Monday, May 21, 2012

“Meditation and Motion” at The Yoga Place

Note the quotes! Meditation and Motion is the title of a solo show by Su Nimon at The Yoga Place in North Canton.  Located just north of Portage on Whipple (right hand side going north), this business has opened its doors to the visual arts in addition to the physical ones.

Su Nimon is a well known local musician, artist, photographer and practitioner of things related to health, meditation and massage, oh and a graphic designer, gallery owner, friend…..etc.  This show has been her focus of late however to feature not only some of her past pieces but many that are new in both content and technique. She considers her painting to be a work in progress on a journey of undetermined destination which makes it all that much more fun. 27 pieces are hung across two walls and set on shelves in this venue that one would not have thought to be such a good spot to highlight artwork. Openness and lighting as well as the soft tones and textures of the floor and walls work well with Su’s deceptively simple canvases.

As I mentioned, some are older pieces which serve to show the development of her skill set and a growth of personal confidence in the creation of more purposeful imagery.  The Peter Max like love notes series of linear layered hearts have given way to figurative images set on slightly textured graduated color field backgrounds. Her innate sense of graphic design is quite evident in the placement of the positive shapes onto the negative backgrounds as to just how much space is broken up, how balance is achieved by offsetting the weight of a shape and the minimalist approach to detail. Too much detail for example would make the image look as if it was just sat on the canvas, but to use just enough to equal the textures found in the negative spaces and the two elements will integrate. 

Once one views the pieces up close, reading titles and examining the surfaces, then step back a good 6 feet or more and look at the work again. The strength of design will shine through. Two prime examples of note are “Suddenly Above” and “The Light Fills Me”. The former is of a white dove offset on a square canvas, cut off on one side by the edge as if catching the bird midflight. If centered, the dove would have lost all its sense of movement, but by weighting the canvas to one side, the image literally leaps off the surface. Viewed from a distance, the transparency of the wings backlit by the sun and the shadow on the underbelly to suggest the mass of the bird itself are simply stunning. The other image is figurative, a sense of joy emanating from the female form that is rising out of markings similar to those found in the love notes series. Here too is the use of more detail via flat shapes of dark and light, to create a sense of dimensionality. Not enough to give the figure an identity, but enough to suggest a light source and a turn of the figure to one side. If you know Su, it feels like a self portrait, growing away from the other stylized figurative forms she has used in the past, and spreading her arms open towards new possibilities. 

A painting of a large red hibiscus is included entitled “Vitality” which may seem out of place as far as the bold colors and subject matter but it anchors the far wall, outshining its neighbors. Again, viewed from afar, the bloom appears to float on the surface of a bright blue pond, making little white caps all around it, literally vibrating in its contrast.

Do not miss the two 16 x 16 color field paintings at the entrance, which one would not associate with Su Nimon.  Entitled  respectively left to right, ”The Stormy Seas” and “The Fire Within”, both appear to be personal expressions of painting done for the purpose of feeling a brush on a surface perhaps as a form a therapy.  Brush strokes build upon each other to create areas of darkness and light again best appreciated from a few paces away. One will get a sense of immersion either underwater or in the smoke of forest fire. The occasional use of a metallic paint will capture light from the doorway area in an unexpected sparkle that suggests a flickering of light within the paintings’ themselves.

Su Nimon has new beginnings on her horizon, not only as a painter, musician and gallery owner, but as an entrepreneur of the arts district so stay tuned for updates!

Link provided for hours and directions.
6990 Whipple Avenue NW, North Canton, OH 44720

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

70th Annual NCLAG May Show

Having missed the opening on Saturday, I was anxious to see this show. (Full disclosure first….I have two pieces in, one pastel drawing and one painting.) Like many artists, the submission of two works in different categories has become common place in order to play the system of selection to our advantage.  The show is open to those who live in Stark County, are aged 16 and older and pieces must have been done within the last 5 years. So do we want the good news or the bad news first?  Okay bad wins.

Because there are numerous shows in our area devoted to the exhibition of HS art, I see no reason to include 16 year olds in this show.  I have no data to back up my next statement, but with so many high caliber adults in our area, is it fair to take the entry fees of hopeful high school students? Not many of these works appear to be from that age group. That being said, I have no idea who two thirds of the artists are in this show so they could very well be kids.  Second point, the 5 year life span of eligible art needs to be shorted to 2 years (like most juried shows) to keep things  fresh as I counted at least 9 pieces I’ve seen before.  And the last point of observation is that there are just too many pieces in the show. Personally, I am no fan of salon style exhibitions when multiple artists are involved, however the curator had no choice but to hang the pieces close and stacked. Easily 10 to 15 pieces could be removed without changing the caliber or feel of the show itself.  The jury processes was reported as being a long one with interesting dynamics and having read their bios, I can see the give and take displayed in the room.  Okay, enough with the negative, let’s get on with the treasure hunt!

Numerous awards are so well deserved with only a few misses here and there and unfortunately some wonderful pieces got overlooked.  The prints and drawings category by far outshined the others this year. A heavy emphasis on the skills of observational drawing, mark making and the principles of design and composition leap off the walls. The award winners of Zelinskas, Lindenberger and Vincenzo are not to be missed works of talent and sheer beauty and skill. The technical use of color theory by Amy Lindenberger in “Transformation Liberation” is stunning.  Entries by Watson, Waltz and Slaughter receive an honorable mention by me as they too are not to be missed. Randall Slaughter’s “Spring Green” is in one of the two showcases, a well done vignette depicting a playful spring afternoon by the inclusion of Gary Howes’ wooden figure and Judi Longacre’s garden bracelet.  (My spell check is going nuts with these names….)

The larger showcase is also a must see for its vignette feel. A bit of a wacky garden theme is created by the individual pieces included with well thought out placement to create shadows on the walls that further enhance the presentation.  “Sea Worthy” by Mitchell Murphy looks like a Russ Hench exploded in mid air, a really cool effect that could make for an interesting show pairing at a later date.  While on the subject of mixed media, it may be time to come up with a definitive parameter of what constitutes a mixed media entry as some pieces appear to struggle to be considered in this category.  Terry Tannehill’s piece “Secret Girls” hangs above my own painting and his colors and shapes highlight and enhance mine in a way that compliments both our pieces, a time when salon hanging works as it should. “Amalgamation” by Sarah Shumaker should have won an award; her pieces are evolving in ways that make me look forward to viewing more works in upcoming shows.  The first place award to Janet Baran’s “Waiting” is without question. Obviously based on personal experience, one cannot help but see the emotions in her use of texture and shapes. Notice the shadow at the very bottom of the canvas and also how the repetition of the word “waiting” is used to depict the passage of monotonous time.  This piece echoes the substantial emptiness of an Edward Hopper.

Paintings in all media are the weakest category this year as some just look tired, overworked or dated. The issue of framing yet again caused some deserving pieces to be rejected according to the director. Big frames, elaborately colored mats and oversized proportions are a death knell for exhibition quality work. Many shows require white or cream mats only with a simple frame to even be considered. Save the decorator’s touches for after purchase and over the sofa. Yes, sometimes an elaborate mat or frame is part of the overall piece and can compliment rather than compete with the image just as the textured mat of Heather Bullach’s watercolor repeats the imagery within the painting, but for the most part, such selections hurt rather than enhance a piece. The presentation should never overshadow the art itself. If a piece can’t stand on its own without a mat and frame, then perhaps it is just not ready for gallery walls.

A few things to look for…..the way the wall with Emily Vigil’s piece is displayed. It is another vignette style arrangement to make the best of all the pieces needing to be included.  The right hand panel of Fredlee Votaw’s piece…I bet anyone under 30 has no idea what those were used for or why we keep them.  (I am not telling you many details in order to force a visit to the gallery!) And finally, only one piece is untitled so kudos on that point of irritation to my fellow artists.

I am hanging on to the program for future reference as I may need it come the Stark County Artist’s show at the MassMu. It appears that there are some new kids in town and the game just got a whole lot more interesting! Absolutely make sure to get to the North Canton Little Art Gallery to see this show.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

“Snap Crackle Pop” at Gallery 6000 ------------------- Rick Huggett and Craig Booth (aka Uncle Dreg)

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.