Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sublime Symbiosis

 

Sublime Symbiosis 



Old Delhi - Jama Masjd

Others in their World

A Synnoetic System (detail)

A Synnoetic System

Synnoetic Systems - 7

Synnoetic Systems - 6

By Tom Wachunas 

   “In creating these works I combine our most advanced digital tools and processes with ancient traditions of making. This series represents a world within our world; an unseen world at the edge of our perception, at the edge of what our most advanced tools are able to measure…The driving force behind the work for me is always to make the work as beautiful, sensual, felt, and sometimes whimsical as possible, regardless of media.”  - Gregory Little

EXHIBIT: Parallel Worlds – Mixed Reality Artwork by Gregory Little / at The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building at Kent University at Stark / 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, OH / THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 / Gallery Hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT JACK MCWHORTER AT 330-244-3356 OR JMCWHORT@KENT.EDU.

Reception and Gallery Talk – THURSDAY September 23 - 5:30 p.m.

From Merriam-Webster/  Symbiosis (sim-bē-ˈō-səs- )  = the living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms; a cooperative relationship

   I am agape. Agog. Amazed and awestruck. Flabbergasted and gobsmacked. Did I mention impressed?

   So this is when an art gallery can be more than a typical art gallery. Right now, The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery at KSU Stark is a spectacular junction. A magnificent experiential crossroads. A compelling  nexus of the micro and macro, the mystical and mundane.

   The 32 works in this exhibit - ranging in scale from hand-sized, to pieces more than 5’ tall (as in the Synnoetic Systems series) or the 7’-wide A Synnoetic System - consist of mixed media paintings, collages, and archival digital prints.  They combine hand-ground pigments with digital elements and processes. Also included is a non-looping digital animation of endless evolving DNA splices, and a 12-minute animation set to a composition by the renowned composer Jeffrey Mumford.

    Not long after he was hired to teach painting at Kent Stark in 1989/90, Gregory Little, who currently teaches digital art at Lorain Community College, embarked  on a path to learn everything necessary to make virtual reality artworks.  “I stopped painting and devoted myself to this task for eight years,” he explains, “and succeeded in learning about all aspects of VR (virtual reality) to make and exhibit my own virtual worlds.  Now I have returned painting to my toolkit, but also use all that I have learned to produce a variety of digital assets that I use and reuse across a range of mediums.”

   Little’s works certainly aren’t conventional scenes or pictures of objective, familiar realities. To fully look at them is to be willing to engage a state of mind and be drawn into contemplations of indeterminate depth. It is to enter evocations.

   The striking Synnoetic Systems pieces, for example, are named after a term coined in 1961 by computer scientist Louis Fein to describe what he had called the “…symbiosis of people, mechanisms, plant or animal organisms, and automata into a system that results in a mental power (power of knowing) greater than that of its individual components.”

   Little has translated this concept into breathtaking, multidimensional panoramas. They’re blissfully dense with infinitesimal details. Otherwordly indeed. The stratified minutiae of organic particles and shapes, whether clustered in groups or individually floating within supernal networks of fibers and filaments, all seem to oscillate and glow, as if shot through with bursts of colored light from many distant suns.

    The art of Gregory Little is a wondrous navigation of the longitudes and latitudes of visual perception itself, and an otherwise astonishing spiritual adventure. Might this be what Nirvana looks like?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

In Memoriam: 911

 

In Memoriam: 911








By Tom Wachunas 

   Ten years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to be included in a group show at downtown Canton’s Anderson Creative (later named Translations Art Gallery), guest-curated by Dr. Fredlee Votaw. Some of you readers may remember the exhibit. It was called “The Persistence of Memory” – commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 911. Here’s a link to my comments on the exhibit from back then:

http://artwach.blogspot.com/2011/09/mournings-after.html

   So here we are once more immersed - thanks largely due to the towering medium of television - in our recollections of 911, twenty years later.

   And here I am likewise immersed. Not only in remembrance of an overwhelmingly tragic event, but also in recollections of making my contribution to that 10th Anniversary exhibit - a sculpture, nearly 5’ tall, called Window on the World. The process was a long one, evolving through about 10 weeks during the summer of 2011, and one I continue to think of as a series of daily meditations and a season of protracted prayer.

   It started with purchasing, then gutting (removing the heavy picture tube) a big, used Magnavox television from a Salvation Army store. An eery serendipity, this finding a Magnavox TV. Magna vox, Latin for “great voice”.  Next, building a wood pedestal. Then faux-painting those forms to suggest the marble or granite finish of an elaborate gravestone - a funereal totem.

   The protracted prayer element commenced when I began to handwrite a litany - the names of 2,977 people - on to 41 sheets of white paper, on each page three columns of names. As I scrolled down the online list I found of all those who perished, one name at a time, I touched the desktop screen, offering aloud each name to God as I wrote it onto paper. I made photocopy reductions of those 41 pages, finally cutting them into thin vertical strips that I glued to the inside walls of the hollow TV shell, arranged to perhaps suggest the metropolitan skyline of NYC.  

   Even as I type this now, in this moment at my computer desk, I can hear my TV in the living room, broadcasting the reverential ceremonies transpiring at the 911 Memorial in lower Manhattan.

   Television. Tell a vision. In this moment, I am praying yet again. Looking through this window on the world. Here, but for the grace of God…

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

3D Menuscripts

 

3D Menuscripts 



Cozy Coupe (oil on canvas)

Hoover Concept II (oil on canvas)

Running Late

Jamie's Hand

Our House Cafe

Glass Rack 1 & 2

By Tom Wachunas

 

“Art should be literally made of the ordinary world; its space should be our space; its time our time; its objects our ordinary objects; the reality of art will replace reality.” – Claes Oldenburg

 

EXHIBIT: 86’d – work by Daniel McLaughlin, at VITAL ARTS GALLERY /

324 Cleveland Ave NW , in downtown Canton, Ohio / Gallery Hours: Wednesday 4-8pm, Thu-Sat 6-10pm / THROUGH OCTOBER 16, 2021

   From the posted exhibition statement: “86’d is a series of contemporary works created by Canton artist Daniel McLaughlin. The collection is inspired by his career in restaurants spanning 20 years, and the often overlooked objects and materials in the service industry…Large scale, non-traditional canvas structures with emphasis on three-dimensional elements…Painting and sculpture combine various plywood, paints, and finishes to create these minimally representational and playful works of art.”

   So, Pop Art meets Minimalism? Here’s a truly fresh and fascinating salad, if you will, of big, wall-mounted mixed-media sculptures, along with three oil paintings. But first, there’s the terse yet conceptually loaded title of the show, 86’d. 

   While the precise origins of the term are unclear, the most frequently cited history of the expression relates to the restaurant industry of the early 20th century. By the 1930s, many restaurants in the U.S. were using ‘86’ as a shorthand code for “not available,” or “we’re out of this item.” Other anecdotal tales mention Chumley’s, a legendary bar in New York City located at 86 Bedford Street, where rowdy patrons were routinely thrown out the door, and where they no doubt took notice of the large 86 overhead as they were carted away by the cops. This came to be called “being 86’d.”  Other associations are military in nature, such as Article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, handling soldiers who have gone AWOL. The code was also used in reference to enemy planes shot down during the Korean War by F-86 fighter jets.

   McLaughlin recently shared this observation with me: “…I wasn't sure how well known the term is to people that haven't worked in the industry.  But 1986 is the year I was born so I felt that was a good fit being that a lot of the work is self representative.  And on certain days and times I feel out of myself (depleted) in a way, as do others across, I think, any industry.  But in contrast to that, doing this work was really motivating and energy- giving.”

    In some ways, McLaughlin’s intriguing works here can be regarded as 3D pages from a personal journal, or a surrogate self-portrait. Some of the pieces include flattened accumulations of seemingly countless handwritten guest checks and meal orders sealed into the surface of the plywood forms. These are gathered records of his and fellow workers’ time on the job - menu mementos, customers’ appetites recalled… the prosaic graffiti of restaurant stewardship.

   Considering the well-publicized negative impact of COVID trauma on the restaurant industry, it is just a little ironic that this show doesn’t really feel so much like a sad 86-ing as it does an honest, even optimistic affirmation of a livelihood built on the materialities of culinary service.  

   Call it metaphoric food for thought, and energy-giving at that.  

Friday, August 27, 2021

Krew Couture

 

Krew Couture 


We Burned

What color is your COVID?

Dress for Sex-cess: Truth or Dare

Good and Hot (left) / The Peacock Gown

COVID Coat #2 and the Hydration Dress


By Tom Wachunas 

“…Fashion is instant language.”  Miuccia Prada 

EXHIBIT: Judi Krew: Hoard Couture, Where Art Meets Fashion / Through October 6, 2021, at Massillon Museum STUDIO M / 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon, Ohio / 330.833.4061

https://www.massillonmuseum.org/

From Judi Krew’s exhibition statement: “…I embrace the mantra of reuse, repurpose, reconsider, and reimagine to guide the overall concept of each piece. What began nine years ago as a small scale sculptural dress serves to explore the idea of why we feel the need to hold onto “things”, this project has grown into an exploration rooted in problem solving…The original intent of Hoard Couture, to reduce an accumulation of things, has evolved over time into a series that sometimes looks back at our past and perhaps also forward to our future…”

   Here’s an eye-popping parade of femiquinns bedecked in a bodacious array of unconventional materials. In this context, we can rightly regard Judi Krew’s works as not just “fashion design”, but also as remarkable mixed-media sculptures.

   On a purely formal level, she consistently achieves an elegant balance of volume and mass animated with electrifying patterns and textures, and all harmonized by an intoxicating color sensibility.  

   On a conceptual plane, I think there’s a kind of probity to many of these pieces that brings new meaning to the idiomatic trope of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve. In all of their astonishing intricacy of constructed details, these exquisitely crafted assemblages are more than merely decorative. They’re declarative. I’m confident that you would be well served to read the text placards accompanying each piece, wherein Krew speaks about the history of her materials and their ideological symbolism, as well as processing and resolving the technical challenges in making a given piece actually wearable.

  Fashion statements indeed. Here’s just a few examples.

   Dress for Sex-cess: Truth or Dare is a stark white denim dress covered with handwritten names or victim numbers of 358 women who filed sexual harassment claims against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Bill Clinton, and Dr. Larry Nasser. It’s a literally gripping document and, as Krew tells us, “…a walking, wearable record of history to spark conversation and awareness.”

    What color is your COVID is a cape comprised of neckties with varying configurations of circles, spots and dots, and attached toetags with numbers written on them. Krew counted every single one of those circles, spots and dots, totaling 44,935. But that number is just a starting point for grasping the symbolism of this ingenious work. Once again, here’s where reading the placard can be especially vital in appreciating the meticulous way Krew breaks down that tally further into a sort of algorithm signifying the staggering and still growing number of COVID victims in the U.S.

   We Burned is a beautiful and haunting remembrance of the deadly 2018 California Wildfire season. That billowy bodice is a cluster of 2,000 hand-cut “leaves”, each one burned or charred, and made from such things as greeting cards, photos, wrappers and cartons – stuff easily lost to fire. Krew adds this poetic note: “…Sometimes a leaf will fall off and float away, another lost soul returning to nature.”

   In all, the excellent physical installation of this collection exudes an inspiring theatricality. You might easily imagine being backstage at a fashion show, or standing in the wings while gazing at the line of “models” poised to strut and swirl their fantastic finery onto the runway. A palpable sense of imminence. Suddenly those static sculptures seem positioned to become kinetic entities in space - a thrilling and provocative work of performance art.

   MEET THE ARTIST at the STUDIO M reception on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

ALSO, MassMu will post a podcast interview with Judi Krew on Tuesday, September 21, at noon.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

On a Parting Note

 

On a Parting Note 


The End and the Beginning, by David McDowell

Citalopram, 30 Mg, by Kevin Anderson

Summer Into Fall III, by Diane Belgiglio

End of an Era, by Heather Bullach

Childhood Sliding, by Sharon Durkin Charmley

Moving On, by Joseph and Li Hertzi

By Tom Wachunas 

“THE LAST HURRAH features 65 artists reflecting on last things, final occurrences, ends of stuff, and how and when events come to a close. It's the last exhibit I'll be curating under the Translations banner, and a celebration of all the wonderful artists who've collaborated under the brand in the past 11 years.”  - Craig Joseph

EXHIBIT: The Last Hurrah / at Downtown Branch of Stark Library, 715 Market Avenue N., Canton, Ohio / on view THROUGH AUGUST 28, 2021 during library hours / 330-452-0665

   Of all the art spaces that have come and gone from downtown Canton’s “arts district,” none was for me a more exciting art gallery in the truest sense than Translations (located at 331 Cleveland Avenue NW). Craig Joseph’s curatorial acuity consistently provided us with shows of remarkable aesthetic and conceptual depth.

    It’s certainly no surprise, then, that this Last Hurrah is any less inspired and inspiring. The show is exceptionally rich in its diversity of media, materials and styles, including several excellent written works presented in enlarged text on tall, wall-mounted banners of white paper. The emotional, psychological, and spiritual arc of this entire exhibit is broad, often infused with poignant reflections on not just endings, but the prospect of hope in beginnings as well. So come ready to really read, literally (hey, this is a library after all) and figuratively.

   On one level, I’ve been thinking about the end of the Translations era as a somewhat bitter pill to swallow. Speaking of pills, there’s Kevin Anderson’s stark Citalopram, 30 Mg. Made from molded (carved?) foam, it’s a larger-than-life representation of an antidepressant medication. To everything there is a season if not a cure, eh? That specified 30 Mg dosage seems to deepen the piece’s symbolism. In the world of print media, writers’ often ended their typed articles or press releases with – 30 - . It’s a codified designation, and I’m not sure if it’s still a common practice in journalism. In any case, it means “finished” or “end of story.”

   On a more important level, I’m thankful and honored to be in the company of all the of very fine artists who made work for this show – a  communal, heartfelt farewell to an important exhibition platform. Read the statement that David McDowell included with his mixed media work, The End and the Beginning, and see how he expresses his own gratitude. Inspired by a memory of an incident from 20 years ago, it’s a mesmerizing image of a glowing tree, on fire after being struck (and killed) by lightning, and actually flickering here in blue and green LED lights. I echo McDowell’s concluding words: “…May we let this Last Hurrah prompt us not to mourn, but to step up. Some clichés are true: Every ending is a new beginning. Thank you, Craig.”     

Saturday, August 7, 2021

A Compelling Illumination of 'Different"

 

A Compelling Illumination of ‘Different’






By Tom Wachunas 

‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ – from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3

“A much-needed, beautiful testament to the power of the human spirit and the power of being oneself.”  - Craig Joseph 

 PERFORMANCE: THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY, written by James Lecesne, Directed by Abraham M. Adams, Starring Craig Joseph

A Seat of the Pants production, at Malone University Founders Hall, 425 25th Street NW, Canton, OH  

Sunday, August 8th at 2PM (in person) / Saturday, August 14th at 8PM (in person) / Friday, August 20th at 8PM (in person or all day online)

Tickets $20 - info at     www.seatofthepants.org/productions.

   This play is a marvelous one-man show and an otherwise brilliant tour de force of storytelling. Written by James Lecesne and here deftly directed by Abraham M. Adams, it stars Craig Joseph, who plays every character – eight in all – beginning with Chuck DeSantis, a frayed-at-the edges police detective with a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, as in, “The evil that men do lives after them...” We might quickly think we’re in for a rough ride when in his opening lines, he glibly declares, “… The dark side is my beat.”

    For the next 70 minutes, we watch and listen as he re-lives a case from 10 years ago, probing what happened to Leonard Pelkey, a fourteen-year-old boy who had gone missing in his Jersey Shore small town. The detective interviewed a bevy of local citizens. They included Leonard’s guardian, feisty “aunt” Ellen, who owned a local beauty salon and who refused to call the boy “gay,” preferring instead, “just different”; Ellen’s jittery daughter, Phoebe; chain-smoking Marion, who tearfully recalled at one point how Leonard  “…saw us not the way we were, but how we hoped to be…”; Buddy, the British director of a local drama and dance school who treasured Leonard’s uncanny theatrical talents; Otto, the German immigrant who owned a clock repair shop where Leonard took refuge from the bullies who relentlessly attacked him; and Gloria, the church-going, bespectacled widow of a mobster, and who spotted one of Leonard’s signature  rainbow platform sneakers floating like an omen in the lake outside her home. Good news, this Leonard’s shoe, thought the detective. And bad news. Leonard wasn’t attached.

    Yes, there’s evil and darkness and tragedy here. But that’s not the end of this ride. Evidenced by all the character’s very animated testimonies, most of the townsfolk judged Leonard’s differentness to be somehow intolerable. “Too much,” they said. Yet in honestly recalling what he did and said, and how he did it and said it, hardened hearts were softened. It’s a bittersweet hindsight, to be sure. Only when Leonard was gone from their midst did they see him, in all his objectionable “flamboyance” and quirkiness, as a bringer of light, indeed love. His undaunted trueness to himself gave them pause to examine their own lives in that same light.

    All of these characters come to credible life thanks to Craig Joseph’s remarkable performance acumen. From the timbre of his various accents (New Joisey, Britain, Germany) to the detailed nuances of body language, his expressivity is riveting, at once fiery, poignant and not without a generous dose of edgy humor. He turns the playwright’s words into specific, tangible people with attitudes - funny, happy, frightened, angry, mournful -  switching from one to the next with astonishing speed and precision. And all of it is beautifully enhanced by lighting and sound elements designed by Micah Harvey and Megan Slabach respectively.

   This is beyond fine acting. It’s absolute magic.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Edgy Evocations

 

Edgy Evocations 



Crosscurrent_01

Text/Context_01

Text/Context_04
Beyond Interpretation_10

By Tom Wachunas 

“You can make anything by writing.”   - C.S. Lewis  

“Letters act as practical and useful signs, but also as pure and inner melody.”  - Wassily Kandinsky

“Handwriting is a spiritual designing, even though it appears by means of a material instrument.”  - Euclid

“Calligraphy is the most direct form of all artistic expression. Just as each movement of the dancer is absolute, so every gesture of the calligrapher is essential. It is not the meaning of the character but the writing–the movement of execution and the action itself–that is important.”  - Tseng Yu-ho Ecke

EXHIBIT: John Chang: In Ink—Transformation of Calligraphy, THROUGH AUGUST 11, 2021, in STUDIO M at The Massillon Museum  / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / The Massillon Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm,  Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

https://www.massillonmuseum.org/539

From Merriam-Webster: Definition of calligraphy / 1a: artistic, stylized, or elegant handwriting or lettering / b: the art of producing such writing /

2: PENMANSHIP / 3: an ornamental line in drawing or painting

   Born and raised in Shanghai, China, John Chang is now based in Southern California. At one point in his statement for this solo exhibit, he writes: “…By invoking calligraphic forms, I am commenting on the distortion of language, but I am also reclaiming the energy of the written word. Tapping into my ancestral roots, I also use pigments for their symbolic power. For example, black and white are the colors of most ink painting but also represent yin and yang… I consider myself a 'spiritual escapist.’"

  Escape from what, and into what? Frankly I’m not exactly sure. Not able to interpret the elegantly drawn Chinese characters/words floating throughout his paintings like so many ghosts, I can only guess. I’m reminded that one of the paintings in the show is called, interestingly enough, Beyond Interpretation. This is not to say that the process of interpretation can’t be intriguing. Here, it most certainly is.

   For starters, remember that the traditional strictures of Chinese calligraphy require a mastery of brush (or pen) and ink. Chang’s arresting paintings are a departure from that ancient discipline. An escape? They regularly employ large, shiny textured shapes (or plains) rendered in the plastic patina of black acrylic paint. A nod to modern Western industrialism?

   There’s plenty of ambiguity here. Visual tensions. Weight and counterweight. Yin and yang. Positive and negative. Are those precisely-edged black shapes -  looking like so many puzzle pieces - macroscopic views of partially defined calligraphic letters? Or is that more what the white shapes are doing? Which is the positive shape, which is the negative ground? Indeed, both the black and white fields are transparent, revealing a variety of underlying as well as superimposed characters, marks, drips, scrapes, and textures. In some of the paintings, Chang has incorporated scraps of corrugated shipping boxes. The Amazon-delivered pleasures of American consumerism?

   A synthesis of text, context, subtext. Abstractions. Gestures. Actions of the hand to set the mind traveling. Metaphors for a meeting of cultures, a hybridization of identities.

   So as a viewer, maybe on one level you could commence your own inter-actions with these fascinating works by becoming a spiritual inquisitor. Think  of them as (I can just about hear your groaning now)… guesstures.