Friday, April 29, 2011

What is in a Title?

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so it is said, still many works are briefly titled. To learn the titles often times one must look to the description of the piece, but on occasion there is no further investigation needed than the painting itself. Many of Shaun Richards works feature the title of the piece prominently within the image.

Words provide information, often direction. Images provide a window, a limited view of something specific. Either can launch our minds to ponder concepts, however, pair them together, and there is less wondering through mental ramblings. The focus becomes more acutely directed.

Here the words are not separate from the work, but part of it. They add depth and definition. In some pieces it is as if the words answer the question of what happened without robbing the image of the story it offers, or it tells what is lacking without lessening the curiosity. Why does that helicopter seem to be leaving the beautiful, smiling woman on her motorcycle? Why does the image of the man looking through a camera lens leave me looking for something? What happened to make that car flip upside down? The words across the paintings, slightly obscured by the images, offer some answer to these questions. Just a little nudge to ask more questions. I want to know more.

The Green Hill Center in Greensboro, NC is currently displaying works by Shaun Richards along with another local artist. Shaun Richards will also be available for an artist talk on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Friday, April 22, 2011

Larger Than Life

They are big, huge even. They are very different, yet stunningly eye catching. Though they are separate works by different artists it is difficult not to look from one to the other as they seem to dominate over the other works in the room.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary The Nasher Museum of Duke University is displaying many pieces in its exhibit, "Building the Contemporary Collection." The collection features works from many contemporary emerging artists of color, but it is two of the largest paintings on exhibit that I cannot pull myself away from.

Both portraits depict a single black man, and both portraits are larger than my 5’3” standing frame. There the similarities end. One is dark, the other bright. One is smiling, the other composed. One is dressed casually while the other is urban clad. One is completely imaginary, while the other is imaginarily set--so different, yet each demanding my attention.

It is the imagined element that I find intriguing. The darker portrait of a man in a cream turtleneck, sitting comfortably and smiling is completely fictitious. He is a product of the artist’s imagination. No such man exists, though he could. He could be the kind of man you’d encounter at a coffee shop relaxing after a day at the university talking of scholarly pursuits, interested in your thoughts on things like literature. How does one picture a non-existent being so well as to give him a sort of life?

The brightly colored portrait of an urban clad black man standing in the pose of an Old Master’s work presents a different element for the imagination. The artist has taken a real man of today, plucked him from the streets and cast him in a setting of regal, floral elegance. The man is not smiling; his face seems set in that appraising way of a man on the streets as he tilts his chin up respectful, yet wary in his acknowledgment of you. It’s almost as if I am beneath notice, and certainly will not be invited into a conversation unless I can prove more interesting.

These images are larger than life, and my mind obviously runs away with ideas provoked by them.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Limited View

The window had been painted over with black, but a broken pane made a hole through which one could see the street below. Through this frame a photographer aimed his camera and captured life as it passed by.

The Jazz Loft Project: W. Eugene Smith in New York City, 1957-1965 is currently on display at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University until July 10, 2011. The exhibition features an array of photography and audio recordings of many big name jazz musicians. The originally planned three-week project became the unfinished four-year obsession of Smith. Exposing over a thousand rolls of film and audio reels Smith documented an astounding part of cultural history.

Like the camera he aimed at the street below, Smith set up shop in a five-story loft building, capturing the people and music that gravitated to the location. It is staggering the amount of work Smith produced while in this one location. Though his range was limited, the richness of what he recorded was not. Numerous musicians, as well as other interesting and sometimes questionable characters, came and went from the building. Life continued outside, even as the camera kept vigil. Even as the location stayed the same, the photographs show an ever changing, dynamic environment.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Mere Shot in the Dark

Several photographs of O. Winston Link are currently on display at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem in an exhibition entitled Trains that Pass in the Night showing from February 19-June 19, 2011. These black-and-white gelatin silver photographs feature images of steam locomotives set against the landscapes of Virginia and North Carolina. While these stunning images reminiscent of the film noir era in which they were taken offer a glimpse into a lifestyle that was at the time ending, they are awe inspiring for the elaborate planning necessary to capture many of the nocturnal images.

The photographs in and of themselves are quite breathtaking. Gorgeous contracts exist between the presence of the trains and the life that seems to continue on around them: people watching a movie at the drive-in, hanging out at the public pool, and even a group of elderly friends chatting on a porch as what must have been a loud steam engine locomotive passes by. But the clarity of the images of these trains in motion set against these seemingly colloquial interactions forces an appreciation for the choreographed facade, for many of these images were staged with but one opportunity as the train passed to be captured.

One photograph contains the photographer himself, his assistant, and their equipment. Looking at the various lamps and flash equipment then studying the crisp images of billowing plumes of steam as they are exhaled from the sleek locomotives as they travel by it is a marvel how brilliantly effective they worked. The lighting and timing are everything in Link’s work. Every detail was minutely attended to from the placement of the people, the direction of the lighting, to the schedule of the trains in order to capture a moment in time designed to depict an entire way of life. Link didn’t miss an opportunity, but he also made sure to create the optimum setting for what otherwise would have passed into the night and out of time unnoticed.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fading as Memory Does

At the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem currently on display from March 12 – June 5, 2011 is Imprints for a Fleeting Memorial by Oscar Muñoz. The exhibit consists of many portraits representing people who disappear, and as the subjects, the images likewise are destined to fade before your eyes leaving only the memory of what once was. The images evaporate, drain away, deteriorate and crumble. A few are indistinct images burned into paper, but even those are not meant to last as the series progresses with the loss of the original subject.

The first display to catch my eye is a group of nine soft, warm faces each within their own square, placed close together to be essentially a piece of a larger square of unified work. The faces are each oriented as if focusing in different directions with varying expressions like they were caught in the middle of a conversation.

Walking slowly towards the display the faces become more obviously pixelated, made up of cubes of white and shades of brown. It isn’t until I come very close that the cubes reveal themselves to be crystalline granular constructions - sugar cubes. The array of browns is due to varying degrees of coffee saturation. Suddenly, I notice the crumbling of a few of the cubes, and the images that were at first soft and warm take on a bittersweetness as their deterioration becomes inevitable.

Each piece in the collection provokes contemplation of the fleeting lives we lead, and the fading of our own memories. Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Oscar Muñoz’s work is an excellent, if sad, embodiment of this sentiment.

Another piece that illustrates this is a series of newsprint images blown-up and burned into six separate newspapers. As I begin to flip through the pages the images that were burned into the cover page utilizing a dot matrix become less and less evident until the last page is blank, but for a few dots devoid of any meaningful context.

The medium is as fleeting as the images created, yet somehow the poignant message seems branded upon my memory. Time will tell how well this stays with me.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Potent Little Package

Imagination is limitless; however, some of the most creative ideas come about by pairing the boundless capacity of imagination with the restrictions of confining parameters. Before you can think outside the box, you must first understand the box. For many artists the box is a combination of the techniques and materials employed to express their ideas. There is in existence a collection of artists who literally work within the confines of a box, the dimensions of a cigarette box to be specific.

Given the size limitation it is astonishing to see the range of creativity that can still be expressed utilizing various mediums and techniques from sketching to sculpting in miniature. Also the manipulation that allows of some pieces to meet the confining appearance of a cigarette box, yet unfold and expand beyond the seeming limitation eloquently demonstrates how truly limitless the artist’s imagination is.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) has had Clark Whittington & Artists in Cellophane (AIC): The Art-o-mat Enterprise on display since November 2010 and will remain on display until June 5, 2011. There are also several Art-o-mat vending machines scattered throughout North Carolina and North America.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

In Context

Looking at any art work alone leaves one to examine the subject, consider the technique, and ponder the inspiration. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. When viewing a collection of similar works grouped by technique or by theme each piece begins to grow in significance.

An excellent example of this is currently on display at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, NC. The exhibit is entitled Body of Christ which features two contemporary works by Spanish artist Javier Perez among several 12th through 18th century depictions of the Crucifixion. The installation has been on display since January and will remain on display until June 12, 2011.

Of the two Perez works on display the first to grab attention is the three dimensional skeletal human-tree hybrid expressive of the transmutation of life to death. Whereas this piece is startling and emotionally provoking it is the trio of three drawings hung separately, yet grouped in such a way as to be suggestive of the Crucifixion that in contrast demonstrates brilliance for the subtlety.

Staring at these three detailed drawings of a head and two hands intricately vein laden impresses a sense of mortality, but it is in stepping back to view the trio as a whole that the impression of a body appears. Any one of the trio of drawings would be an impressive display on its own, but it is in the placement of the three together that a bigger picture is formed. Step back farther to view the trio among the various other images and a clearer context becomes into focus adding depth and history.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Silent Scream that Echoes Still

The Greensboro Cultural Center (GCC) houses several art galleries and studio spaces available for artists, and is the hub of events to connect art and the community. GCC just kicked off a month long kid’s art exhibition as part of its Summer Camp Fair.

The works featured are a collection of collages, paintings, pottery, masks and other creations by children of varying ages. Much of what is displayed is what you would expect from the very young as they take up brushes and glue. The joy of creating is evident in every piece, and most are original, coming straight from an imagination bigger than convention. However, among the cute and fun works one piece stood out as it was a fair representation of a famously familiar work.

All artists know the value of emulating works of other artists especially in the pursuit of study, and it is not unusual for an artist to create several different versions of a particular subject matter altering perspective and media. It was with a smile that I noticed this small replica painting done in acrylics on the pre-K through grade 5 exhibit board of Edvard Munch’s Skrik or more commonly known as Scream.

The first time I saw any version of the Scream, I believe I was in middle school taking an art class. It was one of many slides we viewed as we learned of various artists, techniques, and styles. From then on it showed up many times in odd and unexpected places until it became something akin to finding Waldo. Since the time of Munch’s first rendering of the Scream it has become a part of pop-culture, and been a part of intrigue as two different versions of this work by Munch have been the victims of theft—both were recovered with only one sustained any permanent damage, and both returned to display within their perspective museums.

The Scream has been reproduced by cartoonists for TV, Film and even merchandise. Even Andy Warhol made silk prints of Munch’s work. Yet for all the places it has appeared, I still find it a pleasant surprise when I recognize it, like running into an old acquaintance, albeit a seemingly terrified acquaintance in the midst of an anxiety attack.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding Place in Abstraction

Walking into the back of the Center for Visual Artists where Jillian Webb Martin’s Spatial Encounters is being displayed, I had no real idea what to expect. I like walking in cold to any exhibition or show without first reading up on either the artist or their style: no expectations to cloud my first impressions.

The collection of paintings is all abstract with just a hint of impressionism in a few. The two that seemed most to convey a sense of a particular place are like looking at the world so far out of focus that only the colors remained to blend together, yet still leaving me aware that I was looking at a place I could almost recognize from a memory.

The abstract works, with their colors blending, some running together, are quite lovely. I found myself imagining not only what could inspire the combinations, but also how the very space in which they occupied the gallery seemed inspiring. My eyes would travel the canvases picking up the various colors and the idea of the play of light and shadow the blendings hinted at in my mind. Almost all of the works seemed to be displayed with lighter colors nearest the top with darker colors nearest the bottom, and I started to think of horizons though none were really present. That is one of the things about abstract art that fascinates: the way it can sometimes leave you to relate on your own.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra ,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, and Rummage Through the Trash

Attention, Charlotte residents - if you hear something rummaging around in your recycling bins, it’s not a raccoon. The culprit in question may actually be artist David Edgar, and he is simply searching for new materials for his art work.

After thirty years of working in formal fabricated steel sculpture, Edgar, on a whim, began to notice the bright colors and untapped potential in plastic packaging. His began creating sea creatures out of the material and, as a result, the “Plastiquarium” was born. In a play of sheer irony, Edgar’s “Plastiquarium” collection features “species” constructed out of the very materials that are polluting their habitat. But this is not the idea behind Edgar’s work. Instead of provoking worry in his viewers, Edgar feels his work “embraces a festive aesthetic with lighthearted imagery that I hope resonates in contrast with our increasingly stressful society.”

It’s refreshing to receive a message relating to the environment that is not wrapped up in a package of threats of Armageddon and shame to all that don’t abide. His work certainly encourages the audience to connect some dots and possibly make better choices about waste, the products they purchase, and the materials being used to create them - even if by default. (For starters, Edgar notes that during the cleaning process of the bottles when preparing his found materials, he is amazed at how much leftover detergent he discovers in containers that were meant for the trash.)

Edgar acknowledges that the idea behind his work is similar to others we have seen from artists such as Andy Warhol, for example, who have taken found objects and/or package designs and constructed artwork from them to highlight the producer/consumer relationship. He finds that creating this type of colorful art is very fulfilling, and he particularly loves the fact that the materials allow this type of work to be both affordable and accessible to the public. He is so passionate about his creations that he even teaches workshops to students who aspire to construct art from the packaging in their own homes, and his book, “Fantastic Recycled Plastic,” is chock-full of inspiration as well.

--Ali Macaluso