Monday, February 06, 2006

Review: In Brief

[Image of work by Reanne Estrada]

The First Friday events can be a great chance to gallery hop and see as much art as you please in one night. But, I find myself struggling to get to as many spaces as I set out to do to. Too much socializing on my part. After all, that is one of the important aspects of these events. The rubbing elbows with the art curious, chatting with artist friends who you rarely see outside their studios, as well as the ever constant art scene gossip. I often look at the opening events of a gallery show to be the sneak peak session. It's a complete social event. You briefly see whether or not you want to see more of the show, hear from others about the shows they have seen that night, and when it is all said and done, you make plans to go back and view the show during regular gallery hours and view the art without the distractions. This may not always be plausible, particularly when many of the alternative gallery spaces rarely have "regular hours" and at times some of these art events last no more than one or two nights. So, I recommend taking advantage of the galleries extended hours for really viewing the work. Well, following are some brief reviews of some of the shows I visited within the past few days.

'New Landscapes' by Tom Keesee at Ruschman Gallery: I stopped by and viewed this show a couple days before it actually opened, so not every painting was hung. To be honest, when I first saw the postcard for the show I was not impressed. I thought to myself, 'great, another boring landscape painter'. I was wrong. The image of the postcard was misleading and failed to capture the qualities that make Tom Keesee's paintings work. These paintings were slathered with broad strokes of thick paint in vibrant, intense colors. One sees that these are landscape paintings from afar but as you near them they become more and more abstract. This is especially true of the smaller works where the paint can easily be an inch or more thick in areas. As a painter, I found myself jealous at the shear amounts of paint he must go through on these works. But, Jealous or not, I am glad I was able to see these paintings upclose and plan on seeing the show again before it comes down.

'A Moot Documentary' by George Benedict Murray III at Flux Space: This show is a prime example of my comments above on seeing a show on the opening night. When I first arrived at Flux Space, it was hard to even get inside the door. The small scale of the space was filled with more than 30 people, with more than a dozen hanging out outside. I scoped out the show and chatted with some friends but realizing that I was having problems really getting to view the work properly I decided to come back the next afternoon when they were open. Seeing the show now, in a more quiet atmosphere was quite helpful. I could now see how pieces related to one another and how some, for me, did not. The more sculptural/installation works in the show, for me, made the show work. The play, on the concepts of documentary seemed to me much more resonant in the 3D works than it did in either the paintings or the drawings. The sculptures seemed to play on notions of identity which was at times captured in the paintings but to a lesser degree of clarity. For me though, I do feel that the drawings in the show seemed out of place in the over all scheme of the show. That said, I liked this show and feel it is worth seeing when you get the chance.

'Contradictory Impulses' by Los Angeles based Reanne Estrada at iMOCA: Reanne Estrada makes works that are about drawing, the act of drawing in an expanded field. Her materials of choice for these works are packing tape and erasers. Here some of her works extend from wall works to floor based pieces. My favorite pieces in this show were large organic looking forms made completely out of packing tape. These forms reminded me of oceanic creatures like sea urchins, barnacles, and corrals. The light coming into the space would play of these pieces and at times sparkled, while the translucence of the material allowed them a kind of inner glow. The cutting and shaping of these pieces seemed to inspire and inform the wall drawing presented. Though an entity unto itself, refuse from the other work here finds a new life as it is put together in a way that creates its own kind of space, drawing as a form of collage. In the other room of the space were multiple wall and floor works of cut erasers mounted on acrylic supports. These pieces were playful and used the natural colors and variety of erasers to create paintings of sorts. Again her use, or play with the erasers becomes a form of drawing that become sculptural once again. For those who have not taken advantage of the iMOCA 'conversations and coffee with the artists' gatherings, I highly recommended it. Getting to meet Reanne and hearing about the works in her own words was entertaining and educational. The fact that it was very casual made me appreciate it more.

'Lipstick and Wood' featuring work by Chris Hodge and Anna Rae Landsman at Big Car Fountain Square: I wanted to like this show but didn't. Unfortunately, for me this show felt a little scatter shot. A hodge-podge of work in an anything goes manner. Perhaps that was intended by the artists, it just isn't with my taste to often. Another issue I had with this particular grouping was that some pieces were labeled and some were not making it harder for me to know whose work was whose. Anna Rae Landsman had some very nice works on paper that would have looked better with some editing of the shear number of works. I am interested in seeing more of her work though. While the works of Chris Hodge, well, I must say the only thing I liked about his drawing (lipstick and pastel sketches of women on paper) were the titles. Would I like them more it they did not use pastel but only lipstick to create the images, hmmm, maybe I would like them more. As for his wood reliefs, again for me it is a matter of context. These pieces are intermixed with the drawings and there seemed to be no relationship between the two on any level. They could have been made by two completely different people. In a different context, I think these wood reliefs could be seen in a better way. I might even like them. But as they stand now, in the context of this show, I feel the overall chaos is too much for me.

Also seen this weekend were the shows, 'Naturelle' featuring the work of Gala Bent, Penelope Dullaghan and Susan Hodgin, as well as 'Dude Art' featuring work from Paul Baumgarten and Todd Bracik, and in gallery #2 'paintings' by Tyler Meuninck and Andy Malone; all at the Harrison Center for the Arts. But for the sake of integrity and free of conflicts of interests, I sustain from writing reviews of shows that take place at the Harrison Center for the Arts as my studio is there. Perhaps one of my colleagues will write about one or more of these shows.

(Perhaps I can get more images from these shows as the week moves on, I forgot to take my camera with me the days I viewed the shows.)

2 Responses to “Review: In Brief”

Anonymous said...
February 7, 2006 at 1:08 AM


Thinking, not much or too much; but what about? How about originality or integity or mediocrity? Feeble expressions of a species in crisis. Searching for meaning in erasers and tape? Wishing for a lipsticked female to bring life; playfulness masking suffering? Feminist rhetoric turned on its head... Terror does not wear a facial mask it wakes you in the morning with wood and drives you to the store for more tape erasers and lipstick!

gben said...
February 7, 2006 at 9:59 AM

Thanks for the criticism Scott.

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