Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Alternative Space: Greg Garvey

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Alternative Space: Greg Garvey
Oct. 28-29, 2006.

Greg Garvey touched the iMac's spacebar. Music began to play. From this seed of inspiration, Garvey constructed a site-specific installation in the band room of the old Hamden Middle School. Entitled "Requiem for a school left behind," the multi-media presentation encompassed more than a dozen iMacs, music stands and empty chairs. Hamden Middle School was closed when it was revealed that the school—as well as nearby low income housing—had been built on contaminated land.

The iMac had initially been abandoned next to the teacher's desk. It was covered with dust when Garvey first entered the room. It must have been left on when the school was abandoned. It was in "sleep" mode. The touch of the spacebar "woke" it up. A compact disc, Collaborations, had been left in the computer. The disc featured music recorded by students in the New Haven arts magnet schools program: jazz ensembles, choral groups, gospel singers. Jazz filled the air.

Garvey scavenged a half dozen or so more iMac's from the school premises and borrowed more from Quinnipiac University, where he teaches. He arrayed them in two rows on the orchestra risers, with the more dependable machines up front. On the third and top row, almost three dozen stands in various states of disrepair, each displaying one blank sheet of musical notation paper. Three rows of folding chairs sit vacant on a single riser facing the orchestra.

Music played in all the computers simultaneously, out of sync. From Collaborations, Garvey made a mix CD and loaded that into six of the iMacs. (He was apologetic that he did not know the names of the performers: "I always like to acknowledge my sources. I don't have my hands on that.") Six other computers were loaded with a piano/voice instruction disc that Garvey had found in a desk drawer. And six played the built-in metronome.

Garvey considered the presence of gospel music on the Collaborations disc fortuitous. There is a phrase in one of the songs—"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"—that he felt was apropos to the fate of the school.

"The people who chose to site the school here, and low income housing, were criminals," he said. He said a friend, who once taught at the school, told him that a principal and assistant principal had both died of cancer.

Additionally, Garvey used a digital camera to create a computer-oriented visual element. He shot 800 photos throughout the exterior and interior of the school. With these he made four 200-image slide shows that played continually on the screens.

"With the photos, I tried to get a feel for the sense of abandonment," Garvey told me.

Standing in the room, I heard a multiphonic interplay. Move toward one computer and the gospel choir became prominent. Move in another direction and the syncopated sophistication of a surprisingly accomplished jazz group set the groove. The instruction disc became a background noise.

And then there was the ever-present electro-chirp of the metronome. The building block of rhythm, the foundation. The metronome was a symbol of time, as the installation was a memorial to time past. And as I spent time with it, the intrusion of the metronome became more insistent, like an alarm in the hallway. The din conjured up ghosts, of the physical space, of the sounds of students and teachers.

As I meditated on the piece, Garvey was engaged in loading one last sound file onto one of the iMacs.

"It's times like these that I become really appreciative of the evolution of technology," he said. "Like everything, it takes ten steps and these machines are really slow."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Open Studios Open Thread

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Alternative Space
Oct. 28—29, 2006.

I spent more than three hours yesterday and three hours today traipsing through the old Hamden Middle School, this year’s CWOS Alternative Space. I will start posting my conversations and observations tomorrow.

In the meantime, I encourage readers to use the Comments option to post their own takes on CWOS. And, for that matter, please weigh in on what you think about how I approached covering CWOS. This blog is a work in progress. I’ve enabled anonymous comments to free people to speak their minds.

See anything this weekend that you particularly liked? If you are an artist, what worked for you in this year’s CWOS format and what didn’t? Highlights? Low points? Controversy?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Opening reception Ely House this Sunday

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
2006 Exhibition of Undergraduate College Artwork in Connecticut
October 22—November 19, 2006.

Press release

Reception: Sunday, November 5, 2—5pm

Participating Artists:
Jon AidukonisJonathan AllenLaura Arsenault Elizabeth BarbeauChristopher BeasleyLisa ButlerJaclyn Cane Rachel Clark Barb Corrigan May BabcockKatie ColpiElizabeth De Lucia Alecia Marie Faustini Dianne Fitzgerald Marie Foran Nicole GermaineDanny JimenezJoyce Lai Barbara MansillaRichard Montanari Jr. Rob MontesBryan MortonJustin Orlando Alexandra Ostasiewicz Nicole PederzaniMatthew Pfeiffer Samantha PinetteJessica PrinceTiffany Raccio Renee RossiJon Rundstrom Patricia Deborah ScalzoDaniel Schmidt Laura Smith Rachel SmithTeagan Smith Molly Smyth Brant Stites Cliff Taylor Adam Zucker

Albertus Magnus, Manchester Community College
Norwalk Community College, Paier College of Art
University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University,
University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, Yale University

Gallery Hours:
Wednesday-Friday, 11am-4pm
Saturday & Sunday, 2-5pm

Grand opening Thursday at Mandala Gallery

Azoth Gallery
224 College St., New Haven, (203) 777-5400
Mandala Gallery: Art, Gifts and Apparel from Nepal, India, Tibet and other countries
Grand opening Oct. 26, 7-8:30 p.m.

Press release

Mandalas are circular sacred spaces occupied by the main deity in the center, protector deities in the four directions, and a host of other celestial beings outside the inner geometric circle. A mandala is a cosmogram, an idealized map of the universe. Psychologically, it is a tool for integration. Spiritually, it is a meditation for focusing the mind.

Thankas are portable paintings, or rarely, embroideries, depicting Buddhist deities (Buddhas, Protectors, and Bodhisattvas) and venerated teachers (lamas) often with a halo or a body nimbus, in a highly symbolic landscape, seated or standing on lotus thrones, holding emblems such as the vajra (dorje).

The Thanka landscape represents either one of t1he heavenly realms, or a transfigured earth. It is populated by puffy white clouds, valleys, mountains, trees, lakes, monasteries, pagodas, birds, fish, animals. Fierce protector deities, such as Mahâkâla or Kâlarûpa, are surrounded by a circle of flames.

In the Buddhist art of Tibet and Nepal, the ideals of the "good," the "beautiful-spiritual life" and art - have a long intertwined history that goes back to the Paleolithic. We can see the extraordinary relationship between the pursuit of spiritual realization and aesthetic expression.

Grand opening sponsored by Azoth Gallery. For more information, please contact Johnes Ruta Promotions and Graphics. (203) 387-4933.

East Neighborhood: Anna Held Audette

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
East Neighborhood: Anna Held Audette
Oct. 22, 2006.

The painting that commands the room in Anna Held Audette's studio—by dint of its sheer size—is from a scrap metal series she worked on in the 1990's. To my eyes, it is like found object art translated onto canvas. The oil painting depicts scrapyard chaos of twisted metal and rusted discarded machinery. When I suggested this to Audette, she demurred, politely.

"Sort of, but it's stacked there for a commercial purpose," she said.

She did 23 paintings of scrap metal. The one hanging in her studio was of a pile found in a junkyard just north of New Haven off I-91. I commented on the beautiful light that plays over the scrap.

"Light makes the most uninteresting things come alive. It's really magic," she said. "I was only allowed to go there after 4 o'clock in the afternoon, so it's all late light."

Her most recent body of work is entitled Contemporary Ruins. It consists of striking paintings of the shuttered factories, abandoned terminals and discarded machines of our late industrial past. In her artist's statement on this series, she wrote, "As a painter I have been inspired by endless examples in which the triumphs of industry turn out to be just a moment away from obsolescence, casualties of our rapid technological evolution." I asked her how she was drawn to this subject.

"For most of my life, it just grew on me. Largely because the forms are never the same, the problems are different for every painting. I never have the feeling I'm doing the same painting twice," she said. She paints from photographs, she said, because she is often interested in settings "where my presence for several days would not be appreciated." But painting a scene changes the scene, she added. "There's no point to just painting the photograph."

As with the scrap metal painting, many of the newer works derive rich character from the quality of the light. One example was her painting of the old New Haven Terminal.

"The light and the fact that it had rained the night before. I got very nice reflections," she said. "Two things that came together very nicely on a Sunday afternoon."

East Neighborhood: Howard Fussiner

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
East Neighborhood: Howard Fussiner
Oct. 22, 2006.

There are paintings everywhere in Howard Fussiner's third floor studio in his home in New Haven's East Rock section. Oil paintings on wooden stretchers. Acrylic paintings on paper in piles. Another work in progress on the easel. And, he pointed out with evident pride, in two books that came out this year. A profile of Fussiner, accompanied by reproductions of three paintings, was published in Artists Next Door: A Great City's Creative Spirit. His acrylic on paper painting, "Flye Point, Brooklin, Maine," was included in Paintings of Maine.

The landscape of Maine has been a source of inspiration to Fussiner for more than four decades.

"I've been going up to Deer Isle since 1962," he told me. "We have 74 acres. We used to have an outhouse but after five years we put in a bathroom."

I looked through the pile of acrylic paintings on heavy paper. They were paintings of Penobscot Bay, Fussiner said. "Sunset, Maine Coast," painted last year, was stunningly beautiful. There is one pine tree to the left and a thin turquoise stream of water in the middle foreground. Another larger body of water is visible in the distance. Boulders are settled into the earth and smears of blue and rust red color the twilight sky. I asked him about his evident attraction to rock forms.

"They're sort of elemental. I work with rocks, trees, sky and water, the most elemental kind of landscape," Fussiner said.

He used to paint with oils on canvas. He would work outdoors and put his big paintings on top of his car to transport them. But he is over 80 now. To avoid the hassle, he switched to working largely with acrylics and from photographs. Along with landscapes, Fussiner also paints a lot of parade scenes. These are more playful than the landscapes, having almost a naïve folk art quality. In one, "A Memory of Parades (Deer Isle)," one spectator holds a camera in front of his face. It is Fussiner portraying himself taking pictures.

He opened a book of photographs from the years 2003-2005. He showed me page after page of shots taken at parades. In one, a young man stands posed with his adopted greyhound. The greyhound, Fussiner said, appears in some of his paintings.

His artistic philosophy is summed up in this quote from Artists Next Door:

In my work, I usually invoke the spirit of joy and celebration. At times I've spoken in a darker minor mode. Since life and art are a combination of joy and sadness, I choose mostly to be on the side of joy, and the work is weighted that way.

West Neighborhood: Daggett Street

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Daggett Street: Justin Brander, Adam Dunn, Max Miller & Silas Finch
Oct. 21, 2006.

The old factory building complex at Daggett Street Square has a history as an artists' haven going back at least to the 1970's, if not the 1960's. I lived there from 1980-1983 and still have a painting and photographs I found in the hall, left behind by aesthetically inclined tenants (perhaps one missed rent payment from eviction). The buildings have been cleaned up a lot since then but retain their scruffy charm.

I got there late in the afternoon and was only able to stop at the three of the five open studios. Justin Brander was showing some abstract oil paintings with earth tones and thickly applied paint. Spacy electronic music played courtesy of his friend Adam Dunn; free CD-Rs were available for the taking.

On one wall of his studio, painter Max Miller had two similar paintings. He told me that one was a copy of the rococo painting "Landscape Near Beauvais" by Francois Boucher.

"I was kind of obsessed with rococo so I did this painting to figure out why," he said. And did he figure out why, I asked? Not really.

The accompanying work was a pastiche of "Landscape Near Beauvais" but with Disney-like characters instead of French peasants.

"The laundry they're doing here have been replaced by [color] spectrum lozenges so it's about the labor of painting. I'm obsessed with the connection between French rococo and Disney and American kitsch so I kind of integrated that. I tried to make a picture of my preoccupation," Miller said. He titled it "Current Conditions of Production. " "I gave it a little Marxist spin."

Through the maze of hallways and stairways I found Silas Finch's studio. Finch himself found the space through Open Studios last year. After visiting Daggett Street during CWOS, he put his name on the list for a loft when one became available. He moved into Daggett Street this past April. Now 28 years old, he was drawn to "Found Object Alchemy" when he was a senior in high school.

"My father is an antiques dealer. He collects cool stuff," Finch told me. "I put my pieces together like a puzzle. I've had a workshop wherever I was since I was 17."

He assembles them by hand, disdaining welding and bending the individual parts. (I included a photo and mention of Finch's "Elephant Dance" in my introductory CWOS post.) His workbench and cabinets boasted a plenitude of scavenged metal gears and other machine parts. He is a connoisseur of junkyards.

"The Derby Junkyard. If you go down Route 34, there's a big red barn with a giant statue of a guy holding a globe." He pointed out some furniture, a cabinet and a trunk he got there. He showed me two Morse code tappers he had found at the Derby Junkyard just the day before. "Also, Wrecking Ron's in Seymour. You can get your wire and broken pieces there.

"Cape Cod has the best junkyard I've ever seen in Harwich. It's in a giant field. Rain, snow or shine the tables are covered. The guy puts the pieces out individually," said Finch. "He must have some screws loose, but for me it's a buffet."

Finch, a skateboarder, told me painting blank skateboards—using skateboards as a canvas—is a big thing these days.

"But I've never seen them used for sculpture," he said. So he has done just that. On a table against the exterior wall had lined up six skateboard sculpture: "My Addiction," "My Passion," "My Achievement," "My Religion," "My Source" and "My Wound." For "My Addiction," he used copper cable covered by leather to represent an arm with bulging veins. He added a rather scary hypodermic needle he had found when a doctor's widow let him forage among her late husband's effects. "Hopefully I'll get an audience out of them."

Before I left Daggett Street I took out my digital camera to shoot some images, for nostalgia's sake. But I felt like I scored a little found object art of my own, capturing an image of razor wire against the perfect blue fall sky. It might come in handy for a polemical collage about the Bush Administration.

West Neighborhood: West Rock Avenue

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: West Rock Avenue: Gar Waterman, Frank Bruckmann & Muffy Pendergrast
Oct. 21, 2006.

When I stopped in at Gar Waterman's home/studio on West Rock Avenue he was cradling in his arms "my finest figurative work to date." He was referring to Geffen, his almost two-year-old son, who was obviously awakening from a nap (and, just as obviously, a collaborative work with wife Thea Buxbaum).

The front room was colorful with Geffen's toddler toys and also doubled as something of a gallery for Waterman's sculptures. These included graceful marble and onyx sculptures of seed and bone forms as well as his wild "insect architectural" pieces constructed from castoff metal machine parts.

Waterman graciously escorted me back to his workspace to tell me about a project he is working on, all the while juggling requests from Geffen for mango slices.

"The coolest thing I've got going is a cast glass piece for a hedge fund. I've never worked with cast glass before but it's a very cool medium," said Waterman. Using a water jet, he cut anodized aluminum into the shape of the hedge fund's logo. Two glass discs will sandwich the logo with everything held together by machined aluminum rings. The disc shapes "are based on Chinese bi discs," Waterman told me.

"They were Neolithic forms. The whole in the center symbolizes the pole star around which heavenly bodies rotate," explained Waterman.

Exiting Waterman's studio, I ran into a swarm of bicyclists. It was the Open Studios tour group led by Matt Feiner on a bike with one of the biggest front wheels I have ever seen. It was a fine day to be out and they had been to Daggett Street in the Hill band West Cove Studio and Gilbert Street in West Haven.

For my part, I was just diagonally crossing the street to visit with painters Frank Bruckmann and Muffy Pendergrast. They had moved onto the street about eight years ago at the urging of Waterman and Buxbaum. Bruckmann's studio is in a converted garage behind the house. Muffy Pendergrast, his wife, uses the third floor of their house.

I asked Bruckmann how his traffic had been.

"This year they did a good job on Open Studios, thinking how to get people to go to different areas. I've had a few people in today, which is nice," he said.

In the meantime,the bicyclists group had arrived at Bruckmann's studio and Matt Feiner offered some advice.

"Self-promotion is important, giving out cards," he said. He handed a card to Bruckmann for an installation he is doing this coming weekend at the Alternative Space. The Alternative Space this year is in the former Hamden Middle School; Feiner's installation will be in the nurse's office. The card was a facsimile of a hall pass.

The walls of the garage were covered with Bruckmann's oil on linen landscapes. He works mostly from life. "Clocktower," a larger work of a scene overlooking a corner of the New Haven Green, was started in an office space in the New Alliance Bank building. Bruckmann then brought it home and completed it by referring to photographs and a smaller painting he had done.

"It's just like going to work. You have an office space. During the winter, a number of artists are allowed to use it. It's great because there are a number of changing views," said Bruckmann. A visitor expressed surprise that there were parking spaces on top of one of the buildings in the painting.

"I added those. I kind of changed things around a little bit," said Bruckmann. "I have my artistic license. I'll show it to you."

Muffy Pendergrast uses her artistic license to produce child-safe acrylic paintings. She and her husband had opened up the top floor of the house to make a small loft-like studio space. It was a cheery room with lots of natural light. There were myriad paintings, all of them characterized by bright colors and simple forms—animals, spaceships and dinosaurs. Some included the appropriate upper case and lower case first letter of the animal pictured. Pendergrast also had socks and t-shirts designed with her distinctive imagery for sale.

She started this work shortly before her son, who is now six years old, was born.

"I wanted to do something I could make and sell," Pendergrast said. "I wanted to stay home and be with my son so the whole idea of art for kids came up."

Monday, October 23, 2006

West Neighborhood: Gerald Saladyga & Jessica Cuni

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Gerald Saladyga & Jessica Cuni
Oct. 21, 2006.

I entered the Kehler-Liddell Gallery on Whaley Avenue expecting to see Jessica Cuni. Instead, Gerald Saladyga, the other featured artist in this month's show, was there to greet visitors. While I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to speak with Cuni about her work (I actually did get to talk with her that evening at the artists reception), I'm always happy to pepper Saladyga with questions about his.

"I was just concerned with light but now I'm concerned with landscape—destroyed landscape, landscape that's been bombed out, used as test sites, strip-mined landscape. In some ways, desolation becomes beautiful," Saladyga told me. These landscapes he creates can be either specific or imaginative, or include elements of both.

He generally starts by putting down three coats of one color. He then builds on that with layers of other colors. Once two or three colors are down, he uses sandpaper to efface the top layers, achieving an effect somewhere between a silkscreen and a posterized color Xerox. Other areas of his composition look like the Earth viewed from space. To get the paint to swirl and clot, he presses crumpled paper against the surface while the paint is still wet and then pulls the paper back. Finally, he adds dots using an eyedropper and inscribes lines with a tongue depresser that has a strip of sandpaper covering the end.

"I get off on all that space photography and land imaging photography. It shows how finite we are," said Saladyga. He hopes to get a Global Positioning device for Christmas and use it with the Internet to find imagery for inspiration.

He noted the resemblance between one of the paintings on display, "Fractured Density," and an image that had been published a week or so previous in The New York Times. The newspaper printed a map of Lebanon depicting where the country had been hit by Israeli cluster bombs. Different color dots indicating which of those bombs had been defused and which were yet to be defused.

One diptych of paintings was inspired by a trip to Bolivia and Peru last year.

"We flew over the Andes. It was spring for them then. The Andes were rust brown and we could see lakes shining through and roads cut through," Saladyga told me. And looking at the aptly titled "Flight Over Andes," I can see how Saladyga takes that vision and translates it into his art.

Cuni's work is a wonderful complement to Saladyga's. (Cuni, a Kehler-Liddell Gallery member, had invited Saladyga to exhibit with her.) Like Saladyga's work, her pieces—with their grid-like compositions and bursts of light and shadow—are evocative of space or the night sky. Most have clusters of light illuminating darkness, although a couple have clusters of darkness penetrating the light.

At the artists' reception, Cuni told me that these pieces are both a continuation and a departure from some of her previous work. In a book with photos of her oeuvre, she showed me that she has done representational paintings of stones. These works are abstract, most of them painted with enamel or acrylic spray paints. But Cuni used stones as what she called the "resist." Stones were placed on the paper and then she would spray the paint. White (light) would remain where the stones shielded the paper from the black spray paint. In a couple of works, Cuni first painted the surface black and then used white spray paint around the stones to obtain a reverse effect.

Because Cuni's works are monochromatic shades of white/gray/black, they don't clash with Saladyga's bold color choices. And both artists' work is well suited for display in Kehler-Liddell's large room. The show closes Oct. 29.

West Neighborhood: Christopher Engstrom

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Christopher Engstrom
Oct. 21, 2006.

The walls of Christopher Engstrom's apartment/studio bear evidence of what might be called "productive procrastination." On the right, in progress, is a wonderful image of a boy on the shore seeming to hold up a giant yellow-orange ball of sunshine. The image continues onto the adjacent wall. Clouds, dune grass and flocks of terns and sanderlings—inspired by stays in Truro and Provincetown on Cape Cod—are painted in silver leaf. In the afternoon light, and depending where you stand, the reflection off the painted sunshine shows up glowingly copper on the silver paint.

Engstrom is writing and illustrating a children's book. The story started as a flip book and Engstrom also contemplated making it as an animated short film. He doesn't have a publisher yet. He wants to finish the book first.

"It's a project I've been working on too long now," he told me, laughing. Too long, it turns out, is about three years. "The story parallels what I'm doing artistically."

"A little boy, looking for inspiration, walks down to the ocean to take a break from his studio. He grabs a wave and pulls the ocean up to his studio, and pulls it inside one of his paintings," Engstrom explained. "Then he goes back for other things." Like the sunshine he is gathering on the apartment wall.

The painting on the wall, Engstrom said, "is more play for me, thinking about scale. I wondered about having it large and wrapping around you more."

Engstrom said the story is about taking the concept of artistic creation literally.

"When we see something outside that's so beautiful, we just want to remember it. But when you do artwork based on nature, you have to be selective," Engstrom said. We can't pull all of the outdoors into our studio.

West Neighborhood: John Keefer

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: John Keefer
Oct. 21, 2006.

Tramping from studio to studio at Erector Square the first weekend of CWOS, I saw a lot of accomplished and engaging art. But as I prepared to go out this past Saturday morning to visit "West Neighborhood" studios, it occurred to me that little of what I had seen—and perhaps this was because I was only able to visit artists in two building of the Erector Square complex—touched on our contemporary national moral crisis. War. Torture. The abandonment of the Bill of Rights. Indefinite detention without judicial review. Secret prisons. Mary Lesser's acrylic and collage paintings spoke to the trauma of 9/11 but where was the cri de coeur of an artist over, say, the Guantanamo concentration camp or Abu Ghraib?

And then—perhaps there are no real coincidences—my first stop on Saturday morning was the Westville studio of John Keefer. Among the works on the wall were numerous in-progress paintings based on the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs. Naked detainees in a pile. Defenseless prisoners being menaced by dogs. Lynndie England pointing at a hooded detainee's penis.

I asked Keefer what motivated him to interpret those images. There were, he said, a number of factors.

"I have a preoccupation with the idea that pictures have different values, high value and low value. In terms of the quantity of information they carry, and the results on the viewer, both as emotional experience and on the analytical level," said Keefer. "These are high value images I knew people were likely to see.

"There have been various times when I thought there's nothing else I could work on, they're so perfect. They're enclosed, not landscapes. There are so many art historical references. I get surprised when I work on them," continued Keefer. He pointed to the painting of the now iconic scene with Lynndie England, directing my attention to the dark shadows on the left, behind England.

"Isn't the light in this so beautiful?" he asked. Continuing with the notion of surprise, Keefer told me that he had wanted to include a haiku as part of the image. He was unsure of the number of syllables in a haiku so he Googled "haiku." And the first haiku that came up was "Calm after the storm/ Madness turns to sanity/ Serenity reigns." Perfect, in a darkly ironic sense, for the image. When he tried Googling it again he couldn't find it.

For this series, Keefer is working on two surfaces, wood and canvas. He wants to make the paintings identical to the original photographs and is taking a classical approach, laying them out in a grid. In earlier work I had seen of his, writing a profile for a CWOS preview in the New Haven Advocate several years ago, he had included his dog in some paintings, a point of continuity with these efforts.

I asked whether he was intending a political point with the work. At that point the bus tour led by Artspace Director Helen Kauder showed up, and Keefer addressed his answer, or non-answer, to the whole group.

"Are these supposed to change anybody's mind on anything? Are they anti-something? I just felt compelled to make them," he said.

"I realize some are hideous," Keefer added, pointing to the England painting, "so I made some that people like, like these cloud pictures." He gestured toward sky landscapes on the adjacent wall. On the wall in the short entry hall, there was a painting of an automatic weapon. "I think the blue and green go very well together. So if you want, I will finish that picture and you can have it at your house.

"You give me some money, of course," Keefer said, a sly smile playing across his face.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Opening reception: City Gallery

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Jane Harris & Sheila Kaczmarek: Borders and Intersections
Opening reception: Oct. 22, 2006, 4-7 p.m. Show closes Nov. 19, 2006.

New work by Jane Harris and Sheila Kaczmarek is presently on display at City Gallery, following on the heels of the Elementum show.

The show is called Borders and Intersections. The artists will be at the gallery on Sun., Nov. 5, and Sun., Nov. 19, to talk about their work. Gallery hours are Thurs.-Sun., 1-4 p.m., or call for an appointment.

The opening reception is tomorrow, Sun., Oct. 22, 4-7 p.m.

City-Wide Open Studios: Neighborhoods Weekend

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Neighborhoods Weekend
Oct. 21, 2006.

I spent the better time of this glorious afternoon communing with artists in New Haven's Westville neighborhood. I had ambitious plans to stop there first, visit a couple of locations in West Haven and then conclude my art touristing at Daggett Street. (I have to go to Daggett Street; I lived there for the first three years of the 1980's.)

But one of the things about CWOS, at least for me, is getting to talk to artists. I want to know how they got this effect or why they are fascinated with that subject. And conversations, particularly interesting ones—and artists are often very interesting conversationalists—take time. The upshot: I was able to make a number of stops in Westville and then shot across time to pass the final hour at Daggett Street (somewhat gentrified since my residence there but still retaining a down-at-the-heels charm).

I'll be posting my observations starting on Monday. I encourage anyone who couldn't get out today—and those of you who did—to explore the so-called "East Neighborhoods" (downtown New Haven, Audubon, East Rock, Wooster, Fair Haven and North Haven) tomorrow. The bicycling contingent, led by artist and bike aficionado Matt Feiner, was having a great time today—we crossed paths around 3 p.m.—and there was happy bus tour crew shepherded by Helen Kauder. Both bike and bus options will be available on Sunday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Erector Square: Peter Konsterlie

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Peter Konsterlie
Oct. 15, 2006.

Peter Konsterlie has a background in theater design. This biographical fact arose in a discussion over a large acrylic portrait he was displaying in his studio. In theater design, it's important for set pieces to be readable to the last seat in the hall. Well, the minute I turned and looked through Konsterlie's doorway I recognized the visage of actor Robert Duvall in the eye-popping painting "Charlie Don't Surf" (a reference, of course, to Duvall's role in Apocalypse Now).

Konsterlie had spent a number of years laboring in the fields of pure abstraction. But like many of the artists I spoke to any Sunday, he felt the tug of change and set out to "try and rediscover how to do portraits."

"I wanted to make paintings that either told a story or were recognizable," Konsterlie told me.

In doing so, though, he didn't leave behind the unbuttoned approach to paint he had developed in his non-objective work. The Duvall painting is a tour-de-force of dripped and spattered paint. He told me he "celebrates" the way the color pops.

And the virtue of a painting like "Charlie Don't Surf" is that it delivers on two levels. Stand back and it's a dead-on interpretation of the actor's features. Approach the work and you can see it in a completely different way, appreciating the free-wheeling color abstraction.

"It's fun. As an artist, you can make your own rules and break them," said Konsterlie.

Erector Square: Mary Lesser & Judy Atlas

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Mary Lesser & Judy Atlas
Oct. 15, 2006.

Perusing Mary Lesser's Postcards from the Road series of miniature paintings, I felt the spirit of Jack Kerouac looking over my shoulder. A couple of dozen of the postcard-sized landscapes-rendered in gouache on paper-were displayed on the wall of her studio. I recognized an Art Deco overpass as being on the Merritt Parkway. Lesser pointed out another "postcard," this one depicting a section of the Wilbur Cross Parkway. There were scenes of bucolic rural drives and of turnpikes barreling past industrial outcroppings on the urban fringe.

Lesser's husband David is a rare book dealer and they hit the road regularly looking for books.

"I've got nothing to do but think of how to make art out of it," Lesser told me. "I ought to make a book out of it—Travels with Mary!

"A lot of times the books he's looking for are in the big cities but we try and take back roads," Lesser continued. She pointed out a "postcard" that was the fruit of one such off-the-beaten-path trek: a Georgia shack sporting one sign reading "Hi's BBQ" and, incongruously, another offering "Beauty Supplies."

On the facing wall, Lesser was showing larger works, a series started after 9/11. Lesser said she found viewers' reactions to the works to be "interesting."

"Some find them really joyful—actually, 'playful' was the word, not 'joyful'—but I find them bleak," said Lesser. She described them as "urban scenes of destruction" (see photo). Things are falling out of the skies as planes fly overhead. City buildings teeter on the brink of collapse. "But I'm happy. It's nice to have a contrast between playful and bleak." Perhaps it's the lively colors.

Printmaker and watercolorist Judy Atlas was sharing Lesser's studio to show some of her monotype prints and paintings.

"The beauty of monotyping is that it could go through [the press] once and you say 'this is great. But what if I add color, or depth?' So that's why there is a lot of surface depth from front to back," Atlas told me about her approach. "I work in layers and push things. It's all about process. I can't be too wedded to my original idea."

This desire to explore crops up in her watercolor work. In the paintings shown, the pigment was applied with very little water. They have more of a pastel-like quality than the traditional translucence associated with watercolors.

"I like to push the edge and not do it the way everybody has been doing it all these years," said Atlas.

Artist's Reception this Saturday

The New Haven Library Art Gallery
133 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06511
Spirit of the Soul: Oil Paintings & Watercolors by Lidia Assenova
Spirit of Form: Sculpture in several mediums by Nancy Frankel
Oct. 14-Nov. 16, 2006

Press Release

Artist's Reception: Saturday, October 21, 2:30-4:30 PM

Lidia Assenova paints impressionistic figures and portraits, and fragment images of religious icons, working in oils and watercolors. She was born in Bulgaria, in the town of Blagoevgrad in 1955. In 1974 she graduated from the National Arts High School. In 1978, she graduated from the University of Veliko Tarnovo where she majored in painting. She is an art instructor at the Arts Center in the city of Blagoevgrad. Lidia Assenova has been given a number of exhibitions in Bulgaria and has had several one-woman shows.

"I use 'organic geometry' to give form to my love of nature and architecture," says Nancy Frankel. "Space, encapsulated or activated, and a sense of balance, precarious yet centered, are integral to my work."

Frankel's sculptures range from small maquettes and table-top interior works made of plexiglas, plaster, and wood, to large outdoor sculptures made of design-cast (a man-made stone), steel or bronze. Sundials and fountains seamlessly merge form, function, and reflection. "A series of coil-built, fired clay sculptures suggesting the human form, combine carving, construction techniques, staining and painting."

Frankel lives in Maryland, and is represented by the Sculpture Studio Gallery in Washington, D.C.

For more information, please contact:
Curator: Johnes Ruta
(203) 387-4933
Azoth Gallery

Erector Square: Willard Lustenader

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Willard Lustenader
Oct. 15, 2006.

His son's school project, about five years ago, provided the spark of inspiration for one of Willard Lustenader's two ongoing series of paintings.

"He did a cutout for The Diary of Anne Frank. I asked for the negatives," Lustenader told me. It was the leap into his cutout series, still lifes that contemplate spatial relationships.

"What I really like about the cutouts is that they are subjective as well as objective," said Lustenader, meaning that they have both representational and abstract qualities. He is presently painting cutouts arranged on white tabletops so he can explore the "purity of space."

The other series, which Lustenader calls his "composite pictures," hint at hidden narratives. Many of them feature female nudes, radiating warmth and realism. You can see the blue of the veins beneath the surface of the skin. These works have images overlapping images, sort of trompe l'oeil of a painting within a painting. Lustenader said that even these composite pictures "are basically still lifes if you think about it."

He prefers to work from life. The figures are painted from models. He does paint sketches outdoors and occasionally refers to photographs, if necessary.

The painting "Driftless," which attracted my attention as soon as I entered his studio, includes a sensual sleeping model, Lustenader's imaginative rendering of dark waters at night and another panel of light-dappled turquoise water cribbed from National Geographic.

"It's based on it, the essence of it," clarified Lustenader.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Erector Square: Dawn Rudd

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Dawn Rudd
Oct. 15, 2006.

This was Dawn Rudd's first time participating in Open Studios. But it was already a promising start. She told me that she had received an invitation to be part of a show in February.

The walls of her studio were hung with paintings spanning more than a decade of work. I asked her about two recent paintings, "Forest Blue" and Blue Jazz and Whiskey," both abstractions. The latter painting has a textural layering of acrylic paint and tissue paper. There is a wonderful tactile presence to the surface, which has been lacquered to a bright shine. The former is notable for the way Rudd deftly combined vertical strips of magazine imagery with the acrylic paint background.

"I knew the feeling I wanted but I wanted to stay open to the process," Rudd said. She added that she likes "using older magazines because the paper is thicker and there is more richness to the colors."

Her work from 10 and 12 years ago is noticeably different from the dense textural abstractions of the present. Rudd said she didn't want to be constrained by peoples' expectations based on previous work.

"It's an evolution in terms of growth as an artist. But I have a lot of inspiration inside and I want to be open to whatever energy I'm feeling and not be limited by what I've done before," said Rudd.

"And I want to be fearless."

Erector Square: Bob Gregson

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Bob Gregson
Oct. 15, 2006.

"What fascinates me as an artist is that somehow artwork needs to connect with people. The person seeing it or viewing it brings their own experiences to it," Bob Gregson told me in his Erector Square studio. "In some way, I feel the piece isn't completed until someone sees the piece. Like, does the tree in the forest make a sound?"

We were standing next to his "Bicker Booth." Divided into two sections with a small window between, the booth has a Rolodex on each side. The Rolodex cards are printed with conversational clichés culled from soap operas and movies. The viewers stand on either side and have a "conversation" using the cards.

Gregson describes himself as a "hybrid." He works in photography, sculpture and painting but probably his foremost medium is concept. He is interested in pushing—gently, for his work has a lot of humor and whimsy—viewers to see beyond and between the frames of what is presented.

Interestingly, for an artist so enthralled with interactivity, his Web site is "more just a brochure," as he puts it than a cyberspace playground. He mused that he needs "to go to the next step of interaction" with the Web site. On the other hand, he expressed a preference for "face to face interaction," having grown up in the TV era where interaction was filtered and mediated by technology.

Besides the "Bicker Booth" Gregson also had on display his "Drift 2" project (see image), a sculptural work that was installed at Wilber & King Nurseries this past summer, and many of his "Constructed Paintings." With "Drift 2," six white frames were suspended in a row and a strip of mirror hung within each, diagonally staggered over the row. The viewer looks both through the work in front of them and behind themselves at the reflections. And, when "Drift 2" is installed outdoors, the breeze adds another active dimension to the work.

The "Constructed Paintings" in the studio consisted of birch plywood squares screwed together in different configurations (visible in the background of the image). Playing on the idea of visualizing "absence," Gregson painted each construction in this "Swath Series" with a black acrylic paint stripe. It is a game for himself, he said. He tries to figure out different configurations and arrangements that are aesthetically pleasing.

Erector Square: Sidney Harris

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Sidney Harris
Oct. 15, 2006.

Sidney Harris is a legendary New Yorker cartoonist. And, in his Erector Square studio, he had numerous books of his classic cartoons for sale and piled high on a table in the middle of the room.

But of even more interest to me—because they showed a facet of his talent with which I wasn't familiar—were the paintings he had on display. There were several colorful abstractions. What really caught my eye, though, were the large urban street scenes he had painted.

Harris told me that he takes photographs and works from them. He is particularly fond of construction sites, he said, because "they are more interesting than just a building."

He pointed to one.

"That's the Reuters building. This sign with the diodes goes up about four floors," he said. As he talked to me about the work, he waxed enthusiastic about the details. Pointing to scaffolding, he exclaimed, "I just love doing this!" Indicating a wire originating high in the right corner of the composition that is slung down and across the street, he recalled feeling, "'Oh good! Now I can do this line!'" after working three days to get to that part of the painting. Harris doesn't start with a drawing from the photograph. He said he completes them piece by piece, starting with one area. He does take liberties. Gesturing at a woman in the Reuters building painting—they weren't titled—he said, "She's a ringer," added to the scene from a different photograph.

Working from photographs, with the requisite close study that entails, affords surprises that clearly delight Harris. In the lower right corner of one scene, a taxi was driving by. When painting that area, he noticed that the façade of a nearby building was reflected in the cab's back window and onto the shiny metal of the hood of the trunk.

"'Wow, what a revelation,'" he recalled thinking. "That's not just random light and dark." Similarly, while painting from a photograph shot inside "a Madison Avenue bus going uptown, around 60th Street," Harris realized that two people standing in the front of the bus were reflected in the shiny ceiling.

"Sitting in the bus, you would never notice that," said Harris.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Erector Square: Alexis Brown & Jennifer Van Elswyck

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Alexis Brown & Jennifer Van Elswyck
Oct. 15, 2006.

Jennifer Van Elswyck has a thing for dirty records. No, not the kind that carry "Explicit Language" parental warnings. She uses phonograph records as a printmaking medium.

"I pick albums based on the line structure of the songs," she told me when I stopped by the room she was sharing with Alexis Brown. I asked her if she listened to the records before using them for printing. "Uh-uh. I pick the dirtiest records at Salvation Army with no jackets."

Her prints of both 12-inch LPs and 7-inch 45s were up on the wall. The circular grooves that held the music were more visible in some than in others. Some of the prints were obviously taken from broken records. She prints intaglio style, the way one would an etching. She inks up the record and then wipes the surface so the ink is only in the grooves.

When I made an offhand comment about vinyl records being a disappearing format, Van Elswyck disagreed, noting correctly that there is still a lot of music being released on vinyl. "A lot of music collectors find vinyl the cleanest listening," she said. Probably without the ink, though.

Alexis Brown's prints and drawings, mostly of animals, were push-pinned to another wall. She said she has a "natural history museum affinity." She plops herself down, either with a prepped printing plate or drawing implements, and sketches from the stuffed animals. ("Usually the security guards don't mind," she told me.)

She pointed to a drawing of a fox on the wall to explain the process.

"With a drawing, I get three-quarters of the information. I have the measurements of the fox down," she said. "When drawing taxidermy, you're essentially drawing sculpture so it's sometimes hard to capture gesture." She refers to anatomy books and other resources to imbue her images with life.

I expressed admiration for a large artist's proof on the wall, an etching of a peccary.

"It's a havolina at the Peabody Museum," said Brown. She uses the South American term "havolina" over the North American term "peccary" to avoid embarrassing confusion.

"I made the mistake of walking up to the director of the Peabody Museum and saying I have a life-size etching of your peccary," Brown told me. "He looked at me funny."

Erector Square: Caitlin Reuter

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Caitlin Reuter
Oct. 15, 2006.

Caitlin Reuter's studio was my first stop on Sunday. I had reviewed Reuter's work in the ALL Gallery Texture show back in September. Reuter builds life-size plaster figures on wire frames. There were nine of her human figures and one dog on display in her studio as well as four maquettes.

The reclining figures, she told me, are built around an aluminum wire armature. The standing figures, needing more support, have welded rebar armatures. There were photos on the wall showing the process. After constructing the armatures, Reuter mixes plaster with pigment and builds it up in layers. On the walls Reuter had also hung several large four-color linoleum cut reduction prints. The imagery echoed her sculptures.

"I use the same type of layering technique. I print one color on top of the other and let the colors in the background come through," said Reuter. She prints most by hand. "I like the way I see the colors come through when I rub it by hand."

I asked how she was drawn to this work.

"I originally was working in clay and really was bored staring at grayness all the time. I wanted to work with color," Reuter said. So much so that she said she probably starts working with the pigment earlier in the process than she should -in terms of cost- but "I can't wait to get into color and start building it through."

I noticed that the floor was stained and mottled by plaster and that it complemented the figures. Reuter laughed.

"It's not intentional," she said. "It tried my best to clean it but it's a messy process."

Open thread: Erector Square comments

Artists and studio visitors, please use the Comments option to post your own observations about the Erector Square weekend of this year's CWOS. How was traffic compared to previous years? Did you see anybody's work this year that you found particularly interesting? Any great conversations? Funny anecdotes? What worked? What didn't?

Open Studios: Erector Square

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Intro
Oct. 15, 2006.

Duty—parental duty in the form of Parent's Weekend at Boston University—called on Friday and Saturday. I missed the Open Studios opening, which is always a delightful zoo, and didn't have Saturday to traipse through Erector Square studios. So all I had was Sunday. And one day is not enough to see everything and everyone at Erector Square.

I started at Building 1 and made my way from there, trying to spend some time talking with artists about their process. Needless to say, I wasn't able to make it much past Building 2 when time ran out.

My interest wasn't in reviewing the work I saw. Open Studios is great for meeting people, talking about why they choose the subjects they choose and how they create their work. Over the next couple of days, I plan to post short pieces culled from my conversations.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Open invitation

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios Main Exhibition
Opening reception Fri., Oct. 13, 5-8 p.m. Ends Oct. 29, 2006.

It's that time of year again. As the trees put on their annual color show, letting their leaves fall in multi-hued magnificence, so too does the greater New Haven visual arts community let down its hair, open its doors and offer art lovers a peek inside the creative process. Yes, City-Wide Open Studios, which debuted in New Haven as a one-weekend event in 1998, is back.

And, once again, it is spread over three weekends. This first weekend (Oct. 14-15) attention is paid to the artists laboring in the sprawling Erector Square complex on Peck Street. Weekend two (Oct. 21-22) promotes visits to artist studios in the neighborhoods of New Haven, West Haven and Hamden, either on your own or as part of bike or bus tours. It all culminates, like a July 4 grand finale, with 300 artists transforming the Alternative Space—this year sited in the four buildings of the old Hamden Middle School—with installations, music and makeshift galleries (Oct. 28-29).

According to Artspace Executive Director Helen Kauder—one of the three original organizers, along with Marianne Bernstein and Linn Meyers—some 475 artists are participating this year. That is down slightly from last year. With a smaller alternative space, says Kauder, organizers didn't as aggressively recruit some artists who were wavering in their interest. Kauder does note that a large group from Paier College of Art in Hamden will be participating this year during the Neighborhoods weekend.

The Neighborhoods weekend has traditionally been the toughest sell. Artists are spread over more than three communities. Many are in their home studios. While some higher profile artists entertain a steady stream of visitors, others at times have felt left out. To address this problem, CWOS has organized tours by bike and bus over the past few years.

"It's problematic because people like the one-stop shopping-ness of the first and third weekends," Kauder says. Kauder herself took the bus tour last year and will be leading the Saturday tour this year. (Kate Paranteau, Program Director at Creative Arts Workshop, will helm Sunday's bus tour.) A bike tour each day will be led by artist and cycling aficionado Matthew Feiner, owner of the Devil's Gear bike shop.

"It was so much fun. Crossing the threshold into an artist's studio with a large group, you have the sense that you are the party," Kauder enthuses of her bus tour experience. "The sense of discovery in the middle weekend is what's exciting."

That exciting sense of discovery permeates the Artspace Gallery, which hosts the main Exhibition. Each artist is allotted a 20"x20" space, either within the grids on the wall or, for works unsuited for hanging, on pedestals. The walls are festooned with hundreds of works over a range of media-painting, drawing, mixed media, collage, printmaking, carved wood, photography (film and digital) and even cut bronze on canvas. The pedestals display all manner of ceramics, soft sculpture, jewelry, woodcarving, sculpture and found object assemblages. Some of the work is magnificent, much of it is quite compelling and—let's face facts—some evidences more heart than talent.

All these works are teasers. They are enticements to take the trek to an artist's home studio or to Erector Square or to the Alternative Space extravaganza. It is impossible in a short space to do justice to all the notable works in the show. But I wanted to comment on several to give a flavor of what is offered.

Silas Finch's "Elephant Dance" is a delightful sculptural work cobbled together from found metal and leather objects. An oil can spout forms the elephant's trunk. The figure is posed in such a way-prancing on one leg-that it communicates pure kinetic joy. A sense of play is also at work in E. Fitz Smith's "Flirtility Series," two digital prints with ink. They look like a cross between airbrush paintings, silkscreen prints and Adobe illustrator designs. There are echoes in the imagery of Tom Wesselmann's Pop Art paintings, and a touch of the Cartoon Channel, too.

Erich Davis' untitled sculptural work is constructed out of dark gray nails. They swirl up out of a black disk base, a waterspout in full ascension. All the nails point upwards, bristling like missiles in an editorial cartoon. Kelly Kapp's "Birdsong" also uses everyday items in sculpture. Kapp assembled a giant bird's nest from colorful leftover toys, discarded pieces of electronics and other detritus of disposable consumer society. Peter Weaver's "Endless Enigma- 1974" is a carved wood sculpture. It is a Moebius strip that keeps turning in upon itself.

It is evident this year that digital photography is taking over. Bradley Wollman's untitled inkjet print is just one example. Shot in an orchard, it shows decrepit wood holding bins for apples scattered about. A tree on the left is bursting with red ripe fruit. But overhead, in an incongruous magical realist twist, a swarm of red paper airplanes zoom into the distance like monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico.

Still, there are diehards clinging with creative tenacity to traditional photographic methods. Particularly striking are Michael Williams' "Big Apple Isan Remo Pinoramas," two pinhole camera photographs set within boxes. The boxes double as frames. The top one is filled with dried leaves and twigs. The photo set on top of them is an image of New York City shot through an opening of brush over a body of water. The twigs and leaves complement the imagery. Similarly, in the bottom photo, the camera looks up at a person looking downward within a converging canyon of skyscrapers. The print is embedded in a box of shredded office documents.

An urban street is also the setting for James Polisky's silkscreen print, "Parade of Aviating Doom." In this four-color image, a giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon hovers in the top two-thirds of the composition. But this is a balloon from hell: a little hip-hop style, a little bit Jack Skellington from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas with mouth stitched closed and white crosses in its black lifeless eyes. A panda to scare the kiddies. The sky is a dark, almost midnight, blue. In the background a mustard-colored apartment building looms.

On the more conservative end of the art spectrum—but still in a city street—there is Vladimir Shpitalnik's watercolor "Amsterdam." We look down a narrow street covered by water. The building facades on the right are lit with golden afternoon sunlight. The sky is a hazy gray tinted with yellow. Shpitalnik is totally in control of his medium, capturing the character of light in water and pigment.

I was also struck by Katro Storm's mixed media painting "The William." On first glance a modest and unassuming portrait of two African-Americans, it reveals its offhand beauty on closer inspection. Storm has captured the contours of the faces, the beaded hair and the lighting with a daring use of color.

Most of these artists were new to me. But viewing examples of their work in the main exhibition has catalyzed my desire to see more of what they have done. As well, I look forward to checking out new work by the many participating artists I have long admired. Whether you are interested in representational or abstract art—or all the work that falls on the spectrum in between—CWOS has something, and then some, for you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

ALL Gallery reception/party this Saturday

& City-Wide Open Studios invite you to an
Saturday October 14, 2006 5-9PM
Erector Square Building 2,
319 Peck Street, New Haven

Hosted by ARTS + LITERATURE LABORATORY in celebration of the current exhibition, SELECTED WORKS by MEMBERS & FRIENDS, and Erector Square artists. Co-sponsored with generous support from CWOS, the New Haven Advocate, New Haven Brewery, Yale University School of Art, and the McDougal Graduate Student Center at Yale.

ALL Gallery is presently featuring the annual Members and Artist Friends show, on view through Oct. 29.

For more information, please visit the website at
or call 203-671-5175.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hello Dali

White Space Gallery
1020 Chapel St., 2nd Floor, New Haven, (203) 495-1200
Art Less Ordinary
Ends Nov. 25, 2006.

On the wall facing the door to White Space Gallery hangs a baker's dozen of pencil-signed Salvador Dali lithographs. The selection includes "Fear of Time," a work that features an iconic melting clock. Man, that is so surreal! And it sets something of a tone for the disparate works that comprise Art Less Ordinary.

Limited edition Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso prints form the core of White Space Gallery's offerings. According to resident artist Denise Parri, the work of these innovative modernists sets the stylistic tone for the gallery: surrealism, Cubism, abstraction.

Parri's own acrylic paintings are pleasing abstractions. The paired "Bronze Wisdom I" and Bronze Wisdom 2" consist of smaller canvases over larger background canvases. The smaller canvases are marked by almost geometric swathes of color. They are treated almost like a faux finish, having a weathered metal appearance similar to bronze or copper that is distressed from exposure to the elements. The background canvases are covered with sketchy swirls of raised lines and combed textures and completed with metallic finishes of bronze or gold. Her "Whispers of Water" is notable for the field of gold leaf over brown paint at the bottom. From the top pigment pours down like a waterfall, fluid streams of green.

Two works by another abstractionist, Christian Miller, are less successful. "Nocturnal Bliss' is very colorful and dotted with numerous pink and white flowers. The flowers, however, seem out of place in a composition that owes more to Jackson Pollock than to Claude Monet. Where "Nocturnal Bliss' is energetic to the point of frenzy, "Separation" is much more staid and controlled. On a brown background that looks almost like suede, there is an interplay of wide, overlapping ribbons. Miller achieves an interesting illusion of depth. The ribbons seem to disappear into the background. Miller effectively incorporates the texture of the canvas into the ribbons. But splotches of green and maroon seem like afterthoughts, as though Miller felt the work was too monochromatic and needed some color variety. The solution here was marred by poor execution. On the limited evidence of these two paintings, Miller is still in search of a personal vision.

In contrast, Molly McDonald's four abstract landscapes do evidence a personal way of seeing. They are marked by a boisterous color application of rich pastels that practically scream summer and the seashore. The concept of "landscape" is used more as a compositional starting point than for purposes of representation.

Hung next to a small Picasso etching, Jack Laroux's "Woman in Rouge Bath" is a bracing example of contemporary Cubism. This painting (oil, acrylics and spray paint on canvas) overflows with imagery yet Laroux maintains complete control. And while he wears his influences on his sleeve, his work transcends mere homage. On the other hand, Clinton Deckert's oil paintings—part of his ongoing body of work entitled "Surreal Mindscapes"—seem too much to be surrealism-by-the-numbers, although his technique shows promise. In "Wanderer," a sunflower walks through a Dali-esque barren landscape. "Venus and Luna," a smaller work, pictures the Venus de Milo planted outdoors in a dark blue night illuminated by the moon (with a softly visible and too literal face). Both works are derivative. Deckert would be well advised to follow the lead of Laroux into deeper reaches of his imagination.

Surrealism also seems to be a touchstone for Michael Alfano, a sculptor whose bonded resin works play out as visual puns. The face in "Questioning Mind" is cut in the contours of a question mark; in "Music," the face is in the shape of a G-clef. They are well crafted but somewhat obvious.

And then there are the three paintings by Eduardo Giannattasio, the standout works in this show. Giannattasio, an Italian artist who lives in a 13th-century palazzo, has developed his own signature technique. He first splashes pigment diluted with alcohol on his canvas (actually, in these cases, boards painted white). After the colors drip and blend he selectively sets the canvases on fire. Yes, real fire, as in what your Mom told you not to play with. The flames burn off the alcohol and leave behind attractive burnt scar and smoky effects. The three paintings here, including "Donna in Viola" (see image), were "inspired by the art of seduction," according to his artist's statement. They combine rich liquid colors, singed lines with wisps of smoke and gestural imagery of the female form. The figures are indeed seductive, and nicely set in complementary frames, to boot.

The White Space Gallery is a commercial gallery and there is more on display here, for purchase, than is covered in this review. And if some of what makes up this show is art more ordinary, the paintings by Giannattasio and Laroux certainly live up to the title. You have until Nov. 25 to see these works but remember—the clock is melting.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Stockholder review in the Times

Nice writeup last Friday in the New York Times art section for renowned local sculptor Jessica Stockholder's show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in Chelsea. It is hidden behind a curtain requiring registration, but here is a taste:
Jessica Stockholder has long been a proponent of the found object. Rather than Dumpster-diving for scruffy items full of “character” in the Rauschenberg tradition, she favors chintzy ready-mades: the staples of discount stores and, more pointedly, of a consumer culture geared toward planned obsolescence.

In recent years her assemblages, which conflate abstract painting, sculpture and collage, have become grand installations exploring the intersection between sculpture and design (and at times have seemed like art versions of an Ikea showroom). So the smaller, more compact works in this show function almost like academic studies, although ones created with objects like an orange laundry basket, plastic lamps and tarps, electrical cords, light bulbs, dishwashing scrubbies, a shower curtain or yarn. They showcase her rigorous but playful formalism and contain several art historical quotations.

After noting Stockholder's salutes to such forebears as Duchamp, Tatlin and Picasso, reviewer Martha Schwendener concludes by writing, "Perhaps the invocation of history is necessary at this point in her career. Her renegade-formalist approach has already had an impact on a younger generation of sculptors, including Gedi Sibony, Rachel Harrison and Sarah Sze. Now it’s time to pay homage to her own predecessors."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Soapbox derby

One of the great things about the blog format is that it facilitates discussion. Not only do I get to pontificate, review, criticize or praise but the blog readers get to weigh in also. We want your comments! If you are an artist and want to dispute an interpretation or judgment I have made about your work, please do so. If you want to elaborate on your process, your ideas, by all means go ahead.

Within the bounds of respect, this is a forum open to all. I would love input on things I could be covering, comments about the arts in general, polemics on art-making or art bureaucracy. Constructive contentiousness is welcome. Let's hear from you!