Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Artspace info sessions this week on this year's City-Wide Open Studios

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios 2008 Information sessions

Press release

Join us this week for six information sessions about the 2008 City-Wide Open Studios! Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we will be holding six information sessions for artists around New Haven. All sessions are open to everyone, if you live in the neighborhood or not. Please plan on attending to find out the details of this year's festival, all the ways you can participate, how to register and to get answers to your questions.

Join us at one of the following sessions:

Monday, June 30
5:30: CWOS Info Session Downtown at Artspace, 50 Orange Street, New Haven CT 06510

Tuesday, July 1
9 a.m.: CWOS Info Session at Erector Square, 315 Peck Street in New Haven. Meet at Lori's Cafe.
5:30: CWOS Info Session in West Haven at West Cove Studio and Gallery, 30 Elm Street in West Haven. Parking is in the rear.
5:30: CWOS Info Session in Hamden at The Space, 295 Treadwell Street, building H, in Hamden.

Wednesday, July 2
5:30: CWOS Info Session in Fair Haven at Erector Square, 315 Peck Street in New Haven. Meeting will be held in Artist's studio in Building 5, floor 3. Studio C. Follow signs from front entrance to Building 5.
5:30: CWOS Info Session in Westville at Hello My Name is Galllery, 838 Whalley Avenue #4, in New Haven.

And don't miss our sweetest Thursday evening event to date: Pretty Little Cakes!
Thursday July 3: 5-7 p.m.
Pretty Little Cakes: Frost Your Own Cupcake
In celebration of our glorious nation's 232nd birthday, we offer up a supersweet, chocolate-and-vanilla evening of cupcake decorating resplendent with icing, fruit, and artwork. Decorate your own cupcake, and eat it too, based on Grant Lincoln Johnston and Mia Brownell's artwork in our current exhibit, Pretty Things: Confronting Sensuousness. Children and children-at heart encouraged to attend. $2 suggested donation.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Commissariat of Creativity or smart move by Artspace? Add your two cents on CWOS 2008

Is the best way to encourage creativity and the flowering of visual culture by excluding hundreds of artists from the signal art festival of the year? Perhaps so, according to commenters on my post critical of the changes to City-Wide Open Studios. What do you think?

Free AC and art opening Saturday afternoon

New Haven Free Public Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
Free AC: Artworks by Kim Mikenis and Tony "Baloney" Juliano
June 20—Aug. 2, 2008
Artist's reception: Sat., June 28, 2:30—4:30 p.m.

Press release

"I sculpt paper," says Kim Mikenis. "I collage. I paint. I sew fabric plushies. I make animations. Inspired by travels abroad, vaudeville, circus, bicycles, and animals, my artwork is created. Using miniature figurines, fabric sculpted monsters and monkeys, old-west railroad train set scenery, painted backgrounds from my puppet show sets and a St. Jude paper cutter, my animations are created. No dialogue ensues as the positioning and interactions of the figures do the talking.

"Out of encouragement from my art enthusiasts and out of a personal interest in stop motion animation as well as a background in puppeteering and theatre, my animations are born."

Kim Mikenis has exhibited at Hartford ArtSpace, the Hygienic Gallery, Milford Fine Arts Council, The NEST (Bridgeport), Koffee?, Artwell Gallery, and at the Neverending Bookstore. Her puppet shows have been at Cafe' Nine, The Space, and Idea Village.

Tony "Baloney" Juliano, an award-winning satirist artist, is not your normal painter. With his wacky, single panel, lush, comic-like paintings dealing with quick puns, whimsical sayings, ironic sadness, and his penchant for parodying other famous artists, Tony makes art laughable in colorful complementary painted frames.

Tony Juliano graduated from Paier College of Art with a BFA in Illustration in 1998 and has been a successful free-lance artist from 1997 to the present. Being teased and picked on by his classmates, he developed a childish made-up nickname: "Agoo," a name that hounded him for years. So turning lemons into lemonade, he then titled his distinctive artwork "Agoo Art."

Tony's shows tend to be more of a circus than your typical art opening. With a following of fans that come as chickens, purple cows, robots, dragons, accordion players, sumo wrestlers, Santa Claus and The CT Roller Girls serving drinks on their roller skates. Even Tony gets dressed up in unique outfits too for his exhibitions. His other interests are toy collecting, comic books, art history, accordion playing, filmmaking and Godzilla!

Tony has done commissioned murals for Corona Beer and The Peabody Museum, art instruction, backdrops, and set design. He has been included in umpteen group shows, and has had solo exhibits at the York Square Gallery in 2001, the Chapel Square Gallery and the Margaret L. MacDonough Gallery in New Haven in 2002, Kohn-Joseloff Gallery in Cheshire, the Hygienic Art Center in New London, and Europa Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.

There will be an artists' reception tomorrow afternoon from 2:30—4:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Artspace and City-Wide Open Studios: Eviscerating a classic event?

I have posted below Artspace's press release detailing the schedule for this year's City-Wide Open Studios. (CWOS). At first blush, it certainly looks like the signature annual art event has been hacked/downsized/however-you-want-to-say-it in such a manner as to cut not only significant numbers of artists but also much of the art-aware public out of access to the riches of the CWOS experience.

One weekend? It was one thing when the event was getting off the ground. In the first year or so, one weekend made sense. Organizers were feeling their way, trying to ascertain whether there was an audience for the event.

But now we know that it can take a weekend just to explore the artistic riches in studios throughout Erector Square. That trying to see artists in Erector Square as well as studios at Gilbert Street in West Haven and in 39 Church in New Haven or over in Hamden takes more than one weekend. And where is the alternative space in this mix?

There are obviously reasons why such a drastic slash-and-burn approach has been taken to CWOS. But Artspace apparently doesn't feel those reasons are worthy of being addressed in their press release. This is a schedule that will leave many—hundreds, perhaps?—of artists on the outside looking in. It will significantly curtail the ability of the public to experience all that the New Haven visual arts community has to offer. And it will prevent artists themselves from enjoying the CWOS experience, as they have in past years on the weekends in which their own studio was not open.

Perhaps I was quite unfair to Freda Moon?

Please feel free to comment on your reactions to Artspace's decision to trim CWOS from three weekends to one.

Artspace announces 2008 City-Wide Open Studios schedule

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios 2008

Press release

Over the past eleven years, City-Wide Open Studios (CWOS) has drawn thousands of visitors to explore New Haven's neighborhoods while discovering artists, galleries, and the treasures of our city. CWOS celebrates contemporary art in all its myriad forms, and is undoubtedly Connecticut's leading visual arts festival. Art dealers and curators from the region and beyond have used CWOS as a resource to discover new artists, plan upcoming shows, and buy art. One of the largest Open Studios programs in the country, CWOS unites hundreds of local artists with the Greater New Haven community.

The 2008 CWOS features one big festival weekend, taking place Oct. 2—5, activating five neighborhoods in New Haven showcasing hundreds of local artist's studios, five community-based artist-in-residence exhibitions, CONNcentric: the exhibition at Artspace and many special events and programs.

The 2008 CWOS partners with five Greater New Haven neighborhoods: Westville, Fair Haven, Downtown (including East Rock), Hamden/Newhallville and West Haven. Our goal is to empower neighborhoods by uniting artists working in these neighborhoods with the local community and businesses. We welcome artists from outside New Haven to also engage with these communities by activating temporary studio spaces. Visitors to CWOS are invited to explore these neighborhoods where they will find art in new and unusual spaces; discover local businesses and restaurants; and join guided walking, bike and bus tours connecting all satellite neighborhoods with the festival hub at Artspace.

City-Wide Open Studios is a program of Artspace, a Connecticut non-profit organization presenting local and national visual art, providing access, excellence and education for the benefit of the public and the arts community.

2008 City-Wide Open Studios Festival Calendar:
October 2 • 5—8 p.m.: CONNcentric Preview Reception and Festival Kick-off at Artspace
October 3 • 4—8 p.m.: Studios and exhibitions Open
October 4 • 12—8 p.m.: Studios and exhibitions Open
October 5 • 12—8 p.m.: Studios and exhibitions Open

Details will be available at the City-Wide Open Studios Web site.

Fluffy! Fido! Come! Picture Framer in Cheshire call for entries

The Picture Framer Artshack Gallery
96 Elm St., Hartford, (203) 272-2500
Dog Days of August
Call for entries: July 21—26, 2008

Press release

The Picture Framer, 96 Elm Street, Cheshire will be accepting entries for the 2nd annual "Dog Days of August" show and sale in August 2008. Receiving dates July 21—26, 2008. Please note that The Picture Framer will be closed for vacation July 27 through August 2. Pick up will be on September 2nd and 3rd, 10 a.m.—5 p.m.

Entries for this exhibit must be original artwork of house pets. Maximum size is 16x20 (interior of frame measurement). All entries must be framed and wired to hang with a wire or sawtooth hanger NO EASEL BACKS. Entry fee is a donation of $5 for each piece. All of the entry fees will be donated in the form of a Stop and Shop gift card to the Meriden Humane Society.

Horses and birds may be acceptable depending on context, i.e. subjects such as wild birds and wild horses or animals set in the wild are not appropriate for this show. We hope to exhibit artwork of our animals that live with us as part of our households.

Sorry, no photography will be accepted for this show although computer altered photos will be considered.

Opening reception will be on Sunday, Aug. 10. We will be inviting pet services to have small exhibits and door prizes and will collect donations for The Humane Society.

Questions or more information, please call Ann at 203-272-2500.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Real Art Ways this Thursday: cold, hard cash and Creative Cocktail Hour

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Daxin Wu: Currency Portraits
June 19—July 13, 2008.
Opening reception and Creative Cocktail Hour on Thurs. June 19, 6—10 p.m.

Press release

Real Art Ways opens an exhibition of photographs, entitled "Currency Portraits," by emerging Chinese artist, Daxin Wu, on Thursday, June 19, 2008, during the monthly Creative Cocktail Hour, from 6—10 p.m. Admission is $10 for the general public, $5 for Real Art Ways members. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, and Sundays, from 2—10 p.m.; and Fridays and Saturdays from 2-11 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays. Daxin Wu's exhibit runs through July 13, 2008.

The exhibition, aptly named "Currency Portraits," features close-up photographs of the faces of heads of state from around the world—the United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Japan, India, and Chin—as depicted on their national currency. However, after Wu photographs these portraits, he enlarges them and suspends the photos in blocks of ice. Cracks and hazy shafts of bubbles take shape as the ice freezes, blurring and distorting the images that had originally been rendered with care and respect by the currency engravers.

Thus transformed, the once exacting portraits look wispy, almost ghostly, and thereby visually strip the leaders of the very power their presence on money is intended to convey.

For Wu, the exhibition began as a matter of foreign policy. In 2006, he had seen news of how the United States had forced North Korea to the table for talks about freezing the Asian nation's nuclear weapons program.

"The U.S. was using money as a 'soft weapon' to convince the North Koreans to talk," Wu says. "They froze the money in their accounts in Macao." "And in China, where I'm from," Wu continues, "we call that 'freezing currency.' That gave me an idea."

After living in Japan for eight years, and from friends who traveled elsewhere, Wu had acquired a small collection of international currencies. He decided to immerse different bills in water and, literally, to freeze them, hoping to photograph the result. Wu realized that what he had created was not just something to photograph, but, in fact, a time-sensitive sculpture.

To Wu, the original engravings on the bills were beautiful, "like poetry," he says. The political statement, about "freezing currency" to change political fortunes, allowed him to demonstrate his larger concerns.

"This," Wu says, "is my way of expressing that I'm very worried about this world."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Finding reliefs at City Gallery

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Meg Bloom: Mono No Aware
Through June 29, 2008

Meg Bloom's June show at City Gallery has its origins in a fortuitous accident a few years ago. Bloom happened on a method of working with fabrics, heat and wax that is rich with creative possibility. She has pursued this path in different ways since then, creating sculptural works, collage and installations. For Mono No Aware—the title is a Japanese phrase referring, according to Bloom's artist statement, to "the awareness of the transience of things"—Bloom has created a series of reliefs constructed over cardboard. Incorporating organic and synthetic materials into her creations, Bloom distresses them—stripping, waxing, layering and burning the materials.

Some evoke landscapes, the torn, singed and melted earth-tone fabrics stretched over an underpinning of clotted wax or twigs. In "Transience #11," a dark crescent curls around the right side of a clustered, hilly relief. Tinted in an iridescent blue, the crescent reminded me of a waterway fouled by a petroleum rainbow. Others suggest decay. The fabrics and paper are mostly burned and torn away in "Transience #12" (see image). We see the decay of flesh over the skeleton of twigs. Regeneration is also hinted at. Dried seed pods burst through the fabric in "Transience #14." Life emerging from death.

All of these pieces are constructed on a cardboard base, which is also stripped, waxed and burned. As a visual element, the corrugated surface offers geometric linework, symbolic of order. This order is a nice counterpoint to the seeming randomness of the other elements. Of course, transformation—be it regeneration or decay—is a process that unfolds according to set physical rules. But change can appear messy.

Bloom's reliefs succeed not just on the metaphorical level. As abstractions, they have a rich, coherent complexity. They are both beautiful and, in some cases, grotesque. This is a case of process serving form serving content. Bloom is destroying to create and deconstructing to construct.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mirror images on the wall

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Sam Gibbons
Through June 15, 2008.

Sam Gibbons' symmetrical acrylic paintings are a mutant marriage of Rorschach ink blots and R. Crumb underground comix graphics, with a healthy dash of Looney Tunes thrown in for good measure. In the late 1960's and early 70's there was an underground comic book series called Tales of Sex and Death. This imagery would have fit perfectly well within that context.

Gibbons, like several of the underground comix artists, takes the visual iconography of cartoons and what were called "funny animal" comics—think Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny for two of the most famous/infamous examples—and spices it with themes both macabre and lubricious. In the 1960's, this aesthetic strategy was a way of exposing the false front of a society steeped in Puritan repression and self-regard (when it was actually riven by racism and waging a brutal, criminal war in Vietnam). Transgression is pretty mainstream these days. At any rate, Gibbons' imagery might puzzle the kiddies but likely won't corrupt them.

Formally, each work is a symmetrical composition, each side mirroring the other. Painted on panel, the edges are cut to the image, as though the visual hubbub is bursting out of the frame. In the case of "Fed 'n Foul," there are even little black clouds surrounding the main panel.

Cartoon ghosts, entrails and bones populate these works. Eyeballs pop out of skulls. There is the occasional heave of Tom Wesselmann-like breasts. Anthropomorphized animals flash knowing—or stoned—grins. All of the paintings are executed with immense flair and good humor, maintaining a fine balance of anarchy and control.

Gibbons recently earned his M.F.A. from Hunter College. He is also a practicing dentist. Looking at these works is like ingesting a little visual laughing gas. Well, the underground comix were often passed around in an atmosphere fragrant with pot smoke and patchouli. Keep on truckin'.

Friday night opening at Silvermine

Silvermine Guild Art Center
1037 Silvermine Rd., New Canaan, (203) 966-9700
Charles Birnbaum: Elusive Perceptions
Linda Bucholtz Ross: Urban Mindscapes
June 13—July 16, 2008
Opening reception: Fri., June 13, 7—9 p.m.

Press release

Silvermine Guild Arts Center, located in New Canaan springs into a new season with three exhibitions opening June 13 and running through July 16 showcasing sculpture, photography and drawings. All are welcome to attend the opening reception on Friday, June 13 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Director's Choice features Charles Birnbaum Elusive Perceptions, an exhibition of abstract porcelain sculptures. Birnbaum's works are an expression of the dualities in his life and art. Between freedom and containment, and the need to conceal and the desire to reveal. An examination in physical movement and gesture, each part varies dramatically and is integral to the power of the whole. In ancient societies, art was a collective, interactive experience where viewers were participants, not observers. In this exhibit of his recent works, he encourages this very type of engagement.

Birnbaum has shown at the Hoyt Institute of Fine Art in New Castle, PA, the Palm Beach International Fine Art Exposition, Guilford Art Center in CT, and a solo exhibit at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Kansas. He also has juried in many national and international exhibitions, such as the Palm Springs Art Museum National Juried Exhibition where he was First Place, received the Award of Excellence at the Plaza Art Gallery 2007 competition in New York, the Kapfenberg Cultural Center in Austria and the Cambridge Art Association 10th annual National Prize Show. Charles Birnbaum studied at the Kansas City Art Institute with Ken Ferguson, at the time one of the most authoritative and inspiring teachers of ceramics, where he received his BFA, with his graduate coursework at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. A full time artist, he also teaches workshops on hand-sculpting with paper clay at various schools, and was selected as an artist/teacher at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center in 2005. Birnbaum is represented in the collections of the Kansas City Art Institute, Edward Orton, Jr. Ceramic Foundation and other private collectors.

Urban Mindscapes is a one person show featuring the photographic images of artist Linda Bucholtz Ross. "Art often gives a fresh perspective to already familiar territory," says Bucholtz Ross. In this exhibit the ever-present overpass that is a familiar sight of the urban landscape is seen through the surreal images of the artist. The ordinary becomes a twilight zone of dreamscapes, paradoxically real, recognizable and familiar, yet alien. She has had solo and group exhibitions at many galleries and museums in both the U.S. and Canada, including The Galerie VAV and the Galerie Luz in Montreal, the Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich, CT, the Katonah Museum in New York, Silvermine Gallery in New Canaan, and the Federal Reserve Bank Invitational in New York City.

A native of Canada, Bucholtz Ross received her BFA in Photography at the Concordia University in Montreal and attended Parsons School of Design in New York City. She is represented in collections at the Canadian Embassy in Vienna, Pratt & Whitney, in Canada, and the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, CT. In 2000 Bucholz Ross was commissioned by the Greenwich Pubic Library to paint the domed ceiling "The Millennium Project" in the new wing designed by architect Cesar Pelli.

Pretty but not vacant at Artspace

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Pretty Things: Confronting Sensuousness
Through Aug. 9, 2008

In Artspace's Gallery 1, the artists are serving up the vegetables disguised as eye candy. Painter Grant Lincoln Johnston, who is a contributing curator for the show and wrote an introduction for the show catalog, provided the original impetus for Pretty Things: Confronting Sensuousness. Johnston's question: Does the seductive nature of some media and technique threaten the intellectual nature of contemporary art? Is it frivolous? Curator Joy Pepe, speaking with me at the show's opening, noted that the word "pretty," in its original 14th century sense, meant "wily, astute, crafty." Over time, the meaning of "pretty" was softened to refer more to surface appearance. The question of Pretty Things, Pepe told me, is "how to merge the 'pretty' of artists' materials with the original meaning."

There is a strategy of seduction, smuggling in thought-provoking content with a lushness of presentation. The show offers up, in particular, some exceptional painting work. The imagery and execution by Mia Brownell is always striking. Brownell alludes to the techniques of old masters while investigating issues like the genetic modification of the food supply. With Brownell's paintings, still life raises the question of is it "still life" when we intervene in the genetic code and then ingest the fruits of our Frankensteinian experiments. Her subject matter isn't so much posing a critique as a query: Where is this going?

Brownell's large painting "Double Double" features her recurring motif of clusters of grapes and vines with pears on a black background. The grape clusters and threaded through the composition in imitation of the DNA double helix. With a couple of smaller works, "Still Life with Cock (Freud)" and "Still Life with Cock (Currin)," she playfully but pointedly skewers sexist tropes in the art world (referencing Lucian Freud and John Currin). In these two paintings, Brownell's clusters of grapes and vines are the setting for plucked and provocatively posed roosters (hence the double entendre "cocks" of the titles), splayed almost pornographically.

There is intellectual food to feast on in Brownell's paintings. But the dessert, for me, is the main course. She's an incredible painter (and I love painting as a medium). In "Double Double," Brownell has attended with loving brush caress to each of the hundreds of grapes. Lush—or luscious—doesn't begin to describe them. Just as compelling is the lighting, which seems to come from somewhere low in the center of the background. It gathers in the translucent fruits, caressing their curves.

Caressable curves also characterize the snaking blue forms in Cristi Rinklin's multi-panel painting with wall painting "Somnambulist." In her gallery talk at the opening, Rinklin confessed to some Surrealist influence. Surrealism can be a trap for artists of limited personal vision; successful Surrealist imagery demands both strength of technique and idiosyncratic vision. Fortunately, Rinklin has both.

The twisting blue coils that writhe through her four panels—and billow around the edges as light blue wall silhouettes—remind me of John Bent's (Web) recent installation imagery in Artspace's loos. Somewhat intestinal, or like clouds or smoke that are solidifying, they are lit from underneath by a pinkish glow. The background, painted with airbrush, is a soft-focus miasma of reds and oranges. Completing the composition, partly hidden behind the blue intestines, are monochromatic tinted landscape scenes. These are the sole false note for me. With hard outlines like comic strip speech balloons, this imagery doesn't seem organically integrated into the whole.

The attention to lighting and how it plays on and through different forms and surfaces, evident in Brownell and Rinklin's work, is also central to Benjamin Weiner's "Oracle" (Weiner's Web site). A pink diamond-like gem nestles among a wild profusion of unruly white fur. The tangles of fur are reflected in the gem's facets as almost licks of flame. Burning desire? In turn, the light passing through the stone colors the surrounding tufts of fur in a pinkish hue.

Flanking Rinklin's "Somnambulist" are two mixed media paintings by Phyllis Bramson, "Naughty Little Things" and "Pastoral Pleasures." Bramson's figures are rendered with folk art naivete. Without being overt, they tap into a strain of gleeful, suggestive eroticism. She uses a lot of eye-catching colors and embroiders her canvases with fabrics, glitter and sequins. Stylistically, she borrows from rococo, Orientalist and burlesque imagery. Her two works portray a world overflowing with sensuous and sensual enticements, a kinky playland. In "Pastoral Pleasures," a grinning clown, tumescent with obvious arousal, pushes a buxom, topless showgirl on a swing. A wide-eyed tabby cat clings to one of her ankles. (Hang in there, kitty!) With her other foot, she plays footsie with a showgirl on a swing next to her. This tableau is enacted in a green and yellow pastel Eden blooming with bright flowers.

Kelly Bigelow Becerra also invokes folk art, in her case the samplers of middle America. It's a combination of contemporary technology and tradition with a dose of dysfunctional American Gothic. Bigelow Becerra uses a flatbed scanner to scan all the pictorial elements of her montage "Grandma Whacking Me with a Yellow Hoe." It's a real tour de force (and a little bit tour de farce). She has scanned not only blades of grass, a rose and tree leaves native to her Michigan home but also herself and her grandmother. She manages to combine the flat perspective that's at once the hallmark of folk art and the inevitable result of using a scanner with a sense of depth and distance.

The imagery of orchards and distanceless expanses of flat land convey order, bounty and a benevolent, domesticated Nature. But counterposed to this is the central conflict—the artist in young girl mode cowering as her grandma looms over her, hoe raised high to strike. Within the framework of the traditional, sometimes (often?) looms the threat of oppression.

Elements of collage and confrontation with perceptions of tradition are central to Joyce Kozloff's three works, parts of her "American History" series. Kozloff was one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970's. A reaction against Minimalism and an outgrowth of the feminist ferment of the times, the Pattern and Decoration artists sought to make artistic statements with decorative crafts like quilts that had been deemed beneath the notice of the male-dominated High Art establishment.

Using etching, collage, watercolor, pigment prints, acrylicc and colored pencil, Kozloff's densely packed imagery appropriates old prints and maps to offer a chaotic critique of imperialism, domination and resistance. Her concatenation of imagery in "American History: Nuking the Japs" juxtaposes the historical with the futuristic, a case of past myth encountering—or being conquered by—future myth. Although quite different from Bigelow Becerra's work, Kozloff's pieces are well situated next to it. Like "Grandma," these three works employ flattened perspective, collage and traditional imagery to subvert traditional notions.

Grant Lincoln Johnston's four paintings derive their titles from their imagery of cakes (i.e., "Strawberry Cake with Pink Butter Cream"). But these baked confections are accompanied by postcard-like reproductions of art historical masterpieces such as Edouard Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère." Johnston uses his painting style—the paint seems almost as if it was applied like frosting—to draw an implicit analogy between mere confection and the appeal of art.
Oliver Herring's "Swan" sits enclosed in a glass case in the center of Gallery 1. Alluding to wood hunting decoys and taxidermy, the piece uses scanned feathers to create a terrific simulation. A counterpoint to Bigelow Becerra's use of digital technology, Herring manages to breathe three-dimensional life into imagery that originated in a two-dimensional array of ones and zeros.

The installations by Cheryl Yun and Jane Rainwater are also part of Pretty Things but are wisely set apart in Gallery 2. Yun's paper work creations are frilly womens' clothing objects—camisole with French lace trim, gathered babydoll with panties. But the patterning on the objects is imagery from strife and war: riots in Haiti, food riots in Argentina, protests by Islamists over the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. An heir to Kozloff's Pattern and Decoration movement, Yun 's objects speak on two levels. They are delicate and sexy. But they also are reminders that such objects are created within situations of conflict and oppression.

Jane Rainwater's "The Golden Pawn Shop" is a simulation of a pawnshop window. It is set up in Artspace's window so as to be best viewed from the Crown Street sidewalk. A neon sign mounted on the gilded wire fencing surrounding the installation reads "Gold corrupts yet it is perfect." All the objects on display—some of which are found objects, some were cast by Rainwater and some belonged to her late parents—were gilded by Rainwater. Everything, Rainwater said at the opening, is for sale. (Buyers get an ersatz "pawn ticket" and take possession of the object once the installation stops traveling). There are gilded toy guns, plastic handcuffs, cell phones, a sheriff's badge, an egg carton, musical instruments. It is a simulacrum of a display of mouth-watering desire. In some cases, trash encrusted with a patina of value, a statement about the artificiality of needs and, given the pawnshop context, economic desperation. It is aptly symbolic that all the objects are housed within a cage, itself gilded.

And as I sat on the sidewalk bench outside the window contemplating the installation, an older Cadillac passed by. Its grille gleamed with a gold tint.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Modern meets ancient in Bali

Rabinowitz Gallery at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University
80 Wall St., New Haven, (203) 432-1134
Photographs by Judy Sirota Rosenthal: Reverence in Bali: Ancient Culture, Modern Translation
May 20—Aug. 15, 2008

From Judy Sirota Rosenthal's artist statement:

I am curious about the intersections of cultures, beliefs, rituals and practices that illuminate the human experience of being embodied on earth and being in relationship to unseen planes of existence.

Images of Bali cover the walls of the Slifka Center gallery and adorn the walls of the stairwell from the first to the second floor. In keeping with her artist statement Sirota Rosenthal's take on Bali is multi-faceted. Her vision encompasses the sweep of landscape, social life, culture, religious tradition and architecture.

There is, of course, the lure of the Other, the different. The camera loves the exotic and this show is primarily a travelogue. Our eyes are attracted to the ornate carvings of Hindu and Buddhist temples, the finely patterned fabrics, the rituals and ceremonies. Sirota Rosenthal dwells on the textures of stone and rice. Colors: the turquoise, red and ochre of a rooster, the green of a rice field, the orange glow of night lighting on a Hindu temple. The textures and bright colors of intricate "rice flour creations for the Thirty Year Ceremony."

But Sirota Rosenthal also gets past difference to the point of human similarities. In separate images, young boys and young girls, well-dressed, crowd together and mug for the camera. A father and a grandfather affectionately hold a baby. In "Three Generations," a grandfather, father and young man pose for her camera, smiling. The old man's face is weathered with age, the marker of time. But time and distance—or the shrinking thereof—are marked also in the youngest man's new white t-shirt. There, imprinted on the chest in lower case lettering is "fcuk," followed by a discreet trademark symbol. Global, branded (I'll pass on offering a hyperlink to their Web site) Western corporate culture—with its épater le bourgeois faux trangressiveness—colonizing another body.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Curator and artist talks at Artspace Thursday evening

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Summer exhibition series
Through Aug. 9, 2008
Curator talks: Thurs., June 5, 6—7 p.m.

Press release

A jam-packed evening of lively artistic discussion awaits as Joy Pepe, curator of our current exhibit, Pretty Things: Confronting Sensuousness, talks about the artwork and ideas behind the exhibit, which explores the role of sensuousness in contemporary art. Also engaging in discussion will be Put Together exhibition artists Brian Huff, Philip Lique, Kari Britta Lorenson, Drew Nemetz, and Dorothy Powers (see image). Fredo Conde, whose solo show in Gallery 3, In Case of Loss Please Return to Paradise, will also discuss his work. Free and open to the public.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Artist reception at Slifka Center at Yale this Thursday

Rabinowitz Gallery at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University
80 Wall St., New Haven, (203) 432-1134
Photographs by Judy Sirota Rosenthal: Reverence in Bali: Ancient Culture, Modern Translation
May 20—Aug. 15, 2008
Artist's reception: Thurs., June 5, 4:30—6:30 p.m. (Presentation and discussion at 5:30 p.m.)

Press release

A show of Judy Sirota Rosenthal's photographs of the people and culture of Bali will open at the Rabinowitz Gallery at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University on May 20, 2008. Sirota Rosenthal spent three weeks in Bali during the summer of 2006 and was interested in how this ancient culture was meeting the challenges of modernity. Sirota Rosenthal, who now spends the majority of her time doing photography, had for years done sculptural, installation and graphic art with spiritual themes inspired greatly by the Jewish tradition. She had done cross-cultural explorations particularly in the use of fabric by a number of cultures as a means of making prayer.

Sirota Rosenthal was drawn to the volcanic island by stories heard that suggested that everyday life in Bali possessed a singular beauty and dignity. She was drawn to the faces, the landscape and the work of the artisans. She was curious about how the people of Bali have responded to their lives in the shadow of unpredictable volcanoes and and how they demonstrate respect (even reverence) for natural forces—a contrast to the Western tendency to imply that humans can overcome natural forces.

Through introductions by a respected figure in the Balinese community, Sirota Rosenthal was able to gain unusual access to ceremonies and rituals that not all visitors see. She was able to capture very close up the exquisite details of both the ritual objects of sacred ceremonies as well as everyday commercial street-life.

Her photography is humanistic in the richest way. She has clearly formed relationships with the people she has photographed as evidenced by the openness of their faces and gazes. Her photographs offer striking juxtapositions of the old and the new.

Viewers will find themselves enriched by Sirota Rosenthal's photographic eye and sense of visual adventure. She has rendered the range and seeming contradictions of Bali in a provoking and affirming way.

Sirota Rosenthal has received grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Her work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries in North America, including Yeshiva University Art Museum, Aldrich Museum, Chesterwood Museum, the Skirball Museums, and Spertus Museum. Her work is in private collections around the country. Judy does event, family/portrait, and documentary photography in New York and New England, and is based in Hamden, Connecticut. She also travels with families and organizations to destinations where an event or project is taking place. Judy integrates the wisdom from Kabbalistic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Shamanic practices, in her healing practice, also based in Hamden.

There will be a reception for the artist on June 5, 4:30—6:30, with a presentation at 5:30, at the Slifka Center, 80 Wall Street, New Haven, CT.