Friday, October 7, 2011

Tom Wachunas at 2nd April Main Floor Gallery

One of many new shows opening tonight is an exhibition of 13 pieces by area educator, artist and fellow blogger, Tom Wachunas featured in the main floor gallery space of 2nd April Galerie. His work is often included in area shows as single entries so to see a whole collection at one time and be able to absorb his messages is a rare treat.

By his own definition, his work is “Christcentric” and he makes no apologies or justifications for his soul searching metaphors. His artist’s statement gives insight into how to view his works as real objects as well as symbolic studies of what we may or may not know or believe about the Holy Spirit. As with all art (or music, movies, books, clothing, TV shows etc….) some will like it and some will not. Some will see only the “message” and not move past that. What a shame.  The pieces need to be digested for a time, explored from various angles and appreciated for their elements and content whether one is interested in the spiritual side or not.  Tom has given us a body of work and not just a collection of pieces. There is a distinct difference between the two.  One needs to make connections between all 13 on view to appreciate his purpose behind the product.

“Big Bang Theory” is a large piece that reads like a chunk of space out of our cosmos. With its underlying grid that serves to provide a type of order and structure for the more aggressive wrappings that peel back from the surface exposing the ever expanding universe, this construction is both orderly and unconstrained. Christ on a cross is in the lighter area of the piece so too becoming unraveled and revealed to us. What follows along the walls cannot be labeled simply collages, assemblages, sculptures or found object art because they are all of these.

Several of the works contain almost a signature repetition of elements including thorns and roses, doves, sheep, and architectural remnants all embellished with organic markings that read both tribal as well as historical. Contained within deep boxes, I likened them to highly organic Louise Nevelson constructions, Nevelson being another artist whose work is often under-appreciated and perhaps misunderstood in its purpose.

Just outside my own studio are two wall pieces, one hanging down and one rising from the floor. Both play with perspective. The floor piece “Upwardly Mobile” will not be seen to its best advantage tonight with so many First Friday bodies walking past. I got down eye level with the work to see the details of the buttons and seams, chains and grains. How light and shadow affect the sense of depth is quite interesting to observe as well as the tar like surfaces. I did not touch the artwork, but whatever product he is using for the rich black coverings just makes one want to see if it is warm and oozy (I just made up that word…).

“A Brief History of Everything” is appropriately titled.  The long format suggests a timeline of um….time. The blackness of beginning, almost like an egg, unfolds and spreads out in part as paint, in part as part paper, and in part as promise.  Just so everyone knows… all the works have titles!

Two more pieces of which I want to call to your attention are “Knot Fully Revealed” and “Seven Woes”. Both are personal favorites because I was drawn to their incredibly rich and tactile surfaces. The basic elements of line, shape, color, texture and space come together in one simple and powerful unit within each of these works. The subset elements of positive and negative space, light and shadow and organic versus static can all be found in equal measure without one being more important than the other. Not an easy balance to achieve. I am sure his background as a neoexpressionist painter had much to do with his ability to make this symmetry happen so naturally.

His show opens tonight from 6 – 9 PM and will be on view for all of October, Tues – Friday 10 – 5 and Saturday 11 – 5.

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