Through Dec. 3. Ricco/Maresca, 529 West 20th Street; (212) 627-4819, Manhattan; riccomaresca.com
“Earth is the Greatest Haunted House,” Grant Wallace, the war reporter, newspaper illustrator, occult enthusiast and close friend to authors like Jack London and John Steinbeck, once wrote on a scrap of paper: “You walk among crowds of semiconscious gaseous ‘ghosts.’ To them you are the gaseous folk, while they are the visible and substantial reality.” Portraits of such figures are featured in “Over the Psychic Radio” at Ricco/Maresca, a selection of curious and fascinating watercolors, gouaches and other works on paper that Wallace made from approximately 1919 to 1925.
The beings represented here, whom Wallace had reportedly contacted via telepathy or his “psychic radio,” in which he received messages from the beyond, look suspiciously like silent film stars, science fiction protagonists, or doe-eyed flappers. “Zuraleo,” an ink and graphite drawing on paper shows an extraterrestrial resembles a character from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, “Metropolis.” “Rebirth on Earth” features an idealized youth bathed in a halo of energy, being beamed back to Earth.
Wallace’s project taps into the same mediumistic approach adopted by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz and other artists drawn to alternative philosophies like Theosophy. Wallace often made charts and diagrams to record the research he did in a small laboratory built in the redwood forests near Carmel, Calif. New technologies like the radio, and the culture of scientific invention were obvious inspirations. However, for Wallace, art ultimately served as the most potent and universal communications device of all.
Pictured: Grant Wallace’s “Rebirth on Earth,” circa 1919 -1925, in the exhibition “Over the Psychic Radio.” © The Berger Wallace Art Collection