A week ago I caught the fun and colorful exhibit, “Altered States” at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL. I’ve got to go back and immerse myself in all of the psychedelic details before it closes in ten days.
The exhibition was curated by Cheryl Brutvan, from the Norton. The four artists featured are all masters of color and detail. Before you enter the main exhibition gallery, Jose Alvarez’s “Vibrating Strands of Energy,” greets the museum visitors. The lobby wall is full of undulating color in the Fort Lauderdale-based artist’s installation. The other three artists in “Altered States” are Yayoi Kusama, Fred Tomaselli and Leo Villareal.
Jose Alvarez, born in 1968, creates large scale mixed-media paintings, which incorporate elements such as porcupine quills, feathers, crystals, and bits of mica. The paintings swirl and ripple, as does a video wall piece installed next to one of his paintings, where colors reverberate and change.
Yayoi Kusama’s work plays with repetitive patterns, something she has been doing throughout her long career. The Japanese artist was born in 1929. She has led a turbulent life, surviving child abuse and struggling with mental illness. The artist, by choice, lives in a Tokyo mental hospital and does her work in her nearby studio.
Fred Tomaselli, born in 1956, creates large-scale works that from a distance seem to be detailed paintings, reminiscent of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, but when one gets close up can see they are quasi-collages. Tomaselli uses multiples of items such as pills, mushrooms, as well as magazine images of flowers, birds, butterflies, and human body parts such as arms and legs, to compose a larger image. They are then covered with a thick layer of epoxy resin to create a flawless surface. As heavy as these panels must be, they remain somehow light and fun, with the viewer getting to try and separate the details from the overall picture. They call to mind novelty craft tables from the ’70s that would have seashells or something else embedded and epoxied into them, as well as Chuck Close’s giant fingerprint paintings that dissolve as you get closer to them.
Leo Villareal, born in 1967, is represented by his installation, “Firmament II.” After all of the dots and swirls and repetitive collage items of Alvarez, Kusama, and Tomaselli, the viewer enters a darkened room. There are strategically placed couches where visitors gan look above at a continuous light show overhead. It’s still an extremely visual experience, but it also is a palate cleanser.
Has my state been altered? Certainly my visual sense has been hyper-stimulated. And I’m looking forward to having that happen again.
“Altered States” runs through July 17. You can contact The Norton Museum of Art for more information.