Take a look at our brief review of Tim Cantor’s “Sweet Favour and Fiend” at AFA Gallery Soho, curated by Tim Cantor and Heidi Leigh, on view until August 31, 2016.
On a prominent corner in central Soho, AFA Gallery has stood as a beacon for fine art since 1984. It’s not a complicated space; actually it’s run-of-the-mill Soho, with the ground floor hosting a loft-like main room and a lower level is reached by a charming staircase. However, AFA gallery is different in the art it displays. Unlike so many galleries in this part of the city, AFA has a keen devotion to surrealism and contemporary low brow art. Of course, this term is a misnomer now, but the idea is simple: art that isn’t apparently “great” at first glance. The reason for this is not complicated: it’s fine art with stunning detail, cautious composition; delightful color. But it occupies a region of realism that is not real enough due its exaggeration, its environment; its tendencies to strike fear and disgust rather than awe and praise. It is to this we can owe to the human-likeness that surrealism cherishes so much and uses to such oppressive effect.
Gallerist Heidi Leigh admitted the works she selected from Tim Cantor’s vast pool are minimal for this gallery. But the pleasure, like most surrealism, is in the details, or as Heidi Leigh says, “technical virtuosity”. Extraordinary still, considering Tim Cantor is self-taught. A flower, in classic still life maintenance, is placed against a deep lacquered black background. However, peculiarity sets in when one notices a tiny string is mechanically supporting the flower. Above it, a steampunk-inspired mechanical crab is suspended there. The work, taller than it is wide is a striking demonstration of Cantor’s skill as a pure artist, thorough and careful. He may substitute flowers and crabs for humans, humanoids, dragonflies, dogs, and more. Further influences Cantor openly cites include Da Vinci, De Heem, many middle ages artists, and of course the old masters. However, Cantor is armed with the keen understanding he is a modern artist and must produce works at will, not command. Curiously, Cantor’s first work came at age 15, and was sold to the White House collection after Cantor won a school competition.
Coming off the Berlin Biennial, this show is an interesting break from conceptual, talent-hidden art that has become very trendy. There’s no humor here. In fact, this kind of art is so often subject to Millennial-era ridicule; confined to those certain corners of the internet where those people hang out. However, in seeing the odd and intense accompanied by works of writing by the artist, it becomes evident that this entire world still exists, a fact which cannot be denied. And people are paying attention, notably Pawn Stars star Rick Harrison made an appearance at the opening and spoke about his love for art that is really good, from a talent point of view, bar concept or theory.
Beyond it, the pleasure of seeing one of Cantor’s works as a floor length dress was an interesting and suiting extension of his brand, after all, Hollywood and fine collectors are clamoring to get his work, in any way they can, as it’s generally understood he is a modern genius, melding realism with surrealism, all with the intellectual backing of a conceptual theorist. Thankfully, Cantor is known to produce 15 works at a time, by virtue of nothing but the technicality of having to watch paint dry.
Tim Cantor at AFA Gallery Soho
Now until August 31, 2016
54 GREENE STREET, NY, NY 10013