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Above: "Perpetual Aurora," "Superseed" at 5-50 Gallery installation view December 2023, "Seminal Landing" by Hannah Antalek

As usually happens in LIC, I feel slightly lost while finding my way to 5-50 Gallery. Steps from the Pulaski Bridge and the Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave 7, it is a charmingly renovated garage with rolling front door opened to the unassuming neighborhood. On this day I am lucky to find a jewel-box of paintings by Queens resident Hannah Antalek. 

Paintings pave the length of the right and left walls, almost genuflecting to the grandiose “Seminal Landing” that presides over the far end of the space. Towering at 6’ x 5’, “Seminal Landing” looks out regally like a benevolent ruler. Despite its impressive size, we are perched at an intimate vantage point, nose to ground peering into the specificity of an enchanted forest floor. Blue branches are illuminated from beneath by almost inflatable-looking daisies that grow between their stems. These daisies are an Antalek calling card, but they become truly luminous rendered in oil, mushrooming and glowing like blown glass lamps. The curved features and sharp facets of her playful forest scene reminds me of Peter Saul’s neon fastasyscapes. Her flowers, leaves and branches billow and bend with the elasticity of a Who Framed Roger Rabbit character. Across all three walls, the characters of her forms carry the comforting personality of a woodland creature you might meet on a particularly friendly acid trip. Their animated limbs as innocently inviting as the doe-eyed plump figures of Lisa Yuskavage.

To the left of “Seminal Landing”, the eastern wall boasts five paintings showing off Antalek’s ability to convey not only light emittance but also ether and moisture. “Apocrine II”, another blue-hued canvas, focuses on the silky wetness of beaded raindrops bending weightily off the petals of another flower. In this painting as well as in “Edging” and “Saltmaker” on the same wall, what first appears to be “darkness” is actually a hypnotic fog of off-black tones echoing the more radiant blues, reds, greens and pinks of the spotlight. 

On the western wall, Antalek drives home her ability to almost literally burst light from her canvas. The modestly sized “Perpetual Aurora” spans both ends of the thermometer with burning ember colored daisy-orbs surrounded by an icy blue arc of light. With the front wall open wide and the day’s meager heat dissipating, I am tempted to put my hands next to the canvas to warm them. 

The painting I would most like to live with, “Carbon Capture,” enchants in yet another way. Unfurling curvaceous leaves across the canvas, the limbs of this other-planetary plantlife swirl with the rhythm of underwater seaweed. Their soft undulations dance across the canvas landscape as though caught in the slow motion pan of a movie. Its dusty clay reds blend from sharp focused center to soft receding background like a portrait-mode photo. 

I am sad to say this show is closing on the 24th, so you’ll have to drop your very busy last minute Christmas preparation plans to make your way to the show. I wish I could have alerted you earlier to the magic of their presence. Or if you must continue on with holiday merry making and miss this in person opportunity, mark Hannah’s name in your list of Who to Watch for 2024. I’m hoping she’ll grow this fantasyland further and invite us back for another trip.

Published December 22, 2023

Written by Kimmy Quillin


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