Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

City-Wide Open Studios, weekend two

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios
Through Oct. 30, 2011.

I couldn't get to Erector Square the first weekend because I was out of town at a family wedding. This Saturday and Sunday are the final weekend with various artists showing in the Alternative Space at the Coop Center for Creativity, 196—212 College Street in New Haven.

(Note: As of Thursday night when I am trying to post this, Blogger is giving me trouble with including images. So I'm posting it now without images and hope to add them soon.)

(UPDATE 11/2/11: Added images.)

I started off the second weekend by dropping by the studio of photographer Linda Lindroth. Lindroth had a wide array of her work spanning decades available to be viewed. But we spent our time discussing new work—large color digital images of objects like worn antique boxes, bunched-up vinyl shorts and fluorescent temporary yellow road stripes.

Lindroth shot the objects at extremely high resolution and then silhouetted them in Photoshop and blew them up to very large size. Many of the images have art historical references—Mark Rothko, Howard Hodgkins, Richard Serra.

A conical bowl made out of spun aluminum with a crackle texture surface reminded Lindroth of Richard Serra drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Serra used an oil stick, Lindroth tells me, so the surface of his drawings feature prominently.

On the facing wall, Lindroth displayed two images, one from the inside and one from the outside of an old gift box for a strand of pearls. The outside is aquamarine-colored with worn edges. The inside is the real treasure. The aquamarine coating of the splayed edges of the box is peeling off like old paint on a house, curling and flaking. The inner square is yellowed cream framed by a thick swirl of aged, dried mucilage glue—swirled and congealed, the color ranging from mustard to amber to deep caramel. Although they are flat images, they are richly tactile.

The ostensible subject of another image was the cover of a 19th-century photo album that used to hold the postcard-sized portraits one would get at a studio. The cover had been covered with red velvet and stuffed with cotton batting. But it had fell apart after 100 years. The velvet was degraded to the extent that there was only a smattering of tufts around the middle. Stray fibers were spun out from the frayed edges along with protruding cotton batting turned orange with age. With its subtle, shifting shades of red, the image suggested a painting by Rothko.

"I'm really excited about this," Lindroth told me. "When you're working on a series and it keeps reinforcing you and making you happy, you forget about all the difficulties and go with the flow."


Constance LaPalombara was showing cityscapes, still lifes and evocative landscapes. She has an upcoming show so most of her newest works were not on display, being held in reserve for that exhibition.

One of the most recent works that she did have on display—"Evening at the Pool"—was one of the results of a resident fellowship last fall at the Heliker-Lahotan Foundation on Great Cranberry Island in Maine. LaPalombara did studies in Maine and finished the large, square painting in her New Haven studio.

She told me, "It felt good to paint something big again. I hadn't done that for a while." LaPalombara said she had been "creeping up on it" and pointed to a medium-sized painting of a cityscape on a parallel wall.

"Evening at the Pool" is a serenely meditative work, low contrast and suffused with soft, pink light. The lagoon in the foreground is studded with jetties of squat rocks. A couple of small cottages nestle amid the forested horizon line. The sky is filled with the kind of light that promises night is just around the corner. The painting is deceptive. It looks simple but is rich in painterly detail: moss on the rocks, multi-color light reflections on the water's surface.


In his 39 Church Street studio, Gerald Saladyga was showing a range of work from minimalist geometric paintings made in the 1990's to current works in progress. Among the newest works was a suite of drawings on brown wrapping paper that Saladyga jokingly referred to as the "Wheelchair Series." Working with India ink markers, Saladyga made the drawings when he was incapacitated by injuries to his right leg and foot, now thankfully on the mend.

"I was like a kid with a crayon box—nothing more, nothing less—and your imagination kind of runs with it," Saladyga told me.

Increasingly, figurative elements have been returning to his work. His primitivist figures feature prominently both in the "Wheelchair Series" and in his new "100 Days in Eden," a series about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Saladyga is an artist in constant, restless creative motion. His work is always evolving, going through permutations.


I dropped by Silas Finch's studio. Finch is constantly acquiring objects that resonate with a sense of the past and offer him a platform to let his wild imagination take flight. His representative work in the main exhibition at Artspace incorporated horseshoe crab shells and, sure enough, he had more crab pieces in his studio.

His experimentation with using horseshoe crab pieces is an extension of his fascination with antiques and the past into organic parts derived from one of the oldest still existing species on the planet.

It's a challenge for Finch because the claws and molted shells are quite fragile. One idea he has is to layer the helmet-like shells, which appear either metallic or ceramic, so they look like Japanese shoulder armor.

On the same table where Finch has stacked piles of horseshoe crab shells, he has a half-dozen or so yellowed "Wanted by the FBI" flyers he picked up at a large flea market in Stratford. All the "wanted" flyers are for fugitives sought for "interstate flight"—among other crimes—and Finch envisions a work or series with that title.


Other work I enjoyed at 39 Church; Ken Lovell's digital paintings and prints, Jo Kremer's paintings and the paintings and drawings of James Jasiorkowski.


On Sunday I stopped by John Keefer's apartment/studio in Westville. It was a beautiful day and Keefer had paintings outside on the porch as well as lining his walls and propped against the wall on the floor. There were quite a few paintings from a new series Keefer has been working on that he termed, with a bit of a mischievous grin, his "ten-prong cock attack" paintings. Each painting was defined by the use of two colors and the design—a double set of interpenetrating fingers or, um, cocks.

Keefer told me he "wanted to make paintings really fast. I wanted them to be really simple." They are finger paintings—one color for each hand.

"Both sides are painted at the same time. I put stretches of color on each side and work towards the edges," Keefer said. He said they are "very satisfying objects to make." He doesn't have to think about the composition—he can just be in tune with the energy of it. One of the series was mounted on the wall near the entrance. Painted in opposing and complementary red and black, it had a vibrant energy with swirling trails of color.

Keefer continues to work on large paintings based on photographs and laid out on the basis of the classic grid system and has also been doing a lot of drawings. One complete work—or almost complete, Keefer isn't sure—depicts his late German Shepherd Casey standing in shallow water. Like most of Keefer's paintings, the application of paint is raw, unfussy. He uses brushes, yes, but also his fingers, the former business end of a spatula and his forehead. (He acknowledged that the latter painting instrument wasn't particularly effective.)

"It's best for me to do a couple of different things in close temporal proximity to each other," Keefer said.


Over at West Cove Gallery, I spoke with sculptor Jonathan Waters. We talked about one of his sculptures, a large, free-standing work in the middle of his big studio gallery that is part of his "Portal" series. As waters originally built it, wide boards painted black framed a large, open space. The addition of two thin verticals added a powerful dynamic. There was now a visual flow occurring within the frame and the open (positive) space became a type of S-shape.

"What happens is that you get pieces that are generative for a lot of other work," Waters said. "You open up and go, 'Oh, here we go again,' and this one is in that category."

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