Critics’ Picks

Andrew Mania, Double Shelf, 2006.

Andrew Mania, Double Shelf, 2006.

London

Andrew Mania & Carl Van Vechten

Vilma Gold
6 Minerva Street
March 2–April 16, 2006

Quietly enshrined in this dimly lit gallery, Andrew Mania's drawings, paintings, and simple constructions create a stage for the artist's personal collection of photographs by Carl Van Vechten. With the same focus Mania applies to his use of swatches of cotton fabric and vintage ceramic household items, the artist incorporates a series of black-and-white portraits by Van Vechten, an Iowa-born New Yorker who challenged racial segregation while moving among Manhattan's early twentieth-century social and intellectual circles. Van Vechten, who died ten years before Mania was born in Bristol, is channelled through the playful, knowing images of his circle of avant-garde friends. The elegant face and figure of actor and dancer Hugh Laing, whose features seem to provide the inspiration for Mania's drawn portrait Double Shelf, 2006, appears in five of Van Vechten's photographs. Throughout the installation, Mania contemplates the isolation of original and eccentric characters (a 1941 found mug shot informs his drawing Convict, 2006), placing pieces of wire mesh, bird boxes, and a fireguard cage over and between his portraits. Alone on the floor of the space, a black monitor displays Mania's Mute, 2004, an enchanting silent video of a shadow of a man's profile, which flickers in rhythm to sunlight filtered through a tree on a blustery day. In these shifting shadows the man's lips appear to move, mouthing the words to an impossible and alluring chimerical vision.