May Highlights: Spring Paintings and Dear Leader at Candela
The weather has been getting warm and it’s a great time to go see art in Richmond!
I ended up getting out on my bike last Friday to check things out, and here are some highlights:
Taylor White at Ada Gallery
In keeping with the onset of spring, Ada Gallery has a one person painting show that is full of color and experimentation called Hillbilly Antimatter. The painter is Taylor White, and while his works are humorous and playful their scale and sense of materiality are ambitious and serious. Taylor doesn’t just work on his canvases, he works to create the canvas itself by sewing multiple canvases together, sometimes using other colorful materials as a stand-in for traditional canvas.The size, rhythm and design of these various pieces of cloth seem to set the tone – but not determine – the subsequent drawing, painting and collage that transpire on top. One gets the feeling anything could happen in these pieces, that while they have their root in a strong initial impulse, their creator is still open to any kind of departure or revision along the way.
Some canvases are divided up into various quadrants by the rectangular pieces of cloth. Others are separated by lines drawn on top of the canvas, story-board like. There are scribblings reminiscent of Basquiat in some of the rectangles. In other places flowers, faces and color charts populate the picture plane. Goofy, hand-made grids appear. Two of the paintings become more like bas-relief, their surface full of cuts and strips. Despite the playfulness of these pieces it’s apparent White has a nice sense of spatial overlap, shape and rhythm, and it would be interesting to see him explore these aspects of his work even further.
All-in-all the tone of this show is happy, bright, and - despite some of the trickster-ism and crafted naiveté – it all comes off as a very genuine body of work. This show ends June 1st.
Glave Kocen – Ed Trask - Transitory
Most of you have seen Ed Trask’s murals around town. Now you can see his paintings, and quite a few of them, at Glave Kocen. There are continuities between the wall-works and the paintings, but there are some pretty significant differences as well. His murals tend to be more depictive or narrative driven (especially earlier ones), whereas we see more interest in the paint itself in Trask’s gallery works. Some of these paintings are quite large. That ability to command a bigger surface undoubtedly comes from Ed’s years of experience with large outdoor walls where readability from a distance is essential.
These easel paintings have a more flowing quality than the murals. One can only imagine part of that is due to the more difficult aspects of working outside on walls. In the past Trask has had to deal with painting over things like pipe, bricks, plaster and stucco. We see a much freer hand in these pieces.
Paint and mark making isn’t the only subject of these pictures though. They also tell of light, atmosphere, weather, energy and movement. One wonders if Trask hasn’t spent a lot of time looking at artists like Van Gogh or even the Fauves and is trying to re-interpret that spirit into his own current work. If all you know are his murals, definitely try to get to Trask’s currrent show. It’s open through May 25th.
Speaking of early 20th century influences (and high key color) a couple of artists over at Page Bond seem to be channeling some Picasso and Matisse energy.
Mathew Gaspareck is showing several small still life paintings. He is slicing and dicing up tabletops, glasses and pieces of fruit with a nod to both analytic and synthetic cubism. There are oddly angled perspectives that cohere despite their impossibility, as well as flat patterns pushing up a against planes that definitely want to tilt back in space. He’s doing this with brighter, more celebratory color than Picasso or Braque would though, perhaps with a nod to Matisse or Tom Wesselmann.
Gaspareck, whose compositions are tightly packed and constructed, is a sometime professor of drawing – and you can see him working though his visual structures in a very thoughtful way, as though he’s taking some of his own teaching lessons to heart and running with them in a unique direction, combining rigorous drawing and whimsical color.
I’m thinking this body of work could double as both decorative art and real, quality painting all at once, and I’m curious to see what’s next for Matt.
Also showing at Page Bond is Karen Blair, a Crozet, VA based artist. Blair uses a subtle palette to strike delicate balances between landscape and abstraction. Matisse seems to be a strong influence here as well, with elements of the natural and man-made environment emerging out of soft greens, greys and pinks. Blair offers us no apologies for beauty, but a soft, clear sense of light, along with a strong painterly sense of composition keeps the work from wandering off into the superficially pretty.
One gets the sense she’s been painting a long time. These paintings are pleasant, refreshing and gorgeous. They need to be seen in person.
Page Bond’s current show comes down May 31st.
Candela: Dear Leader
Candela is a gallery committed to photo-based work and publishing books based on photography. Books are published by the gallery as a sort of record of the exhibitions they do, but sometimes they also curate artists who are already involved in book projects themselves. Over the last few years they’ve generated a lot of shows this way that are both visually rich and conceptually engaged.
Their current show, Dear Leader (May 3rd – June 14th), is a definite departure from some of the more lighthearted work I saw at other Richmond galleries. It deals with modern warfare, and more specifically with nuclear weapons and the frightening kind of destruction those weapons are capable of.
It features eight artists and deals with various aspects of the history of Atomic warfare. It is roughly divided into two sections by the front and back spaces of Candela Gallery: the front space is dedicated more to the documentary side, and the back room deals with the subject in a more metaphorical or conceptual way.
In that front room you can see a group of photos shown by Michael Light. Michael is a landscape photographer with an eye for ecological themes who also tracks down rare photos. These particular pictures are associated with his book 100 Suns. Taken from the above ground testing of bombs in the South Pacific and the deserts of Nevada in the 1950’s, these shots bring us face to face with an era whose naivete concerning the effects of nuclear radiation now seems insane. Despite how we cringe at that naivete, there is something of both the sublime and the beautiful in these photographs.
Dear Leader is a show that comes at its theme in a whole variety of ways, in video, video installation, and with more abstracted work as well, including the work of Kei Ito, a Japanese born artist who now works in the US. Some of his most elegant work comes from a series titled Sungazing, produced by him breathing onto photographic paper exposed to the sun.
In the back gallery some of the most poignant work comes from Elin O’Hara Slavik. These consist of photographs and photographic rubbings she created at Hiroshima. The works are visually interesting in themselves but the titles, which give us a fuller mental picture, are eerie. One rather minimal looking photo is titled:
Silver Gelatin Contact Print of Rubbing (of steel door in the basement where Mr. Nomura Eizo survived the A-Bomb when he went down to retrieve some paperwork; when he came back upstairs, everything was gone and everyone was dead)
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Miles Hall is a painter and art educator. He has taught Drawing, Painting, Color Theory, and Modern Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University. He has an MFA in Studio Art and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History Theory and Criticism.