Tuesday, August 3, 2010
By Tom Wachunas
Someone (in his late 20s, I would guess) recently asked me about the new show at Gallery 6000 this way: “Is it modern or postmodern or what?” What, no room for good old traditional stuff? Maybe he was trying to be au courant. As it turned out he, like many people, equated ‘postmodernism’ in the visual arts with terms like ‘avant- garde’, and ‘edgy’, and the idea that ugly is the new beautiful (since, the thinking goes, there are no universally agreeable parameters for beauty, thereby rendering it a non- requirement for art). These days I personally regard ‘postmodern’ as an often confusing reference to all kinds of global hokum about sociocultural relativism, along with a rejection (or at least re-analysis) of modernist perspectives, as if modernism hadn’t already jettisoned much of what most reasonable people would consider worth keeping around. Suffice it to say here that all the art being done everywhere these days exists in “the postmodern era,” even though there are no definitive rules of postmodern formalism in painting, sculpture, drawing, etc. Anyone who tells you different is itchin’ for a fight.
Still, ‘postmodern’ as a descriptor applied to the visual arts seems to imply some sort of intrinsically powerful relevance. And with that there are, almost always, expectations of encountering profoundly strange and/or irreverent things that confound easy categorizing. This, I suppose, comes with the territory. In the big picture, a considerable amount of the ‘new’ art I encounter in the context of postmodernist critique, which I mean here to be commentaries on the avant- garde, is really just a lot of smoke and mirrors anyway. And the emperor’s new clothes, such as they may be, are really just the emperor’s old clothes, worse for wear in many cases, with new labels sewn in.
In any event, my latest curatorial offering at Gallery 6000, while certainly a fairly mixed-bag of formal approaches, makes no claim to being astoundingly experimental, remarkably new, or controversial in content. Let’s call it comfortably contemporary and leave further label haggling for another fight…er, uhm…conversation. The fact of the matter is that the work exhibited here in “Women Eclectic” is by four artists who speak in visual languages that, while dialectically separate, as it were, are distinctly accessible to the mind (with a healthy dose of intrigue in some cases), and a delight to the eye.
Judi Krew is widely known for her raucous, highly detailed acrylic paintings celebrating womanhood in all its situational challenges, frustrations, and riotous absurdities, all rendered in an illustrative, or comic book style. Here she presents a relatively more recent evolution in her body of work – pastel portraits. Certainly more conventional, or ‘academic’ in approach when compared to her paintings, these five pieces are nonetheless sensitive, airy, and bold in both color and their clear mastery of authentically good drawing based on careful observation. Krew’s technique with pastels is one of very refined, gestured spontaneity. But her portraits aren’t overwhelmed by stiff poses or overly-precious markings, and so she deftly captures a sense of real candidness and soul in her subjects.
‘Eclectic’ surely applies to the nine works by Sarah Winther Shumaker. She’s equally adept in watercolor, reverse collage, mixed media, and encaustic (pigmented hot beeswax). Here she has delivered a remarkable range of textures and forms that embrace intimately-scaled visions (some the result of what she calls “happy accidents”) that have an engaging folk-art sensibility - part simple whimsy, part mystery, and all visually fascinating.
The five acrylic paintings by Ronni Marcinkowey nearly jump off the walls with their unabashedly brilliant, saturated hues. There is an unfussy innocence about these paintings. The compositions are simple, solid, and loosely rendered, with almost child-like confidence – a refreshing embodiment of joie d’vivre.
Kathryn Ackerman is relatively new to the Canton-area exhibition circuit. Beyond showing her work at Second April Galerie once (just several months ago), she’s been a well-kept secret up to this point. Speaking of secrets, her paintings here (one acrylic, four oils) might be full of them. Or perhaps questions would be more accurate, though not the dark questions you might encounter in a mystery-suspense story. These paintings aren’t so much a whodunnit as they are a who (or what) is it. Despite their small size, they impart a vast amount of representational imagery, presented in sweeping panoramas suggestive of cinematic, epic-scale dream sequences. Ackerman’s painting technique is exquisitely tight, her color sensibilities elegant and lush – achingly so - bringing new depth to the notion of ‘hauntingly beautiful’. Distinctly feminine, though never merely pretty, these images tell a deeply personal story about, perhaps, the artist’s identity - her past, present, and future ‘being-ness’. This simultaneity of search and revelation, while steeped in rich visual intrigue and mystery, is nonetheless powerfully inviting – even inspiring. It’s the kind of art that renders our tired categorizing of styles or eras moot. It’s the stuff of timelessness.
THE EXHIBIT OPENS THIS EVENING, Tuesday, August 3, with a reception for the artists and public at 5:30p.m. Please RSVP to Becky DeHart at 330-244-3518 or
Photo: “Beneath”/ oil, by Kathryn Ackerman, on view in the exhibition “Women Eclectic” at Gallery 6000, through October 28, 2010, located in the University Center, Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio.