Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, August 22, 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
My Brother Jack: Works of Silas Finch & Larry Morelli
Through Sept. 4, 2011.

There is an unusual film preview on view at Kehler Liddell Gallery through September 4. My Brother Jack features work by local artists Silas Finch and Larry Morelli. Works of each artist will feature prominently in writer/director Stephen Dest's (Web) film of the same name, slated to be shot in New Haven this fall. (There is also a promotional trailer for My Brother Jack playing on a continuous loop in the gallery.)

The approaches of the two artists are strikingly different. Whereas Morelli's paintings (and a suite of drawings) are kinetic and gestural, Finch's sculptures are stately and intricate.

Morelli's paintings bristle with energy. His work—both portraits and highway landscapes—are characterized by the forcefulness of his application of paint. To say these works are gestural doesn't really do them justice. The physicality of Morelli's painting implies a powerful emotional engagement with his subjects.

Where some painters express their boldness through rich, pulsating color, Morelli chooses to invest himself in mark making, the energy of paint coating canvas. In fact, his color palette is generally muted although some bright yellows—like the sun peeking through a cloudy sky—do dash across the surface of a couple of his highway landscapes.

Finch's found object sculptures are painstakingly hand-built. (The main character in Dest's film is a found object sculptor.) A former professional skateboarder, Finch often uses old skateboards as the base for his assemblages. Fascinated by history, Finch reclaims the past—almost enters the past—by using relics from the past in his work. This includes old newspapers and magazines, antique cameras and other scavenged items from flea markets and junk shops.

A series of three skateboard-based works relives traumas from the 1960's—the shooting of a young East German trying to flee over the Berlin Wall ("2 Sides of the Communist Coin"), the John F. Kennedy assassination ("Prime Suspect") and Charles Whitman's 1966 mass murder shooting spree at the University of Texas in Austin ("Charlie"). Finch either hand-stitches or otherwise affixes image-laden stories from yellowing copies of Life magazine and The New York Times to the skateboard, collage-style. He makes the pieces pop with additional elements, pulling out the imagery into the third dimension almost like the sculptural equivalent of a journalistic "pull quote." The Berlin Wall work includes framing of a length of barbed wire and a piece of cement—an actual chunk of the Berlin Wall, perhaps? A gunstock and old movie camera add referential depth to "Prime Suspect."

Not all of Finch's sculptures/assemblages are based on skateboards—see the image detail of "Indefatigable Nixon," for example. But they all combine an unfettered sense of imaginative play with a love for the materials and a gift for finding evocative ways to reuse them.

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