New York City’s La MaMa Galleria: Christopher Tanner’s ‘Eye of the Heart’

Edward Rubin
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Christopher Tanner, Untitled Nude, mixed media

There is never a month gone by when somebody does not run into me on the street and ask whether or not I have heard about Christopher Tanner’s latest.  And I have to ask, “Are you talking about his artwork? Is he having another exhibition, performing on stage, in play, in a movie, on TV, or is doing some of his own filmmaking?” What is it this time? xxxxxx Usually it’s one or the other, occasionally its both at the same time like two weeks ago when downtown star theatre critic Eva Heinemann, the reigning star of Hi! Drama,the Dadaesque Cable TV show, told me in passing that Christopher is at it again. Double Dipping, she said, laughingly. Not only is he having an another exhibition at La Mama Galleria coming up, but Loitering With Intent, an Adam Rapp-tanner by fred hatt-2011directed movie, starring Sam Rockwell and Marisa Tomei, in which Christopher, Eva, and myself appear, as “most touted extras,” just opened on 42nd Street. Right: Fred Hart, ‘Portrait of Christopher Tanner’ (2011), pastel on paper. Though the indefatigable Christopher does seem to be doing everything, everywhere, from his strayings uptown and down, and a few side trips to Europe, his ever-growing New York reputation is solidly planted below Manhattan’s Fourteenth Street – the East Village to be exact – where he has been living, working, playing and creating for decades. As a performer, Tanner is often being singled out for his strong presence and beautiful voice. Critics seem to love him, as he has worked, in drag and out, with Cyndi Lauper, Penny Arcade, Everett Quinton, Agusto Machado, Bloolips, Mabou Mines, The Wooster Group, David Lynch, Karen Finely, and a thicket of other luminariess, who, like Tanner himself, are downtown living legends. In last year’s Football Head: Tales of Shame and Humiliation, Tanner’s one-man hit show, featuring Gina Bonati and Kaylin Lee Clinton as Tanner PurpleHaze_2013- edittwo scantily clad doo-wop girls, turned autobiographical. Leaving no personal details unexplored, he spoke, as well as sang about his early sexual awakenings. Yes, it was a lurid, lust-driven, confessional performance that had many of us, even those of us who had these very same experiences growing up, when not laughing or shedding a few tears, turning a blushing pink. As a visual artist Tanner has exhibited his work at the Pavel Zoubok and Smart Clothes Gallery, and the Kitchen in New York City, as well as the Atrium Gallery in St Louis, the Courtland Jessep Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Gallery OZ in Paris, and the Flatland Gallery in Utrecht. In his current exhibition of constructed paintings Eye of the Heart, which runs through February 15, at the La Mama Galleria on Great Jones Street, Tanner, who lost a great deal of his work during Hurricane Sandy, turns to the spiritual. Reflecting on the meaning  and sacredness of life – Superstorm Sandy had that effect on many – he peoples his paintings with heart-shaped figures, and countless circles within circles, which for the artist tanner 1 cropsignifies the eternity of the spirit. Though hard to see,  the sub-text of Eye of the Heart is a deeply contemplative exhibition, albeit buried under a dazzling array of glittering materials—the artist’s well-known signature. The exhibition features over sixty shimmering works, including a series of twenty, round gilded works on paper, with pigments of lilac, tangerine and hot pink shot into silver leaf. A second series of twenty-two works on Nepalese hand-made paper has large abstract landscapes overlaid by beads and glitters. And a third series of veiled paintings glitters on a tulle base; all of which dazzlingly support the artist’s well-known signature, where a lot more is lots more! As I left to make room for people waiting outside to come into the gallery, seemingly astonished by the amount of work on view, I asked Tanner if he actually did all of this work himself. Suffering this fool gladly, he jokingly answered, “No, I paid my assistants to do this.” Of course I knew that all of this work was from his own hand. However, like everybody there, I wanted to hear Tanner say it for himself. By Edward Rubin, Contributing Editor La MaMa Galleria, 47 Jones Street, New York City, NY 10003 212-505-2376 See more portraits from La MaMa by Fred Hart at:

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