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Amy Vogel at Larissa Goldston

Amy Vogel
Larissa Goldston Gallery - 530 W. 25th St, New York NY
29 February - 29 March 2008

On initial viewing of Amy Vogel's “World Go One Way, People Another,” currently on view at Larissa Goldston Gallery, I was greeted with that sense of tranquility that comes from a storied Sunday drive down a meandering country road. Majestically tall old growth trees reach to the heavens; highly saturated harmonizing colors proliferate in multiple cross-hatched water-laden strokes, showcasing a breadth of naturalist access to a jaded urbane existence. But these are not back roads leading to a vacation home for mid-summer. They are inroads to a realm entirely foreign to the numbed city dweller, completely accustomed to the erosion of privacy in daily life.

Amy Vogel, Untitled, 2007
Amy Vogel, Untitled (detail), 2007. Courtesy of Larissa Goldston Gallery.
Throughout Vogel's work, sweeping brushstrokes reveal multi-layered saturations of acrylic color, looking almost watercolor-like in nature. But a pile of logs is not necessarily all that it appears to be. Take Untitled 2008. In this piece, layers of contrasting green give a luminescent glow to a collection of lumber, bringing forth a sheen not unlike the dermis of our Martian counterparts. The logs lie in a disjointed heap, bracing against each other for support. The craggy branches reach out like spindly tentacles, looking for their next victim. It seemed a bit Blair Witch to me: will anyone hear you scream in the woods? I looked closer. Sure enough unseen on a first glance, there, tied to the base of the structure, is a rope knotted into a perfect noose. Gothic sensibility at its finest. Next time one encounters such a trail marker, they may think twice before resting their weary bodies upon its sturdy timber.

Another fascinating object of reference that appears throughout Vogel's craftsmanship is her insertion of mobile homes lying amidst depictions of the rural blue collar of Upstate Michigan. There's certainly no Matthew McConnaugheys (read: celebrities) vacationing in Airstreams here. These are homes of residents that are a recluse's dream come true. A trailer lies at the bottom of a lavender and leafy crimson ravine, a single door leading to open air. A spare tire lies long abandoned next to the aluminum doorway; a protective barbed wire fence lies at the edge of the property. But is this truly a protection from the dangers of nature, or that of outsiders?

Vogel's work aims to romanticize the simplistic, but looking at these images I didn't feel that these were “bucolic settings” by any means. There's an extremely sad, lonesome quality at play here. Somewhere along the way, a connection, has been severed. The residents use the rural setting as an attempt to provide a stable refuge in an increasingly unstable world. But the trees, on several second looks, no longer appear to be majestic pines reaching to the heavens, but perhaps victims of forest fires. They appear singed by leaping flames, their remains standing as skeletal remnants of the dry season.

Amy Vogel, Untitled, 2007
Amy Vogel, Untitled (detail), 2007. Courtesy of Larissa Goldston Gallery.
Throughout Vogel's works the viewer must constantly look downhill towards the focal point of reference. In several of the pieces a curved rail from the highway looks from above at a journey below. The pictures evoke the feeling of being at a zoo, looking at the trapped animals beneath us. The subject is continually at a safe distance — never too close, but yet far enough to succeed in its isolation. The trees continually provide what seems to be protection, but not from the elements, but intruders. Vogel has gifted us with our own VIP invitation inside a world not necessarily interested in otherwise letting us in. An intimately intriguing show, Amy Vogel, “World Go One Way, People Another” is on view through March 29th.