Oakland’s Curatorial Powerhouse Athen B. Gallery Presents: Hanging Gardens

Hanging Gardens, a group exhibition featuring Andrea Heimer, Kate Klingbeil, Michael Olivo, and Woodrow White, opened this past weekend at Athen B. Gallery in Oakland. The show explores the trappings and euphoria of the lush illusions humankind all too often constructs as an escape from life’s inconvenient realities. The title is a reference to The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar II’s construction of his grand palace that encompasses all of life’s earthly variation. No definitive proof has been found of the garden’s exact location, which suggests that they may have been purely mythical. In this way the garden mirrors the experiences of the artist as their various processes strive to uncover one’s own subconscious desires, fears, and hopes, be them real or imagined.

For this exhibition, the four artists have worked individually on paintings, prints, pottery and sculptures and collaboratively on video. Working in various styles and mediums, Heimer, Klingbeil, Olivo and White collectively share a curiosity towards the figure within an alternate reality where paradise is an ever shifting illusion.


“The focus of my work is mono-scenic narrative painting.  The Subject matter is heavily influenced by mythology, both personal and shared.  Much of the work is influenced by the feelings and events surrounding my adoption and some of the events depicted are biographical.  The figurative elements focus on the interactions between human beings in moments of conflict, transformation, or disconnection.  Emotional themes of loneliness and detachment are expressed in various environments including houses, yards, forests, and bodies of water, with figures directly interacting with their surroundings and each other.  The ultimate goal of the work is to expose painful and embarrassing realities in a flat matter-of-fact visual manner, as a means of acceptance through serenity.”

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“My whole life I have been expected to be polite, submissive, and beautiful, but life is messy, and I need to make these paintings thick and unapologetic.There is a satisfying serenity involved in visually mapping feelings. Painting is a way to organize these thoughts, to deconstruct confusing emotions, to process life, to slow down and make sensations tangible. The act of making these paintings is both physically and emotionally necessary. These paintings are records in time, and are questions to myself.  Each one acts as a puzzle of feelings in times of sedation, seduction, elation, anxiety and obsession. Often this means that I make small paintings, prints or drawings, cut them out, and suspend them with pins above a background. Other times I need to work it out on a larger scale with thick paint and a knife. Each process offers it’s own perspective. The animation takes this one step further, a more immersive experience of an idea.  Actual events interlace with sentiment, and emotion begins to cloud reality. Layers of paint wrap you up in my moment, so thick you can almost taste the tension.”

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“My work experiments with the failure of the illusion, examining the nexuses of narrative, history and artifice. Palette, subject matter and personal connections inform the dual nature of each tableau. Through the realm of kitsch, such as museums and movie sets, I aim to connect these subjects to a conversation about painting and illusory art, at a time when all trust in images has been lost.”

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A cartoonist and illustrator who also explores animation, mural painting, print-making, poetry, graphic design, and video art. He has spent the last four years in California, previously graduating magna cum laude from The University of the Arts with a degree in Painting/Drawing, and originally growing up in northern New Jersey. Besides self-publishing, Olivo’s comics and illustrations have been published by The New York Times, Lucky Peach, Esquire (Russia), Never Press (LA), Hirnplatzt Zine (Austria), Kuti Kuti (Finland), Tiny Splendor (Berkeley), and Sacred Prism (Philadelphia). He has done an animated video for California punk band Pleasure Gallows, interned at FLUXspace and Space 1026 in Philadelphia, and is currently pursuingresidency opportunities, gallery shows, and public projects. His content relies on intentionally oblique narratives that challenge the reader’s desire for a linear understanding while hoping to evoke an intuitive response residing outside of sentimentality or any analytical comprehension. In his imagery, his forms flow amongst makeshift structures, organic figures, and ephemeral wisps, rendered in either stark black and white or highly saturated colors. Amidst ancient languages and untouched nature, powerful fools are found forcefully altering their environment for arbitrary reasons, and their resolve is not lessened by its lack of purpose, but rather strengthened.

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