Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stunning Saladyga landscapes showing in Fairfield

Art/Place Gallery
11 Unquowa Rd., Fairfield, (203) 292-8328
Gerald Saladyga: Landscapes in Transition
Florence Zolan: Back and Forth
Through Apr. 30, 2011.

Landscapes in Transition is a stunning show of recent paintings by Gerald Saladyga. This show is evidence that his work continues to evolve, becoming ever more complex and rich with symbolism, allusion and social comment.

I have to admit that my initial reaction to these developments in Saladyga's style was to be concerned that perhaps his compositions were becoming too busy. It was a reaction I kept to myself and I'm glad I did because it allowed me time to fully digest these new ideas.

As I've written before, Saladyga is influenced and inspired by star charts, maps of war zones and the view from airplanes.

These are, in fact, meta-landscapes—stylized representations of mountains, starry skies, forests, seas. But the meta part comes in with Saladyga's commentary on the literal and metaphorical wars being waged against the landscape. Oil derricks, submarines, bombers, fighter jets, nuke plants, bulldozers. Comic book-like explosions rend the sky and bulbous plumes of radioactive steam belch from reactor cooling towers.

Against this imagery are arrayed signifiers of the forces of nature in retreat: silhouettes of birds, bears, marine mammals. And, perhaps hinting at our own mad dash toward suicidal extinction, the vision of war in the painting "Everything That Rises" is flanked by silhouettes sauropod and pterodactyl dinosaurs.

The human presence, when it appears at all, is represented by cartoon faces observing the mayhem in frozen, wide-eyed, mouth agape amazement and disbelief.

All this intellectual energy and social commentary is undergirded by superb draftsmanship, complex yet readable design and Saladyga's mastery of his own approach to using latex paints.

Also on display at Art/Place are a series of prints and collages by Florence Zolan called Back and Forth. Although in a separate room from the exhibit of Saladyga's paintings, it's a complementary show. Saladyga's compositions have an almost collage-like aesthetic. A few of Zolan's collages with mixed media include maps and some of the forms in her prints resemble forms found as recurring motifs in Saladyga's paintings.

But where Saladyga's paintings are brash and apocalyptic—albeit engagingly so—Zolan's works are quieter and meditative. According to her artist statement, Zolan enjoys the play of different contrasting elements and it shows in her work.

In "Spaces," "Spaces II," "The Space Within" and "Soft Spaces"—smaller works combining print, collage and pastels—mottled print inks and softly contoured shapes abut solid color cut paper. The collage "Fan Fare" is an energetic work that appears to nod to Dada and Suprematism.

These shows are up through this Saturday.

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