Washington D. C.

Steve Poleskie

Patricia Carega Gallery

Steve Poleskie is an aerial performer who uses a Pitts Special aerobatics biplane to draw in smoke. He creates large three-dimensional forms, several thousand feet in each direction. Poleskie is fond of quoting from Italian aviator Fedele Azari‘s 1919 manifesto calling for a “futurist aerial theatre.” Azari believed the artistic form created through flight was infinitely superior to dance because of its “grandiose background, its super dynamism,” and because it was free and available to a large number of spectators. However, Azari was writing during the heady days of early Modernism, an age in love with machine culture. Read in the light of postindustrial society, the works seem to possess different inflections. The artist‘s aerial sculptures are transformed and dissipated during the process of crea-tion; they are seldom visible in their entirety. As they transform in time and space, they become metaphoric “objects” underscoring life as process and change; completed only in the minds of individual viewers, they are part recollection and part creation.

The collages in this exhibition, all 1987-88, are made of maps, magazine illustrations, and photocopies of photographs; brightly colored, they are covered with drawn images referring to the artist‘s “aerial theater” performances. However, while the works are products of these performances, they are neither documentations nor representations of future proposals, but combinations of fact and fantasy that stand as separate works of art. Poleskie attempts to conjure impressions of flight in his collages, which usually feature bright blue grounds and are crammed with colorful glider wings, flight lines, charts, and letters simulating engine sounds. The pieces rely upon traditional perspectival formats; in the collage Aerial Theater Performance for NYC, 1988, a drawing of Manhattan occupies the lower center on a clearly indicated horizon that divides ground from sky. Here the only ambiguity suggesting fluctuation and change is a spatial one caused by an irregularly shaped flight chart hovering above the skyline. Such perspectival devices are visual and conceptual anachronisms. They securely establish the viewer‘s position in space, reinforcing the notion of an already ordered, unchanging world—a premise the aerial sculptures deny. However, in the pair of large circular works titled Performance for Kassel, 1987, Poleskie abandons this format; here, he returns to a conception of space in which there is neither top nor bottom, left nor right. The viewer is surrounded by familiar sites from the city of Kassel that hug the periphery of the collage. The center is “sky,” filled with drawings of aerial sculptures, planes, and directional diagrams: this view is complemented by the second of this pair, a view from the sky filled with aviation charts, maps, and diagrams. In these two works Poleskie successfully simulates his aerial performances by employing an open-ended spatial organization. He challenges the rigid hierarchical order of Renaissance perspective and presents a more complex, fluctuating world-view reflective of individual experience.

Howard Risatti