Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 23, 2006

West Neighborhood: Gerald Saladyga & Jessica Cuni

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Gerald Saladyga & Jessica Cuni
Oct. 21, 2006.

I entered the Kehler-Liddell Gallery on Whaley Avenue expecting to see Jessica Cuni. Instead, Gerald Saladyga, the other featured artist in this month's show, was there to greet visitors. While I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to speak with Cuni about her work (I actually did get to talk with her that evening at the artists reception), I'm always happy to pepper Saladyga with questions about his.

"I was just concerned with light but now I'm concerned with landscape—destroyed landscape, landscape that's been bombed out, used as test sites, strip-mined landscape. In some ways, desolation becomes beautiful," Saladyga told me. These landscapes he creates can be either specific or imaginative, or include elements of both.

He generally starts by putting down three coats of one color. He then builds on that with layers of other colors. Once two or three colors are down, he uses sandpaper to efface the top layers, achieving an effect somewhere between a silkscreen and a posterized color Xerox. Other areas of his composition look like the Earth viewed from space. To get the paint to swirl and clot, he presses crumpled paper against the surface while the paint is still wet and then pulls the paper back. Finally, he adds dots using an eyedropper and inscribes lines with a tongue depresser that has a strip of sandpaper covering the end.

"I get off on all that space photography and land imaging photography. It shows how finite we are," said Saladyga. He hopes to get a Global Positioning device for Christmas and use it with the Internet to find imagery for inspiration.

He noted the resemblance between one of the paintings on display, "Fractured Density," and an image that had been published a week or so previous in The New York Times. The newspaper printed a map of Lebanon depicting where the country had been hit by Israeli cluster bombs. Different color dots indicating which of those bombs had been defused and which were yet to be defused.

One diptych of paintings was inspired by a trip to Bolivia and Peru last year.

"We flew over the Andes. It was spring for them then. The Andes were rust brown and we could see lakes shining through and roads cut through," Saladyga told me. And looking at the aptly titled "Flight Over Andes," I can see how Saladyga takes that vision and translates it into his art.

Cuni's work is a wonderful complement to Saladyga's. (Cuni, a Kehler-Liddell Gallery member, had invited Saladyga to exhibit with her.) Like Saladyga's work, her pieces—with their grid-like compositions and bursts of light and shadow—are evocative of space or the night sky. Most have clusters of light illuminating darkness, although a couple have clusters of darkness penetrating the light.

At the artists' reception, Cuni told me that these pieces are both a continuation and a departure from some of her previous work. In a book with photos of her oeuvre, she showed me that she has done representational paintings of stones. These works are abstract, most of them painted with enamel or acrylic spray paints. But Cuni used stones as what she called the "resist." Stones were placed on the paper and then she would spray the paint. White (light) would remain where the stones shielded the paper from the black spray paint. In a couple of works, Cuni first painted the surface black and then used white spray paint around the stones to obtain a reverse effect.

Because Cuni's works are monochromatic shades of white/gray/black, they don't clash with Saladyga's bold color choices. And both artists' work is well suited for display in Kehler-Liddell's large room. The show closes Oct. 29.


Anonymous Steve M said...

Enjoyed reading your comments on the CWOS tour you have made. Especially liked the neighborhood mentions/descriptions and how Daggett St has gentrified. I connected here from the NH Independent link.

11:46 PM


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