Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two fine shows at A-Space Gallery in West Haven

A-Space at West Cove Studios
30 Elm St., West Haven, (203) 627-8030
Line Dancing: A Writer's Choice of Works on Paper
Through May 3, 2010
Locations/6 Views
Through May 1, 2010.

Locations/6 Views, a show of paintings by six artists, explores the landscape, pastoral and otherwise. The artistic approaches vary from those characterized by gesture and boldness of mark making to those created with emphasis on pictorial detail and precision. Each approach has its merits.

Anne Doris-Eisner's monochromatic acrylic on paper paintings are feasts of black line work. Many of them teeter on abstraction, depicting the rich tactile textures of stone and wood. Lenny Moskowitz also favors kinetic gesture. He floods his canvases with broad brush strokes and swirls of thick color.

More to the other end of the spectrum are the works of Josephine Sheridan Robinson and Anne Culver. Robinson offers up works in which nature is barely present, glimpsed only in ghostly light and troubled skies. Her compositions sprawl with urban architecture--specifically that of New York City. She paints a jostling of rectangular, conical and cylindrical forms as seen through a bus fume haze. In "Morning Interior," the crowd of buildings seems almost to dissipate into the smog-dappled sky.

Culver's paintings, imagined landscapes of river-hewn gorges and plains beset by tornadoes, are notable for the softness of her brushwork and the way the colors soak into each other. In "Tempest IV," Culver deftly captures a foreboding quality of light in the sky. As three twisters swirl down to the ground, the storm clouds churn with guttural puffs of dark grays, blues, green and rust brown.

Katie Kindilien's paintings--she variously uses gouache, acrylic and oil paints--straddle the boundary between mark making and pictorialism. I think the most compelling of the works she displays here are the three done in gouache: "Monhegan Sunburst," "Gulf Rock, Monhegan" and "Venetian Casa." In "Gulf Rock, Monhegan," in particular, Kindilien finely combines line work with washes of color.

Brian Wendler's paintings are nicely situated near the window: a visitor can look out at the water of West Cove or admire Wendler's similar Fair Haven vistas of bridge, river and sky. Especially impressive is "View from Lenny's Studio." Wendler marks out his forms with an admirable simplicity of expression but uses his colors with a maximum of feeling.

Lining the corridor from the first gallery to the second--which is actually artist Jonathan Waters' studio--Anne Doris-Eisner's paintings are the perfect segue to Line Dancing, a selection of drawings curated by art critic Stephen Kobasa. True to Kobasa's eclectic and open-minded tastes, Line Dancing pirouettes well over the stylistic map. The show embraces the abstract mark making of Miguel Trelles and Thomas Stavovy, the doodle-like red ink drawing of Larissa Hall ("Some Things I Am, Curious About") and Nathan Lewis' finely wrought graphite imagery ("Coward, Servant, Blindman").

The latter work illustrates the ambiguous position in which the medium of drawing often resides. Lewis is preeminently a painter. A recent move, though, has left him temporarily without a studio in which to paint. This drawing is one result. Drawings can stand on their own; "Coward, Servant, Blindman" does. But drawing is often used as a venue for testing out ideas, sketching, experimenting, roughing out concepts to be finished later in a different medium. Lewis' finished drawing suggests an as yet unrealized painting.

Many of these drawings communicate a sense of openness, of being "in process." I get this feeling from Jillian Vento's "Sprawl II: and I think that is what they [we] are all doing," composed with graphite, acrylic paint and watercolors. The image depicts a couple of brick city buildings sketched out with pencil lines. Painted atop the buildings are a grazing deer and a water tower. The concept of alienated nature is reinforced by an outlining of thick white paint around the deer, tower and buildings, isolating them compositionally from the open sky.

Some of these works I have seen before but was happy to see again such as Nancy Eisenfeld's "Twister" (which bears a strong resemblance to the drawing "Speaking a New Language" shown during the 2008 City-Wide Open Studios--is it the same image with a different title?) and Christine Darnell's "Birthday," displayed in a 2006 show at Creative Arts Workshop.

It is interesting to see how Emilia Dubicki's style translates into a somewhat different format. Her two abstract landscapes, "Rocks/Morris Cove" and "Rocks/Morris Cove #2," translate well as pastels. The second well captures its imagery of tangled sea refuse and rocks in the foreground and the mist-shrouded waters in the background.

John Bent's gutsy work churns our innards out. In "Anatomy Lesson One," he layers cartoony imagery of coiled intestines, muscle, fiber and cilia, meshing line work with fluid washes. Fethi Meghelli's four-paneled "The Birth of Tribes" is a dance of pictographic people and animals, offering a sense of either communion and celebration or drift and conflict.

Edward Castiglione's "Drawing in the Old Style (The Ustadah of Isfahan)" meticulously engages with drawing as an end in itself. Using colored pencils, Castiglione combines figurative depiction with gridwork and a patterned image that resembles an ornate medieval representation of the sun. Night and day, day and night. The nude male figure runs toward the sun, absorbing its light, color and heat. It is an exceptional small work in which all the elements of its elemental allegory work perfectly.

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