Walking into the gallery space for the opening of Herb Parker’s Studio Practice & Joseph Burwell’s School of the Viking Spaniard Revisited at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art on August 23, 2013, one becomes instantly immersed in the artists’ creative world. Immediately Parker’s portion of the show grabbed my attention. Walking through his portion of the exhibit feels like walking through some sort of nightmarish antique shop run by the Dr. Frankenstein of collectables in the best way possible. His pieces are simultaneously whimsical and creepy. The wall of shelves full of odds and ends was so strange and intriguing that even after studying it at the opening for a solid twenty minutes, I have since gone back twice to get a better look and always manage to find a piece I did not notice previously.
After walking through Parker’s twisted wonderland, I was underwhelmed by Joseph Burwell’s showThe School of the Viking Spaniard Revisited. Burwell’s gallery space was much more organized, yet it was harder to understand his creative process from his mock studio space. It felt like a cross between an architecture firm and a construction site. This set up sort of makes sense because his drawings are highly architectural. The drawings are precise to the point that it is almost unbelievable that they are created by hand and they are reminiscent of Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons.
Every opening I have attended at the Halsey has been a good experience and this one was no exception. There are always plenty of staff members around to answer questions and they seem genuinely enthusiastic about the artists’ work. Herb Parker’s portion of the exhibit became a little overcrowded at times, which is a really bad thing for a clumsy person near a bunch of free standing sculptures. There was a really enlightening video playing in the video room, but a lot of the patrons did not know it was there and missed out. Overall, the show is very well organized and accomplished the goal of making the viewer feel like they are in the artists’ studio. This is a unique approach to a gallery show and I would be interested to see more similar exhibitions.