Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Breaking New Ground: Faculty Reading Room and Exhibition – Kent State Stark

Located on the lower level floor of the Main Hall on the Kent Stark campus is a little gallery best accessible by door 14S on the south side of the building. Open Monday through Friday from 11 – 5 and for two hours of Saturday morning, it is best to time a visit to your lunch hour or leave work early. I happened to be returning from the Strip area and decided to swing by to check out the current show on view until November 30th.

At first, I was confused. Not having been to this location before, I thought the reference to Faculty Reading Room meant the space itself as a couple of chairs and a bookshelf were tucked into the corner. A large format exhibition book caught my eye so I sat in one of the chairs and proceeded to read it. Full page descriptions or statements were included for most of the pieces in what I thought were the actual exhibit. The final few pages however then described music, poetry, and literature which is when I realized that the bookshelf and its contents were actually exhibition materials to be explored.  Audio selections are part of this exhibit too so perhaps the show should be viewed as a participation installation!

Apologies up front for the misspelling of any artist’s names. Weakness had yet again taken over my hands so holding a pen was a bit difficult and my notes are not easy to read.  I recommend that one read the statement book provided, view the pieces, and then re-read the book again if one wishes to really find and feel the intent of the artists. Who knew such deep and visceral content resided in the creation of these works! Evidently I must be rather shallow because if I had not read the book, I would never have come to such conclusions about what I was seeing. I almost wish I had not read it because I probably would have enjoyed it more. Therefore, I am going to Behold my brain cells (Pledge and Endust are also options) and walk you through a delightful show of visual artwork, devoid of lofty rhetoric.

Jack McWhorter has 2 of his signature style oil paintings on display. On the smaller side for him, these two pieces build from a base layer of stained canvas to include ala-prima and impasto drawn brush strokes intertwined like organic pods. “Gathering Signals” appears to be almost cut from a larger work as the strokes disappear off the edges to parts unknown. I was reminded of those puzzles my children had that were shaped like triangles and each side could reconnect to another in endless linear reconfigurations. “Simply Burning” is self contained and I was drawn immediately to the “face” in the lower left. We all know, once some unintentional image is spotted within a piece, there is no avoiding it again ever.

Chad Hanson’s “Treehouse 1” is the image on the show postcard and probably my favorite in the exhibit. I am not familiar with his work or his process of walnut ink and latex on paper, attached to the wall tapestry style by upholstery studs, but found it quite intriguing. Even though each entry is an original work, the technique produces an image like a print and his superbly rendered markings, so flat and so even, create this impression. The tree itself will hold your attention for quite some time. I wish I could have taken the facial renderings of “Conquering Force” and put them on the figures in the tree house however just to balance out the level of details. Students of history and political science will enjoy Mr. Hanson’s work as well.

Two large photographs are the work of Jeanette Mathis-Bertosa of whom I am also unfamiliar. Both are untitled (Grrrrr…) but include a location in China for each image taken that can substitute for titles. It is the matting style that contributed to the images and should be noted. One photo showing a woman in a window, had a black mat up to the edge of the photo creating the feeling that one is also in a window looking out and over at the girl. This puts the viewer into the scene. The second photo of a religious ceremony is mounted with a white boarder between the image and the mat that creates a respectful barrier for the viewer because we are not invited into this cultural moment of reverence. Our place is outside looking in, a sense heightened by the artist’s chosen form of presentation.

Tom Wachunas and Emily Sullivan each have one piece included but no stately statements in the book from which to take a peek inside their thought processes. Don King has a participation piece in the shape of a guitar with attached headphones and a small video screen in which to watch a short film related to the accompanying DVD. I did not partake.

6 small untitled drawings from a larger work are the offerings of Erica Raby. I found them to be both complex as the statement indicates, and as my notes say “Betsy Johnson’s chandeliers” or hanging baskets of surreal flora. One can apply the deeper meanings intended, or just enjoy the multiple layers of media and markings as self contained delicate drawings. I hope to someday see the overall larger piece from which these have been taken.

The only three dimensional works offered (assuming one does not count the books on the shelf) are by Carey McDougall and located in the center of the room on pedestals. Simply titled, richly detailed and finely crafted, these house like forms will hold your attention. Even more so when you read the book and come back to find conjoined twins, references to pregnancy and sexual overtones of Western civilization. 

If anyone is waiting to read Part Two, I have it ready to post, but nobody seemed to care about Part One so……perhaps more reviews should come first.

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