Where spirituality and political activism intersect, there is also a place for visual art.
Rosa Naparstek’s newest exhibition “what is your function…?” is on display through the end of June at the Rio Penthouse Gallery. The artist has built a set of arresting visual works around personally transformative texts. Running the lengths of the inner gallery walls, sheets of type are orderly set side-by- side. The sheets contain text from The Pathwork Lectures (the famously “channeled” work of Eva Pierrakos); writings by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet and mystic; and essays by civil rights leader Grace Lee Boggs– all which have contributed essentially to the artist’s spiritual evolution.
Across the printed pages, larger and hand-written by the artist, run well-known quotes by Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky, again invoking social reform.
Biographically, the text-over- text format can be seen to chart a journey through Naparstek’s lifetime involvement in social and political causes (in Detroit, California, and New York), interwoven with an embrace of metaphysical thinking that has critically informed her ideas about social and political change.
Naparstek wants to share a truth– that the change we seek on a global societal level is dependent on, if
not meaningless without, our personal transformation.
In another part of the installation, the artist shares these truths in a heap of crumpled pages on the gallery floor. More of the same texts, they are meant to be picked up and absorbed at random by observers, who are invited to take a seat around the pile. On a wall outside the gallery, more crumpled pages are affixed to the wall, mirroring the format of the smooth ones within, as though suggesting that the ideas contained in them can withstand physical transformation.
The ideas embedded in the texts can be “read” into Naparstek’s accompanying found-object sculptures, a sampling of newer and older works of this type for which the artist is known. Naparstek fabricates from collected natural and man-made items—animal horns, dolls, doorknobs, seashells, scrap metal-sometimes framing (as with reclaimed picture frames or canvases) and sometimes assembling the ordinary into the sacred, as when a doorknob set inside bicycle gears, mounted on a bicycle seat becomes a “Third Eye.” Objects worn through human or elemental use form assemblages that can evoke nostalgia, psychological urges, and sometimes humor (used teabags hang like genitals on a male dressmaker’s form); but the artist’s compassion, the same instinct which directs her search for the divine and desire for a just society, are present in each sculpture.
“what is your function…?” connects individual self-actualization as part of the quest for a just society with abandoned objects remade into art. Naparstek asks us equally to question the function of a thing or a person as part of a narrative of meaning.
The artist will be at the gallery this Sun., Jun. 26th from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Rio Penthouse Gallery is located at 10 Fort Washington Avenue, between 159th and 160th Streets.