Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vacation hiatus

I'll be out of state and away from Internet access (probably) for the next two weeks. So if you email me about a show or opening, please understand that I will not be posting and probably not replying to email in that time.

A note about frequency of posting: Connecticut Art Scene is something I do in my free time. I wish the posts were my frequent. However, the demands of earning income, both through my day job in Hamden (30+ hours per week) and freelance writing, and working on my own "art" (rock n roll music) limit the amount of time I can devote to the blog. Additionally, unlike a political blog, I have to take the time to go out and commune with the art. I can't just sit at home in the PJ's and pontificate. I say this not in response to complaints—I haven't gotten any, and maybe that's a bad sign—but because it is unfortunate that I can't cover all the deserving shows that are out there.

While on this topic, I'd like to add that I am interested in inviting additional writers to post on the site. Please get in touch and send me some writing samples if you are interested. And nope, there ain't no money to pay you (or me) at present. Just the glory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chris Doyle's hotel room experiment

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main St., Ridgefield, (203) 438-4519
50,000 Beds: A Project by Chris Doyle
July 20—Sept. 23, 2007

Opening receptions:
Artspace: Fri., July 20, 6—8 p.m.
Real Art Ways: Sat., July 21, 6—9 p.m.
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: Sun., July 22, 3—5 p.m.

This weekend marks successive openings of 50,000 Beds: A Project by Chris Doyle, the first-ever simultaneous show coordinated between Connecticut's premier contemporary art institutions: Real Art Ways in Hartford, Artspace in New Haven and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. The idea for the collaboration emerged from an off the cuff conversation between Artspace curator Denise Markonish and New York Times critic Benjamin Genocchio. Had the three institutions, wondered Genocchio, ever worked together? Markonish responded that they hadn't but that it was a really good idea.

50,000 Beds is the brainchild of artist Chris Doyle. Doyle is an animator, watercolorist and installation artist. In his installation work he is particularly attracted to projects that seek to involve the public as collaborators rather than just viewers. I recently spoke by phone with Doyle about 50,000 Beds.

The title of the exhibition refers to the approximate number of available beds available in Connecticut at hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and inns. For the show, Doyle commissioned 45 videos from 45 artists. They were set free to make a video in a motel, hotel or inn room. Doyle himself has designed the multi-venue installation in which the videos—15 to a venue—will be shown.

Doyle says his own recent animation work—making stop-action videos of hotel beds—provided the initial impetus for the idea. He had been "thinking a lot about and spending a lot of time in hotels." When the three venues solicited a proposal from him (and four other artists), he "had hotels on the brain." Doyle's was chosen.

"'I know what I would do if I made a video in a hotel because I'm doing it right now. I wonder what other artists would do,'" Doyle recalls thinking. "So it seemed natural to extend it out as a broader project and do a little experiment: See what other artists would do if they had the same parameters."

Rather than do an open call, Doyle contacted artists he was interested in involving in the project. Some he knew and others he didn't. He told them he would use whatever they submitted.

"It really was, in a true science way, an experiment. It was pretty open-ended. You don't know what you're going to get, and I just decided that was my parameter: Whatever I got I would use in the show," says Doyle.

He notes that certain themes emerged as he started reviewing the submissions.

"There were a number of people who focused on the hotel staff as a point of departure. There were a number who kind of riff on the movies—the idea of hotels and motels in movies, referring to film noir or to specific films, and were some who dealt with the horror genre," notes Doyle.

Because Doyle invited a broad spectrum of contributors—documentarians, independent filmmakers, video artists and animators—he received a varying range of stylistic responses. There are animated works ranging from "old school animation through some pretty special effect-y things."

"There is sort of an erotic component that bubbles up in a number of them. That's to be expected. It's a hotel!" he says with a laugh.

Doyle hasn't included any of his own hotel room animations. He says the project for him is more about seeing what others would do with the same germ of an idea and coordinating the collaboration between the three venues and designing the installation for the videos.

"What I wanted to do in each place was make a show that, while you could look at each video individually and focus on it and watch intently, I also wanted them to play off each other," explains Doyle.

"It's sort of the idea of a city where every building has its own complete vocabulary and they're all different from each other. But when they all get together they are one city," says Doyle. Similarly, as a viewer walks through the show, they will experience the videos individually "but also experience the accumulation of all 15 in that location." There are also linkages between the installations in the various venues designed to create the sense of one whole experience encompassing the three institutions. Doyle describes the installations as "somewhat complex," incorporating ramps, towers and discrete rooms.

While he is an accomplished watercolorist and animator, Doyle sees 50,000 Beds as an "extension of lot of my public projects."

"A lot of things I do involve persuading people to be part of something. Projects like LEAP, where I'm asking people to do a simple thing like stand in front of a black backdrop and jump and turn them into this kind of monument, and Commutable, a project with a gilded staircase to the Williamsburg Bridge. Both are projects where I'm thinking a lot about working people and labor," says Doyle.

"For this project, while the bed was an origin point, I was also thinking a lot about the staff and the housekeeping staff. That's a layer of it," continues Doyle. "But also, I've been thinking a lot about types of collective work, this way of working with a community I've never worked with before, which is my own community—artists."

Doyle says 50,000 Beds is an extension of projects like LEAP, all of which "have their roots in social sculpture." He describes the project as "super interesting" to him because it involves collaboration with and negotiation between the three venues as well as with all the participating artists.

"In my brain, it's like a 3-D collaboration," Doyle says, becoming even more complex when factoring the hotels into the mix.

Beyond the references to tourism and labor that occur in the submitted videos, Doyle notes there is another element to hotels that strikes him: "the strange aspect."

"As much as I've talked about this other stuff, the reality is that a hotel room is a pretty ambiguous, pretty enigmatic spot for me," he says. "When you walk down a hotel corridor and all the doors are closed, there's this tremendous mystery.

"You know what your own room is like and what's going on there. But you don't know what's going on behind all those other doors," muses Doyle. "If I'm thinking about what it's all about from the beginning, it is also about the mystery and enigma that happens in a hotel."

The tag team opening receptions for 50,000 Beds are at Artspace (Fri., 6-8 p.m.), Real Art Ways (Sat., 6-9 p.m.) and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Sun., 3-5 p.m.). The show will be on view at the Aldrich through Sept. 3, Artspace through Sept. 15 and Real Art Ways through Sept. 23.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gallery Eleven Hot Stuff opening Wed., July 11

11 Whitney St., Hartford, (860) 232-4677
Hot Stuff
July 3-Aug. 31, 2007
Opening reception: Wed., July 11, 6-9 p.m.

Press release

The ever-resplendent Ellen Carey sets the mood this summer with Hot Stuff, a show featuring works from local area artists whom she regards as red hot. Carey curates works that range conceptually and stylistically from documentation to abstraction, painting to film, and domestic to erotic. The Hot Stuff artists share little in common except for location, verve, and brio. Thus, the spunky upstart West End space, Gallery Eleven, is a fitting venue for such an eclectic selection of artists. Gallery Eleven's exhibition program is known for its improvisational attitude and for their emphasis on the local creative community.

Middletown-based photographer Ben Lifson's new series "The Rage Of Caliban In Which Are Depicted Scenes from the Global Virtual Vernacular Theater of Eroticism and Sex" documents the world of live webcam sex shows produced from private homes around the globe and viewed publicly on the Internet. This group of color digital photographs presents brashly erotic subject matter that delicately and poetically addresses human desire, beauty, and truth. Lifson states: "My pictures' characters have absorbed this public erotic imagery created by professionals and try to re-create it in their homes. We see their sincere efforts to embody and enact this imagery. Yet in the difference between what they imagine and what they actually perform we see at once their longings for transcendence and their limited but sweet humanity." Lifson explores these unmistakably contemporary contradictions with his signature literary sensibility, referring to Shakespeare's savage Caliban ("The Tempest") as a metaphorical figure for all of the players in this global Internet phenomenon. Lifson has held two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants and one Guggenheim Fellowship in photography. His prints are in the collection of the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY and of the Minneapolis Art Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hartford-based artist Sam McKinniss' paintings of his friends and love interests are meant to inspire lust, desire, and heartbreak. McKinniss writes, "For the same reasons why sad songs are the best pop songs, unrequited love is the best love because it incites the most intensely felt emotion. A portrait inspires this kind of one-sided desire, the kind that hurts so badly even though you can't get enough of it." McKinniss mixes a highly refined pop sensibility with his classically trained hand to achieve the kind of facility revered throughout Western art history. His mark is recognized as containing a subtle blend of fashion, sincerity, as well as self-effacing absurdity and humor. He recently had a solo show at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford and his works are in several private collections internationally.

Filmmaker Lauren Cook will exhibit two recently completed short films in the gallery. One film, For Ilse, shows footage filmed at a high school graduation being protested by an anti-gay church group in Iowa City in 2004. Ilse Bendorf, a lesbian, was being awarded the Matthew Shepard Scholarship during that graduation ceremony. Cook's films have been shown at numerous film festivals internationally including the Cannes Film Festival, and the Black Maria Film and Video Festival, and the San Francisco Art Institute International Film Festival. She teaches film in the cinema department at the University of Hartford.

Painter Kerry St. Laurent uses the natural landscape, maps, and her personal experience to create beautifully detailed organic abstractions. There is an ephemeral spirituality present within her mixed media paintings that relates to her religious upbringing and her search to connect the past with the present landscape. "My current work deals with the connection between information and nature by focusing specifically on recent visits to national parks in the United States and Canada," says St. Laurent. "My paintings are meant to communicate the intimate yet fleeting quality of my experiences and invite the viewer to come closer." St. Laurent, a recent MFA graduate from the Hartford Art School, has shown in exhibitions at the Yosemite National Park Museum Gallery and with Paesaggio Fine Art in West Hartford.

Ethan Boisvert's abstract paintings draw their inspiration and subject matter from everyday detritus and a color palette that references a child's basic set of crayons. Boisvert views his practice as that of a poet. He collects and arranges the mundane objects around him, such as bubble wrap, box tops, and house paint into viscerally appealing abstract collages that are both painterly and sculptural. Boisvert is influenced by collage innovators of the 20th century such as Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and others. He has been showing locally since 2002, the same year he received a BFA from the Hartford Art School.

This is Carey's first curated show in Hartford, where she teaches photography at the Hartford Art School. Carey has curated numerous shows in New York City where she lived from 1979-1994 and titled the Femme Brut(e) group exhibition of women artists at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. She has had over 35 solo shows, most notably Matrix #153 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 2004, and several hundred group shows nationally and internationally.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Three artist show at City Gallery

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
City Gallery Welcomes New Member Judy Atlas
June 29—July 29, 2007.

Three members of the City Gallery collaborative are showing this month, including newest member Judy Atlas. (I profiled Atlas during City-Wide Open Studios last fall.) Atlas features four works from each of two different outlets for her creative expression. Created through multiple printings, her monotypes use inked mesh rope as a vehicle to define lines, suggest the illusion of depth and generate a sense of motion.

In the works "Entangled I" and "Entangled x 4," the rope lines registered with me as strands of DNA gone haywire. In "Entangled II," I saw in the earth tone colors and sandstone textures ancient fossils of worms. They appeared just slightly off-register, as in a 3-D image viewed without the special glasses.

Her watercolor abstractions saturate the paper with color. Not for Atlas the wispy translucence that some watercolorists favor. Her brush is loaded up with color. Sometimes, as in "," she uses a brush approach so dry that the line almost looks like she used a crayon. But while she pushes to the limits of opacity, she tactically allows her colors to bleed, most effectively in "From Up High" and the beautiful, dark "In the Distance."

Connie Pfeiffer
's recent work, according to her artist statement, "draws on the process of building and dismantling protective layers and questions our perceptions of why they are needed. What intuitive choices are made to conceal some elements while exposing others?" Three of her works layer "expanded metal"—it looks like tattered fine mesh screen—over strips of paper marked with acrylic paint (actually more stained than marked). In each case the screen opens down the middle, on the vertical, allowing the viewer to glimpse the paper unfiltered.

Her other piece, "Continuous Flow," consists of a baker's dozen of 2" x 6" strips of copper mounted end to end in a tall vertical line. Each strip has been cut and stretched in the center to create an opening rather suggestive, at least to me, of a vulva form. Looked at from the side, though, the piece reads as a series of gently rolling waves.

Jefri Ruchti's charcoal drawings on Japanese washi paper are of a piece with works he exhibited at the gallery last January. Although these are abstractions, I see exotic landscapes: meandering pathways through hills and valleys, open plains and dark woods. These vistas are defined with very fine ink lines but refined and brought to life with the darting soft pointillism of the charcoal.

Displayed in series, the panels flow one to the other but not necessarily smoothly. There is sometimes a disjuncture between one and the next, setting perception slightly off kilter and inviting the viewer to make the leap.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Closing reception Sunday at Ely House

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Invitational Show of Painting and Drawing
June. 9-July. 8, 2007
Closing reception: Sun., July 8, 2—5 p.m.

The 2007 Invitational Show of Painting and Drawing at the John Slade Ely House in New Haven, reviewed here, will have a closing reception tomorrow afternoon from 2—5 p.m. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Propaganda opening this Saturday at No Regrets

No Regrets Tattoo Studio
195 Rubber Ave., Naugatuck, (203) 729-3115
The Art of Propaganda
July 7—Aug. 13, 2007
Opening reception: Sat., July 7, 7—10 p.m.

Press release

This show will feature artists from Connecticut to California, and Canada. Rather than a show with a single sided political agenda, The Art of Propaganda will instead showcase modern artist representations on propaganda through the ages and across countries. Also as a side note, this show will not be a majority of tattooists but will feature vinyl toy artists, poster artists, sculptors, etc...

Featured artists will include but not be limited to:

Lou Cox, Harley Carrera, Alana Lawton, Damion Silver, Mike Power aka L3MN, Chris Uminga, Kevin E. Taylor, Sket One, Shiro, Soopajdelux, Peenloon, TMNK, Ezerd, Goad, Phil Young, Rob Gramlich , Matt Fletcher, David Nielsen, Drew Falchetta, Peter Thompson, PeenLoon, J. Asher Lynch, Nick Baxter, Laura Usowski, COMA and more.

There will be an opening reception this Saturday, July 7, at 7 p.m.

ALL Gallery opening this Saturday

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
On Paper: Recent Work by Lee LaForte and Watermarks
July 7—Aug. 6, 2007
Artists' reception: Sat., July 7, 5—7 p.m.

Press release

Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL), is proud to present two concurrent exhibitions: a solo exhibition of recent works by West Haven artist Lee LaForte and Watermarks, a juried exhibition of recent work by ten national and international artists.

The works in Lee LaForte's (West Haven, CT) solo exhibition aim to evoke contemplation on the human condition, oppressive restriction of thought and action, and emotions such as fear, xenophobia, and modern day alienation. These bright and colorful works, ranging from abstract to naïve, intimate the artist's exploration into the darkness of his psyche. The title of "Phoenix," for example, hints at the symbolism of the archetypal metaphor of the mythical bird rising, a metaphor for the cycle of life (birth-death-rebirth). LaForte believes his works suggest humanity's "desire for salvation through the light of love, asking questions to which answers remain elusive."

The juried exhibition Watermarks features artists Mindy Bray (Denver, CO); Cheri Charlton (Athens, OH); Stephen Henderson (Hamden, CT); Aniko Horvath (New Haven, CT); Jeemin Kim (New York, NY); Presley Martin (Oakland, CA); (Brooklyn, NY); Christina Massey (Brooklyn, NY); Morgaine Pauker (Westport, CT); Sumi Perera (Surrey, England); and Suzanne Siegel (Guilford, CT). The works selected for this exhibition range from realism to abstraction, incorporating both traditional watercolor and mixed media techniques.

Highlights of the Watermarks exhibition include:

• "Via dell'Amore" by Mindy Bray explores connections between public architecture and the ways in which we attempt to control natural processes, such as snow removal, dams, and erosion control. Through scale and perspective, her work creates a relationship between the viewer's body and a manipulated environment.

• "Blue" by Stephen Henderson evokes a sense of dimensionality through layered applications of watercolor, gouache, tissue paper and salt on paper. Henderson's strong mark making techniques are balanced by a range of luminous, delicate colors.

• Aniko Horvarth's compositions are a complexity of delicate dots, small brushstrokes, and the residual mark making of watercolor paint allowed to flow naturally across a piece of paper.

• Jeemin Kim's work focuses on the physical oppositions between geometric lines/organic gesture, black/white, processes of wetting and drying, and the flat surface/illusionistic space that gives the remnant of a frozen moment in time.

• Christina Massey twists and ties painted paper and scraps of canvas aiming to redefine "painting." Her "Sculpture Painting 15" projects up to 6" from the wall, and the contrasting materials of paper and canvas evoke raw organic tactile surfaces.

• Presley Martin's "Untitled" pieces record the beauty of subtle natural phenomena that occurs when clay is poured, in liquid form, onto paper; as the clay dries, it shrinks, and tension between the clay and paper or fabric causes it to bend and pucker into graceful shapes.

• "Glosa Interlinearis" by Sumi Perera is a watercolor painting on an embossed paper reflecting on how watermarks help retain copyright control and allow hidden messages to be included within paper. The reader is invited to read between the lines and crack the code. Lines and spaces have been left blank, to be filled in by the viewer, thus reversing final editorial control.

• Suzanne Siegel's representational watercolors combine memories and observations of New England locations, yet her true subject is always the dialogue between paper, water, and paint.

There will be an artists' reception for both shows at the gallery this Saturday, July 7, 5—7 p.m.