Curated by Molly Krom

PROTO Gallery and Gallery Molly Krom are pleased to present “MÉNAGE”, an exhibition featuring mixed media works by Sheila Crider, Sanda Iliescu, and Francois Ilnseher. The theme of the exhibition is nothing less than the intimate, complex, embattled relationship between Man and Nature. The title serves to underline the closeness of that relationship: Man and Nature are parts of same household, and at the moment not all is well in this domestic arrangement. What we think we know about the current state of this affair comes from mass media. The onslaught of facts about the devastation man has inflicted and continues to inflict on nature, and nature on man, creates a sense of urgency and panic but does not necessarily leave much room for reflection. Art unquestionably has lost to the mass media as an influencer of public opinion. What it does offer however, is a language that is not governed by concrete and fragile facts, but one that is based on the formal and moral continuity of human experience. In “MÉNAGE” timeless themes of fear and awe before Mother Nature, of alienation and use of machinery in a hostile, defensive spirit and of recent re awakening of mindfulness and attempts at intelligent cooperation, find their expression in installation pieces by the three artists.

Sanda Iliescu’s “Swallows” traces the patterns of the flight of swallows in Rome: the shallow arcs and tight loops, the swift criss crossing and swirling traced with colored pencil, graphite, and metal office staples on color paper. The lines thrill and exhaust the eye echoing the warning in De Medicamentis, where Marcellus writes: “…When you see your first swallow immediately run without speaking to a spring and drench your eyes with water; ask God that you have no eye aches for the year, and that swallows carry away any pain in your eyes.”

“The Toxic Air We Unknowingly Breathe” by Sheila Crider touches not only on the fact of pollution but also speaks to the obliviousness of Man, whose life depends on a simple act of breathing the very air he poisons. This site specific installation was created with hand made, re made and recycled paper, acrylic paint and cotton thread. Crider writes: “Art can make us aware of the very real dangers obscured by mass media imagery. I want “Toxic Air…” to be the kind of environmental piece that breaks through the conditioning.”

Francois ilnseher pays tribute to the Solar Impulse, a plane powered by the sun with no fuel or polluting emissions, in his installation. His work looks towards a gentler, brighter future but it also speaks about the legend of Daedalus and Icarus and the omnipotence of Man that is tested by Nature again and again. He reminds us of the need to accept our habitat not as an extension of ourselves and as means to our goals and desires but as the “other,” with needs and desires of its own.That, as we surely know, is a starting point in a relationship that has a future.