By Tom Wachunas
“Wit is educated insolence.” –Aristotle
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!” –Dr. Seuss
EXHIBIT: “Match Play”: Huggett Serves, Krew Returns, at The Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton, THROUGH AUGUST 17 www.northcantonlibrary.org
In her statement for this show, Judi Krew explains that she and Rick Huggett have been considering a collaborative exhibit since she first encountered Huggett’s work a few years ago. They wanted to have a “title battle,” as she puts it, or “…a game of visual and verbal volleyball…”
As painters, each has honed a signature (what one might call ‘trademark’) visual language of painting. While their techniques and methods are distinctly different, the overall sensibility of their respective bodies of work has been one immersed in quirky humor. Formally, their works are representational and show a clear kinship with cartooning, though their “styles” are, again, clearly separate.
For example, Huggett’s hand- painted shapes and characters (silkscreen ink and gesso on canvas), delineated in jittery black contours - call it a refined awkwardness - and filled in with flat, solid colors against uncomplicated, sometimes empty grounds, have all the smooth surface quality of screen prints, which is a remarkable technical feat in itself. On the other hand, Krew’s acrylic paintings on canvas are, well,…painterly. The visceral presence of a confident, facile brush is consistently evident. And unlike the sparse feel of Huggett’s “scenes,” Krew’s have always been filled out with specific background settings, often elaborately so.
That said, for this show, in an effort to better “match” Huggett’s aesthetic, Krew intended to distill and otherwise limit certain elements of her normative approach in responding/reacting to the images Huggett selected, or served to her, if you will. In that, she’s been successful in offering relatively pared-down pictorial designs while still retaining the essential character of her style. There are two instances, displayed in the gallery’s glass showcases, wherein the relationship between server and served is reversed. Here, two of Krew’s Hoard Couture dress sculptures (hilarious, hefty consumerist haute) are the inspiration for the found-object sculptures by Huggett. In any event, the net result (pun intended) of their gamesmanship is a giggly gambol, a rollicking romp, a frisky frolic through visual/verbal histrionics.
Seen independently of each other, Huggett’s images are appealing in their sleek, childlike simplicity, while Krew’s are more overtly complex and satirical in their witty jabs at adult behavior. Together they complement one another in a way that lets Huggett’s somewhat minimalist purity acquire a more accessible narrative context. Not that it ever needed one in any conventional sense. Still, read Krew’s titles and you’ll sense that she’s completing the tale begun by Huggett. The entertaining heart of this particular collaboration is to be found in the tried and true tradition of storytelling.
And funny stories at that. But the scenarios presented here aren’t just for kids. It seems to me that these are funny in the same way that vintage Looney Tunes cartoons were, with their subtly subversive, topical undertones, puns and inside jokes, intended as much (if not more) to tease grown-ups’ brains as elicit gleeful laughter from children.
So go ahead and make a game of it for yourself. See, for example, how many times Huggett’s original New Mexican Cactus Toad makes his appearance as an Illegal Mexican Cactus Toad in Krew’s images. While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to pull back the black curtain that covers much of her …caution, this one might spark some controversy! That work is paired with Huggett’s stark but elegant Another Shocking Image, itself signaling a new direction in his work.
Who, then, is the winner of this delightfully clever match-up? In this world ever in need of comic relief from the ugly tragedies that assail it, the victor is…us.
PHOTOS (from top down): left – Careful what you wish for (Krew), right – Geez, I hope they water their plants with Cheese Whiz (Huggett)
left – Another Shocking Image (Huggett), right - …caution, this one might spark some controversy (Krew)
left – The tumbling Trampolini Brothers (Huggett), right- …And their trampy sister, Tumbalina (Krew)
left – Making Hay (Huggett), right – Hey! Watcha Make’n? (Krew)