Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Fine work by two new City Gallery members

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Two New Members: Boxes, Drawings & Assemblages: Paulette Rosen and Karen Wheeler

For Karen Wheeler, a recent transplant to New Haven from North Carolina, the work on display in her first City Gallery show is the fruit of a creative evolution. According to Wheeler, over the past few years she has moved from printmaking to papermaking—"flat papers with lots of pigments and shapes"—to incorporating handmade paper objects in wall sculptures.

Many of Wheeler's assemblages in the show are built around vessels created from handmade paper. She uses different pigments and collage elements to make her paper. The wet paper pulp is shaped around either loosely formed baskets or bags of sand inside socks, which can be emptied and removed when the paper dries. The dried paper has a hard, brittle surface akin to ceramics. Where the vessels formed around the bags of sand look like miniature pottery, those encrusted around the loose baskets resemble exotic decaying nests.

Most of her assemblages in the show are relatively small. One of the two large assemblages, "Connection: Home," includes items related to her husband who works with computers. Circuit boards, a small computer fan, a digital camera lens. Other items reference the concepts of home or connections: a dollhouse cabinet, golden chains. All are mounted on a large painted panel.

It is a rigorous composition with deft consideration of both symmetry and asymmetry. The turquoise blue paint on a small shelf that horizontally bisects the piece highlights Wheeler's pleasing use of color. The backing panel adds extra energy. The surface is built up with molding paste over which Wheeler has layered glazes in shades of green with inflections of orange and gold. A lush use of color and an attention to texture and surfaces characterizes all Wheeler's works shown here.

Paulette Rosen began birdwatching about six years ago. She tells me that when learning to identify birds, a birder often has to rely on small snippets of information glimpsed through branches or brush. Her new hobby got her back into drawing; her primary medium has long been book art. Many of her works displayed at the gallery are drawings of birds using ballpoint pen, colored pencil and gouache.

These drawings have a gestural feel: quick, attentive studies of feathers, claws, heads. Rosen has an appreciation of the aesthetics of birds as forms, an interest in the complexity of their coloration and the textures of their feathers. The gestural approach has a subsidiary payoff, implying the innate swiftness of birds as though they are darting in and out of our field of vision.

Rosen's skills as a bookbinder are employed in two different series of boxes. One set references the human impulse to collect: a box with layers of translucent and shiny mica; a dark, blue-edged box (with clear plastic sides) loosely layered with blue jay feathers; a long scarlet box with toothpick-like quills of a roadkill porcupine.

Five small boxes in the back of the gallery are like little art books. (Rosen tells me they are "half-clamshell" designs.) Each tells a tiny poem-like story through a combination of collage, text and the placement of tiny plastic toy figures. They are delicate and beautiful, miniature reminders of the worlds within books.

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