Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Two-artist show opens Saturday in Washington Depot

The Behnke Doherty Gallery
6 Green Hill Rd., Washington Depot, (860) 868-1655
Just Beneath the Surface: Works by Michael Quadland & Brian Walters
May 18—June 24, 2012.
Artists' Reception: Sat., May 19, 4—7 p.m.

Press release

The Behnke Doherty Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition: Just Beneath the Surface, featuring the Grid Series of paintings by Michael Quadland and the Burst Series of sculpture by Brian Walters. The show will also highlight the Shona Sculpture of Zimbabwe. The exhibition will run from May 18 through June 24. There is an artist reception on Sat., May 19, from 4—7 p.m.

At first glance, Michael Quadland’s paintings appear deceptively simple. Yet upon closer study, they reveal themselves to be extraordinarily complex. He is perhaps most readily described as a Color Field painter, and indeed his work is deeply influenced by the Abstract Expressionist Color Field painters of the 1940’s and 1950’s whose large expanses of flat, solid color literally spread across the canvas in vast fields of unbroken surface. There are clear antecedents to his paintings in the early works of Clifford Still, Barnett Newman and Hans Hofmann. But these artists focused first and foremost on consistency of form and surface and consciously de-emphasized brushstroke and texture.

For Quadland, while saturated color is essential to creating the overall mood of a piece, it is not the end goal in and of itself. Building his paintings painstakingly layer by layer and then selectively scraping away what he has laid down, he creates extraordinary depth and mystery. Color is at one moment revealed, and in the next hidden. The resulting shades and hues enter into dialogue with each other. The impact on the viewer is as much emotional as visual.

But Quadland then takes things a step further. By scratching out a seemingly endless configuration of grids, squares, and lines, the artist infuses his paintings with intense energy. Upon reflection, his works seem to constantly transform themselves as different elements of underlying patterns alternately take the forefront, only to recede and grant prominence of place to another arrangement. The result is an ever-changing vision of immense dynamism. His works immediately bring to mind Robert Rauschenberg’s masterful “black paintings” of 1958-64 in which the artist literally scraped away the canvas’s surface to reveal all that was already going on underneath.

The Burst Series is the most recent work by sculptor Brian Walters. Continuing his exploration of reclaimed material, these pieces made of clear coated stainless steel evoke nothing less than the visual energy of the expanding universe. Pivoting on a single interior point of gravity, the works literally seem to hang in that suspended moment just as the explosive force reaches its maximum, reminiscence of the ephemeral beauty of fireworks as they hover briefly against the night sky. The satin clear finish on the steel serves to heighten the effect as it reflects and amplifies the light.

In Walter’s hands, the metal loses its original identity, its rigid stasis transformed into energy and motion. What once was rigid is transformed into vital force. Defying the weight of the medium, Brian’s pieces seem to float in the air of their own accord, bursting into the viewer’s awareness.

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