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Exhibition - Distant Horizons

Carl Solway Gallery presents DISTANT HORIZONS: Pioneers of Psychedelic Art: Isaac Abrams, Ira Cohen, Tony Martin, and USCO, an exhibition curated by Carlo McCormick. It features paintings, sculpture, photographs and multi-media works from the 1960s.

They are travelers all, from faraway cultural shores, still looking beyond and seeking within. Itinerant in their wandering, with no map but uncanny in their sense of direction, they carry songs from beyond like minstrels and can tell you stories so exotic they seems spun of dreams. They are funny and serious, full of wisdom yet wonderfully curious like children, masters of a kind of abstract thinking that finds substance and sustenance in the elusive and impermanent, conjuring in refractions and riddles the essence of experience. Isaac Abrams, Ira Cohen, Tony Martin and USCO belong to a long and largely overlooked lineage of visionary art, for indeed they are wrestling with the cosmic viscera of metaphysics, but their reach is more demanding and determined than genre allows, their grasp too inclusive for reductive terms.

Each of these artists found their voice during the Sixties at a time when social upheavals and a progressive spirit of enlightenment in our society made their work central to popular culture. This moment, radical and transitory like lightening in a bottle, has been labeled Psychedelia for the seminal role that psychedelic drugs played in the musical, visual and spiritual developments of that era, and while etymologically relevant in that it describes what is mind expanding, or more properly "mind-manifesting," it falls far short in terms of articulating the diversity and individuality of expressions within its purview. Psychedelic Art, much like its equally unwieldy companion Visionary Art, is not a style. To presume the work of these four artists is dipped in some puddle of drug-induced hallucinations is to misrepresent the broader wellspring of ideas informing their work or the profoundly intellectual rigor by which Abrams, Cohen, Martin, and USCO come to directly query the phenomenology of self and perception rather than simply settle on the cloying kitsch of pictorial effects.

Calling across time, manifesting a truly disruptive and utterly experiential re-vision of space, nothing about this exhibition is at all retro. This is foundational art, built upon the rhapsodic poetics of Beat and Funk art, the myths of ancients, the subversions of Surrealism, the mesmeric immersions of expanded cinema, the derangements of mystics, the transpersonal psychology of ecstatic awakening, the future science being unleashed by media theory and an emergent picture of a new global paradigm on that distant horizon where a vastness was yet unfolding in ways that would humble the scope of humanism.

As a curator and critic no art could be more personal or profound for me. I have gleaned more from these artists than I could possibly articulate, their fearful alchemy something far beyond words, and yet still their art continues to inform in ways that will always question the very knowledge it imparts.

Date: June 16 – September 16, 2017

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