RODNEY DICKSON /Paintings 2009–2019
6:00 PM18:00

RODNEY DICKSON /Paintings 2009–2019





Three different aspects of Rodney Dickson’s creative interests are on display at his new show, Paintings 2009–2019, at Undercurrent. The descending stairway at Undercurrent’s entrance displays 22 of Dickson’s sketchbooks, all black and identical in size, suggesting 22 Gideon Bibles from 22 hotel rooms. Attached to the wall, the sketchbooks descend with the floor line. Inside, one finds more than two thousand black charcoal drawings, notes, and project ideas. The drawings depict faces, nudes, and some landscapes, and the somewhat private sketches are very direct, swift and expressionistic in style and impulse. Often the charcoal imprints itself on the opposing page. Large black and white masses on paper suggest monumental ambition, and they also led us to display the sketchbooks intact, like Assyrian tablets, rather than as individual paper drawings on the wall. Presenting the sketchbooks this way leads us to a larger appreciation of the artist’s process as whole.

Rodney Dickson is best known in New York for his large, extremely thickly executed oil paintings. They are abstract, but their presence is so physical, and at the same time visceral, that they confuse, question, and blur the line between what is abstract and what is real. These paintings do not imply, allude, or refer to either landscape or figure. However, the thickness and viscosity of the paint itself suggests the magnitude of internal, inner friction in its physical and metaphysical senses. In a way, Rodney’s paintings state that the act of creation is first and probably the only real thing. Some paintings appear as though they were executed in one day, but most were painted, scraped over, and painted again. Through this process, the paintings become sculptural terrains of paint and color. The thick paintings take forever to dry; it can take up to 10 years for the oil paint to harden fully. In the meantime, the paint shrinks dramatically, changes color, and collects layers of dust. These processes of aging and time are much more present in Rodney’s paintings than their smoother, slicker cousins by other artists. Typically, an art work is considered finished when artist has stopped working on it. In this case, the artist plays a part in a multi-year process that gives the painting its final visual appearance. Only when they are only fully dry and hard, with no fluid liquid left in them, with all their time-formed textures, reminiscent of skin, is that appearance available to the viewer.

Importantly, Rodney Dickson’s works are not monochromatic, cool, minimalist objects. He paints using the complexities of whole range of colors. His paintings are not simple; they are suggestive and open-ended. They are the opposite to rational, industrial, execution-style art projects. Rodney Dickson’s art has more in common with Monet, or Delacroix, or Van Gogh, and the more romantic, emotional, and baroque side of abstract expressionism. Theatrical play with light and shadows creates separate, whimsical sides for these paintings. In Paintings 2009-2019, we have several examples of these paintings, anchoring the exhibition.

The largest piece, never before exhibited, is Shanty Town, occupying an entire wall. You can see this work as an installation, or as a painting; it is a collage of colorful stapled, canvasses/rags. Dickson began it in 2011, and the work remains in progress. In some way, the work is a political piece about globalization, poverty, and real estate. But it also suggests a very poetic, almost nostalgic, rags to riches myth. On the formal or art historical side, it can be interpreted as an artist studio. Through the ages, artists have depicted their studios, giving them the opportunity, as with self-portraits, to make a statement about the world and themselves. Recall all the Rembrandts, Courbets, Kahlos, Van Ghoghs, Braques… In the same vein, Dickson creates a piece that in its spirit resembles Rothko’s paint- and pigment-soaked canvases. But in this work the rags, used by painters for millennia to clean their brushes, are the main actors, covered in the Hollybollywood flavor of glitter.

Image: Shanty Town, 2011–present. Rags, tempera. Dimensions variable

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Celebrating Annie Ali Khan’s  SITA UNDER THE CRESCENT MOON
4:30 PM16:30

Celebrating Annie Ali Khan’s SITA UNDER THE CRESCENT MOON



4.30-7.30 PM

Copies of Sita under the Crescent Moon will be available for purchase.

Light refreshments will be provided by Shayan Ali Khan.

Undercurrent invites you to participate in celebrating the release of journalist Annie Ali Khan’s book of reportage, Sita under the Crescent Moon, published this summer by Simon & Schuster India.

A graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism, Ali Khan split her journalism between New York and Pakistan. Her later work focused on women in Pakistan, specifically the dispossessed and displaced women in the mega city of Karachi. Sita under the Crescent Moon represents three years of reporting and is the first ethnographic window into the lives of a seven women who live in Karachi and practice healing arts or travel across the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan, seeking healing at spiritual sites. The sites visited by the women are themselves shrines created in the name of, and in memory of, women saints. Ali Khan’s work is the first glimpse into a centuries-old network of female sacrality and power.

Historian Manan Ahmed will facilitate this event, which also coincides with the first anniversary of Annie’s unexpected passing in Karachi last July. In her honor, friends will read short excerpts from Sita under the Crescent Moon, and poets Arooj Aftab and Hasan Mujtaba will perform. Artist Maha S. Ahmed will also apply mehndi (henna) to guests’ palms in Annie’s memory, reproducing a particular pattern that Annie herself used.


Arooj Aftab is a Pakistani-American composer and performer based in Brooklyn. Her album of ambient, experimental electronic music, Siren Islands, was released in 2018.

Hasan Mujtaba is a Sindhi writer, journalist, poet, and human rights activist based in New York. His work has appeared in BBC Urdu, Dawn and Jang Pakistan.

Manan Ahmed is a historian of medieval and early modern Islamic history at Columbia University. His monograph, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia, was published in 2016.

Maha S. Ahmed is a designer and artist based in Manhattan.


Durba Mitra is a scholar of women, gender and sexuality at Harvard University. Her book, Indian Sex Life: Sexuality and the Colonial Origins of Modern Social Thought is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

Madiha Tahir is a journalist, activist and media scholar based in New York. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University.

Zehra Nawab is an illustrator and journalist based in Toronto, Canada. She designed the book cover for Sita Under the Crescent Moon as well as an interior map.

Shahnaz Rouse is the Joseph Campbell Chair in the Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College.

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*Slide show: Annie Ali Khan’s personal archive

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Dizzy Ventilators
7:00 PM19:00

Dizzy Ventilators





In conjunction with Carl Lee’s solo show Myoptic and the gallery's summer closing we are pleased to announce a musical performance by Dizzy Ventilators

Belgian musician and instrument builder, Daniel Jodocy, plays on drums and electronics in Dizzy Ventilators, a duo project born in 2008. There is no real genre of music that can define what they play, because each track is composed of many different textures. This is what happens when sound is built out of New York.

Daniel has performed and recorded with numerous musicians and bands including Jonas Mekas, Bill Frisell, Joey Baron, Robin Schulkowsky, Art Baron, Billy Martin, Jeff Ballard, John Spencer (Blues Explosion), Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris, Kenny Wollesen (Himalayas and Wollesonic), Cyro Baptista, Big Lazy, Q Tip, and John Zorn. He also contributed to the Grammy-nominated Brazilian Girls 2008 album New York City and also collaborated with Wollesonic and FilmSpeak.

Daniel conducts his own international Orchestra Ambigua, engaging community members of all levels of experience through improvisational conduction and is actively touring.

Known for his authentic sound, Yusuke Yamamoto plays keyboards and electronics.

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Video credits: Laura Zavecka + Daniela Garcia Granados

DIZZY VENTILATORS performing at Undercurrent, 2019. Video credits: Laura Zavecka

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Carl Lee
to Jul 13

Carl Lee

LAST HOUSE.   Carl Lee, 2010 (16:30 loop, 3-channel projection, stereo audio, dimensions variable)

LAST HOUSE. Carl Lee, 2010 (16:30 loop, 3-channel projection, stereo audio, dimensions variable)

CARL LEE / Myoptic

JUNE 6 - JULY 13, 2019


For our inaugural launch, Undercurrent is proud to present Carl Lee’s solo exhibition, Myoptic. A seminal exhibition for a group of artists branching out from Sla307 Art Space in Chelsea, whose mission was to promote Lithuanian art and diaspora through a cultural exchange, Myoptic marks the move to a new home and our neighborhood debut in DUMBO. This is Carl Lee’s first solo show in New York City and will be on view from June 6 - July 13, 2019. On display are several media installations that act as containers for memory, time, and community.  

Myoptic’s largest installation is Last House, a three-channel video installation, with footage centered around the demolition of a single-family home in Buffalo, NY. Beginning with the portrait of a home, Lee obfuscates the house’s identity by distilling it to a silhouette. The iconic outline provides space for us to fill with our own memories and historically references silhouette portraiture predating the advent of photography. The background fades from black to moving imagery around the structure of the home, forcing us to consider absence and presence within the changing landscape. Lee weaves us from exterior imagery to interior clips of domestic life, where morning light casts endless chiaroscuro shadows abstracting the familiar space while drawing attention to fragments. Paralleling our experiences with memory, these parts of a whole are amplified with the poetic dubbing of a slow demolition, foreshadowing the home’s eventual physical demise. We are powerless as we view footage of the demolition, relating to our own mortality and the inevitability of decay. Last House is a real-time vanitas installation where time slips by, surrendering our memory and sense of home to change. Lee appropriately implies that with every end is a rebirth, of which he leaves to our imagination. 

Another work embracing the house as a vessel is Telescope House 2, an interactive media sculpture constructed out of wood, glass, camera, three monitors, and three media players. Contrary to Last House’s immersive experience, Telescope House 2 is viewed through an individual lens, aptly for the integration of home video footage and an intimate subject, his family. While sharing memories of his daughter’s heartbeat in utero, Lee harmonizes appropriations of Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion and Bird in Flight, the first moving images ever created. There is a trifecta of sensory stimulation - image, sound, and touch all mingling, amplifying our experience while tapping into our own memories. The repetition of a heartbeat, the matryoshka-like homes nesting within one another, and the reproduction of a new generation echo the cycle of life. 

Demonstration video of "Telescope House," a multi-screen video construction shown here installed as part of Carl's "myoptic" show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Lee’s Home Movies installation includes a monitor, speakers, media player, wood, binoculars, tripod, 6:10 looping video, color and sound. The footage toggles between family-life and family-vacations; seasonal homes, shipping containers, and cruise liners all connect through their impermanence. The distance we view the video paired with the ambient sound installed above us, compounds experience, reminding us that we are viewers, onlookers, gazers at the other, lost in the translation of “home.”

Image courtesy of Hallwalls : Home Movies  installation, Carl's  Myoptic  show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Image courtesy of Hallwalls: Home Movies installation, Carl's Myoptic show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Working with materials that commonly isolate people, Lee connects us to one another through magnifying change. John Massier, the Visual Arts Curator of Hallwalls, states it best,“…the images throughout Carl Lee's exhibition Myoptic are ultimately part of a single long epic poem about life and time. The life of time and the time of one's life.” Serving as incubators for our memories, Lee’s work unifies time’s elusiveness and the mundane, weaving eons into a nutshell, and facilitating an interconnectedness in a time when it is most needed. 

Daina Mattis


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