Danielle Siegelbaum’s delightfully graphic ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ opens in Harlem
Danielle Siegelbaum’s kaleidoscopic art show is a joyful, graphic embrace of detail, a sophisticated treatment of primitive style that encompasses broad themes and materials without losing clarity. She illustrates religion, pop culture, advertising and sex, among many other ideas, with a sense of humor and an insouciant flair for the macabre. Her disparate themes are masterfully linked together – literally, in her heavy but light-hearted necklaces of beads and found objects, and in her sculptures. One whimsical necklace, ‘A Flower Kiss’, marries beads with a chunky wooden tulip shape that is reminiscent of an upper lip; from close -up, one can see that the tulip is ‘wearing’ a string of beads with a tiny, metal charm in the shape of lips. The coloring, a strong combination of red, black and white, firmly discourages a sentimental interpretation, boldly affirming the design while admonishing the viewer to laugh. ‘Be Careful: Radioactivity’ starkly drapes a recognizable symbol, both highlighted and downplayed by the material (large wooden beads and pendants) and the color treatment (black and white).
The life-sized sculpture ‘Eye of Man’ disdains color, using wooden found objects and shapes to fashion a powerful figure with an eye for a head, but with many more details than the overall shape initially suggests. Overlooking the show from an alcove, he encourages the viewer’s eye to move around the room following echoes, extensions and developments of his design elements and surprises.
Necklaces buttress paintings, prints, and photo montages; serpentine bead sculptures wind toward tabletop fantasies of shape and color.
One piece leads to another despite the variety of themes and materials, masterfully executed and placed to provide a quixotic artistic adventure.
Danielle’s graphic style flatters and mocks old-fashioned advertisements: Her poster for Christmas toys has impeccably crisp, well placed graphics, promising a ‘large selection’ of ‘Xmas’ toys and the chance to meet Santa. But it features a skull in a Santa hat, alongside tank and gun icons. The red and green are alarmingly orange and military, in opposition to the more usual holiday red and pine. Toys for thoughts.
Her ‘Bad Saints’ beautifully conflates the Adam and Eve story with modern design manifestations, including a woman coyly sporting high heels and a halo and playful repetition of wonderful apple (note the worm) imagery. Blasé expressions, line work suggesting wood block icon printing and subtle coloration soften the mockery.
Complex and entertaining detail is not limited to sculpture and wearable art, or the shouts of advertising posters, but also smoothly incorporated into larger paintings above the more intimate work. ‘title’ is an arresting work featuring two figures with fishbone tuxedos – codpieces? The scene is dynamic and kinetic, yet composed of static, flattened arrangements of color. A city skyline is ‘reflected’ in the sidewalk; sharks and other marine life inhabit the space, without regard for their usual habitat. A fence has the suggestion of water behind it – or is the entire piece an underwater scene? Danielle’s characteristic line graphics move through the images, connecting and disrupting them. The color scheme is muted and mundane, subversively uniting the odd imagery.
Danielle’s style is uniquely effective and arresting because of her superb design skills, which seamlessly allow disparate and surprising marriages.
But that’s not all. Photo montages wed sex, religion, color and beauty. A striking piece, ‘title’ treats a tender young androgynous nude -- striking a Christ-like posture, pouting fashionably for the camera -- with psychedelic neon colors, an inquisitive abdominal Statue of Liberty, draped hoops of color and line, and the specter of a knife and fork entering from the side. A large beaded necklace with fast food icons rests peacefully across the image, in a sly reference to the artist’s other work.
Enjoy this bold feast of color and design, and don’t forget to smile at the children’s books and art at the back of the room; Danielle’s talents here are no less admirable under her pen name, Lily Lalaska, and at least as much fun.
Dr Allison Stewart Laws