One way I measure an art show is by what happens when I leave it. Stepping out of a gallery or museum, sometimes I just walk to my car and think about where to get a coffee. But at other times, everything outside appears different than before. The work has recalibrated my attention. Such was my experience after taking in serial work by Mario Marzan and Eugene Korsunskiy in a Rebus Works show, titled Layers, which runs through the end of the month.
At the pace of a gallery stroll, a viewer can casually enjoy the way that Marzan's precise composition creates a miniature vastness in his 10 mixed-media works, as well as how Korsunskiy both controls and unleashes disobedient media in eight untitled India ink-and-coffee drawings and a single palimpsest-like painting. But if you plant your feet for a moment and push your looking past the surfaces, then you may see the higher stakes in play for these artists.
Marzan's work comes from his series "Sinter Method: Close Encounters of the Caribbean Kind," which explores modes of geographical transformation rooted in his native Puerto Rico. And these images exhibit the claustrophobia of an island, incorporating pencil, colored pencil, ink, paint and collage in 6-inch squares. As the land transforms in the series, Marzan seems on the verge of provoking his own transformative leaps as well.
In "Their Own Determination to Stand Their Ground," white, geometric shapes flee a swarm of blueprint-like house outlines in what could be a time-lapse study for the shifting cityscapes in the movie Inception. In a calmer work, titled "Suddenly the Sky Shrunk," an austere ladder sprouts from the benign ground, almost reaching a gridded shape hanging from the sky, recognizable only as a detail of something much larger but unseen. Marzan trades on the fact that a crisp, visible image cannot be vague but can be indeterminate, and therefore multiple.
If Marzan constructs impossible landscapes and architectures, Korsunskiy inverts space itself by convoluting the insides and outsides of his shapes. In the coffee drawings these shapes have boundaries or are bodies, and they reveal an internal chaos. The India ink drawings feature isolated figurative elements over a turbid, cloudlike wash. Korsunskiy draws lines of gel medium on the paper, forming a perimeter for the bleeds, but even this can be permeable as the pigment finds its way through. The results of these experiments echo the improvisations of Wassily Kandinsky.
Korsunskiy's large "Black Painting," the fulcrum of the entire show, is hung symmetrically along a single wall. He has painted layer upon layer of small, black capital letters so densely that they cannot be read. It's hard to think of it as a text—the closest you can come to reading it is to stand at an angle so the gallery lights glint on the surface. He challenges you to deal with a painting that is neither an image nor a text, to find something hybrid or, perhaps, something hidden underneath.
The works in Layers reveal two artists actively exploring how to resolve their thinking in their conception of a unified, abstract image that instructs the eye in both how to look at and into it. And then, at the end of our stroll, my daughter and I left the gallery, stopped on the sidewalk and stared at the wild, yet parallel, shoots of a rosemary bush.