Art 101: "Critical Path" Review by Enrico Gomez

"Critical Path"

Look up the definition of “critical” and you will find meanings that include “careful evaluation”, “variant readings” and “scholarly emendations”; all of which apply to the captivating two-person show entitled “Critical Path”, currently on view at Art 101 (101 Grand Street) through March 17.

The show enigmatically offers both the handsome, architecturally inspired artwork of Chester Nielsen and the warmly tactile, embroidered objects and prints of Nicola Ginzel. Art 101 owner/artist Ellen Rand offers simply “their process” in response to my query “What’s the connection between these two?” After spending a while with the artists and their work, I begin to see the pithiness of that reply.

Los Angeles based Chester Nielsen’s work here is concerned primarily with the corners of our built world, pointedly, of our domestic residences. This subject, which he calls, “…this little thing that watches over people’s lives”, he approaches from a variety of positions including photographically surveying the interiors of friends apartments, photo cropping, the construction of 3-D models based on his investigations, and drawing. Nielsen’s method of image cropping, an engaging composite of buttery oil stick on photographic print, is among my favorite in this series, in that the pairing of clean architectural line with smudged, imperfect oil paint encapsulates, in the briefest of gestures, the nuanced realities of clean, right-angled form paired with messy, vibrant life.

Nicola Ginzel is also concerned with multiple approaches to her subject, in this case, random ephemera and cultural detritus, and, like Nielsen, folds her examinations in upon themselves, yielding further revelations. From everyday objects like candy wrappers and book covers, Ginzel begins what she calls an “inductive method” of transforming her materials, using thread to meditatively erase brand logos and typeface, creating something completely new. She, in some cases, uses these new forms as printing plates, wherein the raised thread can catch graphite and oil pastel, upon paper napkins and foil, creating layered imagery and self-referential design. Presented side by side, these frayed and precious fragments take on the feel of ancient tapestry or archeological treasure, our “dead-sea scrolls” to some future civilization.

In the work of both of these artists, we can read the tangential concerns of the human impact on the natural environment; consumption, waste, development and occupation. But their interests also go deeper, with conceptual processes built soundly enough to house a myriad of approaches, perspectives and movements through. And both seem to hint, like the architectural ruins and ceramic shards of antiquity, that it is what remains of us that best tells our story.

You can see this show and many others during the upcoming “Williamsburg Afterhours”, Saturday, March 10th from 7-10pm, part of Brooklyn’s Armory Night events. This year many venues will stay open late, presenting exciting art exhibitions and special video screenings throughout the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Get full listings and after-party info 

Also, visit Bushwick that same evening when 18 art venues will stay open late, from 6-10pm, for Bushwick’s “Beat Nite 7” Full listings and after-party info at 

—Enrico Gomez