Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Seven Up

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Some Of Us

There is an understandable tendency to try and corral group shows within the confines of overarching themes. Sometimes this is just a titleā€”for example, the ALL Gallery's recent show, Loud. A theme or title can become a prism through which to consider disparate works. I confess to occasionally getting hung up on show titles: Does this work or that resonate reasonably within a given curatorial construct?

For this recently closed (Feb. 25) show by seven members of the State Street-situated City Gallery, participants chose the generic monicker Some Of Us. Which is ironic because it was one of the most coherent group exhibits I've seen in quite a while.

The common threads connecting the works of these seven women are delight in abstraction, texture, materials and surface. Everyone has her own artistic voice. But their presence together, across different media, was mutually reinforcing.

So it was that the thick orange red surface of Caroline Chandler's oil painting "Pond Reflections" gestured toward the bursts of red and orange that grip the charred and splintered wooden boards of Nancy Eisenfeld's "Smolder."

"Smolder" takes the concept of painting on board to a whole new level. This piece would be eye-catching if it was just a sculptural work composed of old wood. But Eisenfeld treated her assemblage of wood scrap as a canvas. With dabs of burnt orange, flares of scarlet, touches of gold and white and metallic blue on the singed boards, Eisenfeld conjured the fiery energy, the idea of fire as process.

Chandler's "Pond Reflections," on the other hand, evoked thoughts of both surface and depth. The orange glowed from the center out, although the paint surface was dull, not shiny. Around the edges, Chandler had dug into the paint surface, hints of foliage. In "Standing on Fishes," her painting to the left of "Pond Reflections," the scratches had a piscine shape. This work was golden in the center, slowly changing color to dark browns and oranges around the edges. It was like looking into waters with the sun overhead.

In this continuing vein of complementarity, Chandler's signature cuts into the surface of her works found an echo in the scrawls and phantom cursive particular to Jane Harris' paintings and monotypes. Harris trades in layers of imagery. In her oils, hints of darker forms lurked beneath encrustations of white pigment.

As in the previous City Gallery show, Borders and Intersections, Sheila Kaczmarek displayed two very different types of works. One set featured mixed media on panels. Ghostly photos collaged and overpainted with paint and encaustic. These were like landscapes seen through billows of earth tone mists. Then there were her three ceramic and mixed media works. In appearance, they straddled the line between landscape and life form. Titles like "Yellow Reefer" and "Blue Reefer" suggested coral reefs. Squat protuberances sprouted out of a base. Curlicues of wire and plastic tubing extended from the protuberances of "Yellow Reefer." Guitar strings leapt out of sponges stuffed into nooks of "Hungry Reefer."

Along with the natural forms sculpted by Kaczmarek, the show included a couple of mixed media pieces by Meg Bloom that suggested natural forms and/or processes. "Memory Lingers," a long work that hung from the ceiling, was composed of sheer fabric, wax and elaborately frayed green and blue threads. The edges of the fabric were burnt. It looked like a wedding gown gone to seed, the threads lacing through it like vine tendrils. Clots of wax and tears in the fabric were reminiscent of the predations of ravenous moths. "Traces," which hung in the front window, consisted of singed sheer fabric and twigs. It sagged like a distended derelict sack, a nest cobbled together by the mutant offspring of a bird and a gypsy moth.

In Bloom's mixed media works "Surfacing 1" and "Surfacing 2," pastels, wax and pigment were employed to produce an exciting liquid smear of color and texture.

On the facing wall were Liz Pagano's mixed media pieces, also flush with fluid imagery using colors and printing on layers of glass. There were lots of deep reds and yellows. "Moon Over Miami" featured webs of lines, enlarged fingerprint whorls and washes and spotting resembling blood. Like looking at enlargements of sanguineous microscope slides, it was a dive into a world both frightening and beautiful.


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