Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Artspace unveils four strong new solo shows

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Phil Lique: Traces of Things That Are Alive and Dead
Fritz Horstman: Guerrilla Trees
Elaine Kaufmann: International Design
Conspectus I: New Work from the Flatfile Collection
Cecile Chong: Unspoken Word
Peter Konsterlie: Medical Systems
Feb. 25-Mar. 20, 2010

While Phil Lique's Traces of Things That Are Alive and Dead is held over in Artspace's main gallery, several new shows have been installed in the smaller galleries.

The most overtly conceptual show is Fritz Horstman's "Guerilla Trees." Inspired by "guerrilla gardening" -- the practice of illictly cultivating flowers, vegetables and other greenery in otherwise forlorn public spaces -- Horstman's installation envisions the repopulating of the "Elm City" with real elm trees. At Artspace this consists of a wall drawing map of New Haven, a long planter with a dozen elm saplings, a few dozen elm seed packets and string.

Horstman invited viewers to pin blue strings keyed to individual saplings to points on the map. Horstman will plant the saplings in those spots -- or as near as is feasible --when the weather permits. Visitors are also invited to take a seed packet and pin a green string on the map in the location where they plan to plant it.

The strings themselves are becoming like a tangle of brush. There is a symbolic dimension, as well: the connection between humans and nature, and between consciousness and place. When the exhibit ends, Horstman will chart the planting locations on a map that will be archived on Artspace's Web site.

A socially-informed consideration of space also animates Elaine Kaufmann's exhibit International Design. These are beautifully wrought pencil drawings of living spaces. But where the media promulgates images of luxury living places, Kaufmann depicts environments of brutal poverty. As she noted at the show’s opening, almost a billion people across the planet live in such sprawling slums, tenement camps and favelas.

Her renderings of expanses of slums and their interior and exterior conditions are placed within a bitingly ironic context. Kaufmann has substituted these images of desperation for the images originally in pages of high end architecture and home publications. The found images and found text -- and ever so elegant design -- are made one through Kaufmann's superb technique. (She said at the opening that she chose to use pencil because "it was the most immediate, humble medium I could work with.")

"Kid-centric Condos," for example, depicts two hovels with corrugated tin roofs and their garbage-strewn surroundings. Along the left side, the original knockout type reads "Kid-centric condos." The caption on the bottom boasts, "Play Suite -- Children enjoying the amenities at Wellington Tower. The playroom occupies prime real estate; in other condo buildings, the room might be dedicated to more adult-friendly purposes." International Design is political critique laden with dark, satiric humor.

Layers of materials, of colors and of cultural signifiers make up the mixed media paintings of Cecile Chong's Unspoken Word. Chong was born in Ecuador of Chinese parents and has lived in many places since. She said at the opening that her experience of the "layering of cultures" is something she tries to capture through her use of materials. The primary material used here is encaustic, hot beeswax infused with pigments. Chong noted that she used pigments from Iraq and India. Also brought into the mix are rice paper, volcanic ash, beads and bits of circuit boards from old televisions.

The imagery is a mashup drawn from a Dutch children's book and Asian and South American sources. The translucence of the encaustic imbues the surface with a dreamlike air. In the circular "Meeting of Minds," swirls of blue and purple mists are reminiscent of views of Earth from space. From a distance, the yellowed backgrounds of several of the works appear similar to the mottled colors of antique rice paper.

Peter Konsterlie combines painting and drawing techniques to create the works in his Medical Systems series. Initiated in reaction to a loved one's illness and treatment, they were also inspired by Konsterlie's fascination with anatomical illustrations in his wife's medical textbooks. They incorporate text, stencils and patterning, diagrammatic elements -- painted and drawn grids -- and body features deconstructed and labeled.

This is a different kind of "life drawing." Konsterlie uses gestural marks and stabs of paint (stabs of pain?) to depict bone and muscle. The stained and splattered canvases reference both Konsterlie's previous work in abstraction but also the mess that accompanies medical procedures. These works straddle the abstract and figurative realms. He plays freely with color, leaves lots of white space and layers depiction with free mark-making.

The most recent work in his exhibit is "Ahh Th World," composed of charcoal, enamel and latex paint on a large uneven sheet of paper. The most representational element is a rough drawing of a skull; there are also spray-painted stencils of leaves, flowers and geometric shapes. "Ahh Th World" is a chaotic cacophony of marks: scrawled lines, long drips of paint, dashes of thick brushwork. It resembles a wall that has endured multiple taggings by graffiti writers.

Along the top Konsterlie has jotted the declarative statement "I want things to live forever." It is a sentiment that resonates on more than one level. "I want things to live forever" is both a protest against mortality as well as an expression of the artist istic desire to use art and mark-making to transcend mortality.

In addition to the four aforementioned shows, Conspectus I: New Work from the Flatfile Collection is showing in Gallery 4. This group show conveys a broad, if not deep, sense of the quality and diversity to be found in Artspace's Flatfile.

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Blogger y.f. dubble said...

great work all around. love konsterlie's paintings

9:38 PM


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