Emergings at Gallery 6000
By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: Emergings: Captivating Paintings from Four New Artists. Elizabeth Dallas, Josh Humm, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Northcut, at Gallery 6000, located in the University Center Dining Room on the Kent State University at Stark campus. OPENING RECEPTION on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. On view through April 4.
On the face of it, the title of this exhibit might suggest that the four participants have never exhibited before or are newborn to the art world. But to clarify, my intent in calling them “new” is to celebrate the youthful emergence of their individual approaches in the context of either completing, or being on the verge of completing, work toward their undergraduate degrees in fine arts.
In their advanced painting development, all four have worked under the steady guidance of Jack McWhorter, Associate Professor of Art in the Fine Arts department of Kent State University at Stark. And I think the outcome of their collegiate studio practices here has clearly generated artistic visions as captivating as they are diverse.
In gathering and mounting this show, I was prompted at one point to consider the decisions a painter makes about the relationship between physical size of the picture plane and its underlying idea. Scale can be effective in how we discern or interpret artists’ intent.
The three abstract works on wood panels by Elizabeth Dallas (two mixed media, one acrylic), for example, have an impromptu, child-like energy about them. Varying shapes and textures seem to simultaneously converge into patterns and disperse into softly-colored air. Fleeting, or retrieved memories? Their small scale – approx. 11” x 12” – intensifies their sense of personal intimacy. And her titles, such as Playroom Study and Bedtime Study, enhance a sense of private meditation.
Two of Josh Humm’s three oil paintings here (the third work, Blink 2Infinity, is an unabashedly murky foray into gestural abstraction) are similarly-scaled, but in this case their smallness doesn’t so clearly exude lyrical cordiality. Yet despite their stark, “minimalist” appearance, their painterly manner gives them an expressionistic aura. His black and white Data Deconstruction: Reprogramming, and Data Deconstruction: Navigating a Void, are loosely delineated grid patterns of fuzzy-edged squares. Metaphors for microchips? The imprecision of the linear elements and variable blotchiness of the shapes, when considered with the titles of the paintings, seem to imply searching for a personal, maybe even emotional connection to the arcane technology of cyberspace.
In contrast to Humm’s monochromatic palette and structural regularity, the three abstract oils by Jennifer Northcut are larger, exquisitely organic compositions of mellifluous shapes infused with a variety of saturated hues. Her brush work is sure-handed, broad and fluid, particularly in Lotus, wherein the spectacular dynamic of push-pull between hot and cool colors brings palpable motion to the floral configurations.
In looking at the four large mixed media works on paper by Jennifer Jones, I imagined her being an avid doodler. I don’t mean that in any demeaning way, but rather in the sense of how unconscious or “automatic” drawing can ultimately generate coherent visual fields. On a purely formal level, Jones unifies the expansive busy-ness of her pictures with an astute sense of colors and shapes rhythmically organized…as if dancing.
There is a playful, flow- of- consciousness feel about these pieces – panoramic, ornate, and executed with joyous abandon. This is drawing, joined with the physicality of paint, unfettered by the weight of overly-precious illusionism, yet still representational of specific memories or cathartic moments. Exclamatory epiphanies, or celebrating rites of passage. Certainly among those would be the emergence of a compelling aesthetic.
PHOTOS (from top): Lotus, by Jennifer Northcut; Bedtime Study, by Elizabeth Dallas; Data Deconstruction, by Josh Humm; The Day Guests Arrived, by Jennifer Jones