steps in a sort of elaborately banal homage to M.C. Escher, seems perhaps closer to the world of today than a lush swamp scene.
With Van Yetter’s work, this unspecified state of existence, one that moves through images and iconographies almost effortlessly, seems to pose deeper questions about our relationship to the world, and to our willingness to build meaning into it. If Van Yetter’s pieces question the act of dreaming, one must ask just what is necessary to wake up.
The show is on view through July 15th.
— D. Creahan
Mark Van Yetter: You can observe a lot by just watching [Bridget Donahue]