In a first for First Things, an art exhibit in our office gallery has been reviewed. The reviewer is one Joseph Mashek, writing at artcritical, the online magazine of arts and ideas. The review is a favorable one. Mashek highlights the way our artist, Alfonse Borysewicz, draws from the visual languages of several Christian traditions. He writes, “Borysewicz has always struck me as the contemporary painter best attuned to the Byzantine, and then Orthodox, icon as a highly abstract image capable of tendering a spiritual, even devotional, stance in virtue of its highly stylized semiotic.” Later he elucidates a point hinted at in Borysewicz's icon-like portraits: “Icons per se are by no means snapshots of persons, but are instead paintings of ideas.”
It’s been exciting having these paintings of ideas hanging in our workplace. If you live in New York City and haven’t come by the First Things office to check them out yet, you really should do so. We’d love to have you here. The show, titled “My Catholica—Mentors, Muses, and Mystery,” has been extended. It will remain on display here until Friday, June 9th. Don’t miss the opportunity to see for yourself the work Borysewicz has done with, in Mashek’s words, “a practically decadent poverty of materials that seems more telling (even punky?) than workaday Neo-Expressionist.”
Though I have less command of this vocabulary than Mashek, I do see what he’s getting at when I look at the pieces hanging in our gallery. My favorite work on display is one Borysewicz made for a church and then borrowed back to include in the gallery. It is a rough-hewn frame of wood around a design in black paint on gold leaf that resembles a halo—or crown of thorns. The bent nails and twisted wire that are part of the piece's structure subtly evoke other instruments of the passion. Perhaps the paradox of a “decadent poverty” of materials is one way of approaching the paradox of divine poverty we see in Jesus’s dereliction on the Cross.
The show “My Catholica—Mentors, Muses, and Mystery,” will run until June 9th at the First Things office, 35 East 21st Street (6th floor), between Broadway and Park Avenue. Come see it for free on weekdays between 9 and 5.
Alexi Sargeant is assistant editor of First Things.