Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Even in death, Wojnarowicz a target as censors come knocking

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
David Wojnarowicz: A Fire in My Belly
On display indefinitely.

The culture wars are back.

Of course, we haven't been truly free of them since the heated battles of the early 1990's over such controversial art world touchstones as Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs, Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" and the NEA Four—performance artists (Karen Finley, Tim Miller, Holly Hughes, John Fleck) whose grants were overturned in a display of mewling self-censorship by the National Endowment for the Arts Executive Director at the time John Frohnmayer.

But with the ascension of a GOP majority in the House of Representatives coinciding with a new Depression, the need for corporate-oriented conservatives to displace economic anxieties onto cultural anxieties—and the power to do so—has once more become acute.

The target, as in the early 1990's, is gay sexuality and its expression in art. The catalyzing event in this current contretemps was the reaction by right wing blogger Penny Starr to the inclusion of a four-minute excerpt from the late David Wojnarowicz's video "A Fire in My Belly" in Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Wojnarowicz, who died of complications of AIDS in 1992, created "A Fire in My Belly" as both a cri de coeur and cry of rage over the ravages of the disease in the gay community and societal indifference to the toll.

In response, Real Art Ways in Hartford—and many other arts spaces around the country—is showing Wojnarowicz's video as a protest against censorship and an act of solidarity with demands for intellectual and artistic freedom. (Real Art Ways is showing a different four-minute edit of the Wojnarowicz piece.)

According to information posted on the Web site of the National Portrait Gallery, Hide/Seek "is the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture." The exhibition "considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America; how artists explored the fluidity of sexuality and gender; how major themes in modern art—especially abstraction—were influenced by social marginalization; and how art reflected society’s evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment."

Right wing, homophobic bigot William Donohue of the Catholic League, which has no official connection to the Roman Catholic Church, then got into the act, too. While Starr and Donohue recoiled that an exhibit dealing sympathetically with same sex attraction was being shown in the federally-funded auspices of the National Portrait Gallery (albeit with private funding for the show), they were particularly exercised by short snippets in the Wojnarowicz video of ants crawling over a Jesus on a small crucifix.

After John Boehner, the incoming Speaker of the House, and Eric Cantor, incoming majority leader, "called for the dismantling of an exhibit in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery after they learned that it contains video of a Jesus statue with ants crawling on it, as well as works of art with strongly sexual themes," as reported by The Hill on Nov. 30, the Smithsonian caved and removed Wojnarowicz's video.

The art world response was almost immediate. The next day, Transformer, a Washington, D.C. contemporary art space, downloaded a four-minute version of Wojnarowicz's video and began showing it in their storefront window. Transformer Executive and Artistic Director Victoria Reis organized a protest for Thursday, Dec. 2. Some 100 protesters—many covering their faces with masks of Wojnarowicz's face—watched the video and then marched to the steps of the National Portrait Gallery where they stood in silent vigil. In a creative new media tactic since then, some anti-censorship activists have gone to the Hide/Seek exhibit and browsed the works while wearing iPads playing "A Fire in My Belly" in a silent, continuous loop.

Will Wilkins, executive director of Real Art Ways in Hartford, took the helm of that organization in 1990, just as the culture wars hit their boil. When the NEA Four had their grants yanked, Wilkins contacted the four artists the next day and invited them to Hartford. Real Art Ways presented shows by each of the NEA Four in Hartford and also arranged for some shows in New Haven and Northampton in Massachusetts.

In an interview at Real Art Ways last week, Wilkins tells me that the Internet has facilitated anti-censorship organizing this time. When Wilkins heard Transformer was showing the video, he contacted Reis the next day and asked how she got a copy. Told they got it off YouTube, Real Art Ways did the same and. The video is showing indefinitely on a continuous loop in the video room. Additionally, Real Art Ways obtained permission from P.P.O.W. Gallery, which represents Wojnarowicz's estate, to show both a longer version of "A Fire in My Belly" and the profound "Untitled (One Day This Kid...)" poster featuring a picture of Wojnarowicz as a young boy and his lacerating text describing his experience of oppression as he embraced—and was tormented for—his sexuality. The Wadsworth Atheneum, which has an original of "Untitled (One Day This Kid...)," is also showing it in solidarity with the anti-censorship campaign.

"It wasn't a hard decision to make," Wilkins says. "Part of our mission—at the center—is support for artists. This is very clearly an act of self-censorship on the part of the Smithsonian."

While Wilkins believes anti-gay bigotry and not religion is behind the outcry by Starr and Donohue, he doesn't dispute their right to express their criticism. What Wilkins finds more troubling are the statements from Boehner and Cantor suggesting the Smithsonian's funding is at risk over the work.

"It's kind of chilling when you look at Congressmen making threatening statements like that, threatening and bullying behavior," says Wilkins. "They're trying to push the Smithsonian around.

"This is not about Real Art Ways saying 'we can't be censored.' It's about a national institution," Wilkins says. "It's about the whole idea that you don't apply a political litmus test to people working in museums, or in academia. If they are good at what they do, let them do it. This isn't the former Soviet Union. There is such a thing as intellectual and artistic freedom."

Wilkins is pleased at the extent of the anti-censorship response.

"Places all over the country and internationally are sharing it. That's really exciting to me. It could be a sense of solidarity with the idea of the original exhibition at the Smithsonian. There are certain values worth standing up for," argues Wilkins. "In some ways, there is some good that's already come out of it because of people's prompt and unified response." Because of the resistance to the act of censorship, Wilkins contends, "More people have become aware of David Wojnarowicz's work."

Accompanied by a Diamanda Galás soundtrack, the version of "A Fire in My Belly" showing at Real Art Ways is four minutes of gut-wrenching intensity, notwithstanding the low resolution of the Web-sourced video. Blood drips into a bowl, coins drop into a hands of a beggar. Faces of anguish flash on the screen. Large carcasses of meat are hung up. A man undresses and starts to masturbate in semi-darkness. Fire-breathers belch flames in the Mexican streets where the video was shot. Quick cuts show mummified figures, their gaunt visages akin to those of end-stage AIDS patients. Images of two halves of a loaf of bread being stitched together are juxtaposed with painful footage of Wojnarowicz himself having his mouth literally sewn shut, an allusion perhaps to the silence of government officials, medical professionals and clergy that condemned thousands to lonely and painful deaths. (One of those thousands was my youngest brother, Peter Judge, a gentle soul and wonderful investigative journalist who died of complications of AIDS in February, 1991 at the age of 30.) And then there are the ants crawling over Jesus on the crucifix, an image of suffering in the face of social passivity.

THE P.P.O.W. Gallery and the Estate of David Wojnarowicz addressed the controversy over the ants in an official statement:
On behalf of the estate, the gallery would like to offer the artist's words to illuminate his original intentions. In a 1989 interview Wojnarowicz spoke about the role of animals as symbolic imagery in his work, stating, "Animals allow us to view certain things that we wouldn't allow ourselves to see in regard to human activity. In the Mexican photographs with the coins and the clock and the gun and the Christ figure and all that, I used the ants as a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is parallel to ours."

"Silence equals death" was the Act-Up slogan and Wojnarowicz's art was forged in that crucible of activism and agitation for life.

"His work is so strong and so reflects that horrible time," says Wilkins. "Watching the four-minute video is so visceral. It brought back the feeling of a time that's gone. It's almost impossible to describe to people who weren't there what it was like. I think of all the family and friends we lost—people who were creative people who would still be in our lives, creativity that would be part of our lives that's gone. It makes me feel particularly strongly about showing this work and saying stop the bullying, stop the gay bashing. Stop it!"

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ryan Brennan show opens this evening at Real Art Ways in Hartford

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Daxin Wu: Currency Portraits
Dec. 16, 2010—Feb. 13, 2011.
Opening reception and Creative Cocktail Hour on Thurs. Dec. 16, 6—8 p.m.

Press release

Close Your Eyes and Look As Far As You Can See, an exhibition by Ryan V. Brennan at Real Art Ways, invites viewers to become participants in the world in unexpected, whimsical and often humorous ways using collage, video and performance art. The exhibition will be on view through Feb. 13, 2011.

There will be an opening reception for the show on Thurs., Dec. 16, 2010 from 6—8 p.m. as part of Creative Cocktail Hour, Real Art Ways' monthly gathering for creative people. Creative Cocktail Hour is $10/$5 for Real Art Ways members.

The show's title work, Close Your Eyes and Look As Far As You Can See, is what Brennan calls a "cinemallage": a piece that serves as the set and viewing platform for a stop animation movie. In this work, a dreaming young man—embodied in a plastic toy astronaut—explores a vibrant utopian landscape. Told in the naive language of a fairytale, the story belies a deeper narrative of the quest for self-discovery.

The exhibition will also include Brennan's Living Exercises Project, a series of instructions designed to facilitate introspective, cathartic and enlightening experiences. Exercises include "Hold Hands with a Stranger" and "Ten-Minute Communal Solitude and Silence." The exhibition displays footage of people performing the exercises, and there will be bound books of instructions available at the opening.

Also in the Real Art Ways galleries, Olu Oguibe's Wall and Saya Woolfalk's Institute of Empathy are on display through March 20, 2011.

Ryan V. Brennan (b. Cincinnati, Ohio 1982) has exhibited in Chicago, New York City, Miami, Richmond and San Francisco as well as internationally in France. He has shown in Scope New York 10, Scope Miami 09, Scope Hamptons 07 and LA Art Fair 08/09. Ryan received the Jonathan Madrigano Fellowship for the Arts through the National Arts Club in 2010.

He also was the recipient of a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center in 2006 and has been featured in a variety of publications including The New York Times, Beautiful/Decay LA, Daily Serving, The Sunday Paper, Atlanta, Biscayne Times Miami, and Savannah Morning News.

Artist Statement:
Cinemallage Series 2008-09

Cinemallage: pieces that are simultaneously the set and viewing platform for stop animation movies.

Housed within each collage is a video player displaying chapters of an imaginative tale of a young mans journey through a future utopian fantasy world where he learns how the power of imagination can make a change in the world around him. This story employs the naïve language of fairytale as a vehicle to engage several real issues in today's society evoking hope and community in a trying time of uncertain future.

Following the protagonist through this future utopian world we come across many characters who discuss various concerns we face today such as recession, credit and mortgage crisis, global warming, social inequality, and modern food production. The characters give insight into how they overcame such challenges and offer the power of imagination as a means for hope for a better future.

Living Exercises Project 2009-10

An ongoing performance project based on a series of instructions to be done sometimes privately or publicly, aimed to broaden one's perspective personally and socially. Recorded in the form of an instructional handmade book of exercises to be done along, with friends, family and strangers, the series facilitates introspective, cathartic and enlightening experiences. Included with the handmade books are DVDs documenting several recent performances described within the book.

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Monotypes show opens at Atticus Bookstore and Cafe this evening

Atticus Café
1082 Chapel St., New Haven, (203) 776-4040
Elizabeth Steele: Recent Monotypes
Through Jan.23, 2011
Opening Reception: Thurs., Dec. 16, 5:30—7 p.m.

Press release

Elizabeth Steele is an artist who has lived and worked in the New Haven area for the last 25 years. She studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art before moving to Connecticut to finish her BFA at Southern Connecticut State University, and then spent many years on the faculty of both the Guilford Art Center and Creative Arts Workshop. She has also worked extensively with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to develop colors and faux finishes for architectural models. She is now employed at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in the Education Department.

This show of monotypes, done in the last year, represent an ongoing interest in using subtle color to create semi-abstract landscapes, as well as some pieces inspired by the fossil collection at the Peabody Museum.

There will be an opening reception for Recent Monotypes this evening, Dec. 16, from 5:30—7 p.m.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bruckmann/Clinard show reception Sunday afternoon at Kehler Liddell in Westville

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
Frank Bruckmann & Susan Clinard: New Work
Dec. 9, 2010—Jan. 19, 2011
Opening Reception: Sun., Dec. 12, 3—6 p.m.

Press release

Kehler Liddell Gallery is pleased to present a two-person exhibition of new paintings by Frank Bruckmann and new sculpture by Susan Clinard that revel in the spirit of anti-technology art to communicate emotion and allegory.

Before moving to New Haven, Frank Bruckmann studied at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he spent nearly a decade in France and Spain coping the masters in the great museums and painting landscapes in the cities and countryside. These years of intense study inform his rich palette and humanist depictions of contemporary America, which provide him with endless sources of inspiration. Both a plein air and studio painter, Bruckmann paints that which surrounds him. Past series depict local merchants in their shops, cityscapes of downtown New Haven, sublime views of West Rock, and landscapes of Monhegan Island, Maine, where he frequently travels.

For this show, Bruckmann will present new small and medium sized paintings of the volcanic Gabbro rocks in Monhegan that are more detailed and abstract than anything he has done before. The paintings investigate the mysterious surfaces and orifices of the purple-black rocks, delicately cut by white lines (quartz) and speckled with orange clusters (fungi). The paintings investigate new textures, shadows, colors, and reveal secret biological world that fights to live in places the human eye cannot see.

Susan Clinard is one of those rare artists who can work in wood, clay, bronze, stone and metal. Real people, experiences, and stories inspire and inform her work, which confront issues of inequality, fear, compassion and courage. Since giving birth to her first son in 2004, motherhood and life cycles have become major semi-autobiographical themes. For this show, Clinard has treaded on radical new ground, and will present a series of mixed media wunderkammers, (“cabinets of curiosities”). Wunderkammers were popular toys of nobles in the late 1500ʼs, before the advent of public museums. These cabinets, ranging from small boxes to library-sized rooms included collections of oddities that belonged to a specific natural history—precious minerals, strange organisms, indigenous crafts, collected from civilizations and placed in a microcosmic memory theatre. Clinardʼs wunderkammers incorporate this idea of the biological unknown, and organize the various found elements in compartments that suggest an internal, psychological narrative. Each cabinet shelters its own landscapes, precious moments, and measurements of darkness and clarity.

Clinard will also present a new major installation titled “Procession,” which incorporates figurative elements that she is known for. Unlike her traditional clay busts, the line of male figures is roughly cut, minimal and distorted. Positioned on a wheeled platform, the men move in a unified direction with a clear purpose, lending to a strong compositional impact. The work responds to the ceremonial weight and cultural significance of processions in contemporary and ancient history—their association with life, death and strength in unity.

There will be an opening reception for this show this Sun., Dec. 12, from 3—6 p.m., with an artists' talk at 3 p.m. and live music by oud player Qusai Al Bakri.

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Friday night opening at the Fairfield Arts Center

Fairfield Arts Center
70 Sanford St., Fairfield, (203) 319-1419
Duvian Montoya & Ronnie Rysz: Linear Structure
Dec. 10—24 2010
Opening Reception: Fri., Dec. 10, 6—8 p.m.

Press release

The Fairfield Arts Center (FAC) opens its newest exhibition, Linear Structure: Duvian Montoya/Ronnie Rysz on Fri., Dec. 10 with a reception that evening from 6—8 p.m. This exhibition showcases drawings, linocuts and paintings by Duvian Montoya and Ronnie Rysz (Web). The exhibition will run through Dec. 24, 2010. Other related events include an evening discussion with both artists from 6—7 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 17, 2010 and a life drawing class on Sat., Dec. 18, 2010 from 1:30—3:30 p.m., led by artist Duvian Montoya. All events will be held in the Ellen Hyde Phillips Gallery at Fairfield Arts Center.

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Friday night art opening and Christmas party at A-Space, West Cove Gallery

West Cove Studio & Gallery
30 Elm St., West Haven, (203) 966-9700
Emilia Dubicki: Cold Suite
Bridges, Inc.
Dec. 6, 2010—Jan. 2, 2011
Opening Reception: Fri., Dec. 10, 6—10 p.m.

Press release

sameness-difference-variance is a group exhibition at West Cove Studio & Gallery running Dec. 6, 2010—Jan. 2, 2011. Organized by Eric Litke, the exhibition brings together work by eight Connecticut artists who share an interest in serial approaches to presenting their imagery, and creates a dialogue between the traditional poles of "painting" and "photography".

Included are works by: John Bent (Web), Cham Hendon (Web), Keith Johnson (Web), Eric Litke, Jeff Ostergren (Web), Jessica Schwind (Web), Mark Williams (Web), and Robert Zott (Web). The opening reception is Fri., Dec. 10 from 6—10 p.m. Open Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.—4 p.m. and weekdays by chance or appointment: (860) 878-5589.

Also on view will be Cold Suite, an installation of drawings by Emilia Dubicki (Web); Bridges, Inc., a photograph show curated by Harold Shapiro (Web) and other works by studio artists throughout the building.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Rogoff painting show reception Thursday at New Haven Public Library

New Haven Free Public Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
Herb Rogoff: The Way It Used to Be and Is Now
Through Dec. 29, 2010
Artist's reception: Thurs., Dec. 9, 5—7 p.m.

Press release

Herb Rogoff is a polymath of art and illustration, as a painter, illustrator, filmmaker, lecturer, editor, and publisher. Born in the Bronx, he attended the High School of Music and Art, then the NY State College of Art and Science. He received his BA from City College, and later studied with Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League. As an illustrator, his work was published in books by Doubleday, Berkeley, Scholastic, and Dell; and in magazines like New York, Redbook, Psychology Today, Intellectual Digest, Playboy, Playgirl, Opera News, and Astrology Today. His illustrations have appeared on such record labels as United Artists, RCA Victor, Vox, Folkways, Caedmon, and Vanguard; and on television shows like Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Star Trek, Marvel Comics shows, and NBC Sports. His storyboards are seen in the advertising campaigns of Nabisco, Lufthansa, Nescafe, the New York Times, and L’Oreal.

Since 2006, Herb Rogoff has been concentrating on a series of paintings entitled, My America: the Way it Used to Be and is Now, with themes on Coney Island, New York City’s Lower East Side, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Stork Club, baseball, and carousels. As a lecturer, he has given over a hundred talks at various venues on these themes. For the last 20 years, he has been publishing a Baseball magazine, One More Inning (the entire run of which is in the Baseball Hall of Fame), and two monthly magazines, one on trivia, and another on films. He has turned out 6 films, which have appeared in over 80 film festivals around the world, and some have won awards.

Herb Rogoff is represented by ACA Gallery, voted by the NY Times as one of the ten most prestigious NYC galleries. Major retrospectives have recently taken place in New York State at the Lotus Gallery, Woodstock; The Glen Rock Gallery, Glen Rock; 21st Century Gallery, Nyack, the Kanner-Kurzon Museum, New Rochelle; and at the Rockland J.C.C.

Rogoff enjoys giving talks on the newspaper comics and comic books, the history of baseball, the “screw-ball” film comedies of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the Jewish traditions throughout history, and many movements and schools of art history of the US and around the world, and he will speak at his reception on some of these topics. He lives in Garnerville, NY.

There will be an artist's reception for this show this Thurs., Dec. 9, from 5—7 p.m.

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Thursday opening of photo show at Arts Council's Crosby Gallery

Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery
70 Audubon St., 2nd floor, New Haven, (203) 772-2788
Small Works, Big City
Dec. 1, 2010—Jan. 14, 2011
Artists' reception: Thurs., Dec. 9, 5—7 p.m.

Press release

The Arts Council of Greater New Haven presents Small Works, Big City, an exhibition curated by Jennifer Jane, in the Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery, 70 Audubon St., 2nd floor. The exhibition will be on display during business hours from Wed., Dec. 1 through Fri., Jan. 14. A public reception is scheduled for Thurs., Dec. 9, from 5—7 p.m.

Curated by New Haven artist Jennifer Jane, Small Works, Big City is an exhibition of photography by established and emerging local photographers Chad Anderson, Kathy Conway, Sean Corbett, Jay Cusano, Sara DeGennaro, Angela Gately, John T. Hill, Linda Lindroth, Robert Lisak, Sven Martson, Jordan Nodelman, Thomas Strong, Brittany Whiteman and Joann Wilcox.

The exhibit will showcase works of 8”x10” or smaller, featuring urban images of New Haven and cities worldwide. Small Works, Big City captures the physicality and essence of a city within a petite viewing plane.

Works will be available to the public for purchase at accessible prices, transforming the acquisition of an original artwork from reach to reality.

Curator Jennifer Jane discusses the origin of the exhibit: “The idea for the show came together as we were trying to think of something fun and inviting for holiday gift givers. I asked the photographers to contribute images that were taken in big cities…actually showing people on the street, architecture, that kind of thing.” Through Small Works, Big City, she continues to cultivate relationships with and opportunities for emerging photographers by juxtaposing their work with that of more established professional photographers.

Couple Angela Gately and Jay Cusano are two such emerging photographers hoping for some exposure through Small Works, Big City. The pair produces photographs exploring New York City’s streets through images of the homeless, graffiti, and other urban vistas. Their works will appear side by side with the likes of well-established local photographer John T. Hill, a photographer and graphic artist known for his contributions to New Haven’s art scene for many years.

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Series of prints on Matthew Shepard murder at Housatonic Community College

Housatonic Museum of Art
900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport, (203) 332-5052
Nomi Silverman: The Shepard Cycle
(On view on the 3rd floor of Beacon Hall at Housatonic Community College)
Through Jan. 8, 2011

Press release

In 1998, Matthew Shepard (Wikipedia article), a young gay man, was murdered by peers. In court the defense claimed the crime was a gay bashing. Titled The Shepard Cycle, Nomi Silverman of Glenville, Connecticut, created a suite of prints in 2008 that detail this narrative. Silverman’s prints are on view on the third floor of Beacon Hall at Housatonic Community College (HCC). The installation is sponsored by the Housatonic Museum of Art and is on view through January 8, 2011.

Silverman structured the persecution and suffering of Shepard much like the Passion of the Christ, also known as the Stations of the Cross. Silverman explains, “I used the Passion of the Christ/Stations of the Cross in this manner – describing his last night (and a few days after) loosely in those terms. I took liberties with the images, and moved and even eliminated one, but they are essentially there.”

The works on paper are created using two printing processes, lithography and etching. Silverman says, “The idea is that each medium is slightly different – allowing for a push and pull of emotions. Etching is a very violent medium, using acid on a plate to eat away at the metal. Lithography, the ‘gentler’ medium, allows for more nuances and a beautiful drawing-like quality which is perfect for the more subtle scenes.”

In her introduction to Silverman’s portfolio, printmaker and painter Ann Chernow describes Silverman’s approach as approximating the social critique and sure-handedness of artists such as Spanish court painter Francisco Goya. Regarding the Stations of the Cross, Chernow adds, “Of particular significance is her liberal use of the Stations of the Cross as the allegorical vehicle to depict her intensity of feeling. The entire suite is a condemnation of political and religious hypocrisy that emerged in response to the Shepard case, …”

Silverman sees the series as a continuation of her impulse to address social and political issues, “Over the years, [my art] has dealt with the origins of hate and how it spirals through the generations into violence, so often against those perceived as outsiders.” Through printmaking, the artist harnesses the storytelling capabilities of rendered images and expresses her emotional response to a senseless act with confidently etched lines and visceral applications of ink. Silverman hopes viewers will react to the feeling of each type of print as they follow Shepard’s story.

The exhibition is open to the public at no charge. Hours are: Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 5p.m.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Saccio and Saladyga at Kehler Liddell

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
Joseph Saccio & Gerald Saladyga: Site Unseen
Through Dec. 5, 2010

The exhibition airing of Joseph Saccio and Gerald Saladyga at Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville ends tomorrow. It is a fine show of new (Saccio) and old (Saladyga) work by two artists with shared interest in incorporating metaphysical themes into their art.

For me, the paintings of Gerald Saladyga came as the biggest surprise. Dating back to the early 1990's but not shown until now, they are geometric and austere. As with his present works—which I have written about several times in Connecticut Art Scene—they are painted with latex house paints and modeling paste.

Saladyga has told me the quiet understatement of these paintings was a personal reaction to his paintings of the 1980's. The 1980's paintings, figurative and expressionist in nature, offered visceral revulsion to the violence of American foreign policy at the time, particularly in Central America. Saladyga told me that he ended up recoiling from his own representations of violence; these works addressed his concerns in ways more symbolic and spiritual.

I've written about Joseph Saccio's work before also. Saccio employs organic and inorganic materials to plumb themes of death and rebirth. In several of the works here, Saccio engages with the book form. In some cases this is overt. With "Do Not Forget the Burning Books," a cyliner of ruffled pages with singed edges is wedged between segments of a tar-blackened telephone pole. The book form is an interesting choice for Saccio because his works invite reading and interpretation. They are freighted with metaphor, dreamlike.

Whether this was Saccio's intention or not, "Do Not Forget the Burning Books" invokes two different forms of communication: written (books) and oral/verbal (telephone pole). To riff on that some more, we see the written word trapped within the two segments of the telephone pole as if verbal, technologically facilitated communication is squeezing out the written literary form. Of course, there is another association here—that trees have a second life as the paper that makes up the pages of a book.

Three works in the show were created in memory of a friend of Saccio's who dies in the 1970's. "Elegy for Clint: Homage to Motherwell" and "Requiem for Clint: A Thousand Cuts" are wall-mounted sculptures that also allude to the book form.

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