Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Painting whimsy and flights of sculptural imagination at Hull's

Hull's One Whitney
1 Whitney Ave.., New Haven, (203) 907-0320
Essence and Artifact
Through Mar. 19, 2009.

I highly recommend the two-person show curated by Barbara Hawes at Hull's One Whitney Gallery. Essence and Artifact features works by painter Michael Shapcott and sculptor/assemblage artist Silas Finch.

Shapcott's paintings have a New Age-y mystical sensibility. The works here are portraiture and figurative, his subjects situated amid fantasy landscapes and prismatic beams of light. Shapcott works with well-thinned oil over gesso and graphite. His subject matter may be cloying. But it's redeemed by the strength of his draftsmanship-he uses his pencil to really draw on the canvases, not just rough out his image-and his facility with color. For oil paintings, these works are very delicate, having an airiness and fluidity more akin to watercolors. In the paintings "Peace and the Inevitable," "Mother's Hands" and "Drift," Shapcott wrests marvelous textures from the combination of of energetically applied gesso, translucent oils and graphite sketching.

Assemblage artist Silas Finch is prolific. He is also, and more important, very very good. Finch continues to evince wonderful artistic progress. Most, but not all, of his works here use old skateboards as the grounds. But what he does with that starting point is amazing. One work, "Charlie," collages material from an old magazine to tell the story of Charles Whitman. Whitman is infamous for having gunned down some 15 people on the University of Texas Austin campus in 1966. Like all of Finch's pieces, "Charlie" has strong compositional integrity, combining pictorial and three-dimensional elements to keep the eye moving over the work.

Finch throws everything but the kitchen sink into these pieces: piano hammers, old spoons, historic newspapers, bone, thorns, barbed wire, antique cameras, gun stocks, old wall lamps, a chunk of the Berlin Wall. His unfettered imagination is bolstered by a D.I.Y, sense of craftsmanship. Two of his works, displayed on tripods in the middle of the room—"Yesterday's Girl" and "Vessel"—are, as one visitor noted while I was there, like ships out of a Terry Gilliam movie.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thursday early evening opening at Albertus Magnus College gallery

Margaret L. MacDonough Gallery at Albertus Magnus College
700 Prospect St., New Haven, (203) 777-1282
Real Places, Ideal Spaces: The Works of Rachel Hellerich and Rashmi Talpade
Feb. 26-Mar. 20, 2009.
Opening reception: Thurs., Feb. 26, 4:30-7 p.m.

Press release

Students at Albertus Magnus College enrolled in a Special Topics course—AH 351: Museum and Curatorial Studies—would like to invite the public to attend the Opening Reception of Real Places, Ideal Spaces: The Works of Rachel Hellerich and Rashmi Talpade on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, from 4:30-7:00 p.m. at the Margaret L. MacDonough Gallery located in the Campus Center. The exhibition features works by Rachel Hellerich and Rashmi Talpade and will run from Feb. 26, 2009 through March 20, 2009 (except Gallery will be closed March 9-13). Gallery Hours will be Monday-Thursday 4:00-7:00 p.m.

Rachel Hellerich, born in New Haven and now residing in Milford, creates ideal spaces in her elaborately detailed, vibrant, mandala-like landscapes using acrylics, ink, and watercolors on paper and canvas. At the heart of her inspiration are the influential forms of "nature, landscape and architecture" that she sees within textiles (both woven and worn) and a fascination with Eastern art, as well as negative space.

In the exhibit, Ms. Hellerich's use of color, light, and space, in combination with patterns of repetition and intricate formations, appeals to the senses beyond one's imagination. A personal journey for both artist and viewer is intimately rooted in memory of and meditation upon an "otherworld."

Rashmi Talpade, born in Bombay (Mumbai), India, currently residing in Wallingford, constructs modern-day mosaics of real places in her brilliant, photomontage landscapes that use the artist's own photography. Motivated by "history, humanity, and our place in it," Ms. Talpade's work incorporates both realist and abstract elements. The two distinct worlds of eastern India and western American and European cultures collide and merge.

Ms. Talpade's photo collages reconfigure the places of rising development and declining culture in her native and adoptive lands. (Talpade was among the artists whose work in the show Lost and Found was recently reviewed by Connecticut Art Scene here.) Ultimately, this collection measures geographical and cultural distance in terms of both harmony and contradiction, and asks the viewer to "ponder our global existence."

The students are: Christian Ammon, Milford, CT, Melanie A. Gailunas and Jessica Porrello, both of Branford, CT, Arianne Hebert, Hallie Muscente, Patrick See, all currently residing in New Haven, Jessica Mercede, Easton, CT, Kristle Scanlon, Mystic, CT, and Jana Whaley, Deep River, CT.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

New exhibits open at Artspace this evening

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Mark Mulroney: Wet with Glee
Gail Biederman: 2800/16/65/4100/35/1073/84B
Kwadwo Adae: Kwadrilaterals
David Borawski: Goes Around Comes Around
Steven Millar: Discovering Home
Jeremy Bell: Vestige: Genesis
Geoffrey Detrani: Break & Heap
Through Mar. 28, 2009
Opening Reception: Thurs., Feb. 19, 6—8 p.m.

Press release

Seven new exhibits will open at Artspace in New Haven this evening at 6 p.m. There will be artist talks by Gail Biederman and Steven Millar at 6:30 p.m.

Mark Mulroney: Wet with Glee • A prolific artist whose work defies easy categorization, Mark Mulroney borrows familiar imagery from popular culture and turns it on its head. In his newly commissioned installation for Gallery 1, Wet with Glee, Mulroney renders colorful images of people, places, and things in an illustrative, even cartoon-like, style. Though seemingly benign, Mulroney's fractured yet whimsical scenes speak tellingly about social and cultural taboos, while commenting on issues ranging from power and excess to anxiety and loss.

Gail Biederman: 2800/16/65/4100/35/1073/84B • Mapping and memory are integral to Gail Biederman's large-scale installations. Using simple materials such as felt and string, Biederman redefines the places that were once familiar to her by reconfiguring their spatial boundaries. Straight lines that once connected places on a map or street together now curve and zigzag in unlikely directions, charting new courses to old destinations.

Kwadwo Adae: Kwadrilaterals • In his vividly colored canvases, Kwadwo Adae breathes new life into the vernacular of abstract painting. Intertwining oppositional ideas such as linear and non-linear, and flatness with three-dimensionality, Adae attempts to plumb the depths of illusionistic space while balancing stability with chaos.

David Borawski: Goes Around Comes Around • In his mixed media installations, David Borawski creates perceptually engaging environments that question our societal and cultural values. In his new installation, Borawski uses video, painting, and sculpture to comment on the circular nature of conflict, endless war, and an ever-encroaching corporate law enforcement.

Steven Millar: Discovering Home • In his series of seventy-plus ink drawings, Steven Millar explores the nature of consumer culture through the romanticism of the suburban American home. Using imagery and text culled from home planning guides, Millar subverts the function of these advertisements. He re-fashions the images, adding new text that reveals the motivations and anxieties of the potential buyers.

Jeremy Bell: Vestige: Genesis • Using blueprint paper as his medium, Jeremy Bell explores the simple yet profound relationships that exist between art, science, and mathematics. In his highly detailed, drawings, Bell explores the connections that exist between bees, violins, and the universe that speak to notions of creation, transcendence, and death.

Geoffrey Detrani: Break & Heap • In his delicately layered pencil drawings, Detrani takes elements from the natural world and fuses them with our built environment. Merging the organic with the inorganic and the abstract with the figural, Detrani's imagined landscapes depict botanical forms blending with fence-like structures that hover in mid-air. Complete yet fragmentary, his ambiguous compositions speak quietly to notions of ephemerality and dislocation.

"White Noise" opening at Hygienic on Saturday

Hygienic Art
83 Bank St., P.O. Box 417, New London, (860) 443-8001
White Noise
Feb. 21—Mar. 14, 2009
Opening reception: Sat., Feb. 21, 7—10 p.m.

Press release

Hygienic Coop Artists Greg Bowerman, Kevin Cooper, Liz Larson, Susan Madacsi, Kat Murphy and Troy Zaushny exhibit various interpretations of White Noise using a range of materials including oil painting, graphite, poly-fresco, steel, glass and mixed media. In the Underground Gallery, a Filmmaker from Poland, Ted Ciesielski uncovers his video installation "Empire Desire," a visual bridge between sexuality and architecture in New York City; multi-screen, multi-woman, multi-color, one desire. It's the result of many years seduction from both sides.

Ted Ciesielski • Filmmaker from Poland, where graduate from Lodz Film Academy. In 80s director of music videos for KULT, SIEKIERA, Cityzen GC. Passion for travel and truth lead him to documentary field. He explore with film camera over Europe and China, settled in New York in 90s. His obsession with urban landscape turned him to projects about Twin Towers, Empire State Building, billboards, oil tanks and garbage in New York City. Currently working on AT&T tower project in New London. Technique: 16mm film time-lapse and photo-animation. Films: Requiem 2001, My Empire, Last Letter, My Gates.

Hygienic Co-op Residents:

Gregory Bowerman • This body of work focuses on everyday things that develop into a rhythm and become or can be perceived as white noise.

A Hygienic coop resident since 2002, Gregory Bowerman, is primarily an oil and mural painter. Greg feels fortunate to have exhibited and received student exchange and artists residencies in Ireland, France, Austria, Germany and Bulgaria. This summer he will be participating in an artist's residence in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. A thread that is usually depicted throughout his work is Greg's fascination with the visual response to literature. In the past he has created series of work responding to "The Epic of Gilgimesh," "The Greek Gods," and more recently "Aesop's Fables." In addition to his artistic endeavors Greg is an art instructor at The Williams School, New London, CT and runs the Golden Street Gallery also in New London, CT.

Kevin Cooper • White Noise. I decided to explore white noise how I perceive it. I looked and listened to the patterns it made and the feeling it gave to me. The work is a series meant to be looked at like a tv screen, creating these underlying patterns and how they react, but can also be looked at individually to interpret noise.

As the newest resident Kevin is always learning and absorbing.

Liz Larson • White Noise: I am exploring white noise as a theme in the literal sense. Several sources of white noise are depicted in soft graphite on white paper. An actual tape recording of these objects is an integral part of the display.

Liz Larson has been a Hygienic resident for 5+ years. Recently she has been keeping busy facilitating kid's creative projects and keeping up with her own artistic endeavors. Liz is also studying to be an Art Educator and is an active folk and rock musician in the area.

Kat Murphy • Kat is creating illustrations to portray her quirky and clever interpretations of White Noise.

Kat Murphy is one of the founding members of the Hygienic Arts Cooperative in downtown New London, CT. She is an artist in residence, director of programming and curator at Hygienic Art Galleries. She is currently finishing up a certificate program in Graphic Design for Print and Web at Rhode Island School of Design.

Susan Madacsi • These drawings and sculptures are a conceptual body of work. They are about the relationship that man has with nature. It addresses the current social movement of the "green culture". Ideas that humanity will destroy itself if it continues on the present path of consumerism and power and that the nature of this wastefulness and greed will destroy the earth as well. This body of work implies that this is not the case. It's an unconventional idea. Humanity may or may not survive its current path. This does not really matter as far as planet is concerned. It will always be here and its existence does not hinge on the survival of mankind. Nature will always adapt to change. It is forever changing. Whether imposed on by the human race, or by other forces. It will be us who cannot adapt and survive if we over exceed our needs. Our resources are not nature's resources to survive; they are ours. We are like a yeast culture in a bottle. Once we expend our food and over populate our space we will neutralize ourselves. The natural state of the universe will continue on it's own path creating and working with whatever remains. Engulfing, absorbing and turning our leftovers into something else. We do not mater to the elements and to things without consciousness. They will continue to endure without the egos of men.

Troy Zaushny • Like white light, I think of white noise as having divine characteristics. It is often the sound of movement. In the context of one's spirituality, it may be the sound of movement toward a higher state of awareness. White noise is represented in some way in almost all of my works, often taking the form of explosions, spirals, comet trails, and most recently, tangled vines and branches. White noise can be at once both peaceful and overwhelming. It offers a bit of chaos that wears down the conscious mind, allowing something deeper to slip through.

Troy has just begun his second year as a resident of the Hygienic co-op.
He is currently developing a series of prints and paintings based on the natural world, and co-facilitating the weekly life drawing sessions here at the Hygienic.

Silvermine exhibits opening on Sunday

Silvermine Guild Art Center
1037 Silvermine Rd., New Canaan, (203) 966-9700
February/March Exhibits at Silvermine
Through Mar. 13, 2008
Opening reception: Sun., Feb. 22, 2—4 p.m.

Press release

Three new and exciting exhibits will be opening at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, located in New Canaan, on Feb. 13, with each artist presenting their own particular perspective on the elements of nature and the environment. A collaborative exhibition will showcase the photographic works by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison demonstrating the relationship between humans, technology and nature; Director's Choice, Ann Conrad's new collection of works will take a closer look at a fundamental landscape, water; and a juried Guild Group Show reflects upon contemporary issues of aging, war and the environment. All are welcome to the opening reception to be held at the Silvermine Galleries on Sun., Feb. 22 from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. The exhibits run through March 13.

The ParkeHarrisons have been collaborating for years in creating artistic photographs. Their work has been displayed in 18 solo exhibitions and over 30 group shows presented worldwide in places such as Japan, Canada, and Italy as well as throughout the United States. They also lecture extensively on art and human influences on the environment. Robert and Shana most recently had their New York City premier exhibit at the Jack Shainman Gallery, and now making their Connecticut debut with their exhibit at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center.

Rich colors and surrealistic imagery merge to reveal the poetic roots of the photographic works on display in this collaborative exhibition of selected works. By means of these images, the ParkeHarrisons remind us of our effect on nature, whether it is marks we leave on the earth or the destruction of entire landscapes for materialistic purposes. As in their earlier works, they continue to pursue, with the same absorbing psychological and sensory effect, the unpromising relationship linking humans, technology and nature. Their works reference a world we recognize and we think we know, but exist outside time and place. Strange scenes of combining forces and overabundance portray Nature unleashed by technology and the human hand.

For New Canaan artist Ann Conrad, the work in Layers+ Meaning/ Order + Space begins with an up close look at a basic landscape, water. Water provides visual power, symbolic power (offering the possibility of renewal, reflection, metamorphoses and serenity) and the contradictory power to both give and destroy life. While digital "seeing" is the starting point for all the pieces in this exhibit, the prints and paintings are as much about artistic process and decision making as they are about likeness in landscape. While solidly grounded in the world of visual reality, the work wrestles with the formal concerns of abstract image making. According to Conrad, "Digital seeing...(and hence the abstraction) occurs before the painting has begun. After that moment I am free to wrestle with compulsive mark-making, the contrast between light and dark, the interplay of lines and mass, the building and destroying of forms, the definition (or lack of) of boundaries and the contradictory moments of energy and stasis. I hope that the viewer can contemplate the art-making process and be drawn in by the multiple layers and labor-intensive painterly surfaces which underscore that the journey is of equal or greater importance to the destination." The cross-pollination of photography, printmaking and painting, allows the artist to see, think and call attention to technology's ability to alter and enhance our visual reality and to contemplate its meaning in this age of digital technology.

The Juried Guild Group Show, Elsewhere presents diverse ideas and works in all mediums by Silvermine Guild Artists as they reflect upon a world we think we recognize, but exits outside time and place as we know it, various states of being, points of reference, journeys and visions of those places. Juried by the visionary photography team of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, whose own photographs tell stories of loss, human struggle, and personal exploration within landscapes scarred by technology and over-use.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Earthlings at Sacred Heart

The Gallery of Contemporary Art at Sacred Heart University
5151 Park Ave., Fairfield, (203) 365-7650
The Elements: Earth
Through Mar. 5, 2009.

The Elements: Earth, an exhibition at Sacred Heart University's Gallery of Contemporary Art, features works informed by environmental consciousness. It is a small show graced with beauty, intelligence and compassion for the planet. There is a mix of media ranging from the new—video and animation—to the very old, the shaped substance of earth itself.

"Earth" by Apo Torosyan makes art out of the most mundane but also sublime of materials-dirt. In Torosyan's rounded mound, he offers a representation of the basic essence of our being. It is revealingly varied in its visual texture. Fine, lumpy, smooth, mottled, cracking open. Fragile, yet solid.

Andy Goldsworthy and the team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (Web) are each represented by photos of wrapped objects. Goldsworthy's "Fresh, thin leaves wrapped aroundrotted trunk/held with water" is like a miniature. Amid dark forest earth tones, a decaying cracked tree juts out over a little brook. The points of the splintered trunk point out like fingers, enveloped by lime green leaves like a plastic glove. It's a jolt of deliberate color in the quiet of the woods. Looking at the two images documenting the work, one can almost smell the life, the decay and the fresh water. "Reichstag," on the other hand, is monumental. The building that formerly housed the Nazi Parliament is covered by silvery drapes held tight to its contours.

Where Goldsworthy's work documents a moment in ecological time—an installation at its freshest, meant for natural decay—Michele Brody's "Parrita in Process" depicts the detrimental impact of human action on the environment over time. Brody displays a series of photographs of a palm plantation in Costa Rica. Starting on the left, the landscape is wild, free. Over the course of the half dozen images, the land is domesticated, the trees lined up in rows. The greenery gives way to brown and, finally, the forest is reduced to a vista of barren pole-like carcasses receding into the tangled brush.

The landscape of the human psyche is charted in the fascinating "Study for 'Discrete Terrain: Windows on Five Emotions'" by Eva Lee (Web). The digital video installation is derived from the brain scans of 12 subjects during five emotional states: anger, joy, fear, sadness and disgust. It is like watching a stop-motion movie of the Earth at creation. Placid surfaces throw up mesas and hills, mountains and rutted valleys, palisades and arid plains.

Many of these works are motivated by the sense of the earth under threat. Gerald Saladyga's "Apocalypse," a work of latex paint on canvas, depicts a craggy landscape set within the cosmos. The composition is riven by explosions, segmented by lines—bombing coordinates?—and beset by bugs (all rendered by Saladyga with a gorgeous beauty that recalls contemporary digital imaging).

In one of the most traditional works, Jane Sutherland's (Web) pastel of Loggie's Greenhouse," the lushness of plant life is sequestered indoors. This is a tour de force of drawing in which the cultivated plants seem to overflow the ability of their (indoor) environment to contain them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thursday opening at Hull's on Whitney in New Haven

Hull's One Whitney
1 Whitney Ave.., New Haven, (203) 907-0320
Essence and Artifact
Feb. 12—Mar. 19, 2009.
Opening reception: Thurs., Feb. 12, 5—8 p.m.

Press release

Two area artists, Silas Finch and Michael Shapcott will display their work at an upcoming show at Hull's Fine Framing & Gallery located at One Whitney Avenue in New Haven. The show is open to the public and will run Feb. 12 through March 19, 2009. The opening reception is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 12, 5—8 p.m. The Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.—6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mr. Finch is an artist who creates with manufactured objects; fragments, pieces, parts, and objects adrift, no longer possessing a definite identity. His work gives such objects a new identity and reconnects them to something whole. Silas finds inspiration where most people would not consider looking for beauty: in junk yards, vacant lots, and alleys. Using only his hands, he prefers the process of positioning and repositioning the parts until they achieve a natural union.

Mr. Shapcott is an artist from central Connecticut who began drawing at an early age and works in a highly charged mix of dream imagery and folklore in graphite and oil. He attended Paier College of Art in Hamden. His first solo show was at The Tiffany Smith Gallery in Johnstown, New York featuring his 3 Circle Series. Emotional responses to visual experiences and symbols from dream imagery and folklore tainted with a mixture of memory, perception and imagination are the major inspirations and elements used in Michael's work.

"The show will focus on the two artistic journeys of these unique artists; one concrete and one ethereal," commented Barbara Hawes, Gallery Manager. Hull's Fine Framing & Gallery is a part of the Hull's Art Supply & Framing family of suppliers based in New Haven since 1947.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Light, paint and dreams at Ely House

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Inviting Abstraction
Through March 1, 2009.

There is a fine painting show at The John Slade Ely House. Inviting Abstraction features the work of Willard Lustenader, Megan Craig and K. Levni Sinanoglu. It isn't a show of abstract paintings in the usual sense, although Megan Craig's work comes close. These are works that flirt with abstraction in various ways despite having one foot planted strongly in different representational traditions.

The ostensible subjects of Willard Lustenader's oil paintings are still lifes of paper cutouts on tabletops. For the most part, the pieces of paper are folded in half with each half coming to a peak like the roof of a house. There is the sense of models of little communities created by Monopoly pieces. But the real subject of Lustenader's paintings, the star—at least to my eyes—is light. In works like "Cut-outs with 1 Red and 2 Yellow," "White Cut-outs, 1 Gray" and the luminous "Cut-outs, 3 White," Lustenader immerses himself in not only the way the geometric shapes cast a multiplicity of shadows on the reflective surface. It's like he wields a prism in his paintbrush, channeling the waves to the linen surface. It is the substance of light made visible while remaining true to its quality as light. Both light and lightness.

Megan Craig's subject would appear to be blunt abstraction. Her paintings are inspired by household objects—a chair, for example—but aren't in any way representational. (Craig has previously built up a fine body of work painting cityscapes.) But as with Lustenader, the real subject is something else again: the kinetic pleasure of applying paint to surface.

There could hardly be a stronger contrast than that between Craig's approach and that of Lustenader. Where Lustenader works with the precise delineation of a trained classicist, Craig covers her panels or canvas with broad brush strokes of boldly stated color. In Lustenader's paintings, colors bleed imperceptibly into other colors based on observed principles of physics. Not so with Craig's paintings. Shape abuts shape. "Jubilee" is made up of four panels abutting each other. Each briskly applied brush stroke is 2—3 inches wide. You can see the physical energy expended in the act of painting. The paint coming off the bristles interacts with the underlying color layers to generate lines of force.

K. Levni Sinanoglu's paintings document a private metaphysical universe. Surrealism is certainly a touchstone. There is the stuff of dreams: birds in flight, strange elongated trees, ghostly figures and inscrutable architecture. Perspective is skewed, imagery is layered on imagery in the way one archaeological site may rest on top of another. Although dreamlike, there is a sense of order, suggested by the delicate use of gridwork in a way that references architectural drawings.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Throwaway culture

The Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism's Gallery
1 Constitution Plaza, 2nd floor, Hartford, (860) 256-2800
Lost and Found: A Selection of Fellowship Artists

The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism hosts a small welcoming gallery in their Constitution Plaza offices. Unlike some galleries in office locations, you don't have to invade employees' cubicles to spend time with the art. In my first visit there I took in Lost and Found, a show featuring works created by artists who have received Commission fellowships. According to the statement about the show, these are pieces created by artist "who sift through their cultural, visual and physical surroundings to create new moments and objects from the fragments they collected." This is art as a process of taking the varied materials of everyday life and investing in them creative energy and personal spirit.

We live in a recycling culture, on a constant quest to make it new. There is a drive to find the personal and individual in that which appears old and worn out, whether that means physical objects or artistic practices. With many of these artists, that process begins with the need to look intently.

In her artist statement, photographer Linda Lindroth writes that "I have spent an awful lot of time head down when I walk." Among the things she has seen—because she is looking—are small bits of metal detritus. Twisted fragments of steel and aluminum, once functional parts of larger objects, are now merely curious abstract shapes. Or, as Lindroth labels them, "runes." Lindroth uses the "runes" as masks to make Ray-o-graphs on 4x5 film negatives (a technique pioneered by surrealist Man Ray). She then scans the negative, creating a digital image. These digital images constitute her "Urban Genome Project."

Lindroth is not alone in finding beauty—or at least value—in what most people would view as trash. Pam Erickson offers several mixed media works that employ laundry lint as a primary element. It's a remarkably versatile artistic material, having the virtues of interesting texture, malleability and color variations. Erickson's "Chronicles of Shambhala" incorporates a mostly monochromatic mat of lint in shades of gray with bone white fired strands of clay. It has the appearance of ancient writing on fibrous handmade paper. "Laundry Shed," an assemblage in the shape of a long, thin structure, has panels packed with tightly compacted kittens of lint. Erickson has arranged the different colors together to form what looks like abstract sand paintings. (Her affection for sloughed-off substances extends to the use of molted iguana skins in making her "lizard sheds.")

Like Lindroth, Susan Schultz is attentive to the flotsam and jetsam she encounters. Schultz gathers stones, shells, driftwood and trash at beaches. She lovingly recreates what she finds in porcelain and stoneware. The tableau "New Bedford Massachusetts" is composed of porcelain replicas of not only shells and some fish bones but also a length of chain, kelp, a glove, a few little alcohol bottles as well as a big scrunched plastic one, a fragment of brick and a segment of cable. Schultz adds to the pile a weathered square of a wooden board and a rusted and bent metal pole. Her arrangements appear haphazard—that is, they look like they were just stumbled upon—but actually are arranged with a keen eye for composition.

I've written about the work of Rashmi Talpade before (see here and here). Indian-born, Talpade creates wonderful sensory overload photo-collages (and also here one collage of her drawings of household objects titled "Daily Life Mosaic"). As the other artists have collected physical objects, Taplade has amassed images. The photo-collages "Houses in Bombay" and "Traffic of Bombay" are dizzying urban landscapes, piling information on top of visual information. They spur perception of a metropolis packed to overflowing with humanity, its dwellings and devices. "Traffic of Bombay" is particularly effective. Talpade manages a simulation of depth, an evocation of a kind of claustrophobic exuberance.

Occasional Connecticut Art Scene contributor Sharon Butler's multimedia work approaches these ideas from a different angle. "The Search for Moby Dicks," a PowerPoint presentation and accompanying digital photographs on paper, document her quest for the great white whale. But rather than riding the high seas to slay the mythical mammal—which, at any rate, would violate international treaties and inflame good environmentalists everywhere—Butler is searching for the way the name of Herman Melville's novelistic creation has migrated from high culture into a more prosaic, often commercial, use. The project consists of finding and documenting businesses named "Moby Dick" throughout North America and Europe and then telling the story of the search. Butler photographed the establishments and interviewed owners and managers as to why the chose the name. If Lindroth, Schultz and Erickson are turning detritus into culture, Butler (in a sense) is in search of the way culture turns into detritus. (That she then reinvests in her discovery on the cultural plane could make one's head swim.)

Finally, Cynthia Beth Rubin (with the assistance of Robert Gluck on one multimedia work) views the past through the filter of the technological present. For over 20 years, Rubin has been using computers to manipulate her photographs. She specializes in photographing locations steeped in history, particularly relating to Eastern European Jewish culture. But her images aren't documents in the formal sense. By playing with the hue and saturation and filters, Rubin reveals mystical, magical qualities in weathered and often crumbling edifices of brick, mortar and stone.

Poet Claire Zoghb's work was also part of this show but poetry is outside the purview of this blog.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Real Art Ways opening at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Hirokazu Fukawa: A Thought at the Edge of the
Continent: Manchuria to Siberia 1942—1947

Feb. 7—Mar. 22, 2009.
Opening reception; Sat., Feb. 7, 4 p.m.

Real Art Ways presents A Thought at the Edge of the Continent: Manchuria to Siberia 1942-1947 by Hirokazu Fukawa. The sculptural exhibition tells the story of Fukawa's father, trained to be a suicide bomber for Japan in World War II, and explores themes of personal epiphany and the riddle of memory.

A Thought at the Edge of the Continent: Manchuria to Siberia 1942-1947 opens on Sat., Feb. 7, 2009 with a reception at 4 p.m. Admission to the opening is free of charge. After the opening, admission is a $3 suggested donation, and free for members and cinema patrons.

Fukawa's work focuses on his journey deep into the story of his father. Fukawa's father was a soldier in the Japanese army during World War II. He was a sniper. Near the end of the war, his commander replaced each soldier's rifle with a land mine and ordered them to suicide bomb an enemy's tank. No tank approached, and when the war ended, Fukawa's father was sent to a POW camp in Siberia, where he spent most of his young manhood.

As a youth, Fukawa learned bits and pieces of his reticent father's past, but not the whole story. Four years ago, Fukawa decided to find out more with the intention of using what he learned for a new art exhibition. He went on two research trips. The first trip was to Japan and Northeastern China, where his father spent his youth and fought during World War II. The second trip was to Siberia. Fukawa's original intention was to create a riddle for the viewer out of his father's past, and to explore the connections his own father's story had to those of modern suicide bomber attacks. The work evolved as Fukawa traveled to the places his father had once been. Instead of finding his father's story, he found something else entirely:

I felt like a void standing in front of a void. Wherever I visited my father's past, whether physical traces remained or not, I felt that I myself was the void, that I was alienated from everything there, out of time and place, floating through lost memories that weren't my own... probably it's because I was trying to relive someone else's past. I was trying to relive my father's past. (Excerpt from Hirokazu Fukawa's Manchuria to Siberia 1942-1947, video 2008)
The four-year project started with a website, Fukawa also created a series of collages using digital prints of 12th century Japanese scrolls and exhibited work in two large installations in 2006 and 2007. The culmination of his project is the sculptural installation at Real Art Ways. The sculptures in Fukawa's Real Art Ways exhibit will be accompanied by a video narrative of Fukawa's journey into his father's past. The sculptures were informed by his research, and tell both the story of his father and the other stories Fukawa found in his journey - those of his father's fellow prisoners, those of Manchuria and its people, and the story of how stories are created.

• "Blizzard," an installation of 60 fluorescent bulbs, will recreate the blizzard his father lived through in Siberia.
• "Gaki Zousi" will use scrolls reminiscent of those of 12th century Japan. On the scrolls will be examinations of the wild Siberian plants his father and other prisoners in the POW camp ate to fight away the hell of starvation.
• "The Third International" is a staircase adorned with 20 string and tin can telephones broadcasting a mix of music.
The exhibition as a whole will stay true to Fukawa's original intention: to create a riddle for the viewer to solve. But the riddle's answer has changed since Fukawa began his journey, and there may not be an answer at all.

Will K. Wilkins, Executive Director of Real Art Ways comments on Fukawa's progress since the inception of the project: "Hiro's journey begins as personal, and in some ways political, and transcends the particulars to come to grips with what is ultimately unknowable."

About the Artist: Hirokazu Fukawa is an associate professor at University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has shown work at The Trakt Project Raum in Berlin, Germany; Gallery Coco in Kyoto, Japan; and the ARC Gallery in Chicago, Illinois.

This exhibition is made possible with support from the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation's Creation of New Work Initiative.

Opening at New Haven Public Library tomorrow afternoon

New Haven Free Public Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
Chris O. Ferguson: The Colors of Family Love
Through Mar. 6, 2009.
Artist's reception: Sat., Feb. 7, 2:30—4:30 p.m.

Press release

"As far back as I remember," says Chris Ferguson, "I've expressed myself through art. At the age of 5, I was drawing cartoons. My 'Toon pal was named 'Patch.'

"In high school, I received training at the Educational Center for the Arts, on Audubon Street and Orange Avenue, New Haven. It was there where my creativity was nurtured in different forms of visual arts.

"After the ECA, I attended the Paier College of Art for four years, where I worked on enhancing my painting and drawing skills.

"I have since married and started a family that is now the subject of my latest work, many pieces of which feature my 2 year old daughter. I hope that my work is pleasing to viewers."

New Haven artist Chris Ferguson has given private and group art instruction classes and at Bee's Gali Art Center in West Haven, CT. His work was previously shown at White Space Gallery in New Haven and in the Paier College Alumni Show in Hamden in 2005, also at Wunderlee Arts, Coleman Design Gallery, and the Paint and Clay Club in New Haven. He was the recipient of awards for his paintings and portraits at the R.S.V.P Illustration Competitions, the Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, and the H. Pearce Art Show.

There will be an artist's reception for this show tomorrow, Sat., Feb. 7, from 2:30—4:30 p.m.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Closing reception tomorrow for "Lost and Found" at CT Commission on Culture & Tourism's Gallery

The Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism's Gallery
1 Constitution Plaza, 2nd floor, Hartford, (860) 256-2800
Lost and Found: A Selection of Fellowship Artists
Through Feb. 6, 2009.
Closing reception: Thurs., Feb. 5, 4:30—6:30 p.m.

I stopped by this fine show for an hour this afternoon and will post my thoughts tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I wanted to get notice of tomorrow's closing reception up and available. —HH

Press release

Lost and Found: A Selection of Fellowship Artists is dedicated to Fellowship Artist recipients who have received recognition from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism for their artistic works. The pieces featured in this exhibit are expressions by artists who sift through their cultural, visual and physical surroundings to create new moments and objects from the collected fragments. These works assemble new realities through assorted ephemera, found photographs, dryer lint, personal memories and other compelling components. The "Lost and Found" exhibit will run through Feb. 6, 2009. Featured artists are: Sharon Butler, Pam Erickson, Bob Gluck, Linda Lindroth, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Susan Schultz, Rashmi Talpade and poet Claire Zoghb.

Closing Reception: Thurs., Feb. 5, 2009 from 4:30—6:30 p.m. A poetry reading by Claire Zoghb will take place at 5:00 during the closing reception.

Id came from outer space (and landed in New London)

Hygienic Art
83 Bank St., P.O. Box 417, New London, (860) 443-8001
Hygienic Art XXX
Jan. 30-Feb. 14, 2009

I didn't get out to New London Saturday night for the opening of the Salon Des Independants and all the other associated festivities. Something about driving over an hour each way at night. But I did scoot up there on Sunday afternoon and there was a brisk turnout to see the show of shows.

There's little to say about the Hygienic show that hasn't been written before. The exhibit is more a festival of the creative id, the urge to splash paint on canvas, collage, sculpt penises. There is certainly a fair amount of artwork produced to high standards. But the show is overtly not about standards. It's more about thumbing one's nose—or some other body part or parts—at the notion of standards, the everyday repression. Not all this repression is sexual (or, in many cases, political). Some repression is that of the creative spirit, the repressiveness that looks at a child's drawing and responds, "That doesn't look like a house/face/cat." The implicit message being, "you're not an artist; don't give up your day job."

Of course, day jobs are the blackmail of survival. So for a couple of weeks, in a pagan festival, the walls and floors of the Hygienic Gallery are covered with drawings, collages, photography, paintings, assemblages, sculptures.

Herewith some images, not intended to be representative:

First, the sweetly paired "Cherry Stones" by Bruce Karr and "Wheel of Fortune" by Alison Ives. Enjoy the view of the gallery in the mirror in "Wheel of Fortune."

Colleen O'Connor offered a nice bit of very effective color wheel Op Art in "BT II."

Elegance and class are the calling cards in Floatin' Fred's sensitive "What's Your Name Again?"

Past years' critiques of the Bush/Cheney junta are upstaged by commentary on Great Depression II, as in this collage with store rewards cards, "Feed Me," by George Riel.

Finally, a zest for the pornographic doesn't preclude a well-honed aesthetic capability. Like mushrooms sprouting up after a spring rain, we have Gail DeCoteau's "Richard Defleur Revisited."

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Transformation as subject and process

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
Keith Johnson & Joseph Saccio: Transformative
Through Mar. 1, 2009

Transformative is the second show together at Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville for sculptor Joseph Saccio and photographer Keith Johnson. (Their first is reviewed here.) In this exhibit, they offer two different takes on the notion of transformation.

For sculptor Saccio, the concept is expressed both in his use of materials and in his overarching metaphor. Saccio uses found objects of both natural and synthetic nature. He transforms them through a process of manipulation, coloration and combination. Saccio is particularly drawn to wood, which in its various forms takes well to carving, bending and painting. Consistent with his technique, he uses both found natural wood—massive tree trunks, twisted driftwood branches, splintered twigs—and processed wood. The paired works "Witch Queen of the Forest" and "Her Husband, the Warlock with the Wondrous Wand" include bamboo fencing and spirals of oak hoops. The spirals enclose mutilated painted doll parts; the fluorescent green paint on the doll in "Her Husband" has a very evocative and eerie glow. The sense of a living presence in these two works is highlighted, ironically, by the addition of plastic leaves.

Saccio's transformative metaphor is a concern with the processes of life and death, death and rebirth. In his materials, he breathes new life into found objects by situating them within new contexts. But the metaphor is also, and more importantly, expressed through his compositions. In the large "Memorial: From the Fire," rigid trunks of Arbor Vitae and cedar wood, carved and painted, thrust upward from a blackened base of metal mesh covered with tar and a pile of dirty yet sparkling coal. The trunks are pierced with metal spikes. A sense of desolation is present. But, in keeping with his metaphor, four of the posts offer the possibility of new life. Scarlet buds of painted fiberglass and resin sprout from or near the top, the notes of life charred yet irresistible.

Beyond their emotional power—which includes a refreshing reservoir of humor as well as chords of grief—Saccio's sculptures are remarkable for their fine compositional balance. That balance is evident in the small wall sculpture "Burst." It is dominated by coils of oak hoops painted in purple and magenta and roughly coated with beeswax. Like a giant Slinky, they surround globs of hardened foam painted fluorescent yellow and orange. Green cane shoots protrude from the foam and through the spaces between the hoops, each long, arching tendril ending in a dayglo pink plug. The three-dimensional balance is complemented by the eye-popping balance of colors. Similarly, the delightful "Flowers for Duchamp" creates its gestalt through the combination of a sinuous carved driftwood branch with accordion cardboard files, among its several disparate elements.

For Keith Johnson, transformation occurs both within his gridwork of photographic images and over the course of a series of photos. Johnson has created the grids either by shooting the same scene repeatedly or by showcasing similar images arranged either randomly, chronologically or on the basis of an overall compositional balance.

"Old Growth Sprawl Forest" is a 4-image-by-4-image grid in which each image depicts one forlorn leafless tree stranded on the median of an upstate New York commercial strip. Taken individually, these images might make a statement about the caging of nature in our contemporary consumer dystopia. Displayed as a unit, each tree can be seen as an individual, almost a series of strangers in a strange land. That they are connected to each other—if alienated from nature, their nature—is symbolized by the sagging horizontal lines of utility wires that glide from image to image. (This theme is further teased in many of the images by the background presence of utility poles, domesticated simulations of trees further distanced from their wild origins.)

As Johnson explains it, these images are about typologies, in some cases, or about time. "EW Falls" is a nine-image grid shot of the Eli Whitney Falls over a five minute period. It documents changes in the light on the rushing water within that short span of time. But it isn't necessary to know what the photographs document to appreciate the work on the level of aesthetics. Each individual shot, and all taken together, look like a well-balanced abstract charcoal drawing.

The centerpiece of Johnson's portion of the show is "Suite Niagara," a series of 10 3x3 nine-image grids all shot of Niagara Falls. It starts, at left, with images of the falls, the Maid of the Mist cruising in the background. This grid is the most overtly documentary of the suite. One of the benefits of viewing the images in a grid such as this is that we are challenged to look closer. In searching out the differences between individual shots the viewer takes more notice of the details: the way the water looks in each shot, the variations in the billowing of the mist. Over the course of the suite, the images trend more toward abstraction as Johnson's subject becomes less the falls per se and more the qualities of light on the water and the spray in the air. In the suite, transformation occurs within the sequence of each grid. But the suite also documents a transformation in Johnson's way of looking at and photographing the falls.

There will be two artist talks in conjunction with this show. On Sun., Feb. 8, at 2 p.m., Joe Saccio will discuss his sculpture. And, rescheduled from Jan. 28, Keith Johnson will present a large screen PowerPoint presentation "10 Years in Search of Nirvana with St. Lucy" on Wed., Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.

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