The exhibition space in the KSU Stark Conference Center could not be a better location to view the latest works of these two unique and emerging artists. Though neither is a “young” man, age often being associated with the label of emerging, both are growing and evolving in their signature styles over a very short span of time. The title of the show, selected by Tom Wachunas, probably does not mean to me what he intended for it to represent. The “snap” is the clean and crisp work of Rick Huggett, the “crackle” is the vibration and complexity of surface found in Craig Booths’ work, and the “pop” is the period of art from which both draw inspiration whether intentional or not; Booth laying claim to James Rosenquist and Huggett to the love child of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein (with laryngitis).
At first glance and perhaps the impression of those left brain types having their lunch between break out business seminars, are a few “what the hell is that” comments followed by some “my kid can do that in school” snide remarks, both of which are so profoundly off base and highlight why artists find it so hard to make a living at being what comes so naturally. The most simple of designs (like the elegant iPad) are often the most difficult to pull off and the most complex of compositions are never scattered masses of imagery but a well thought out placement of elements. At times an artist may not know what direction a piece is going, but they know when it has arrived at a destination, it is that artists’ “eye”, that innate ability to recognize the moment to step back and call something done, which separates those who make stuff from those who create work.
I first encountered Rick Huggett’s art about 18 months ago and was truly impressed and have written about him a few times which is why I see the rapid progression of his ideas. His work in this show stay true to his signature doodle-like critters and such, but a new layer of context and content have appeared. I sense he is a bit overwhelmed with his own range of ideas and possibilities so this latest incarnation most likely will evolve yet again as he discovers different ways to use media to express himself. One also gets the impression that part of the story is never quite revealed to the viewer. You get a few pieces of the visual puzzle, a snippet of text and wink and a nod of “What, you can’t see it?” mental jousting. For now, this latest round of hanging Huggetts is just as funny and sophisticated as his earlier pieces. Currently incorporating screen prints, tonal manipulation, and cropping of “real pictures” layered behind vinyl cuts of his drawings carefully applied over them, the uniformly presented pieces require more work this time around to connect the dots of how all the elements are related. I know he is booked for a future local show and look forward to what comes next. I will leave you with this question however, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
In contrast and yet in harmony with Huggett’s pieces are the slick surfaced works of Craig Booth. I only know of his work by what has been displayed down the hall from me at 2nd April (second floor end of the hallway). What is on view at Gallery 6000 is so much more sophisticated and shows a true dedication to creating a work of art rather than just a piece of art, as the two are quite different. How he makes these resin covered collages is just as complicated a process as the final visual composition presented to the viewer. Layers of time, materials, patterns, colors and processes are an integral part of each one of the seven on view. He does not approach his work as being inside a frame for hanging, the frame is part of the piece that in a way serve to contain a story which could go on for several pages or chapters or sequels if in any other media. These collages are in some cases reminiscent of early James Bond movie posters with the layering and scale changes of the elements and in others of being smaller versions of Rosenquist-esque (wow, does spell check ever hate that!) pop-up book covers. The titles, like with Huggett’s pieces, are essential in my opinion to the full understanding and appreciation of the thoughts captured within the cluttered surface. I use that word, cluttered, in a positive way for there is little wasted space or visual resting places in his work. The high gloss resin keeps one’s eye sliding all over the layout looking at each precisely cut element.
Yes there are hints of his digital photography past in each one, but now he is using more paint, multiple layers of depth, and graphic lines and patterns to reach that final destination. Whether Booth is aware of it or not, and I do not know his artist background at all, but within his work lies that innate understanding of color and compositional layout which probably enables him to not have to agonize over what goes where for very long, placement seems unforced and “right”. Eye direction, overlap, scale, balance and all those “things” which make a work of art different than a piece of art, are found in these pieces, and yes Craig, I am being honest. What clinched my assessment was seeing the “raven” (okay, it’s a crow, but so what) in Drunken Poets Dream.
The prices seem insanely low for both these bodies of work so I would suggest snapping one up. Even getting a few earlier works of both men would be a good investment if you are a collector of local artists. In time, should they continue working with diligence and tap into some marketing; neither will be “local” for long.