The New York Times – A Quirky Marriage of Art and Text

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By BENJAMIN GENOCCHIO

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Right by the train station in Croton Falls is an old factory______  that once serviced forklifts and trucks. Today it houses artists’ studios and an exhibition space — not so much a gallery as a place where artists and independent curators can put up temporary exhibits. It is called Lift Trucks Project.

Not surprisingly, the exhibitions here tend to be somewhat out of the ordinary. That is the way the artistTom Christopher, who owns the space, wants it. His goal, he said, is not to sell artwork to promote the creators’ careers but to “encourage people to look at art from a fresh perspective.”

The latest project is “ ‘Ek-fre-ses,” a group show of quasi collaborations among some 35 artists and writers.

“Ekphrasis,” as it is written in English, is a verbal representation of a visual work of art that dates to ancient Greece. Each work in the show is paired with a text, sometimes old, sometimes commissioned especially for the exhibition and published in the catalog. Over all, the quality of the writing is extremely good.

Snippets of the text have also been excerpted from the catalog, blown up, printed out on giant sheets of paper and used to frame or wrap or in some way become part of each piece of art on the wall. It doesn’t really work, for the partial text becomes meaningless and more often than not distracts from the art.

Putting aside this quirk of display, the show is filled with interesting if disparate stuff. You will find everything here from an Auguste Rodin watercolor to a print by Robert Motherwell. There are even a pair of LeRoy Neiman sketches from the 1960s, borrowed from Mr. Christopher’s extended family.

But the show mostly contains work by Mr. Christopher’s friends and acquaintances, people he knew as a successful young painter in the East Village in the 1980s and, later, in Long Island City, Queens. Among them are a conceptual artist known only as FA-Q and Doug McQueen, a tattoo artist who also paints and draws.

Because the show has no real theme, it is best approached as a series of individual artist-writer collaborations. Some pairings are more successful than others: For instance, the playwright and art dealer James Balestrieri wrote a poignant prose poem to accompany a 1931 lithograph by Rockwell Kent.

Ben Cheever, the son of the novelist and short story writer John Cheever, and an author in his own right, wrote a short but jaunty text loosely inspired by a Saul Steinberg watercolor, borrowed from a local collector. It recalls his childhood memories of Steinberg’s magazine illustrations and what they meant to him.

Beyond famous names, and solid career painters like Mike Cockrill and A. R. Penck, the show includes some weird underground artists. Among the strangest is Dainty Dotty, a mid-20th-century American circus “fat lady” (she was 585 pounds) who also made gothic, surrealistic watercolors.

Other oddities include cowboy paintings from the 1940s by Fred Darge, an amateur artist, retablos from Mexico, and some lime green gnome sculptures by the German artist Ottmar Hörl. Mr. Hörl’s gnomes inspired the writer James P. Othmer to pen an imaginary conversation between the ghosts of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels about the artist and his work. It is one of the nuttiest things you will ever read.

“ ‘Ek-fre-ses,” Lift Trucks Project, 3 East Cross Street, Croton Falls, through March 27. Information: ltproject.com.

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