Friday, February 12, 2010

Time is running out...3 shows to go see....

Time is running out, but there are 3 exhibitions in Akron right now which offer a wide range of styles. Collage x 12 is on view at the Summit Art Space (140 E Market Street), Collider 2: Camille Utterback and Herb Rosenberg, Dialogue with an Ancient Forest, both at Emily Davis Gallery (150 E. Exchange Street) all on view until Feb. 27th.

The latter two are at the University of Akron so let’s visit them first. The Herb Rosenberg installation consists of 12 large scale (9 foot tall) aluminum columns on wood bases. They are positioned to act like a forest with “silent histories housed” in them. A sound composition plays in the gallery, written by the artist’s son, so the whole “silent” experience was rather ironic. Rosenberg is an international artist who happened upon his technique by accident, which is primarily how most good stuff happens anyway. One of those thesaurus induced statements is posted on the wall, but I did not see it until I had made my way through the forest stopping to see each tree. I am glad I did not read it ahead of time because what I viewed had nothing to do with what he was talking about. What I did see was really interesting however. My trip was a fantastic voyage, and by that I mean the movie where people are shrunk down and injected into the body of some person in order to accomplish some mission. Hey, it has been a long time since I saw it so I don’t remember all the details. Rosenberg’s aluminum creations, as much painting as sculpture, with their brush strokes, patterns and shading in addition to their dimensionality and holographic surfaces, are more body part than tree bark. The sound track would have been really cool to be a beating heart rather than a John Tesh-like new age whatever. Amongst the trees I saw bones and joints, a spine with intestines, chambers of the heart, and what could have been a shiskobab of gallstones. Okay, it sounds sick, but it really is rather fascinating to try and figure out where you are in a body. Even the organic curves of the columns hints at human form. What may have been intended to be a knot on a tree is just a bit too nipple-like to convince me otherwise. (Or else I have spent too many hours in life drawing class and see body parts everywhere….)

Downstairs is the Collider 2: Camille Utterback installation. She is identified as a “pioneering artist and programmer in the field of interactive installation.” AU has just added a new program called New Media Art since the art world is supposedly moving in that direction and the death knell has sounded for pencils and brushes. Is your coffee cup shaking? Because my inner dinosaur is stomping around again in protest. I have walked past this exhibit a few times looking in the window and wondering when it was going to be installed. Dummy me….it was there all the time. 2 apple computers with 2 projections on the walls, so one is to stand in a designated square and move around. Your body movements interact with what is projected on the wall via some kind of computer technology. Okay, that’s kinda cool. I remember doing that with my kids at the science museum in one city or another when they were little. I also just saw the same type of thing at the Chicago Art Institute in the architectural design gallery. I can’t comment too much because I don’t know much about computer art and technology. I guess it took a lot of work and thought. Not sure what one will do with it when the show closes, though it sure is easy to transport and store. The first piece is called “Untitled 5” which insinuates that there are 4 previously untitled computer programs someplace else. The other is called Text Rain which is a poem that is raining down in streams of letters in which the “reader” (that would be you in the designated area) has both a physical and mental interaction with the process. Yep, I sure did. It mentally annoyed me and the dizzying affect of the letters gave me a headache, mission accomplished! I will leave this type of new age art up to the younger generations in school right now. I just can’t appreciate it for two reasons, my ignorance of the media and my age based bias against it. I was trying to tell my husband about it and his response is dead on….”probably just another ‘artist’ who can’t draw”.

Finally, over at Summit Art Space, is Collage X 12, an exhibition of 12 invited members of the Ohio Collage Society. I like collage and do it myself on occasion so I was really looking forward to this show. For the most part, the works are hung in groups by artist with an occasional out of order selection. There are gems and there are clunkers within each grouping. I made notes on my handout beside different pieces so as to remember specific details, but rather than point out a title here and there, I think it best to explain my take on collage. To me personally, (and I stress personally), a collage is a dimensional design of various materials and objects that still needs the formal elements of art and composition applied to its structure and creation. Without those bones, collage can become a mess of newspaper clippings, snippets of photos, junk drawer finds, and “stuff” that has no place for the eye to rest, no focal point and may even come dangerously close to scrapbooking. A collage can very easily look like a second grade art lesson or a craft project found in the pages of a 1960’s how-to book. Good collages stand out as do the photo magic of Alexander Aitken whose work reminded me of the Bev Doolittle horse paintings. Jan Noden had her share of gems too. I know one is supposed to spend time in front of each piece enjoying the nuances of the components which I did for some of them. Like most people who come into a gallery, we stroll on past, giving each one a few seconds of our time. I watched several groups do just that. As an artist we have to know this and make our work worth stopping for. What can catch the viewer’s eye? What story can we tell? A pretty picture is not always worth a thousand words.

As I said in my original blog statement, my purpose is to tell you if a show is worth going to, what I like or don’t like about it, and my feelings on the current scene. These three are ones to be seen if you hurry. Summit Art Space is open Thursday through Saturday 12 – 5 with free parking, and Emily Davis Gallery at AU is open Monday through Saturday 10 – 5 and until 9 on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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