Curators aren’t supposed to display their own work in their shows. But if one your exhibitors has done your portrait in oil on canvas—wearing a stunning animal hat bursting out of the sun roof of your car—what’s to argue about?
The show itself reveals the many ways to represent the human figure. In the work of New Haven artist Jaclyn Conley, who plunks animals in beds, bowers, and other human settings, the show also seems to ask: Excuse me, can you tell me how a human is different from a non-human animal?
Believe me: You don’t want this cat hopping up onto the comforter.
The Figure Eight runs through March 16 at Artspace at Orange and Crown streets. Click here for an overview of the show as conceived by Adae and brief bios of the artists. Be sure to take some human identity with you, or what you think passes for same, when you visit.
“Where do we draw the line between the animal and human figure?” Adae posed the question during a walk through of the sunny space late Wednesday afternoon.
Light poured down on one of the most surprising and resonant works, “Josh’s Prayer,” by Gaviero Umami. That is the nom d’arte of the sculptor duo Eoin Burke and Jim Dessicino, who live in New Haven but work in Brooklyn.
The painted fiberglass sculpture of a man meditating, especially one wearing not a Buddhist robe but a hoodie, depicts arguably one of the most human of human activities, perhaps a uniquely human activity. Unless someone has documented a bonobo or preying mantis meditating.
Adae, who has just established a teaching studio, the Adae Fine Art Academy, at 817 Chapel St., is curating his first show as a member of Artspace’s Visual Arts Committee.
He said he was prompted to do a show on the human figure because walking through the galleries in Manhattan and elsewhere, he was struck by a preponderance of the conceptual and the abstract.
Humans need a comeback in art, Adae said, because “there will be infinite depiction [of the human form] as long as we are creating art of ourselves.”
The figure eight is not only a type of knot and a bravura move for a skater, he noted. Lying on its side, it is also a mathematical symbol of infinity.
As he walked through Artspace, Adae seemed a bit like Adam naming the animals: “I have Sophia [Wallace] covering the real. I have [Gregory] Santos covering the abstract. I have Jaclyn covering the animal figure. I have Burke covering traditional figurative sculpture. Trevor and Ryan Oakes cover the scientific approach to the figure, like Brunelleschi and Leonardo.”
Adae’s public programming for the show is also a kind of evangelism for the human form. If you want to reacquaint yourself with it, Thursday night through the show’s run, he’s bringing over a dozen easels from his school that he sets up for instruction
The drawing class is free, the model is nude, and the easels are set up amid the art works.