"Icons & Avatars" at David Krut Projects

Meandering the hallways of the Chelsea art scene, particularly the myriad studios of West 26th Street, is like wandering through a treasure chest – you never know what you may find behind each new door. 

Such was my day this past week in Chelsea, where I wandered into David Krut Project’s New York studio, a small unassuming space on the 8th floor.  The studio itself feels like an active workspace, making the audience feel at home – unlike many of the more ominous and pretentious spaces scattered around the city.  While the space lacks a certain impressiveness, the art inside quickly reminds us that the gallery is simply a medium for greatness. 

Icons & Avatars is the show on this summer, explores what we mean currently when we talk about “icons” and “avatars,” as the definition and our interpretation is ever changing.  What once was simply the human reincarnation of a deity, now the avatar transforms mere mortals into extraordinary characters in online game playing and creates alternate personas on social media.  

The show features 5 incredible artists: Marlene Dumas (Netherlands), Carrie Moyer (USA), Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Eria “SANE” Nsubuga (Uganda), and Diane Victor (South Africa).  One of the star pieces from the show is Aida Muluneh’s “Memory of Libya (2016),” which was made as a response to the bedeading of 30 Ethiopian men by ISIS on the shores of Libya.  In her own words” A group of young men left Ethiopia with the hopes of reaching Europe towards what they thought would be a better life.  This piece is dedicated to those lost lives and the families they left behind.  The three heads are symbolic of the search to the past and the future, a search that often clashes with one’s present reality.”

Aida Muluneh "Memory of Libya" (2016)

Another piece I loved was Diane Victor’s “Smoke Screen 24 (2010),” a beautiful portrait made with smoke on paper, depicting prisoners awaiting trial in South Africa.  The portrait is a powerful reminder of the uncertainty and inherent inequity of the judicial system, leaving the prisoner in the balance.

Diane Victor’s “Smoke Screen 24 (2010)

Lastly, I saw a lovely ballpoint drawing triptych done by Eria “SANE” Nsubuga, featuring various political and cultural figureheads. This series felt like a natural precursor to his newer work I saw in Kampala (Black Face, White Masks) where he tackled racism against the backdrop of post-nationalism.   These are much lighter and seem to tackle the role of celebrity writ large.

Eria SANE Nsubuga "Muteesa II Series"

Check out each piece and the press release here. 

“Icons & Avatars” runs through July 29th.

Cover Story Photo: © Betsey Goldwasser