Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Constructed Space, 10/24/17 - 11/29/17, at Lemmerman Gallery, NJCU

by Megan Klim

What compels artists to painstakingly create alternate realities and spaces? At the exhibition Constructed Space, curated by Midori Yoshimoto, Ph. D., four artists specifically take on this quest with different approaches that are all fascinating and unique. With some of the work, the process is not immediately known, yet hints at something otherworldly, dreamlike and surreal, while other works lay it all out deliberately and concretely. Regardless, this exhibition forces us to pause and wonder about the spaces we create as humans, while addressing the desire to re-create and manipulate them.

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Curt Ikens  “Platform for a Skeptical Constituency”
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Curt Ikens, Detail of “Unpleasant Enough”

Curt Ikens’ work is one which invites the viewer into his process- all layers of it. One of the pieces “Platform for a Skeptical Constituency” is on the floor and built into the corner. The outer edges show the bottom plywood, then the unstained wooden planks on top, which slowly become fully stained and more organized and even contain some inlaid detail toward the corner. I really enjoyed this visual experience which isolates each component while also working as one piece. Another piece (pictured below) “Figments of Forefathers”, takes a big square of flooring and hangs it as an object. The organic shape reminded me of a wooden quilt. Instead of stitching, we see his hand with stain swipes, and an irregular joining of the wood. In other works, he has scratched in color which suggests a primitive scrawl that one would find when an errant child found a crayon. Ikens' relationship with wood is authentic and palpable- he honors the structure of the wood and is also compelled to dismantle it.

Kim Keever  “Blue Delta”

Kim Keever’s work is completely the opposite in approach. His dreamy landscapes and spaces make us wonder exactly where this place is- when in fact it exists nowhere other than here. There is a removed quality to the work– as if we are viewing it through a decidedly murky lens. Keever’s process is opaque and one would not guess it without explanation. These are not “real” landscapes at all; they are totally artificial detailed miniature scenes submerged in a 200-gallon water tank and then photographed. Even knowing this information, I struggled to see them as “unreal”. This work really provokes us into thinking about illusion, realities and actuality. In “Blue Delta” (below), we are taken down the “river” and through the “hills” while looking at a majestic glowing “sky”. Keever creates his own personal and ethereal world that has never existed until now, and by doing so, challenges us to think about landscape and its definition.

Martin Kruck "Cell"

Martin Kruck’s work plays with space. He juxtaposes an image with a location which, when viewed together, create an unexpected interior. Unlike Keever’s work, Kruck's locations do exist in reality- he reinvents and manipulates them into a whole new space. His art examines that initial space and alters it by adding in elements that play off each other resulting in a whole new perspective. In “Savoy”, he places a classical sculpture in a medical examining room for great apes. The grid tiled room is accentuated with the presence of the sculpture that stands over a cement slab. A twinkling dust-like material is in the atmosphere; giving this stark composition a hint of surreal magic. In “Cell” (pictured below), Kruck uses formal elements simply and effectively. The rough texture of the enclosed space envelopes the billowy cloud. The white geometric opening counters with the ethereal puff, while balancing the shadow at the bottom. Here we have heavy vs. light, and open, yet enclosed. Kruck plays with a space that on its own looks uninviting and grim, and then transforms it with the visiting cloud which simply hovers there as a hopeful intruder, bringing air and lightness to an otherwise claustrophobic, empty existence.

Jeremy Coleman Smith  “Cross Section:  Bottom Shelf”

Jeremy Coleman Smith’s work offers a domestic narrative. Smith recreates and elevates mundane scenes out of man-made materials, such as cardboard, paper and foam-core. These materials are usually of little value, but they ultimately assume the qualities of the original objects. By having all components fabricated in this manner, Smith invites the viewer to think about what these scenes or objects can mean, rather than what they are. The reality of the object is removed, stripped away, thus forcing us to ponder their significance or rather the significance we ourselves assign to them. In “Cross Section: Bottom Shelf”, Smith recreates a kitchen sink area. Upon close inspection, we see the sink is paper with the paper seams in viewa purposeful reveal of the hand-made. We also notice that he pays attention to detail by simulating the textures on the paper rubber glove and sponge in the sink. On the bare counter sits a wine bottle-shaped ceramic piece, and above that is, perhaps, a half-drunk glass of wine strategically perched on a window ledge. This is where it gets intriguing, as the artist leads us through the slightly obscured glass to a marsh-like, mysteriously lit landscape, which transports us out of the interior and into what lies beyond the mundane. 

Constructed Space, 10/24/17 - 11/29/17. The Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, New Jersey City University, features work by Curt Ikens, Kim Keever, Martin Kruck and Jeremy Coleman Smith. The exhibit is curated by Midori Yoshimoto, Ph.D.

Monday, November 13, 2017

On a Different Page, 11/9/17 - 12/14/17, at Visual Arts Gallery, NJCU

by Megan Klim

The current exhibition on view at the Visual Arts Gallery reminds us that a book can be a cherished object not only for its story, information or message but as an intriguing piece of art that commands close inspection. Curator Eileen Ferara has smartly assembled a diverse group of artists that has interpreted the book by either altering them, paying homage to a classic, making a statement or re-imagining what possibilities a book can hold. 

Books are usually mass-produced; but artists' books are mostly one of a kind objects removing that aspect, therefore punctuating their individuality and uniqueness. I was curious to see this exhibition for a couple of reasons: I like the work of the artists chosen and am drawn to the idea of a book as a sculptural item. This exhibition is a well-rounded representation of the various ways a book can be viewed that also celebrates the book as object.  

Participating Artists in the exhibition are Aileen Basis, Kate Dodd, Asha Ganpat, Jaz Graf, Carole Kunstadt, Winifred McNeill, Ibou Ndoye and David Sandlin.

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Rag, A Bone, A Hank of Hair, 9/6/17 - 10/18/17, at Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, NJCU

by Samantha Garcia, Reporter
The Gothic Times, The Official Student Newspaper of New Jersey City University

Caroline Burton

On October 3, the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery in Hepburn Hall held an artist reception for Caroline Burton’s A Rag, A Bone, A Hank of Hair.  The gallery was filled with curious students, professors and visitors, as well as familiar admirers of her work.  The gallery was lit with amber lighting, which combined with the light of the setting sun cast the works in a golden, glow—an almost magical atmosphere.

Read the rest of the article here. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sup-A-Genius: The Five Guy Show, 9/22/17 - 11/11/17, at Drawing Rooms

by Kate Dodd

All of the works in Sup-A-Genius, a show of five installations currently at Drawing rooms, deal with aspects of harvesting and time. The artists were all selected because of their tendency towards work that “works”, that labors and produces, as any good invention will. These are makers making something make something else, and as such, it is worth looking at both their process and their product.

Joe Chirchirillo

Joe Chirchirillo has been making heavy-duty sculpture for a long time. Here he puts his collection of implements to use to create a water cycle, aka a gravity-fed fountain that fills the room with a sort of creaky bucket brigade made up of old farm containers. In one corner, a separate mechanism spins sporadically, marked by a propeller wing labeled water on one side and wind on the other. Its laconic movement, along with the complex arrangement of the aged vessels, creates a sense of abandonment, as if the resources of wind and water have dwindled to a trickle, and all that’s left is the labor of this mechanism, determined to continue regardless of the existence of any resources, while the repeated sound cycle marks the ceaselessness of time passing.

Anthony Fisher
Anthony Fisher has drawings and a video showcasing his process, along with some of what might be his drawing tools, on display. The black and white drawings range in scale; all feature mysterious marks, some made up of several drawings that are inlaid into each other. Delicate lines wrap around themselves on a ground that looks tough, grey, pocked by grit. This toughness connects to the brutish tools nearby, made up of weights and wheels on brooms. The video of Fisher arduously pushing heavy implements over paper on his studio floor supplies the link that reveals his process. Jackson Pollock meets Chris Burden. One could consider these drawings machine-made, albeit with significant labor on the manufacturer’s part, with the traces of the tools’ movement as the product being created; Fisher then “harvests” the raw material he has cultivated and fashions it into drawings and collages, elegant records of sheer willpower.

Roger Sayre

Roger Sayre actually uses his room as his portrait photography studio, complete with a refurbished clinical chair for clients and a large pinhole camera. The challenge here is to sit still enough, long enough, while staring at oneself in a mirror Sayre has rigged up, to result in a fixed image. A conflated Warhol Screen Test of sorts. Portraits done in this manner line the walls, in both black and white and color, each seeming to reveal its subject as if through a long journey from a distant place. The color portraits, in particular, refer to the myth of Narcissus, with the liquid-y backdrop suggesting that we’re actually peering through water at the subject floating beyond us, a reflection but not the real thing. These are the opposite of selfies; they require an attempt at introspection on the part of the subject rather than the masked pose marking one’s non-present presence at places or events of note. Sayre is distilling the essence of time spent with a disciplined will.

Kurt Steger

Kurt Steger’s work asks participants to give freely and endlessly of their time as well, although one would not know it by looking. His drawings of perfect circles in rich earthy hues on immaculate white paper make one think of a highly singular force.  The controlled drops of toxic water that create these rings contradict the purity of form, but don’t reveal the communal process required to manage such exactness. To create these, Steger asks participants to tend to the melting drips at the end of a swinging plumb line by rotating the paper surface that they land on; he hopes to create a communal experience reminiscent of tending a fire while sharing stories and wisdom. He has set up a contraption to illustrate this, although its diorama-like scale leaves it functionless, making the connection between the vagaries of people’s informal communal abilities and the refinement of Steger’s circles hard to reconcile.

John Morton

Fittingly, John Morton’s audio installation challenges us to not only participate in this harvesting of human will, but to believe in it as an action that will yield results. Belief is the subject of Fever Songs, a series of recordings of spiritual ecstasy from cultures around the world. As with other proximity sensor-driven pieces, this one requires experimentation and patience. Without enough movement around the room, aka participation on the part of the viewer, the sounds retreat to silence, possibly beckoning you back only as you walk out the door. The absence of voices prompts one to try again, to actually have faith that one’s presence is the thing that initiates action, a clear parallel to engagement with spiritual practice. The sensor acts as a god, reflecting back whatever one is willing to invest.

Each “Sup-A Genius” invention in this show suggests that a process will produce a product. Whether Sisyphean or hopeful, all of these works evoke a sense of effort, of sheer will, of “I will make this happen despite all odds” adding up to a mood of eloquent desperation in a world where effort doesn’t necessarily determine the outcome.

Sup-A-Genius: The Five Guy Show, 9/22/17 - 11/11/17, at Drawing Rooms, features works by Joe Chirchirillo, Anthony Fisher, Roger Sayre, Kurt Steger and John Morton. The exhibit is curated by Anne Trauben.

Kate Dodd is an artist and an art teacher in public and private schools for 25 years. Read Kate's bio here and view her artwork here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Honoring Margaret: The Work of Margaret Weber, 9/22/17 - 11/11/17, at Drawing Rooms

by Midori Yoshimoto, Ph.D.

The birds are embodiments of the threatened world of nature and a spiritual aspect or projection of humans, an alter ego, in a sense: knowing and vulnerable.
                                                                       - Margaret Weber

Dark Passage #1, 18” x 18”
Intaglio ink, Caran d’Ache neocolor crayon on paper.

In the over thirty works by Margaret Weber which are on view at the Drawing Rooms, certain over-arching themes emerge. Nature, as well as man’s interaction with it, and concerns over environmental and human destruction predominate. In the first room, a hawk is hailed as a harbinger, carrying a small human skull on a stem over what appears to be a deluge. According to the artist’s statement, this series of intaglio prints from 2013, entitled, Dark Passage, asks a question: “Will nature carry on despite human destruction?” The question is even more poignant now that politicians and corporations do not even acknowledge the effects of global warming and the fact that it is largely caused by human destruction and pollutions. Weber titled her 2013 catalog, published by Victory Hall Press, “Birds of Pray,” turning the usual predatory birds—hawks, falcons, owls— into prophetic seers of human destruction, while still holding out a hope for some force behind man, a divine force, delivering us from ourselves.


Birds are part of several recurring motifs throughout this modest, yet thought-provoking retrospective exhibition - dedicated to Weber, who unfortunately passed away last year due to cancer. Since Weber moved to Jersey City from New York City in the early 1970s, she completed both undergraduate and graduate studies in Fine Art at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University), and taught art at Jersey City’s public schools for nearly three decades. Because of her devotion to art education and art advocacy for the emerging artists’ community in Jersey City (including co-founding of Drawing Rooms), she is honored by this posthumous exhibition.   

The Flea and The Mortal
Painting, Collage, and Intaglio, 2007

Weber repeated her favored motifs, of birds, birdcages, helicopters, and various body parts because she ran an intaglio studio and was able to utilize the same intaglio plates to create multiple impressions. She would often cut out her prints and collage them with found paper, textile, feathers, and other materials. In one of the largest works in the exhibition, a diptych entitled, Song of Icarus, helicopters emerge out of the body of a goddess-like figure who has actual bird feathers for hair, while a large hawk covered with human hair is falling into the ocean as Icarus did in the Greek myth. By exchanging some of human characteristics with those of a bird, Weber sought to evoke both the “bond and rupture” between human and animal nature. (Weber, p. 46). By creating a warm tonality of bright colors in this diptych, however, she embedded elements of hope in an otherwise fatalistic scene.

 Double Feathered Eye

Weber’s interest in Greek myths and her ability to connect them to contemporary social and political concerns recalls Nancy Spero and her drawings/collages. Like Spero, some of Weber’s work centered on the symbolism of female bodies, visualized as fragmented body parts. Mixing personal and political concerns echoed the strategy of the feminist art movement as well. A couple of her works also contain the motif of fists, expressing the power to resist and fight. An exhibition like this will hopefully inspire younger audiences who are distraught in the current political climate to find their own voices and the means by which to express them.

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Red Fist

Reference: Margaret Weber, Birds of Pray (Jersey City: Victory Hall Press, 2016).

Honoring Margaret: The Work of Margaret Weber, 9/22/17 - 11/11/17, features drawing, collage and prints by Margaret Weber. The exhibit is curated by Anne Trauben.

Midori Yoshimoto is Gallery Director and Associate Professor of Art History at New Jersey City University. Read more about Midori here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

NJCU MFA Dress Rehearsal, 7/28/17 - 8/12/17, at Drawing Rooms

by Megan Klim

The concept of a “Dress Rehearsal” exhibition is somewhat novel for candidates working towards their MFA, since usually, it is after a thesis is completed that the work is exhibited. This approach, which was deftly curated by Anne Trauben and hosted at  Drawing Rooms in Jersey City, offered not only a glimpse into the artists’ current thinking, but also offered a sneak peek into their developing processes and in one case, to an already established artist. As an MFA candidate, it can be a vulnerable time for finding your voice. Here, some artists were more on target than others, yet, as a whole, the exhibition showed depth and promise. Regardless, it was a welcomed opportunity to see these artists during this personal period of exploration. The candidates are: Alejandro Rubin, Duda Penteado, Marco Cutrone, Maria Tapia, Michael Barreto, and Rachel Kehoe.

FullSizeRender (5).jpg Michael Barreto

Michael Barreto’s work spoke to uncertainty yet fortitude at the same time. His layered somewhat chaotic backgrounds were punctuated with clean looking stenciled text with catchphrases heard often.

Polarized statements such as “Believe you Can and You’re halfway There” lived on the same picture plane as “Post No Bills” adding a contradictory slant. The artist also used objects with text, with one having 5 very worn-out work gloves, man-sized, with the word DEADBEAT stenciled at the bottom. I found this piece to be the most visually pleasing with its earthy undertones, while being intriguing as I tried to make connections to the very used gloves and to the text that perhaps suggested otherwise. I am curious to see where he brings his interplay of text, object, and surface next.

FullSizeRender (3).jpg Alejandro Rubin

Alejandro Rubin’s work was intimate and personal without much fanfare. A swimmer, I could easily see his direct connection to his digital prints of the sea in his homeland of Venezuela. Some photos were cropped and some filled the whole frame. The images were seductive and took on a material feel; almost like an eraser drawing with the blurred edges of the changing sea with areas of depth. One could get lost looking at the subtle tones of the water and it’s immense power through the stopped action of its movement, while also bringing the viewer to a quiet veneration. Rubin also had an installation across the hall, which invited the viewer to sit in a welcoming leather chair facing an old-school small TV looking monitor that showed his sea pictures in an almost imperceptible loop forcing the viewer to take an even closer look. There was a wind-like sound in the background, which turned out to be a passing train– perhaps a nod to urban life vs. the solitude one feels staring at the vast sea. Directly in front of the chair on some sand, a large metal bin filled with water was placed to soak your feet as you ruminated on the pictures. Rubin created a relaxed, yet controlled environment for us to honor his images, while inviting more of our senses.

Rachel Kehoe

With Rachel Kehoe’s work, I was intrigued and perplexed simultaneously. Kehoe took old paintings, the kind you find in a thrift store, and altered them by painting in her own imagery. For example, one landscape had a flying saucer (added by her) in a wooded area. In another, she added the famous “Starry Night” sky by Van Gogh to an already thickly painted landscape. There was no real attempt to integrate the already given style of the original paintings which only separated the additions further.  She states “kitsch” in her statement, but I saw no solid commitment to that stance. Also, in some paintings, the original artist's names were either lightly blurred out, crossed out more fully or not at all. I couldn’t see a connection to why this changed from piece to piece. There were, however, notable attempts to use famous imagery (Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec). Some imagery felt random– as if she was simply taking an already existing painting as her “ground” and inserting things without any clear direction or connection to the original. But, in one she had great success. The colorful post-modern crisply painted dots placed over a drab mono-toned still life soared. Here, she created tension while having a conversation with what existed underneath. This piece considered the original and played off it in a visual, formal and historical way. I hope she continues in this direction.

FullSizeRender (1).jpg Maria Tapia

As can happen when an artist seems to be exploring their work, I saw two different approaches in Maria Tapia's gallery space. The left side of the room had some imagery (crosses, symbols), mixed media (yarn), while the other had mostly simple, painterly abstractions which were where my eye was held. Tapia writes that she wants to create “Narrative Atmospheres” and with these 4 pieces, she has. These pieces looked like she had fun while making them with the creamy patches of paint, touches of color and brush marks dancing the plane as visual stepping stones to carry us through. These paintings offered us a tactile experience– simply and without fuss. I think Tapia hasn’t made the decision just yet which route to take, but I hope she trusts her instincts to have the materials speak on her behalf.

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Marco Cutrone

As soon as I entered Marco Cutrone's room, the words “The Male Gaze” came to mind. These skillfully, realistic and carefully crafted paintings all showed beautiful women in various poses with mostly sparse Hopper-esque backgrounds. What I found immediately interesting was the fact that of all 8 pieces– only one woman looked at the viewer. The others were turned inward, looking away pensively or to our backs. There was a voyeuristic quality to this work– as if someone uninvited was the careful observer to women unaware, yet also a quiet interplay of honoring the subjects. One in particular, “A Bed of Roses”, caught my attention. The space Cutrone created was awkward and unsettling. Is she sitting? Laying down? And why were her hands placed in that manner? The highly rendered floral background really showcased the figure here. Overall, these pieces felt somewhat staged, punctuating a sense of detachment as one retreats into their own thoughts.

FullSizeRender (4).jpg Duda Penteado

As an already established and successful artist, I was really curious to see how Duda Penteado’s work would shift under the framework of an MFA program. Having been familiar with this artist’s previous work, I saw the same palette and energy, yet this work seemed more pared down and singular. Penteado’s shapes teeter between biomorphic and structured that live in that un-named space in between. His stacked shapes reminded me of a Jenga game tower that was more writhing and unstable, yet would stay standing with the strength of its determination. Penteado is a master of offering up a color experience mixed with shiny metallic areas and black outlining. His shapes are his own– a mixture of body parts, architecture and pattern with portals into them. Penteado’s work tackles big ideas of humanity and purpose resounding with joy and angst which provide a full experience.

NJCU MFA Dress Rehearsal at Drawing Rooms, 7/28/17 - 8/12/17, at Drawing Rooms, features drawing, installation, painting, photography and sculpture by Alejandro Rubin, Duda Penteado, Marco Cutrone, Maria Tapia, Michael Barreto, and Rachel Kehoe. The exhibit is curated by Anne Trauben. Megan Klim is an artist. Read her bio here and view her website here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Can-Man Show, 06/22/17 - 7/22/17, at Drawing Rooms

by James Pustorino

The Can-Man Show, 06/22/17 - 7/22/17, is an exhibition of works by Rainbow Thursdays Artists at Drawing Rooms. It is a culmination of almost five years of progress as artists for the group. The show was named by one of the participants as such, since collecting cans for recycling is one of the ways they contribute to their hosting program, Windmill Alliance, and being the Can-Man was a role that they could identify with. As a group, everyone has a pretty fun sense of humor. Wayne even made a painting of the mythic Can-Man for the cover of the exhibition catalog. As a group, Rainbow Thursdays Artists create imaginative, thoughtful works that explore and investigate the possibilities they see and hope for.

Aida draws in colored pencils, working from early Christian icons and Renaissance paintings in books and mass cards. She translates her devotional imagery into simple, flat space and symbol, representing the table at The Last Supper by a circle, angel’s wings by a double curved line, and using glowing, rich colors. Alan draws ordinary scenes such as city hall, the Bayonne Bridge, local schools, trees, and playgrounds. Using both words and imagery, he makes poem drawings and his own version of crossword puzzles about these subjects. Charles will draw landscapes, animals buildings or abstractions, but people are his true subject. He can look at a person and draw them and he will sometimes make his own version of the artwork that the person next to him is making.

Cheryl has a strong sense of pattern and sees pattern in nature. Her work has a graphic quality, stylizing the elements of nature. An underwater scene becomes stripes of color, the sky becomes arcs dipping down, the ground becomes a stage for birds or sheep or deer to walk across. Debbie has worked from paintings by modernist painters such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Matisse, and American scene painters Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, as well as from animal drawings or photos. She has a way of making images part of her own unique world, simplifying forms and rearranging spatial compositions. Christopher's images include the tree of life, a rainbow, a windmill, his precise geometric abstractions, and his word pieces, that in themselves are portraits of alternative personas. He makes pictures in focused flashes of concentration, standing at the table and creating distilled and precise images. It was Christopher who named the program Rainbow Thursdays. Dennis likes to draw pictures of helicopters, boats, bridges, mountains, whales, buildings and trees and finds relationships between forms and colors. He builds a picture by outlining major shapes and developing mass with a careful accumulation of color marks, adding on details or figures with a deft graphic touch.

Dina's work is very gestural and almost kinetic. Her subjects are often hearts flowers and seasonal themes, Christmas trees, Easter baskets, or snowmen drawn from her imagination. Ed's artwork has become a vast array of images and shapes, some drawn from his mind and others from photographs or his response to books on African or Aboriginal art. Ed’s masterful build-up of marks and linear colors and textures energize the surface of all his pictures. Eric draws from books of paintings or photos of his favorite television stars, and strives to get a good likeness. He recently completed a drawing series celebrating every major character in the TV show Full House, along with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge from the opening credits. Eugene's brilliant shapes of pure color are completely abstract. His intuitive understanding of design and imagery is similar to that of early 20th century artists such as Matisse.

Hirra's drawings engage writing and symbol-making, and remind one of hieroglyphs. The vocabulary of her works includes tents, churches, houses and people, with crosses scattered everywhere. In them, she is working towards developing a sense of structure and, like a quiet graffiti artist, she wants to express what is on her mind. Jimmy makes smooth, looping lines in one color as if they were drawn while listening to music. Next, he starts a slow process of filling in color, usually one specific color, which he will use for a series of several drawings. He never intends on completely filling the forms with color, leaving a strong positive/negative balance within the work. Jude's pictures consist of emblematic imagery: a clock, a person or a house, which repeat often, along with symbols such as hearts and shamrocks. Whatever he draws is expressed with a spindly, electrified line that enlivens the forms. Judy's animals or plants engage repetition and variation to achieve a lively, bright pattern. Her dancing hares, floating dragonflies, and leaping dolphins are animated by blocks of color and juxtaposed with delicate line-work. Legs and wings sometimes end up in surprising configurations, and overall there is an ordered sense of beauty.

Kaitlyn has studied works by Van Gogh and Paul Klee and creates her own kaleidoscopic assemblies of lines and ribbons of color, which she arranges like musical notes. Linda draws with an emphatic charcoal outline to be later colored in. She has a style to her cartoonist drawings that would make wonderful children’s book illustrations– the kind that adults really like too. Louis has a real talent for portraiture and there is a very strong graphic sense to his work, which is always a combination of words and image. He always works from images he finds on his phone or in print, from pop-culture, black history, advertising, animals, indigenous art and other sources that come to his mind. Luis constructs his paintings out of fluid lines and painterly washes of colors. His work is free and inventive in any medium; the works shown here are his watercolors and acrylics.

Marcello uses oil pastels to create rainbow pictures. He thinks carefully about his color choices and the order, width, and intensity of each band. MARY BETH draws with a cartoonist’s sure sense of line and quick confidence. Her subjects, schmoos, are almost always a mix of right-side-up and upside-down parts. Michael's art is coloring. He will either work from drawings started by Dina, or will work in coloring books. He sometimes will create a new drawing by creating systems of blocks or grids with his crayons. Mina makes dense webs of scrawled, circling movements. His drawing is an activity, an expression of the motion and energy that he has within himself, as well as of the physical limitations he has to deal with.

Nicky has a few major themes that he repeats in his drawings: cruise ships, dinosaurs, camels climbing hills of sand in the desert, and blimps. He is very interested in the larger things in the world, like the tallest buildings or the biggest ships. Nicole is a natural painter. Her blending of tones and hues, and her use of brush strokes to activate and build-up the texture of her paintings is sophisticated and beautifully achieved. Noreen's artwork is often very abstract, but it also seems to be about something, and is expressive of her ideas and personality. She will draw in layers, often making a kind of face first and then layering over it with drawn colors, sometimes adding paint on top of that.

Paulette works very intensely, laying color line over color line and building up a dense progression of drawn tone and texture. Drawing is one of the few ways she can communicate, and Paulette has a strong sense of focus each time she makes artwork. SAL draws from an inner graphic language of shapes, line and words. His drawings are systems of symbols that suggest hieroglyphs, and are usually inscribed and dedicated to the person to whom he gives the drawing to. Timothy begins with photographs of girls that he may know or may like to know, and draws in pencil first. He then adds color and a setting. He has also been making paintings, working from a photograph or combining photographs to get across the idea he wants.

Wayne experiments with color and paint, sometimes mixing his colors on his pallet and sometimes laying down pure strokes of color on the canvas so that colors optically mix. Wayne’s images come straight from his imagination. His world is filled with happy monsters, people turning into butterflies, happy bugs, and Chinese soup. Wendy likes color and chooses her colors carefully. She works partly with a brush and partly with her fingers to get the movements and marks that she wants. Her paintings have a dramatic, energetic contrast of colors and explosive bursts of dark and bright hues. Yahirra's landscape pictures are luminous arrangements of tones and textures achieved by using colored pencils, markers, watercolor paint, oil pastels and crayons. She will work from photo-images or create from her memory.

Rainbow Thursdays Artists is a weekly community-based art education program connecting developmentally disabled adults with professional artists who provide them with materials, training, and encouragement to express themselves through art. This weekly outreach art program consists of about forty participants many of the participants are advancing in their creativity and skills and are developing an identity as an artist. The program encompasses a study of great artworks, the natural world, and images of people through books and photographs, and encourages each participant to understand drawing as their unique visual language with which they can create realistic and abstract form and systems, and express emotion and ideas through line and color. The population at Windmill may have very varying capabilities, but everyone participates enthusiastically and many come up with surprising results.

The Can-Man Show, 6/2218 - 7/22/17, at Drawing Rooms features drawing and painting by Rainbow Thursdays Artists. The show is curated by Anne Trauben.

James Pustorino is an artist, arts organizer and the Founder and Director of Drawing Rooms, a Victory Hall Inc. no-profit art space and gallery, and Rainbow Thursdays Artists, art classes for developmentally disabled adults. Read his bio here and view his website here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Innocence of Trees, 4/21/17 - 6/10/17, at Drawing Rooms

by Bruce Halpin

Landscape as subject matter has had, in Europe at least, a long history as being of the lowest rank of the painting genres. In America, however, its importance has been significant. In the 19th Century, landscape painting became the vehicle through which American ideals were most consistently expressed. Landscape painting performed the role of documentary as the westward expansion pushed its way across the continent, and also served to remind society what was being destroyed in the process. The theme of Arcadia lost runs through much of 19th Century landscape painting accompanied by the nostalgia for "unspoiled nature", which was rapidly disappearing. Great forests were consumed by the pursuit of “progress" as the machinery of capitalist production was let loose on the wilderness. At the same time, nature was gaining ascendency as a manifestation of the “Divine” was expressed through transcendentalist writings. This inevitably led to contradiction; Thoreau was aware that the axe, which created his dwelling, was also responsible for lost trees, which he missed in much the same way as he might miss a human companion. Nature was seen as an expression of God’s will and its representation took on spiritual overtones. It is against this backdrop that can be seen as a contemporary exploration of the spiritual in nature as expressed through trees. In her book, Nature and Culture, Barbara Novak identifies two complementary aspects of the American Sublime: Grand Opera and the Still Small Voice. The works in this show belong predominantly to the latter, although some share aspects of grander scale.

Kathleen Vance, Traveling Landscape Blue Marbled Stack,
2016, 39" x 29" x 17"

Kathleen Vance’s intimate works allow the viewer to enter miniature landscapes of the artist’s design. Placed within pieces of outdated luggage chosen for their emotional resonance, these pieces portray scenes based on the artist’s experience, but are not a recreation of any particular place. Ms. Vance intends her work as a meditation on the use and ownership of land and provide a respite from the fast pace of contemporary life. Jewel-like and precious (in a good way), these works serve to remind us of the value of nature’s restorative effect on the human spirit.

Dana Scott, Ghost Forrest, installation, 2017

Dana Scott’s installation “Ghost Forrest” immerses the viewer within an environment created by columns of printed chiffon fabric hung on metal semi hoops attached to the wall. The sheer chiffon creates a subtle tension between a photograph of an Aspen forest printed on the surface and what can be seen of the room through the fabric. Site-specific, this work takes on the intimate quality of the room in which it is installed. One could imagine this work existing on a much larger scale.

Geoffrey Sokol, Trees With Stone In Snow, 2017,
photograph, 15" x 10"

Geoffrey Sokol employs a more conventional approach to photography. Mr. Sokol utilizes both digital and film to create his images, depending on the mood he wishes to invoke. Although the photos appear to be black and white, all, save one, are in color, albeit extremely subtle in effect. These photos reflect both Mr. Sokol’s interest in Japanese prints as well as 19th Century photography. The very subtle handling of color is reminiscent of early photographs and evoke a mood of nostalgic revery. The result is poignant and beautiful.

Shelley Haven, La Vieja, 2001, 15 1/4 " x 12 1/4"

Shelley Haven’s quiet, meditative paintings employ calligraphic depictions of branches as well as a sure color sense to achieve a moment of distilled emotion. One senses a quality of absorptive observation in their making. Each painting seems to reflect something real, seen and felt. A highly developed sense of light infuses these works, making them specific to a time of day. These paintings draw one in and create a feeling of timelessness.

James Pustorino, Spirals of Ascendance, 2008/9,
pencils, acrylics on denril, 90" x 96"

James Pustorino’s wall-sized mixed media works combine drawing and painting in an investigation into space and structural systems. Using multiple views and a multidimensional approach, he creates compelling images of trees, which exist in urban environments and are often overlooked. Mr. Pustorino’s method is intuitive yet precise, using observation and careful draughtsmanship to achieve his ends. These impressive works exist in a place where the philosophical and spiritual combine with a lively visual expression and fuse into a dazzling whole. As impressive as these large works are, his smaller drawings display a high degree of accomplishment as well as an engaging intimacy.

Julie Anne Mann, The Twins (diptych), 2014,
Walnut Burl, Etched Silver Leaf, 24" x 48" (each)

Julie Anne Mann has presented two compelling types of work; one two-dimensional, the other three-dimensional. Her “Starlet” and “The Twins” are both executed in etched silver on walnut burl. These works, which seem like portraits of anthropomorphized organic forms, have an eerie, haunting presence. The etched silver gives these forms a dramatic sense of light. Ms. Mann’s other work, “Threshold” is composed of gathered branches arranged in a circle on what could be considered the main wall of her exhibition space. The contemplative nature of this work is combined with a striking visual form and serves as a space for meditation. In a somewhat paradoxical way, the striking formal aspect of this work invites the most nuanced of reactions.

Anne Doris-Eisner, Tree Series - No. 12, Newport, 2016,
Acrylic on Paper, 24" x 52"

Anne Doris Levine Eisner’s work presented here consists of medium to large-scale drawings/paintings of tree trunks and branches executed in a variety of media on paper. These works express an intense emotional response to natural forms, which is reinforced by Ms. Eisner’s use of black white and grey in a highly charged manner. The works, which could almost be seen as confrontational, impress upon the viewer an intense physicality as if the images were wrought out of the most basic of gestures and technique. As such, they are highly effective as vehicles for Ms. Eisner’s obviously intense reactions to her subject.

Yeon Ji Yoo, detail of installation, 2017

Yeon Ji Yoo’s ambitious installation completely fills her room with an invented environment that employs fantasy, dreams, half-remembered images in a thoroughly overwhelming manner. Drawings and sculptural elements combine in a seamless whole of undeniable intensity. Ms. Yoo’s work evokes delicate ephemeral memories interwoven with a strong sense of material thingness, as if the forms are haunted by memories of a past which remains tantalizingly out of reach, yet exerts its presence in an almost unbearable emotionality. This installation requires time to experience and its meaning emerges slowly and piecemeal as the viewer moves through the room. Ms. Yoo’s formidable technical skills never seem to call attention to themself at the expense of overall effect. Ms. Yoo’s installation is both a poignant personal recollection combined with a technical tour de force.

Claire McConaughy, Grey Sky, 2017, Oil on canvas, 60” x 48”

According to Claire McConaughy, she has been painting trees as long as she’s been painting. To be clear, Ms. McConaughy makes painter’s paintings in which material is transformed by gesture into space and light. It is akin to alchemy, in which a base metal is transformed into gold, and is no less mysterious. Although Ms. McConaughy’s paintings are made in her studio, rather than Plein air, there is nonetheless a sure sense of light and place; these are real places. Ms. McConaughy's handling of paint evokes Manet in its deftness and sort of loose precision, while her color sense seems to be entirely of her own invention. The paintings here range in size from small and intimate to largish and dramatic, yet each evinces a pitch-perfect sense of scale. Also included in her exhibition are several drawings executed in powdered graphite and alcohol. These drawings are exquisite investigations into line and form. They invoke an almost uncanny sense of space and share the casual precision of the paintings.

"The Innocence of Trees” provides a multifaceted glimpse of the role of nature in contemporary art and underscores its importance as a source of contemplation and the spiritual succor, which can be found there. In these times when nature herself seems to be under attack, it is more important than ever to realize how fundamental it is to our existence. The curator of this show, Anne Trauben, deserves a special acknowledgment in bringing these artists with divergent expressive strategies together in a coherent whole.

The Innocence of Trees, 4/21/17 - 6/10/17, at Drawing Rooms, features installation, painting and photography by Kathleen Vance, Dana Scott, Geoffrey Sokol, Shelley Haven, James Pustorino, Julie Anne Mann, Anne Doris Levine Eisner and Yeon Ji Yoo. The exhibit is curated by Anne Trauben.

Bruce Halpin is an artist living in Jersey City. Read Bruce's bio here and view his artwork here.