Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ely House reception this Sunday

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Breaking the Silence: Works by Imna Arroyo
Jan. 28—Mar. 4, 2007
Artist reception, Sun., Feb. 4, 2—5 p.m.
Artist talk, Sat. Feb. 10, 2 p.m.

Press release

The John Slade Ely House is pleased to present in collaboration with the New Haven Public School's Comprehensive Arts Program, Breaking The Silence: Works by Imna Arroyo. Imna Arroyo holds an MFA from Yale University and is currently Professor of Art at Eastern Connecticut State University. Ms. Arroyo focuses on visualizing her identity, drawing on her indigenous and African Caribbean heritage. Utilizing multi-media, sculpture, and large scale hanging prints, Ms. Arroyo creates powerful and engaging works that address the Middle Passage slave trade and the spirit of her ancestors.

There will be an Artist's Reception this Sun., Feb. 3, from 2—5 p.m. The John Slade Ely House will host an Artist's Talk on Sat., Feb. 10, at 2 p.m.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Openings this week

Charter Oak Cultural Center
21 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford, (860) 249-1207
Sam McKinniss: Portraits
Feb. 1—Apr. 27, 2007
Opening reception Thurs., Feb. 1, 5:30—8 p.m.

Press release

Portraits by painter Sam McKinniss is a new body of work to be presented at the Charter Oak Cultural Center, opening on Thurs., Feb. 1, and continuing through Apr. 27. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m— 4 p.m.

The oil and acrylic paintings in Portraits deal with celebrity teen queens, French aristocratic portraiture, and mix in electric flourishes of expressionistic brushwork to emphasize the fiction of each subject's stylized surface, accentuate the glamour of a painted pose, and literally highlight characters in history who McKinniss thinks are fabulous. There is, as always, a healthy measure of latent queer humor visible through a thin fashionable veil. In this manner, all of McKinniss' new paintings address artifice as an aesthetic/cultural construct. Included in this exhibition are portraits of Diana Ross, Beyonce´ Knowles and Dolly Parton, just to name a few.

Sam McKinniss is a senior painting major at the Hartford Art School, a resident of Hartford, and this is his second solo exhibition in Connecticut.


City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Some of Us
Feb. 3—25, 2007.
Opening reception Sun., Feb. 4, 2—5 p.m.

There will be an opening reception at City Gallery this Sunday for a members' show featuring Meg Bloom, Caroline Chandler, Jane Cukor, Nancy Eisenfeld, Jane Harris, Sheila Kaczmarek and Liz Pagano.

The most recent show at City Gallery was Jefri Ruchti's 495 Lines, reviewed here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

ALL that heaven a-LOUD

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
Ends Feb. 4, 2007.

Loud is not so. The audio piece slated for the show was pulled the day before the opening because of technical difficulties. So we have the irony of a show titled Loud in a gallery gently filled with the white noise hum of the Erector Square heating system.

The pieces aren't particularly "loud" in a Hawaiian shirt or psychedelic poster way. Although, in writing that, I would note that Lisa Tubach's "Contemplating Eden (Butterwort)" has sections that remind me of classic Fillmore West posters with stark colors jostling against each other. But Tubach's meditation on the garden also includes lively renderings of flowers, fruit and what looks like a habanero pepper pod. ("Loud" would be your scream after you eat it.)

"Loud" has a double meaning. There is the "loud" of sound and the "loud" of garish. Gerritt Van Ness' "Shock & Awe" trades on the former meaning. It is a wood sculpture that resembles a metal and ceramic sculpture. Van Ness mounted a cartoonish cannon topped with a twisted wooden fuse on tank treads. Out of the barrel sticks an American flag with the word "Kaboom!" taped on it.

Colors make something of a loud statement in three works that open the show. "Jane" by Laurie Grace is a digital and mixed media piece. Two magenta dogs check out the viewer. The word "Bitch" is interposed above and between them in cream color, the letters ringed with white dots like lights in a theater marquee. "Bitch" itself has a triple meaning—the dogs, of course, but also as a verb of complaint and perhaps a (loud) insult directed at the individual after whom the work is titled.

"Naughty Bunny" is an energetic abstraction by David Taylor executed with bold strokes of oil stick. A Keith Haring-esque outline of a rabbit is almost recognizable in the roiling stew of color. Where Taylor covers the paper with marks, Nina Ozbey leaves white space on her canvas. "Mayday" is a treat for the way the bright oil colors are smeared on the surface. Ozbey also strategically thinned the paint in areas so it runs in root-like eddies down the canvas. Throughout the work, where the dry edges of the brush zipped over the surface, the interaction of the paint with the canvas texture gives the appearance of halftone dots.

There are two wonderful, and wonderfully different, paintings hanging side by side. Loud in the case of Michael Galvin's "David with the head of Goliath" can be inferred in its frenetic surrealism and priapic explicitness. Galvin fills his frame with, among other details, curly tentacled entrails, a hand holding a head by the hair and a tumescent penis.

Next to Galvin's painting is "Oops!," an acrylic and ink work on canvas by Mark Penner-Howell. "Oops!" contains two images of a young boy that appear cribbed from an old Dick and Jane primary school reader. In the center, Dick kneels with his hands down. Then, to the right, he is tumbling backwards amid comic strip stars. He is sent flying by colored waves of force blasting through a dirt hole opening ringed with torn metal electrical cables. According to Penner-Howell's artist statement, "this work borrows from the oversimplified civics lessons of old Dick and Jane stories to create protest art from normally benign images." Read this way, little Dick—or is it George?—is trapped in a hole through his own foolishness and is sent flying when his unwise entanglements blow up in his face. Kaboom!

Nicole Henderson's "Deregulation II," a print, is also a protest of sorts. In the jumble of imagery—including a fish and what might be a man in a miner's helmet—she wants to convey the "chaos and destruction" wrought by environmental deregulation. This meaning isn't readily apparent in the viewing. Nonetheless, the print is attractive in the layering of its colors, line work and shading.

Some Loud works are actually quite quiet. Among these are "Untitled #61" by Keith Adams, a small cellphone photo print. It's an odd little image, shot from above and behind a very young girl standing on a sidewalk. The shadows of both the girl and the photographer are thrown ahead of them, exaggerating the size of the girl's round head all out of proportion to her body. Jon Petro's large, square oil painting "1501" is mostly yellow over a darker base of color. Petro has built up his surface in layers and layers of yellow rings. It is bright but ultimately subtle.

And then there is Valerie Patterson's watercolor "Too Late." The opposite of loud, this work offers the silence of death. Patterson portrays a Civil War battlefield, corpses strewn about, in photographic black and white. Incongruously, in the left foreground stands a young girl in a pink princess outfit waving a magic wand in one hand and trying to cast a spell with the other. But no magic can return life to these men. And, perhaps in recognition of that, her face, in profile, seems drawn and there is a puffy redness around her eye.

Finally, I don't know where "Defense" by Marlon Ismalon fits in a loud/quiet continuum. But it is a stunning and unique work. Ismalon has crafted an image of a spider-woman with stitches of thread on paper and canvas. The color detail work is incredible, especially rewarding on close inspection.

While I was disappointed that there wasn't one wall lined with Marshall amplifier stacks inundating me with feedback overtones of a crashing major chord, I quite enjoyed Loud. In a quiet way, of course.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hygienic Art Exhibition XXVIII this weekend in New London

Hygienic Art Gallery
83 Bank St., P.O. Box 417, New London, (860) 443-8001
Hygienic Art Exhibition and Festival XXVIII
Jan. 26—Feb. 10, 2007

It's the art party of the winter, if not the year. And this blogger is going to miss it because I'm going to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate against Bush's illegal, immoral war. At any rate, I'm talking about the annual Hygienic Arts Festival, which kicks off this weekend. Actually, most of the events—the gallery openings, the music, cabaret, Young Artists XVI exhibit and film screenings—are this weekend. Hygienic Poets: Voices in the Night will take place in the Hygienic Gallery the following Saturday, Feb. 3, from 7—11 p.m.

The centerpiece is the Salon des Independants art free-for-all at the Hygienic Gallery, which opens Sat. night, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. The motto of this event is "No Judge, No Jury, No Fees & No Censorship." What that means in practice is a lot of outrageous art. All artists are welcome but there is a limit of one piece per artist. The sign-in and hanging begins at 9 a.m. Sat. morning and continues until 6 p.m. Expect almost any form of media imaginable, lots of scathing political commentary and a hearty dose of ribald—bordering on obscene—sexual imagery.

Also opening on Sat. will be the Hygienic Resident Artists Exhibition at the Golden Street Gallery at 94 Golden Street. That will take place from 6—11 p.m. In the afternoon, the Kente Cultural center (219 Bank St.) will host an opening for the Winter Art Show, featuring artwork by New London High School students, from noon—4 p.m. Young artists, aged 14 and under, will have their own show. Young Artists XVI can be viewed at the Garde Art Center Gallery (305 State St.) from noon—4 p.m.

The same night, artsy revelers can take in a Rock Fix at the legendary El n Gee Club on Golden Street. From 7 p.m.—2 a.m. some of the cream of the New London region's great crop of rockers The Paul Brockett Roadshow, The Liz Larsons, Low Beam, Can Kickers, Fatal Film) will churn out a clangarama din of thumping beats, guitar chords ands caterwauling. Or, head over to 16 Bank St. for the Cabaret, hosted by Joey Royale, offering a mix of music, magic and theater.

And don't forget Fri. night or Sun. afternoon! Friday evening kicks off with The Hootenanny from 6—10 p.m. at the Muddy Waters Café (42 Bank St.). This show of local acoustic folk musicians will present The Crew, Paul Brockett (he gets around), Dogbite, the Can Kickers (ditto), Liz Larson & Friends (double ditto—I'm starting to sound like Rush Limbaugh here, sans the oxycontin and fascist politics) and more performers to be announced. When The Hootenanny shuts down The Pre-Fix will gear up just down the street at Oasis (16 Bank St.). Psych-folk legend Gary Higgins headlines. Higgins' little-known early 1970's album Red Hash was reissued on CD a year and a half ago to widespread acclaim. Opening will be Roadside Attractions and Dan & Liz. The Pre-Fix show will run 10 p.m.—2 a.m.

On Sun. afternoon, make the scene at Screening Room 14, "New London's indie film event of the year," according to the Hygienic Rag. Like the Salon des Independants, the entry rules aren't rules at all: "no judge, no jury, no fees, no censorship." Work of national and local filmmakers is shown, shorts as well as features.

Lovers of free expression and rampant creativity, this is a festival for you. If I didn't feel compelled to try and stop Bush from killing even more people, I'd be there with bells on. Peace!

Gallery talk this Thursday in Hartford

Paesaggio at 100 Pearl
100 Pearl St., Hartford, (860) 233-1932
Carol Padberg: Valent Ledge
Closes Feb. 6, 2007, Gallery talk, Thurs., Jan. 25, 1:30 p.m.

As part of her show at the Paesaggio at 100 Pearl gallery in Hartford, artist Carol Padberg and critic Patricia Rosoff will participate in a gallery conversation this Thurs., Jan. 25, at 1:30 p.m.

According to Padberg's artist statement for the show, she "explore(s) paint’s materiality through my painting process, in which I methodically apply the hot wax paint and partially shave off multiple micro-thin layers of translucent synthetic colors to create a field of shifting hues."

Padberg's works are informed by the abstract and Minimalist tradition, citing as influences Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly. She has recently turned to modernist type fonts for inspiration, extracting the letter forms from their context and their employment in one form of signification to reinterpret the shapes in the language of visual abstract design.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

495 lines, but who's counting?

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Jefri Ruchti: 495 Lines
Ends Jan. 28, 2007.

According to the press release for Jefri Ruchti's 495 Lines show at City Gallery in New Haven, the charcoal drawings on washi (Japanese paper) are "based metaphorically on weather patterns." I didn't see that particularly but they were so pleasing that I didn't care. These are beautiful abstractions, monochromatic but luminous with suggestions of light and contour.

With the exception of three works, they are presented in series. For example, "150 Lines"—they all have anonymous titles like that—consists of the vertical display of five panels. There is a design that snakes its way through the composition from panel to panel.

Ruchti is fascinated by an undulating line, employing the edge of the charcoal to denote borders. In "6 Lines" (#8 on the wall; two works have that same title), the areas of light emerge as leaves on a meandering branch. Add one line—"7 Lines"—and the white space offers the illusions of folds in the paper.

While these works are overwhelmingly defined by their gradations of charcoal, Ruchti effectively and subtly mixes in fine pen lines to demarcate many edges. In addition, thin incised lines cut against the thrust of the shading, propelling the eye through the compositions and generating visual tension.

These incised lines are particularly important in "146 Lines." They generate a propulsive movement of light over the five horizontally arranged panels (for me, moving from right to left). Over the course of this composition light appears to be straining to burst through the folds of shadow, finally breaking out in the far left panel.

Where the energy of the light is linear in "146 Lines," it is circular in "33 Lines." This series brought to mind electronic musical loops that are slightly altered with each repetition. "34 Lines" is almost Escher-esque in its jigsaw puzzle-like patterns. There is a profusion of ribbon shapes, a sense of depth, of matter turning in upon itself. Light is a physical presence.

While the gradations of light and shadow are subtle and fluid, the material combination of the charcoal and the washi paper produces a textural effect on close inspection. In the vertical "150 Lines" series, this effect, combined with the pen lines, makes the drawing look like an intaglio print.

Ruchti's touch with the charcoal is generally soft. I wish he had worked in some areas of deep blacks. Rich blacks in some of the shadows might have charged these lovely meditative drawings with an even more powerful punch.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Talking art and politics with Mike Alewitz

Central Connecticut State University: Samuel S. T. Chen Fine Arts Center
1615 Stanley St., New Britain, (860) 832-2633
Painting with Fire: Agitprop Murals from Around the World
Feb. 8—Mar. 10, 2007
Opening reception: Thurs., Feb. 8, 4—7 p.m.

Mike Alewitz wants a revolution in art. But Alewitz also wants a revolution through art. An associate professor of art at Central Connecticut State University, Alewitz is a self-described Marxist "agitprop" artist and artistic director of the Labor Art & Mural Project. He is presently in the process of organizing an upcoming agitprop art show at CCSU, Painting with Fire. The theme of the show: "They build walls between workers to create fear and break down solidarity. We paint walls to create solidarity between workers and break down their walls."

Painting with Fire will run from Feb. 8 through Mar. 10 in the Chen Gallery at CCSU. Among the artists invited by Alewitz are Abe Graber, a 102-year-old muralist, CCSU faculty member Cora Marshall, Boston muralist Dave Fichter and the German group Farbfieber. Also invited is Doug Minkler, a silkscreen poster maker. A Minkler poster for the GI Rights Hotline is pictured here.

The call for participants invites the participation of those "whose art is created as part of the movement for social justice." Alewitz isn't just soliciting from professional artists. "Images may also be sent by political prisoners, active-duty GIs, striking workers and others who breathe life into our painting."

I had a phone conversation with Alewitz about agitprop and its relation to the larger art world.

According to Alewitz, contemporary agitprop (from agitation-propaganda) was born out of the Russian Revolution, "this moment where there was amazing ideas about taking art into the streets and decorating the streets and putting on mass performances.

"It's a tradition but like a lot of working class and radical history, it's kept hidden," says Alewitz. "The stuff I do is very based on that tradition."

Alewitz's work has been compiled in the book Insurgent Images, co-authored by notable radical historian Paul Buhle. A prolific muralist, Alewitz has created images for numerous labor unions (a mural he created for a Mexican labor union is pictured below) and strike campaigns, as well as murals related to popular struggles in Palestine, Central America and Northern Ireland. He says most of his work "has been destroyed."

"I do political murals. I've had university administrators paint them out, police vandalize them, fascists attack them. I've had union bureaucrats destroy them. I've had stuff that I've done internationally destroyed," says Alewitz. "I've stopped being surprised about it." In contrast, Alewitz notes that the faculty and administration at CCSU have been very supportive and respectful of free expression. "My students paint political murals all over campus and we have never had a problem."

While there are many artists who address political themes in their work, very few would describe themselves as "agitprop artists."

"There are some great political artists but mostly for gallery work," says Alewitz. "They do paintings about war, racism, the environment rather than try and integrate into movements themselves." Among the organizations invited to the show that Alewitz does consider to be engaged in genuine agitprop are the Bread & Puppet Theater of Vermont and the Beehive Collective of Maine. Both Bread & Puppet and the Beehive Collective often participate in demonstrations and use their art—street theater and narrative posters, respectively—to educate audiences about issues of class, imperialism, etc.

There is little support in the United States for public art in general, Alewitz says, and mural painting in particular. The funding isn't there. Toss in the element of anti-capitalist politics and it is that much harder.

Politically provocative images are "much easier to do in a gallery," he says. If some of the political images that will be in the upcoming show were "painted on a wall somewhere there would be a huge brouhaha."

"Art is a business, a vicious business. And as long as you are within the galleries, you are very much a part of a structure that's controlled by people in the art business," argues Alewitz. "If you have a private gallery, you have to produce work that's going to be bought by people with money. Generally, that's going to be work that flatters the rich or middle class. Even when the work is political or critical it has to be geared to people who are going to buy it.

"Public art, on the other hand, our audience, our viewers, are working people who don't have money. Our audience is the working class. We speak to them and for them. And that's very threatening to the powers that be, both within the art world and society at large," says Alewitz.

"If you paint a mural for meatpackers who are on strike and give this big public visual expression to something, it's very threatening. They'll destroy it. That's what happened to one of my pieces during a meatpacking strike in Minnesota," recalls Alewitz. "Workers are very marginalized in this society. You don't see workers on TV. There are no shows about workers. We only see them when they are portrayed as clowns or buffoons."

Does agitprop, which is born in service of a temporal political agenda, have any staying power as "art?" To answer the question, Alewitz returns to the agitprop produced in the early years of the Russian Revolution.

"There was a very brief moment during the early years where there was an enormous burst of creative stuff. It really transformed modern art in a lot of different ways. The idea was it was a revolution and you had to have new ways of seeing things and a whole new art," says Alewitz. "It gave birth to Constructivism, Suprematism and all these art forms that had a profound influence on the direction of art. All the Minimalist stuff we saw in the 50's was based on Constructivist work except devoid of its content." A Suprematism classic, El Lissitzky's "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge" is pictured here.

The agitprop of the early revolution "did profoundly affect the art world even though it was of the moment," continues Alewitz. "I think things can be both and, to a certain extent, all art is. Cezanne's paintings of a bowl of fruit were very much of the time that he lived.

"Good art—one of the tests of art—is, does it live beyond the moment? That's why I find the Minimalism of the 50's vacuous whereas I find the work of agitprop Constructivist artists still fairly compelling even though you might be looking at a white square," Alewitz says. "The work goes beyond just the object itself. It's the idea and theater and context of everything that makes it live."

Besides seeking "banners, puppets and other large scale painting used on demonstrations, picket line, meeting backdrops, etc." for the exhibit, Alewitz is also inviting "groups and individuals to send small images that will be reproduced as banners by students in the CCSU mural program."

"At the closing, we are going to literally take the banners off the wall and have a march—an antiwar demonstration," says Alewitz. The closing will be on Mar. 10.

Given the tragic and criminal trajectory of the Bush administration—including its present urge to "surge" and destroy—such an artistic and political statement couldn't be more necessary and timely.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Artspace to pull an all-nighter

Artspace Untitled (Space) Gallery
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Don't Know Much About History meets Coliseum Implosion
Closes Jan. 20, 2006

On Sat., Jan. 20., the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in New Haven will be history. The implosion of the structure is slated for 7 a.m. By coincidence—if there really are coincidences—Artspace's Don't Know Much About History show will become history that same day. Don't Know Much About History was written about on Connecticut Art Scene here, here and here.

To celebrate the closing of the show and the Coliseum's demolition, the gallery will be open 24 hours, from Fri., Jan. 19, 8 p.m. through 8 p.m. on Saturday.

According to an Artspace press release:

We welcome the public to join us all night long for an evening of reflection on the Coliseum and history. We will be showing films over the course of the night, and a light breakfast will be served following the implosion of the Coliseum. Drop by with your friends and neighbors and join Artspace and residents of Ninth Square at a once-in-a-lifetime overnight party.

Free parking provided at the Shartenberg lot, on the corner of Chapel and Orange streets.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Openings/receptions this weekend

New Haven Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
Mexican Dancing and Decorative Masks and Wood Carvings from the collection of Gabor Gergo
Through Jan. 30, 2007

Press release

Artist reception: Sat., Jan. 6, 2:30—4:30 p.m.

The objects in the collection of Connecticut artist Gabor Gergo were created for dancing celebrations ( and some for sale purposes) by remote village artists of Mexico between 1960 and 1970 and earlier. Gergo is a sculptor, who taught art for many years at the University of Bridgeport, before retiring in 1990.

Masks are made of tin or copper metal, hand-hammered, and/or wood. Mask making flourished during the Spanish conquest, and following this time, in many parts of Mexico. Today this art has declined nearly to extinction because of the encroaching modern transformation of life even in the most remote villages, so such masks are now found only in museums.

At one time in the once isolated Native Mexican communities, the extensively varied masks, costumes, and dances reflected Christian influences as well as older remnant images of pre-conquest. During the dances, masks allowed the wearer to transform the image, personality, and even the soul of the individual or group. The designs of the masks and dances represented the villagers surroundings, past and present experiences, their fears, joys and desires. They showed the desire to control the often dual aspects of nature, such as good and evil, male and female, conflict and peace, death and life, drought and abundance, and countless other symbols and tales.


Hygienic Art Gallery
83 Bank St., P.O. Box 417, New London, (860) 443-8001
Waterford High School Art & Photography
Jan. 6—Jan. 20, 2007, 2006

Press release

Opening at the gallery this Sat., Jan. 6, from 7—10 p.m.


John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Jason Robert Bell: Tetragrammatron
Dec. 9—Jan. 21, 2007
Artist reception: Sun. Jan. 7, 2—5 p.m.

Press release

This Sunday there will be a reception for Jason Robert Bell's Tetragrammatron show, which was recently reviewed at Connecticut Art Scene. Check it out!