Brief Review: Anthony Record’s Similar Scars

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAIt may be appropriate that the first solo exhibit at Seminole Heights’ new Quaid Gallery highlights the work of Anthony Record.  Record is perhaps the main driving force behind the group of artists that coalesced into the Tampa Drawers Sketch Gang which further developed into a proper gallery and collective.

Similar Scars features some of Anthony Record’s newest work in his paintings, a new zine and his sculptural painting series of ‘Jizzies’.  The exhibit finds him delving further into abstraction.  The only remnants of Record’s previously familiar scatological approach is found in some of the artwork titles.  Otherwise, he seems to have fully abandoned figuration.

Record seems to have reduced his compositions to its fundamental parts and is thoroughly scrutinizing each of the components.  A line, its curve, a shape and field of color are no longer tools but the subject itself.  While back-to-basics in painting can seem like an oft retread concept, something different seems to be happening with Record’s work.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAWhile Record may appear to have fully embraced abstraction I can’t shake the feeling that there is some sort of persisting innuendo, a trace figurative image.  This feeling isn’t borne out of the previously mentioned titles as much it’s simply confirmed by them.  The leap Record previously asked us to make between abstraction and figuration, an image and its interpretation, is now stretched nearly as far as it can be.  And still I find myself jumping – I’m still finding folds of skin, limbs, bodies in the compositions.

This back-to-basics approach is really operating in a much more nebulous space.  It’s not quite the basic components of painting being scrutinized, but their function.  To be more specific, Record’s new work investigates their function in a very specific space, one he hasn’t pinpointed so precisely as now: that narrow space and moment when nonsense becomes information and we pluck a pattern out of randomness.

A profile of Anthony Record and his art is featured in the first issue of ART AT BAY Magazine.  You can pick up an issue here.

ART AT BAY Videos: Neil Bender & Gaiety Girls

Freshly returned from a Vermont residency, artist Neil Bender is getting right back to business.  His work is the subject of Gaiety Girls an upcoming solo exhibit at Quaid Gallery.  Bender took a moment to speak with us in his studio about his practice, the thought behind it, his upcoming show, pink and more.  Check out the video below.

Workshop-as-Collaborator: Uncommon Practice at the Tampa Museum of Art

1660596_10151870842296447_802949080_nUncommon Practice sees an overdue collaboration between two of Tampa’s principal art institutions: Graphicstudio and the Tampa Museum of Art.   Opening its doors over forty-five years ago, Graphicstudio is a workshop and studio based on the University of South Florida campus that has developed a reputation for making advancements in printing and innovative approaches.  A number of legendary artists – from Rauschenberg and Rosenquist to Mapplethorpe, Marclay, and Close – have collaborated with the studio to create their artwork.  It’s this important word – collaboration – that proves to move the exhibition beyond a simple survey of an atelier.

It’s thus that Uncommon Practice, curated by Jade Dellinger, avoids all of the potential pitfalls. Though it includes some of the latter half of the twentieth century’s most recognizable artists, it never simply becomes a parade of art celebrities. Neither does it afford undue attention to Graphicstudio’s boast-worthy technical skill and expertise. Rather, Uncommon Practice sharpens its focus on the products and potential of great collaboration.  The atelier works at expanding on an artist’s vision and giving it new vehicles through which it can evolve.

While perhaps not as dramatic as the larger pieces within the exhibition, this role of workshop-as-collaborator was especially striking for me in the work of Iva Gueorguieva.  Her particularly complex compositions can often be tied to her work’s process and materials, her mix of painting and collage.  However, Gueorguieva’s pieces that are included in the exhibition feature some techniques new to her work, some even new to her.  Smartly, they don’t appear as impositions on her overall body of work but instead add depth to it.  Gueorguieva’s 51 ½ inch by 35 ½ inch print collage piece Rolling Anvil, for example, is distinctly hers.  Yet, it has textural qualities (as well as color choice) unique to this work, thanks in part to its direct gravure, woodblock, and silkscreen components.  (See the piece here.)

On the other hand, printmaking in a more conventional form plays a sort of conceptual role in Allan McCollum’s Each and Everyone of You.  Created in 2004, McCollum researched the 600 most common female names and 600 most common male names according to the US census bureau, printed each name individually as white text in a black field, and finally framed all 1,200.  The names hung as an enormous grid at the center of the museum’s second floor galleries.

Though the digital ink jet printing process is fairly straightforward and common, it plays an integral role in the artwork’s conceptual weight.  Walking beside Each and Everyone of You, the installation quickly reveals a strange contrast.  The pragmatic challenges met by the artist and studio in creating a large number of pieces that are unique yet mass-produced perhaps reflects the much more personal sociological challenge of asserting and holding onto individual identity within an ocean of others.  You can see this on a smaller and comparatively trivial scale hearing others invariably whisper “I can’t find my name” while scanning the prints.

Elsewhere in Uncommon Practice the work of Christian Marclay seems to interact with Abstract Expressionism – a style not often associated contemporary art nor print workshops.  Still, the pieces feel as if they are executed with both wit and weight.  This visual connection to Abstract Expressionism is most explicit in the two pieces Splorch Splash and Whoop Swoooosh Spish.  The pieces are two proper abstract paintings on paper.  However, printed over the paintings are onomatopoeias  as the act of painting may have sounded had the work  been vocalized; these are works of art if they had existed in a comic book universe.  Further, here we may find Marclay’s clever way of giving a nod to both a school of thought and its antithesis.  Further, like in much of Marclay’s work, the artist explores ways in which sound can be incorporated in visual art, and maybe unintentionally highlight how much it had been overlooked in the past.

For many, a highlight of the exhibition will likely be Christian Marclay’s Allover (Rush, Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others) [see the image featured in the TMA banner above].  At over four feet high and eight feet long, Allover is an especially large cyanotype – a bright blue and white composition similar in appearance and process to blueprints.  Cassette tapes and their insides of musicians listed in the title are strewn about the composition.  The artist names on the cassettes (some of them visible in the print) and the physical means playback definitely recall the music behind the print (and personally remind me of sitting by my stereo, lovingly creating hours of mixtapes.)  However in some ways, this piece to seems to vaguely point back to Abstract Expressionism.  The long strips of magnetic tape criss-cross the print as if confidently flung off the end of brush.  Allover’s imposing size is also reminiscent of the style’s expansive canvases.  Yet, instead of pained and personal brushstrokes, Marclay’s print is made from layers of unexposed paper left over from pop music cassettes.

These are only three artists of the forty-five included, just few of the artworks of over 100 in Uncommon Practice.  Yet, the examples of Gueorguieva, McCollum, and Marclay illustrate Graphicstudio’s inventiveness, not only in terms of craft but conceptually as well.  They also demonstrate the potential of artists and artwork tapped when provided great collaboration and support.

Four Art Books: Tampa Connections

We love art books, but we love them even more if they are written by/feature fellow Tampanians. Following Tampa Museum of Art’s big opening of Graphicstudio’s Uncommon Practice at USF exhibition (a show that was directly inspired by Tampa curator Jade Dellinger’s book about USF’s Graphicstudio), we decided that it would be interesting and inspiring to do a little research and find some more books that feature local art ‘celebrities’.

Here is a small but impressive list:

imageThe Next Thing: Art in the Twenty-First Century 

Pablo Baler

Fairliegh Dickinson

USF’S College of Art and Art History Assistant Professor Cesar Cornejo, was featured in The Next Thing: Art in the Twenty-First Century. Cornejo’s multidisciplinary installations and conceptual developments were complimented by philosophical and theoretical essays that attempt to ” anticipate the aesthetic mood” of the 21st century. The book,  predominantly written by Latin American artists, lecturers and thinkers about art, creates interesting conglomerations and curations of ideas and contemporary art works that provide a distinctive insight about the future of artistic thought and practice in the digital age.

Tim Fitts 46-45 Verandering

Tim Fitts: 46-45 Verandering

Tim Fitts

Tim Fitts/University of the Arts

The graphic art book 46-45 Verandering, created by USF Alumni and senior lecturer at The University of the Arts Tim Fitts, contains images of objects, textures, structural icons and screen-print designs that belong to the fruitful results of  Commotion neighborhoods,  a series of art-related community activities enacted within Philadelphia’s projects. The images, taken and arranged by Fitts, are representative of the history of this successful community project as well as stories that were shared by community participants during workshops held at the Zion Hill Memorial Baptist Church and the William A. Barrett Nabuurs Center.

fundamentals of interactive designThe Fundamentals of Interactive Design

Michael Salmond and Gavin Ambrose

Fairchild Books

Michael Salmond, a USF MFA alumni, co-writes The Fundamentals of Interactive Design, a book that introduces the essentials of digital design and its top practices. The book is aimed at designers who have never worked within the interactive medium as well as those who have some digital knowledge but are looking for application across a wider spectrum of media. Salmond and Ambrose make their best efforts to provides a core skill-set and an invaluable insight into the world of interactive design.

9781907804359_p0_v2_s260x420

Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice at USF

Jade Dellinger

GILES

Jade Dellinger, an independent curator living and working in Tampa, authors Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice at USF.  Dellinger, a key player within some of our most  beloved local art institutions  (Tempus Projects, TMA, and USF’S CAM) presents a beautiful, colorful and informational book that serves as an expansive ‘catalogue’ of GS’s  most notable artworks. The  expansive volume highlights over one hundred works of art by more than forty prominent Graphicstudio artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Jim Dine, Alex Katz, Christian Marclay, Vik Muniz and Theo Wujcik. It also features interviews with current and past Graphicstudio directors as well as reflections on experiences while working with some of the most influential artistis of the 20th and 21st century.  Consequently, today, February 1st, 2014,  is the opening day of Tampa Museum of Art’s Graphicstudio: An Uncommon Practice at USF ,a show that compliments Jade’s book. Dellinger, together with USF’s CAM and the TMA, highlights both technical and conceptual breakthroughs of Graphicstudio’s repertoire through displaying pieces that showcase some of the most celebrated artists of our time( Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Allan McCollum, Louise Bourgeois, Jim Dine, and others).

The show will be on view at TMA until May 18th, 2014.

If you are interested in purchasing a book, you can now pre-order them at Amazon through here.

ART AT BAY Best of 2013: This Year’s…Was Last Year’s…and Will Be Next Year’s…

Inn_brainetworks

It’s a fun exercise: looking at trends over the past couple years and predicting how they’ll take shape in the coming one.  I suspect many feel similarly in hoping that art is some how above the sort of trend cycle fashion is subject to.  Still, some cycles are persistent.  Thus, it’s easy for this sort of thing to degenerate into a Joan Rivers style snark party.  To that end, I’ve included some lessons I’ve learned from the review and goals of personal improvement as an art appreciator.

This year’s James Turrell was last year’s Gerhard Richter and will be next year’s Paul McCarthy

Gerhard Richter and James Turrell are artists that have enjoyed a largely pleasant relationship with the art world for considerable portions of their respective careers.  However, over the course of a year the said art world seems to have overshot love and landed in obsession with each artist – a sort of reputation bubble, minus the popping.  It seemed, for a bit at least, Richter’s paintings couldn’t sell for enough then Turrell’s reviews couldn’t stop short of orgasmic.  So who’s up next?

I predict Paul McCarthy reluctantly.  “Reluctantly” because two other people would’ve nearly been a better fit.  Frank Lloyd Wright has upcoming exhibitions at both the MoMA and Guggenheim – that sort of cosmic alignment slash institutional validation is often all that’s needed to precipitate an art world freak out.  Additionally, the work of Mike Kelley has deservedly been gathering momentum over the past couple years.  It’s difficult to not tumble into thinking about what he would have accomplished had he been alive.  Regardless, he would’ve likely been one of the most important working artists for years to come.  That said, I went with Paul McCarthy because of the similar point in his career and his two high-profile pieces during 2013 – his giant balloon dog at Frieze and saucy Snow White of ‘WS’.  In the past McCarthy’s work may have perhaps been too irreverent to ever characterize him as an art world darling.  However, both of these pieces were both very well received.  If 2014 sees a genuinely great piece from McCarthy, he may enjoy the same critical near-infallibility recently afforded to Turrell and Richter.

The lesson I learn here is to be wary of getting caught up in my own words and the words of others.  These artists all create great work.  However, as a writer in a world of sound bytes and hasty judgement its easier to repeat whats heard than generate new discussion.

This year’s Bushwick was last year’s Williamsburg and will be next year’s Ridgewood

I believe the rise in awareness of hipsters can partly be tied to Williamsburg’s popularity.  The neighborhood is not unlike Haight-Ashbury to the hippies, just much less romantic and much more ironic.  Though the tide of hipsters hasn’t waned, gentrification has pushed back (though an argument can be made that hipsterdom is gentrification).  Many art galleries obviously arrived to Williamsburg with the low (relatively speaking) rent and influx of creatives.  Perhaps partially due to the aforementioned gentrification some importance in Brooklyn visual arts has since shifted to Bushwick.  Some of the off-Manhattan NYC art world already seems to be seeping into Queens.  Specifically, Ridgewood may soon find itself the inheritor of a considerable portion of Brooklyn’s art scene.  The recent closure of 3rd Ward is definitely ominous for those clinging to Kings county.

I mention this all because we have Tampa Bay neighborhoods that we hold dear.  Though the sluggish real estate market spares us from the sort of gentrification chasing the creative community out-of-town in New York, we aren’t spared entirely.  Last year’s battle between Seminole Heights’ locals and the Family Dollar chain highlighted this issue.  Perhaps more importantly, it underscored the nature of the fight and the near impossibility of artists ever winning in the long-term.  The way the rules are set, we are necessarily an exodus-prone bunch.  The rise and fall of New York’s neighborhoods illustrate this clearly.  The struggle against gentrification and being pushed out needs to start early and be thoroughly tenacious or just not be struggled against at all.

This year’s Marina Abramovic was last year’s Damien Hirst and will be next year’s…I have no idea.

This is a very specific sort of artist/set of circumstances and is why I didn’t think I could make this prediction well.  It requires a  respected artist making a series of poorly regarded decisions, followed by one surprisingly bad one.  Remember Hirst’s multi-Gagosian solo exhibit (aka Art Scavenger Hunt for the Rich)?  This year Abramovic produced a gala performance that seemed to unnecessarily denigrate the performers.  Her piece “The Artist is Present” seemed powerful to some, pretentious to others – caused uncontrollable crying in both.  Finally, there is her collaboration with Jay-Z – a marathon performance of his song Picasso, Baby.  However implausible, the performance seemed to cheapen both performance art and hip hop simultaneously.  This was followed by a Kickstarter project that was largely viewed as borrowing from the poor to build a vanity institution.  In the eyes of many, this left Marina at the end of the year bereft of much of the authenticity she had at the beginning of 2013.

Though I sincerely hate seeing reputations take a tumble like this, they are inevitable.  Thus, who has set themselves up to make a surprisingly bad call in 2014?  Well, the nature of it makes this prediction difficult.  Part of what makes these decisions so bad is that they come from artists that we were sure knew better.  That’s why Jeff Koons wouldn’t fit the prediction.  We weren’t surprised by his boring and tasteless Lady Gaga album cover.  Had Cindy Sherman, for example, produced that cover, we’d have next year’s prediction.

The lesson I learn here is that authenticity is valuable.  Further, authenticity squandered draws the ire of the critical art world.  Remaining authentic may be difficult but ultimately leads to success…whatever that is.

This year’s “sloppy” abstraction was last year’s geometric forms and will be next year’s figuration

No more crystalline shapes, no more stripes.  There was a moment in the recent past when you could not throw a stone at an art fair without hitting a triangle on a canvas.  This is the bizarre world of painting, where shapes fall in and out of style.  Seriously, though, this at least gave way to the paradoxically sloppy yet well thought out abstraction that seemed to dominate painting this year.  More importantly it made painting in general interesting once again.  Artists and viewers alike seem ready to explore the nuances of the medium, to take the medium seriously in a way that hasn’t been done in a very long time.  I may sound like I’m overstating it, but I don’t think I am.

It is because of this more deliberate approach that I think that fans of the medium are ready to consider figuration again.  For a long time figuration has been a sort of conceptual obscenity in painting.  Thus, I’m excited for its return.  This is the prediction I’m probably most confident with.  I’m pretty sure before you get to Miami in 2014 you can say something like “NADA is definitely going to be dominated by figurative/representational painting this year” and not look like a fool.  If I end up being totally off, send me angry email –  I’ll promptly read it delete it.

The lesson I learned here is how much a medium can conceptually blossom once given the consideration it’s due.  Great art seems to be the product of an animated give and take, the result of boring things like accountability, refinement, conversations, practice, persistence.

The (Museum) Trickle Down Effect

museumAs monolithic as the institution of the art museum can seem, its role in society and culture can, at times, be particularly ambiguous.  Sharpening the focus, an art museum’s relationship with the surrounding art community is often no clearer.  An excited  buzz recently flowed through much of St. Petersburg upon word of a new museum, the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, set to open there in 2016.  Local artists, gallerists, art bloggers (including myself) seemed especially pleased with the news.  I wondered, though, if this stemmed from anything other than the excitement that accompanies new exhibits in a new venue and a potential positive economic impact on the arts.  

Really, it brought a larger question to mind.  The local arts community and nearby art museums seem to share a special relationship.  That said, does one actually exist based on some sort of cultural interchange and should it?  Do better/more museums somehow make a better local art scene?

So it might now become clear that the “trickle” in this article’s title is not an economic one (and certainly not a biological one – nasty!)  Rather, it refers to a flow of cultural value from art museums to local art makers.  I’ve given this idea quite a bit of thought in preparation to host the next #TwitterCrit.  I’ve since realized I’m not one of those quick-tongued critics that can form an unassailable opinion in the flash of a moment.  Thinking about this ‘Museum trickle down effect’ has, in honesty, only left me with more questions.  Still, maybe these questions in themselves are noteworthy points.

Why Trickle Down?

I initially made the assumption that art museums should somehow influence and, to a point, shape the local art community.  Really, if a local art community informed a museum’s practice, I would likely call that “trickle up“.  But why up?

Museums are generally thought of as centers of influence.  Consider the generally accepted pinnacle of an artist’s career is the museum retrospective.  Think about the MoMA’s role in defining the idea of Modernism.  Note museum architecture old and new.  Scrutinize museums bolstering of “cultural capital.”  During the twentieth century art museums have inhabited a role somewhere in between “taste maker” and “history writer.”

Believe me: I don’t want to address why or how museums are vested with this power.  Rather, does this model of Museum-as-taste-maker-slash-history-writer still work for us in the twenty-first century?  I’m not sure, but I doubt it.

In a Wikipedia world, art museums do feel a bit like a stack of  leather-bound encyclopedias.  That isn’t to say the institutions should adopt the elsewhere ubiquitous practices of populism and crowdsourcing.  I can only imagine how terrible administration-by-‘like’-and-‘retweet’ would be.  Still, there seems to be a certain sense of pluralism that is missing.  I’m not saying that everyone’s opinion should be included – we’d end up with a museum aesthetically similar to Pier 1.  What I am saying is there should be mechanism to undermine the institutions’ tendency toward a meta-narrative of art and its history.

I’m sorry: I’m not really offering any specific alternatives, and in the end this might be as much an issue to be taken up with institutional curation as the art museum itself.  To be fair, I did say that considering the issue “only left me with more questions.”  If you have any ideas, however, I’d love to see it as a comment below.

Should there be a Trickle?

Perhaps the most basic question on the topic is “Should there even be a trickle down effect?”  It may be that a creative interchange between local visual arts and art museums locally is not beneficial.  I doubt this also, but I feel like I should play devil’s advocate with myself.
There are well-known stories of the Abstraction Expressionists and their near-desperate endeavour to exhibit within the MoMA’s already hallowed halls.  No doubt, to this end ambition served as some sort of impetus for their art making  – personally, a relatively unsavory thought.  Of course, few local artists entertain hopes of exhibiting in the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg or Tampa Museum of Art.  Yet, I suppose, it would require little for aspirations of museum inclusion to overtake nobler goals.  That said, I’d like to clarify that this is a dumb reason to suppress a creative interchange between local artists and art museums – this sort of ambition seems to be an unshakable aspect of the art world regardless.
The second reason against a creative interchange that comes to mind is the possibility that both the local arts community and art museums operate better independently – a sort of separation of powers.  Obviously, this would retread what was spoken about under the previous subheading –  what really privileges one to exert an influence on the other?
An arts community is unhampered by the expectations of a board, donors, the public, and general bureaucracy.  A museum has wide-reaching resources and concerns that spread far beyond the local community.  It may be that mixing the two weakens some of each’s greatest strengths.

Is ‘Trickle’ the Wrong Word? (It’s definitely an Annoying One Now)

The word ‘trickle’ implies movement, and maybe that’s an imprecise way to illustrate the potential relationship between an art museum and surrounding art communities.
It has been wonderful watching the visual arts community in Tampa Bay grow.  Perhaps an inevitable effect of this growth is that the larger nebulous community divides and again coalesces into smaller groups.  St. Petersburg’s art community becomes the 600 Block, Warehouse Arts District, Gulfport, and so on.  Tampa’s art community becomes Seminole Heights, Ybor, USF.
Can museums act as centers that enjoin the manifold scenes into a singular and stronger community?  With some effort and cooperation, museums can be the fulcrum that allows composite art communities to achieve common goals and meet common needs.  Beyond the potential of being a resource for its venue space and organizational support, museums can act as a visible representation of the larger arts community.  This sort of arrangement would also be beneficial to the museums.
It is certainly in any museums interest to foster an environment of cultural literacy and art appreciation.  Advocating surrounding arts communities can concurrently work as a grass-roots effort to nurture and expand a community that produces future patrons.
* * *
So what should the relationship between museums and local art communities be like?  I’m still not sure.  But I am pretty sure, though, what it might involve: A spirit of cooperation with a focus on shared needs and goals, a manner of operating that reflects a modern sense of pluralism, and a partnership that benefits the larger community we share.

A Better Time Signature: Stacy Rosende at Gallery 221

In a way, I was glad I had missed the opening reception.  Instead, I walked the gallery for an hour alone on a Monday afternoon.  Stacy Rosende‘s solo exhibit subSURFACE speaks slowly and would likely rather wait patiently than shout over the din of a crowded art party.  This reveals something about the work itself – there is a peculiar sort of temporality running through it.

Initially, some of Rosende’s new work is reminiscent of the paintings of Todd Chilton.  However, the two artists tackle very different concerns.  Unlike Chilton’s opaque painterly style, Rosende creates a sort of abstract foreground and background.  Geometric patterns of color cover the panels.  Underneath, an arrangement of decorative flourishes can be dimly seen at times and disappear completely elsewhere.  This was inspired by a recent stay in Venice, Italy as the texture, patterns and layers of the city’s walls clearly influenced much of the work in subSURFACE.  The play between foreground and background does add a sense of depth to Rosende’s paintings.  However, a clear and strong sense of rhythm still dominates Rosende’s work.  The paintings may have come from an interest in surface, but seem to be very much about rhythm.

Vertical lines of color, irregularly sized and multi-colored without a discernible pattern, suggest a complex beat and a certain musicality.  Rosende doesn’t offer the eye a place to rest, instead forcing it to play through the composition, dancing over the colors left to right and back again.  In her statement, Rosende draws comparisons between tones in music and color, waves of sound and light, and arrangements both musical and visual.  Perhaps all of these comparisons are most easily discerned in Fertile.

At the center of the space, the sculpture occupies a significant amount of the gallery floor.  Twenty-nine differently sized stone-like objects (they’re actually plaster mixed with natural materials) are arranged in a ‘V’ formation from largest to smallest.  One side of each object is smooth and painted, the largest orange and gradually darkening with each piece down to the smallest painted black.

Fertile contrasts severely against the paintings and prints in the exhibit while offering a sort of respite.  Unlike the paintings which produce a sort of visual syncopation, the size, color and arrangement in Fertile all work in accord to produce a specific rhythm, a particular movement.  The piece draws your eyes front to back to front.  The movement is almost sexual.  The work’s title coupled with the movement suggest the womb, birth, or even the ascension and descent explored in the Cremaster Cyle of Matthew Barney.

Though I may be swayed by my particular gallery visit, what may be most valuable about this show is its slower pace.  Conceptual one-liners, needlessly showy and large work, parties badly disguised as art exhibits: each often coddle and cater to a critical laziness.  Rosende’s solo exhibit doesn’t do this.  Instead, the show makes apparent that it’ll take time.  If you are to honestly like or dislike the work, it’ll be after spending some time with it.  Ultimately, it may be this sort of “time signature” that is key to taking art seriously again.

ART AT BAY Presents: Ryan Trombley

Ryan-Trombley-The-Limit

The Limit, 48 x 48 in, Acrylic on Canvas

The paintings of Tampa based artist Ryan Trombley nearly seem to move – to swell, shrink, and bulge in various pockets of each canvas.  His pieces are often abstracted using a peculiar method of stripes and geometric forms of white canvas.  These empty lines set a sort of tight, almost uneasy rhythm.  In a way they reflect  Trombley’s conceptual swings between simplicity and complexity as well as a viewer’s urge to at once consider each stripe individually while taking several steps back and allowing the pieces to blend together.  Click on the images to enlarge them, and the painting is suddenly very different.  Check out Ryan Trombley’s website here, to see more of his work.

DSCN1133

Gates Test, 8 x 12 in, Acrylic on Canvas

Ryan-Trombley-Trancing-On-The-Past

Trancing On The Past, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas

Ryan Trombley - Remember To Forget

Remember to Forget, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas

2AM Swim

2AM Swim, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas

Through the Code and Back Again: Santiago Echeverry’s Self E-Portraits

The proliferation of digital and New Media Art is not entirely surprising.  Arguably, art makers have had a collective fascination with developing technology for the larger part of the twentieth century.  Insofar as computer-based work, Andy Warhol hopped on an Amiga as early as 1985.  At the risk of calling it prematurely (along with the whole of the New Aestheticians) there is something different with recent developments.  Portions of Santiago Echeverry’s new solo exhibit Modern Saints effectively illustrate them.

SANTI_B

Santiago Echeverry, Self E-Portrait Series 2, Processing/Webcam, 6000x3375px, RGB

His Self E-Portraits in particular nearly work as a metaphor for this idea.  There is a subtle but important difference in the way Warhol and artists such as Echeverry (and by extension us) use a computer.  Echeverry’s Self E-Portraits are a series of self-portraits.  Upon initial inspection they seem to be taken in a dark room or at night, and are built up of many small three-dimensional shapes.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAEcheverry didn’t create the Self E-Portraits as much as create the conditions for their rendering.  Perhaps initially artists sought digitized versions of IRL counterparts in creating art using a computer.  Remember the spray paint, paint brush, paint bucket, and pencil of MS Paint?  This is rarely the case with current relevant digital art, and certainly not in the case of Echeverry’s work.

Instead, the art is in the underlying lingual structure of the series.  Echeverry wrote code using the programming language known as Processing.  The images of himself pouring in through the webcam were manipulated by the Processing code – some images were saved, and a few were printed.

It is tempting to think of the images on the walls of HCC’s gallery as art objects.  However, they may perhaps be more accurately thought of as documentation, visual evidence of the unseen code.  Echeverry nearly alludes to this in his statement saying that he had intentionally left “room for randomness in a mathematically constructed scenario.”

SANTI_03

Santiago Echeverry, Self E-Portrait Series 2, Processing/Webcam, 6000x3375px, RGB

Of course, this “mathematically constructed scenario” was constructed by Echeverry.  Still, it’s in this way that he created the work – not with a computer, but through one.  In a very literal way, Echeverry is looking though computer code and back at himself.  It doesn’t take much to see how this may extrapolate from art making to a general way of living.  As Michael Betancourt mentions, in this new mode “the machine does not augment but supplant”.

Admittedly, I hate the sci-fi sound of this.  However, there is hardly a way around it.  Echeverry is careful to mention  “no Photoshop or digital retouching was done to any of these prints”.  That is to say, the prints are not the result of a steady and expressive hand – the process is much closer to supplanting the hand and eye than augmenting it.  Maybe on some level that’s the point.

This may be tangential, but the name of a series seems to be a pun – Self E-Portraits or Selfie Portraits.  Even the way we depict ourselves (and perhaps view ourselves) is fundamentally different than it once was.  High five to anyone who brings up Santiago Echeverry’s Self E-Portraits during the 10/17 #TwitterCrit.

Santiago Echeverry: Modern Saints is on view through 10/29 at HCC’s Performing Arts Building Gallery.  There will be a reception and gallery talk on 10/17 beginning at 5pm.

Kelly Boehmer Threads the Needle

Kelly Boehmer’s Heart Out at Centre Gallery
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly Boehmer, Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart, Mixed Media, 2013

I find myself continually distracted when watching a Hallmark movie, distracted by sentimentality.  Rather than viewing it like any other film, I can’t stop giving attention to the narrative’s mechanisms of emotional manipulation and trying not to get suckered by the emotional cheap shots.  Similarly with visual art, you’ll often find yourself experiencing the piece from without and the art bare of impact.  However, given all of the definite sounding statements above, steering clear of sentimentality while not also emptying a piece of emotional authenticity is still a challenging needle to thread.  It is a challenge artist Kelly Boehmer seems to be meeting with skill.

The last time I had seen Boehmer’s work had been over a year ago at the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Contain It! show – an exhibit of PODS installations.  Had I known the challenges of storage unit installations that I do now, I likely wouldn’t have been so hard on the show.  That said, her work at the Contain It! exhibit had a certain near syrupy nostalgia that was difficult to see beyond.  This syrupy nostalgia, however, is not to be found in Heart Out, her current solo exhibit at USF’s Centre Gallery.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly Boehmer, Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

The gallery space is installed with three sculptural works.  Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart dominates the space as the show’s largest piece.  As with the bulk of her work, the piece is composed many contrasting textiles.  Knotty tangles of fabric pile up to create recognizable forms.  A flamingo appears to be pulling the heart out of an alligator, the reptile’s innards caught in the bird’s foot.  The harpy takes its classically mythological form of a bird’s body topped with a woman’s head.  Despite the classical allusion, the scene is clearly that of a lover’s quarrel, albeit a bizarrely Floridian interspecies one.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly Boehmer, detail of Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

Near the rear of the gallery is Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue).  The form of a unicorn type figure is depicted, but not in its typically idyllic way.  Rather, the figure is limp on the cold floor as if it were a carcass that had been heaved across the gallery and dumped.  The feeling of death in the piece is underscored by the animals teeth.  They are not fabric as the rest of the body.  Instead the teeth are real and from the head of an alligator buried in the “mouth” of the unicorn.  As the alligator and flamingo respectively had human-like hair and face, the unicorn possesses exposed human-like breasts.  An atmosphere of animalistic violence further continues into this piece.

On the wall hung the aptly titled Gaudy Gold Frame.  While the piece is a shiny gold, this too is constructed from irregularly stitched fabric.  I found this piece to be the most subtly interesting of the show.  In a way, its quietly meta quality made it the introvert of the bunch: easy to pass over in favor of its louder companions but also concurrently more contemplative.  Interestingly, Boehmer’s “frame” isn’t framing anything at all.  Rather the apparatus for setting an art object’s context, becomes the art object itself.  The piece is pleasantly confusing as it draws attention to an object frequently created with the intention of not drawing attention.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly Boehmer, Gaudy Gold Frame, Mixed Media, 2013

It may also be this last piece that illustrates Boehmer’s skillfully precise use of bathos in this exhibit.  Heart Out threatens to venture into cheesy sappiness with each step.  However, it never quite does so.  Indeed she says in her artist statement, “Fears of death and heartbreak are reduced to silly scenarios with taxidermy and soft sculpture animals.”  Don’t let this fool you – she doesn’t stop taking her artwork seriously in Heart Out.  As Susan Sontag once pointed out the difference between kitsch and camp is a set of quotation marks.  Navigating this tenuous distinction is a challenging course for artists and a troubling one for viewers.  It is difficult to discern when Kelly Boehmer is holding up air quotes, when she is operating with a certain self-awareness and when we’re being had.  But it is a welcome difficulty that too often many local artists don’t trust their audience with.

There will be a closing reception for the show Fri 9/27 7pm-9pm