Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Painting whimsy and flights of sculptural imagination at Hull's

Hull's One Whitney
1 Whitney Ave.., New Haven, (203) 907-0320
Essence and Artifact
Through Mar. 19, 2009.

I highly recommend the two-person show curated by Barbara Hawes at Hull's One Whitney Gallery. Essence and Artifact features works by painter Michael Shapcott and sculptor/assemblage artist Silas Finch.

Shapcott's paintings have a New Age-y mystical sensibility. The works here are portraiture and figurative, his subjects situated amid fantasy landscapes and prismatic beams of light. Shapcott works with well-thinned oil over gesso and graphite. His subject matter may be cloying. But it's redeemed by the strength of his draftsmanship-he uses his pencil to really draw on the canvases, not just rough out his image-and his facility with color. For oil paintings, these works are very delicate, having an airiness and fluidity more akin to watercolors. In the paintings "Peace and the Inevitable," "Mother's Hands" and "Drift," Shapcott wrests marvelous textures from the combination of of energetically applied gesso, translucent oils and graphite sketching.

Assemblage artist Silas Finch is prolific. He is also, and more important, very very good. Finch continues to evince wonderful artistic progress. Most, but not all, of his works here use old skateboards as the grounds. But what he does with that starting point is amazing. One work, "Charlie," collages material from an old magazine to tell the story of Charles Whitman. Whitman is infamous for having gunned down some 15 people on the University of Texas Austin campus in 1966. Like all of Finch's pieces, "Charlie" has strong compositional integrity, combining pictorial and three-dimensional elements to keep the eye moving over the work.

Finch throws everything but the kitchen sink into these pieces: piano hammers, old spoons, historic newspapers, bone, thorns, barbed wire, antique cameras, gun stocks, old wall lamps, a chunk of the Berlin Wall. His unfettered imagination is bolstered by a D.I.Y, sense of craftsmanship. Two of his works, displayed on tripods in the middle of the room—"Yesterday's Girl" and "Vessel"—are, as one visitor noted while I was there, like ships out of a Terry Gilliam movie.


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