Tripoli Gallery: Worlds We Create

The Southampton space is taken over by four artists with distinct visions organized into separate zones by Tripoli Patterson, the owner and curator of this show
Aakash Nihalani’s “Field,” from 2013, consists of an acrylic-painted canvas square with a surround of corrugated plastic, wood, and magnets.

    Now that the holiday season has drawn to a close, those stuck in their house from winter storms and a dislike of cold air may be looking for more serious diversions to lure them from their hibernation. Yet this time of year, the South Fork arts calendar typically contracts, leading to a sense of frustrated purpose.

    Fortunately, a few stout-hearted dealers have kept their venues and shows from last month open for the weeks through Martin Luther King Day, and Tripoli Gallery is one of them.

    The Southampton space is taken over by four artists with distinct visions organized into separate zones by Tripoli Patterson, the owner and curator of this show. Each area highlights the singular styles and approaches of the artists to their subject matter.

    Realist and more academic approaches to landscapes and the figure by Melanie J. Moczarski and Nick Weber bracket the more geometrically abstract styles of Jonathan Beer and Aakash Nihalani. Mr. Weber’s figures and a few less characteristic landscapes are separated by a wall. A curtain, not always used, marks the division between Ms. Moczarski’s works and her more abstract counterparts.

    Ms. Moczarski’s paintings, in acrylic on panel or paper, are recognizable as landscapes, but have an interior or psychological quality. In her renderings, hillsides and streams are generalized and moody, distilling a bit of Van Gogh, but much more contained and controlled than the Expressionism of that artist.

    Her landscapes are often marked by little clouds or star-like dots and dapples over the scene. Sometimes they look like applied paint, other times they look carved into the panel and filled like nail holes with spackle. The overall effect is of phosphorescence and fairy dust, as if her imagined worlds are haunted or enlivened by spectral forces or brief glimmers of memory and recognition. They add a bit of life to the somberness of her palette, which often seems inflected with the golds and browns of age and nostalgia.

    In contrast to her meditative world, the middle room, which features both Mr. Beer and Mr. Nihalani, is a pure shot of adrenaline. The viewer is first confronted with Mr. Nihalani’s bold geometric abstractions and optical illusions that appear to enter the space in a solid and dominating way, a figurative punch in the face.

    Whether his squared-off painted and sculptural rods in black with Day-Glo highlights are busting through the white-painted canvas, splitting it in two, or containing it in a more subtle act of dominance, a kind of brute force is at play. The happy colors belie the implied violence and then the ultimately flat two-dimensionality of the illusion lends an air of impotence. It is difficult not to project some kind of psychological motif at play here too, as these simple works reveal much about human relationships and how much power we take and yield in them, often blinded by illusion.

    His neighbor, Jonathan Beer, is not afraid of color and employs it as a child might, in a joyful and playful manner not constrained by realism. His works often look like set pieces with framing devices that may include the use of paint or applications of bright vinyl cut as banners or little flags. It can seem like a circus at times, but the subject matter is murky and uncertain. Some of the paintings look like they might have something to do with the sea or home, but whatever they are, they are of his own imagination.  

    The titles do little to clarify, but allow viewers to meditate on their own conclusions. “Separated at Birth” and “Night Vision” call up darker forces at play, but the candy-colored delivery seems at odds with that reading, a reflection of society’s desire to often sugarcoat bad news or couch hostility with passive aggression.

    In what almost seems like a separate exhibition, Nick Weber’s figurative works dominate the final space in the gallery. Interspersed are a few night landscapes and a couple of his more pornographically themed paintings. Mr. Weber, not unlike Ms. Moczarkski, takes a more traditional approach to modern subject matter. In “Girl on a Blue Couch,” a topless woman reclines on a settee shielding her chest with her arms, her hands apparently bound. She does not look uncomfortable, just awkward, as if she is playacting and not very well at that.

    Another model bares her breast in a more academic and conventionally tasteful approach in “Model and Painter.” This subject’s subtle and only partially revealed nudity seems more sexually charged than the full frontal nakedness and availability of “Threesome,” which may or may not be the artist’s point.

    The artist has said he likes to break down his paintings with scraping and sanding before building back up their imagery. It makes his subjects and narrative more difficult to access, a device that has become familiar with his figures, but becomes even more allusive in his landscapes.

    The moody darkness of all of them and the generalization that they achieve, where a city street can look like the country and vice versa, is engaging. “Lone Street Light” is particularly moonless except for its one mechanical beacon. Trying to navigate this inky world as the eyes adjust is as confounding as walking the more rural streets here, where the night swallows you whole and even one’s hand is nearly impossible to make out from the gloom.

    The exhibition will be on view through Jan. 20.

In an untitled work from 2012, Jonathan Beer channels similar geometrics for a more maximalist effect.Tripoli Gallery
Melanie J. Moczarski’s “Find Me There,” acrylic on panel from last year, is indicative of her realistic yet psychologically complex style.
Nick Weber’s “East Village Street” has a similar murky quality that adds another dimension to his more familiar figurative works. Tripoli GalleryNick Weber’s “East Village Street” has a similar murky quality that adds another dimension to his more familiar figurative works.Tripoli Gallery