TRAVEL HERE: ALEXANDER GORLIZKI AT THE CROW COLLECTION OF ASIAN ART IN DALLAS TX
The nice man in this picture is Andrew Gorlizki. Products of his fertile mind populate Variable Dimensions, his exhibit at The Crow Collection of Asian Art. A few weeks ago I posted an article which barely grazed the surface of this artist and his works, I promised then to give you more details. Well, here they are.
Alexander Gorlizki was born in London in 1967. His family’s roots are Russian and his mother had an Asian textiles business. At an early age he traveled to India with her and was immediately fascinated with pretty much everything, but was especially drawn to Indian miniature paintings. He couldn’t stay away. He was formally educated in London, but his real education was drawn from his interest in those miniature paintings, tantric drawings and textiles back in India. Along the way he became friends with Jaipur miniature artist Riyaz Uddin and their collaboration became the life-force of his work. It is Alexander, with his studio in New York, that brings the imagination, but Riyaz, his apprentices and other craftsmen in India execute the designs. Sometimes a work will pass between Jaipur and New York many times over an extended period of time before it is declared complete.
The Art of the Exhibition
When it was time for the exhibition notes to be prepared, Alexander and Riyaz were still working on bringing their concepts and designs together. Still, exhibition notes are dirigeur. Since Alexander couldn’t provide photos of completed works, they designed a pamphlet around his concepts. I’ve borrowed heavily from the pamphlet to help describe the exhibit.
“An entity without fixed boundaries. Shifting, multi-faceted experiences not reduceable to a single interpretation, imaginative worlds that can be viewed in different and occasionally contrasting terms – spiritual and prosaic, as clear as a cartoon, as elusive as a dream.” That’s how Alexander describes “Variable Dimensions” so exactly how are you and I supposed to make sense of it?
The notes goes on to invite us to “Laugh at the absurdity of our urgency to rationalize, narrate, and interpret.” The artist “uses traditional techniques to subvert traditional expectations,” the program explains. So let’s head down the rabbit hole with him.
Were someone to neaten it up, the inside of Alexander’s mind might look something like this. It’s a sampling of his idea board transported to Dallas to help us understand what is happening. Look at it carefully. There’s a man’s suit in miniature, drawings by Alexander’s child, textiles, sketches, notes and more. Look for connections, contrasts, whimsy, humor and colors. Shake it together in the artist’s mind and you have “Variable Dimensions.”
As crazy as it all seems to us, his mind must at least yearn for order. My absolute favorite piece in the exhibition is a Rolodex that rolls itself. Each card on the Rolodex contains a motif that intrigues the artist. I didn’t have as much time as I wanted on my first visit to the exhibition, but I really want to study the cards and then locate the motifs within the exhibit. I’ve promised myself that I will.
By the way, that slightly scientific looking wallpaper? Yep, he designed that also – and carpets and all the other wacky pieces around the gallery. One of the big incongruities of the exhibit is the amount of painstaking skill that went into creating such nonsensical pieces.
Choosing one piece to represent the whole is virtually impossible. The mere variety of objects is overwhelming. There are sculptures, paintings, architectural features, decorative arts, found objects, video and more. I mean really. When was the last time you saw an exhibition where even the wallpaper had been designed by the artist? He’d even designed the fabric of the shirt he was wearing. Leonardo di Vinci is the last guy I knew about who was so interested in so many things.
However, since it was miniature painting which set Alexander off on his artistic journey, that’s what I will show to you. What you are looking at is a miniature painting referencing a style of photography popular in the 19th century. Indians eagerly embraced the advent of photography and everyone wanted a family photo on their walls, but black and white was just too boring. So they would embellish the photos with colorful enhancements, like the turbans of the men in the back of the picture. However, the other enhancements are pure Gorlizki: elephant heads, dancing monkeys, mythical figures and an tiger with rabbit ears.
To appreciate these paintings you will have to go to the exhibit and lean as close as you can towards them. The fur on the animals is amazing. The Indian artists use brushes with only one bristle to capture the exact look of the animals’ pelts. Look closer and you will begin to appreciate the precise execution of the fabric in the turbans and the tile on the floor.
Then you must step back and look around. Find the connections. Where else do you see animal fur, the patterns in the cloth of the turbans, the mosaics on the floor? Are they on the design board? Can you find them among the cards of the Rolodex? Are there other monkeys in the room? Perhaps you can even find a connection to wallpaper on the wall behind the painting – perhaps.