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Thursday, January 25, 2007

ALL that heaven a-LOUD

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
Ends Feb. 4, 2007.

Loud is not so. The audio piece slated for the show was pulled the day before the opening because of technical difficulties. So we have the irony of a show titled Loud in a gallery gently filled with the white noise hum of the Erector Square heating system.

The pieces aren't particularly "loud" in a Hawaiian shirt or psychedelic poster way. Although, in writing that, I would note that Lisa Tubach's "Contemplating Eden (Butterwort)" has sections that remind me of classic Fillmore West posters with stark colors jostling against each other. But Tubach's meditation on the garden also includes lively renderings of flowers, fruit and what looks like a habanero pepper pod. ("Loud" would be your scream after you eat it.)

"Loud" has a double meaning. There is the "loud" of sound and the "loud" of garish. Gerritt Van Ness' "Shock & Awe" trades on the former meaning. It is a wood sculpture that resembles a metal and ceramic sculpture. Van Ness mounted a cartoonish cannon topped with a twisted wooden fuse on tank treads. Out of the barrel sticks an American flag with the word "Kaboom!" taped on it.

Colors make something of a loud statement in three works that open the show. "Jane" by Laurie Grace is a digital and mixed media piece. Two magenta dogs check out the viewer. The word "Bitch" is interposed above and between them in cream color, the letters ringed with white dots like lights in a theater marquee. "Bitch" itself has a triple meaning—the dogs, of course, but also as a verb of complaint and perhaps a (loud) insult directed at the individual after whom the work is titled.

"Naughty Bunny" is an energetic abstraction by David Taylor executed with bold strokes of oil stick. A Keith Haring-esque outline of a rabbit is almost recognizable in the roiling stew of color. Where Taylor covers the paper with marks, Nina Ozbey leaves white space on her canvas. "Mayday" is a treat for the way the bright oil colors are smeared on the surface. Ozbey also strategically thinned the paint in areas so it runs in root-like eddies down the canvas. Throughout the work, where the dry edges of the brush zipped over the surface, the interaction of the paint with the canvas texture gives the appearance of halftone dots.

There are two wonderful, and wonderfully different, paintings hanging side by side. Loud in the case of Michael Galvin's "David with the head of Goliath" can be inferred in its frenetic surrealism and priapic explicitness. Galvin fills his frame with, among other details, curly tentacled entrails, a hand holding a head by the hair and a tumescent penis.

Next to Galvin's painting is "Oops!," an acrylic and ink work on canvas by Mark Penner-Howell. "Oops!" contains two images of a young boy that appear cribbed from an old Dick and Jane primary school reader. In the center, Dick kneels with his hands down. Then, to the right, he is tumbling backwards amid comic strip stars. He is sent flying by colored waves of force blasting through a dirt hole opening ringed with torn metal electrical cables. According to Penner-Howell's artist statement, "this work borrows from the oversimplified civics lessons of old Dick and Jane stories to create protest art from normally benign images." Read this way, little Dick—or is it George?—is trapped in a hole through his own foolishness and is sent flying when his unwise entanglements blow up in his face. Kaboom!

Nicole Henderson's "Deregulation II," a print, is also a protest of sorts. In the jumble of imagery—including a fish and what might be a man in a miner's helmet—she wants to convey the "chaos and destruction" wrought by environmental deregulation. This meaning isn't readily apparent in the viewing. Nonetheless, the print is attractive in the layering of its colors, line work and shading.

Some Loud works are actually quite quiet. Among these are "Untitled #61" by Keith Adams, a small cellphone photo print. It's an odd little image, shot from above and behind a very young girl standing on a sidewalk. The shadows of both the girl and the photographer are thrown ahead of them, exaggerating the size of the girl's round head all out of proportion to her body. Jon Petro's large, square oil painting "1501" is mostly yellow over a darker base of color. Petro has built up his surface in layers and layers of yellow rings. It is bright but ultimately subtle.

And then there is Valerie Patterson's watercolor "Too Late." The opposite of loud, this work offers the silence of death. Patterson portrays a Civil War battlefield, corpses strewn about, in photographic black and white. Incongruously, in the left foreground stands a young girl in a pink princess outfit waving a magic wand in one hand and trying to cast a spell with the other. But no magic can return life to these men. And, perhaps in recognition of that, her face, in profile, seems drawn and there is a puffy redness around her eye.

Finally, I don't know where "Defense" by Marlon Ismalon fits in a loud/quiet continuum. But it is a stunning and unique work. Ismalon has crafted an image of a spider-woman with stitches of thread on paper and canvas. The color detail work is incredible, especially rewarding on close inspection.

While I was disappointed that there wasn't one wall lined with Marshall amplifier stacks inundating me with feedback overtones of a crashing major chord, I quite enjoyed Loud. In a quiet way, of course.


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