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Aspects of Affect

Dan Carey's solo show at Art Space, July 8th to August 30th

Art, by its own virtue is an engagement of the senses. Autism by the same virtue, is a hyper-engagement of those senses in ways that are not yet fully understood. Physiologically, an autistic individual’s ability to either receive or not receive sensory stimulation from his or her environment results in an objective reality markedly different from what is normally perceived, that is a brain that literally sees the world differently. Giving a person on the autism spectrum the opportunity to use art materials beckons the mind’s sentient allies of sight, sound, texture, taste and smell. The artist with autism has relatively few inhibitions in the handling and application of materials offered. However, a particular fixation on an object, shape, or person provides a clear indication of intent. Repetition and pattern, characteristic of Autism, are evident in consistency of theme, subject, or specific method of creating the art leading to an evolution over time of development and change in an individual’s body of work.

Dan Carey’s show at Art Space is compelling in it’s opaquity, yet in a way familiar, engagingly bridging the most seemingly inconsequential subject matter. Carey, in emphatic detail, catalogues the casts of familiar 70’s, 80’s TV shows and local news personalities of the same era. The use of newscasters in his work may have something to do with the generally placid undifferentiated projection and affect of local newsreaders. The low- keyed mono tonal presentation of the nightly news during those decades may appeal to someone whose own communication is challenged by a lack of expression. There are large works on canvas, with many works on paper, mixed media and long scrolls of narrative detailing favored TV theme songs. Finely drawn in a consistent stylized manner, Carey paints mid-torso talking heads that fit neatly in the lozengized shape of a TV screen. Color is a multihued additive to the featured forms compartmentalized in blocks that fill in the outline of amoeba-like figures with ritualized expressions—masked faces void of affect, and teeth undifferentiated in a rictus grill. In the margins and often overwhelming the images themselves, are cryptic instructions, prohibitions and encomiums substituting a news celebrity or TV actor’s real name for Carey’s own; (“Hal Linden is going to pull your hair,” “Jack Soo is going to punch you in the face,” “Irv Weinstein threw up on TV,” etc.)—pseudonyms for behaviors Carey has been conditioned not to do over the years. He also uses TV characters real names to express things he enjoys doing: “Abe Vigoda looks in the reflection” and “Abe Vigoda looks at his CD.” He is especially strong in his enthusiasm for “The Greatest American Hero,” making large wall-sized canvases with impressive versions of costume and cape embedded in the paint.

Public response to these informed works likely stems from a quizzical identification with the subject matter as comfortably familiar, valued icons of home entertainment and the sense of a perceptual shift in the artist translating his fixation with arcane issues of pop culture into a distinctive point of view that both charms and intrigues the viewer. For the artist the attraction is likely more to do with the process of expression than with any art product; the doing of it does more for sensory seeking needs and the catharsis of the physical act free of rules and restrictions.

Dan Carey is one of the most prolific and focused artists in the Autistic Services arts education program. He has a continuing solo exhibition at Brodo Restaurant on Main St. in Williamsville. His work has been exhibited at venues such as the Langston Hughes Institute, Impact Art Gallery, WNED, the Burchfield Penny Art Center, and the Albright Knox Art Gallery. He was the featured artist for the 2007 Art Works Auction where he was awarded the Dr. Tom and Mary Chou Achievement in Art Award.

A group showing of Autistic Services Arts Education Program participants will exhibit in August with a group show at Art Space, 1219 Main St., August 5 through August 28.

—j. tim raymond

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