TEXT BY MICHAELA MULLIN | VIEW IMAGES
Group Show 2018
The summer group show of 2018 includes a long and spectacular list of artists: Justin Beller, Derrick Briedenthal, Tibi Chelcea, Frank Hansen, Thomas C. Jackson, Mary Jones, Larassa Kabel, Richard Kelley, Thérèse Murdza, Travis Rice, Scott Charles Ross, Conn Ryder, Rob Stephens, Senid Tabokovic, Jay Vigon, and more. All of these artists’ work in one gallery—a space newly streamlined for maximal art interaction—is a veritable summer gift from some of Iowa’s most venerable artists.
Justin Beller’s new paintings and sculptures are exquisite renderings of the picture plane, distinguished through line, space, flat application, but also the very real three-dimensionality of his human-height sculptural works. Standing before “Outside” and “Elevate,” one considers those very positions and placements, and where the homonymous relationship held by siting and sighting comes into sharp relief. These works are like steady grammar, delicately surrendered to the primacy of forms. Though certainly not decorative, these sculptures are reminiscent of Alexander Girard’s wooden dolls, with a more organic, rounded Memphis design influence. But Beller here is representing nothing so human or animalistic as the former; and yet isn’t patterning functional objects, as the latter. These standing works appear as soft disruptions into the natural interplay of human animals and functional objects.
“Voyage,” “Us,” and especially “Side by Side,” (all Acrylic and UV clear on oak panel), catapult us into the imaginary—where shape makes familiar—it is what one can and does imagine with a corollary or referent in the world. But even in the former two—where the figurative is less of a guide—the sections and directions Beller takes to break up color, contrasting blues and browns with a mustard patch that touches deep purple, make an overlap of shapes that conceives of a grid disappeared. Its gridded element is swallowed in favor of abstract storytelling, stripes and dots emerging as a new type of order.
Circuit boards become textile; rigid parts become tactile wholes. The stunning range of new works by Tibi Chelcea does not deviate entirely from his primary subject or explorations, yet each new medium he works with/in shifts the investigation slightly—making new form, new reactions to the function of art objects, and offering new innovation. With the “PCB Drawings | Circuit Boards” series, manufactured boards (of FR-4, copper, solder mask, and solder) in multiples, Chelcea links these works to “the old and well-established discipline of printmaking.” And Chelcea’s mindful play with electronic software moves to cotton in the “Jacquard Routing” series, taking the history of this particular machine and loom, and meeting it with the history of computers—a punch card in common.
Scott Charles Ross’s deceptively simple “War Games” paintings (“Revenge,” “Nationalism,” “Religion,” and “Greed”), in his signature smooth oil on linen over panel, conceptualizes these nouns by color, conceptualizing futility and the stalemate nature—or neverending repetitive and iterative nature—of certain engagement. A basic game of tic-tac-toe investigates not skill but attentiveness to what oneself and another is strategizing. It is not a simplification, but a study on how each game could be different, within the limits of possible outcomes.
Colored pencil is Larassa Kabel’s medium, a mark-making tool, but it is also her weapon and her magic wand, respectively tackling issues of representation and making what might seem unbelievable appear. She wields it with such extreme focus and care, it seems her work should fall under the category of not just realism but surgical. Her new work’s power lies in the drawings’ ability to both create and take up space. In these additions to her Any Minute Now series (aka, the falling horses), exposed intricacies exist within the white paper, like an object without shadow, without gravity, despite the very real implication of its falling—the fact of Kabel’s masterful work is that it never actually does. Her skill suspends each subject—does what the best art does: preserves whilst insinuating change. In “Hugo,” as always, Kabel’s lines, in their finesse and their smallness, leave the largest-scale impression. We continue to see each horse, just at the top of the paper, or just near the bottom, in the case of “Juniper,” again and again, in a free fall that is more freeing than falling.
Jay Vigon, with “Cave Horse I- IV” (digital prints from ink drawings), uses compositional space much differently, and his subjects in/tend to “fit” just within the edges of the work, while also using said edges as bases. Elegant in their slightly- shadowed boxes, these less representational animals, more graphic-dancers, reward each space with their respective positions, as if the riderless horses were engaged in equitation—though with more ballet than jump.
Walking down the New York City sidewalk or walking through a garden or city park: Thomas C. Jackson conjures this act of passing by and pausing, to stop and see the flowers, in detail. “NYC Bouquets,” and “Queen Anne’s Lace,” large photorealistic oil paintings on canvas, are full of light, be it urban or rural, natural or artificial. Jackson captures the air and mist of nature as proficiently as he does clear cellophane that wraps cut flowers at the corner store.
Jackson’s ink and watercolor works are fluid and minimal, even when the line and color imply a bleeding out and off the paper in its specific containment, such as with “But You Were Thinking It.” “Flower Emerging” is a merging of Jackson’s subjects—his beautiful floral works turned loosened petals, falling; his photorealism turned loosely figurative. The ink and paint strokes are lines that act as verbs, creating body, intimating body shifting, an emergence that though not simply begun or radically finished, is in process.
Travis Rice’s geometrical roads, spiral stairs or ladders, visually take us to the stars. With galactic perspective and crystalline precision, Rice uses triangles like cellular components, his adhesion a vision that kaleidoscopes and shimmers into our planar field. “Radial Fold” and “Organic Fold” invite the viewer to step on, in and into the fold of Rice’s angles, though they intimate a fantastical wrapping and imagine the other side of each sharp turn.
Thérèse Murdza’s three mixed-media pieces work as centerings, each with its furcation similar but different. Meditative in their overlays and simple lines, like imperfect EKG waves or loosely built structures on a foundational block of color, Murdza drips her media to the lower edges of the paper, also relaying the gravity of these visual and integrated moments.
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