Alum Review: Karin Malpeso

Review of Karin Malpeso, on view at the NYSS Dumbo Sculpture Studio – 20 Jay Street #307, Brooklyn, NY 11201, March 2- April 14.  Artist Talk at the Dumbo Sculpture Studio Thursday, April 6, 7:30 pm. 

By Marco Palli, MFA 2018

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Karin Malpeso, New York Studio School Alumna, has sensibility to spare. She poured it into her work using aesthetic that exploit the tactile quality of clay and the freeing quality of charcoal unintimidated by being misunderstood.

“Karin Malpeso: Recent Works 2015-2017” seems somewhat an ordinary title for a young artist to present her show, and after struggling through the rather small show – where no titles, years, materials, or any kind of information about the work is provided, one has to put oneself into a detective mode, perhaps an archeologist or even an anthropologist. Passed this fact, one can get the feeling that the installation was carefully placed. Bodiless heads on steel pedestals are scattered around the small room with a couple of tables containing smaller works. One table has a handful of Buddha-like figures smaller than the heads, and another of candleholder-like pieces. On view are about 20 works, including several reliefs and a charcoal drawing of a considerable size.

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The show is open to be seen without any kind of order or chronology, one can choose to see what one prefers to choose and jump to appreciate whatever is next or behind. The series of heads seemed to be fashioned from clay (fired) that the artist more or less treat with her bare hands. Some are partially “painted” with what seems the smoke of a candle. The heads look like clouds, where one can see a clear human face that acts as an invitation to look harder into hidden secrets. By walking around the heads, one can find unclear abstractions that seem to activate the viewer’s own imagination dangling immense blooms in a startling synthesis of Hans Josephsohn and Marisa Merz.

The domestic quality continues on a smaller scale Buddha-like pieces, where the arrangement of pieces seems to be made with the same material but one does not know how to read them, if individually or as a group. Delicate and raw, these pieces evoking a micro camp of public pursuit of intimacy. Small sculptures on the other table might have been excavated from an archaeological site. Ms. Malpeso abandoned the human form and moved on to nature. The candleholder-like pieces now seem to be flowers.

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It is in the two-dimensional works that another of Ms. Malpeso’s strengths surprisingly emerges: She has no anxiety about showing her influences, and indicates a striking indifference to the rankings and lineages of art history. She loots but also suavely synthesizes art’s eternal simplest single form: Egg. This is the most evident in the case of several large reliefs, especially a powerful drawing in charcoal, that emerge from the arches of an internal universe. Ms. Malpeso’s works almost inevitably refuse to look finished. They seem to reveal an artist determined to challenge the concept of what constitutes beauty in art.

The exhibition is part of an expanding program of the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture that is organized by Jilaine Jones as an initiative to take advantage of the gallery space within the Dumbo studios in Brooklyn. The curatorial aspect and installation was fully executed by Ms. Malpeso herself. Though it seems that her role installing the show could have been better, it is just a matter of time to appreciate the lack of labeling. It tells about an artist unafraid of leaving spoken/written language behind and relying fully on her work – unintimidated by being misunderstood or judged.

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