Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blogging last Friday's openings

It was a busy Friday evening for your Connecticut Art Scene blogger, running from show opening to show opening in New Haven. I took in some comic book and cartoon art at the Small Space Gallery in the offices of the Arts council of Greater New Haven, the Faculty Show at Creative Arts Workshop, Dave Gagne's photos of the Connecticut hardcore punk scene at Hope Gallery Tattoo and Silas Finch's found object sculptures decorating Koffee on Orange and the Channel 1 skateboard shop. Herewith some short posts...

Small Space Gallery
70 Audubon St., 2nd floor, New Haven, (203) 772-2788
EXTRAordinary: Contemporary Comic Books and Cartoons
Ends Oct. 31, 2007

Curated by comic book historian Prof. William H. Foster III, the show features a lot of contemporary work by mostly local comic book (or cartoon-style) artists. There was a good crowd in the aptly named Small Space Gallery—the center hallway and conference room of the Art Council's offices. A couple of the artists, cartoonist Jerry Craft and recent School of Visual Arts graduate Raheem Nelson, spoke about their art and what the comics form means to them. The erudite and ever-enthusiastic Foster also talked briefly about comics and, in particular, about the participation of African-Americans in the comics business (and the long term white-ness of the medium). Foster is the author of Looking For a Face Like Mine, a selection of essays, articles and interviews surveying and analyzing the representation of Black people in the comics medium.

I felt some of the work was uneven. But I was taken with the grotesqueries of Paul Timmins and also enjoyed Jackie Roche's well-executed pencil drawings and oil. The steroidal superhero bamalama of Rob Stull with Ken Lashley or Mike Wiering were muscular examples of contemporary comic book art style. While I prefer the less cluttered draftsmanship of the comic book artists I grew up with—Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Carmine Infantino, Jack Kirby, Curt Swan, Wally Wood—Stull's imagery makes sense in our hyper-technological, dehumanized era. Jerry Craft offers a classic cartoony style that seems a throwback to the funny pages of the 1950's. And James Polisky, who got a mention in our review last fall of the City-Wide Open Studios main show, is represented with four macabre technically excellent silkscreen panels.


Creative Arts Workshop Hilles Gallery
80 Audubon St., New Haven, (203) 562-4927
Faculty Show
Ends Oct. 12, 2007.

I kind of stumbled on the Creative Arts Workshop opening. I didn't know it was happening but I was in the neighborhood for the Small Space opening and, well, there it was. The upstairs and downstairs of the Hilles Gallery are filled with work by the CAW faculty. CAW is known for the exceptional artistic talent gathered among its teachers.

I hope to get back there to comment more fully on the show but wanted to note one work in particular that really struck me. When I wrote about Steve DiGiovanni's River Street Gallery show back in June, one of the works I addressed was "Festival of Floats (Handa City, Japan)." The painting was a departure for DiGiovanni in two senses: it was painted with acrylics not oils, and it was more gestural than studied. DiGiovanni's "Portrait of My Son" in the Faculty Show takes this approach to the next level. On unstretched canvas, it is an explosion of imagery, shapes, figures, symbols, color and text. It seems unfinished, an appropriate metaphor for a painting of a child, or, childhood in general. It looks like a breakthrough.


Hope Gallery Tattoo
817 Chapel St., Suite 2F, New Haven, (203) 752-0564
CT Hardcore: The Way We Were
Ends Sept. 23, 2007

The gallery room was packed at Hope Gallery Tattoo Friday night for the show of Dave Gagne's photos. There were dozens of black and white 8x10's as well as one wall with a slew of 5x7 prints. Along with the plethora of images—crowded on the walls like a moshing crowd at a hardcore show—were testimonials to the scene from various participants: band members, audience members (sometimes both). The images were shot in venues like Rudy's and the late lamented Daily Caffe but most particularly at the Tune Inn, the cavernous club that used to be on Center Street in New Haven.

According to Gagne, the photos were taken from roughly 1987 through the late '90's.

"I wanted to show more of the crowd interaction than tight shots of the bands," Gagne told me at the show. "It wasn't just about the music. It was about the people and the scene in general."

With a couple of hundred images to display, he chose putting the bands in alphabetical order as the default organizing principle. As the crowd took in the images-and connected with old friends and scenesters—an iPod played music from as many of the bands as Gagne could find recordings of. He said that aspect of the show was probably more challenging than getting the photos together.

It took about two months to gather the reminiscences, Gagne said.

"I had the concept in my head for a while. I wanted to involve other people. I called up about a dozen people I'm still in contact with now that I knew back then," he said.

Damon Lucibello wrote:

Most of the hardcore and punk shows at the Tune Inn were completely chaotic.

...At some shows, the stage was packed with so many audience members that it became virtually impossible to actually see the performing musicians.

...The breakdown of the barrier between the bands and the audience was a major part of the Tune Inn's charm.
These are images of exultation. Delighted grimaces on the faces of the performers. The gesturing and eyes-closed, open-mouthed shouting like at some tent revival meeting of an underground pagan religion. The full-bodied trust inherent in crowd surfing and stage diving.

There is a starkness to the black and white imagery. For the most part, this was a crowd that gathered at night. I noted one daytime image, of a protest against the closing of the Daily Caffe coffeehouse on Elm Street near the corner of Park. Tarn Granucci holds a sign reading, "In the great tradition of the 9th Square, less culture, more empty buildings."

The essence of what the scene meant to many of the participants is captured in this reminiscence from Kevin Decker:

The most important part of the scene was the camaraderie between friends. You stood by your friends and they stood by you. Twenty years later, I haven't forgotten those lessons. In fact, they play a major role in my life as a union organizer, husband and father. Hardcore has guided me from an angry teenager into a man who stands up for what he believes in and holds his head high with dignity.

Channel 1
220 State St., New Haven, 1-888-SHOP-CH1
Fragments: Sculptures by Silas Finch

Over at the skate shop Channel 1, Silas Finch's sculptures were decorating the walls. Finch uses his old skateboard decks as they canvas or base, which is then decorated with found objects. Finch has a gift for creating effective compositions.

"Always a Part of Me" has a skateboard deck covered with leather. Under the leather there skateboard trucks—essentially the axle mechanism for the board—almost pushing through the leather. One part of the leather is stitched up. Finch had cut into it to perform "surgery" (adjusting one of the trucks) and stitched it up. It reinforces the sense of skin and organism.

The sculpture "8:46 AM" is covered with printing press letters. Two clocks are also mounted on the board, one set to 8:46 and one to 9:03. Those were the times that the two planes struck Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center. The letters, most in reverse, spell out "WTC," "2001" and other references to the terrorist attack.

Finch also has several similar pieces decorating the walls over at Koffee on Orange.

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