Who Needs Color?

With drawings evocative of an ethereal Siberian dreamscape, you’re bound to get lost in Danja Akulin’s latest exhibit, “Large Format Drawings,” at Mimi Ferzt Gallery in SoHo. And standing in the presence of these magnificent pieces, you’ll feel like you’ve literally been transported to a far off wonderland in Danja’s imagination, where all reality has been suspended and replaced with raw creativity and imagination. The concept, process, and final product all impress beyond the years of this young, Russian-born artist.

A World Without Color

While most black and white drawings succeed in copying the likeness of an image, they can’t help but compromise the depth of the world they try to recreate. Akulin’s drawings, however, live very much in reality despite their lack of color. In fact, their verisimilitude is so startling that you actually believe the world is genuinely black and white, and you don’t even miss the color.

 IMG_2614Curators of Mimi Frenzt discuss the work. Photo: Eric Rydin

And while Akulin’s drawings look simple, the labor and intensive process that goes into each piece is astonishing. Using a thick paste and different layering techniques, Akulin inserts detailed textures that mirror brushstrokes and create allusions to other media as well. Next, he applies several delicate shades of charcoal that help create a vivid, three-dimensional luminescence.

Compositionally, Akulin’s drawings explore the concept of negative space by utilizing inversions of color to create landscapes without any physical representations of nature at all, just their inverse. Meanwhile, Akulin is much more literal with some of the other pieces in the exhibition as he’ll create trees, lakes and the like, but framing them in the soft glow of the belabored paste he studiously applies to each canvas. This process of constructing images through both literal and non-literal representation not only showcases Akulin’s versatility within the medium, but also cleverly flirts with a fundamental aspect of art that alternates between defining the world around us vs. literally defining the world.

Little Moscow

This is the second exhibition I’ve seen at Mimi Ferzt, and I have been hugely impressed by both the artists and the gallery each time. The curators meticulously select young painters, sculptors, and drawers who all have an affinity for the careful detail and patience required to produce exceptional art. The last artist I saw there, Zoya Frolova, worked through over 40 layers of paint to create entrancing portraits of royal characters dutifully bound to the color red.

IMG_2616Artist Danja Akulin’s artwork. Photo: Eric Rydin

Mimi Ferzt also specializes in representing artists of either Russian or Slavic origin, bringing a unique cultural atmosphere to the space. Additionally, the staff is incredibly inviting, which is refreshing considering the austere and stuffy attitude of most of New York’s art scene––in fact, my fondest memory of the last opening was a playful disagreement between the artist and curators about the lighting of the exhibition. The curators wanted lower light to accentuate the soft glow of the drawings, making their luminescence stand out even more; however, Danja wanted the room to be brightly lit so the detail would be more apparent. As the evening went on, each of them would sneak away to selfishly change the lights to their liking, ultimately humanizing the gallery and exposing the real people and real art that lies behind the scenes.

  • Mimi Ferzt Gallery – Danja Akulin “Large Format Drawings” – March 21, 2013 – April 24, 2013 – Monday, Tuesday: 11am – 6pm; Wednesday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm; Sunday: 11am – 6pm [Works range from $12,000 to $23,000]

Article by Eric Rydin