Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Combobulated Abstractitudes and Bruised Fruit


Combobulated Abstractitudes and Bruised Fruit 

Moonlight Mile, by Joe Ostrowske

Calm Like a Bomb, by Joe Ostrowske

Through the Eyes of Ruby, by Joe Ostrowske

Can't You Hear Me Knocking, by Joe Ostrowske

by Jo Westfall

by Jo Westfall

Blow In It, by Jo Westfall

The Queen's Astronomer, by Jo Westfall

By Tom Wachunas 

   “Forget your ideas about art. Make a shopping list of everything you like about what you've done. Include qualities that you've seen in your life, in the world, and possibly in art that you like. Take this list and make a work that satisfies all of the things on your list without caring if it looks like art.”  — Joseph Kosuth

   “Art is an experience, not an object.” - Robert Motherwell

EXHIBIT: Joe and Jo – works by Joe Ostrowske and Jo Westfall / at Cyrus Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio / Meet the artists at “A Second Look”  party on January 20 at 6:30 p.m.– exhibit ends on JANUARY 30, 2023 / 330.452.9787 / Gallery Hours are Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

   This provocative, intriguing and otherwise spectacular exhibit of paintings and assemblages has left me transfixed for weeks after first seeing it.  

   Joe Ostrowske has said of his highly expressionistic acrylic canvases that he is addressing “…the way that we all maneuver through the overlapping obstacles of life to find our way.”  Finding our way indeed.

    So what’s the destination? What specifically is being symbolized? That’s an open-ended proposition to be sure. If all else fails, slap your imagination in the face. Hard. Wake it up. Look long, and listen. Art expects nothing less. I’m willing to bet that if you ask 10 different people what any one of these pictures means or does exactly, you’ll get at least 20 different answers. Art can be like that.

   I read these paintings as a collective travelogue. They’re abstract extracts from a journey down the rabbit hole of a volatile nexus – a rough-hewn crossroads, where consciousness and subconsciousness (the artist’s and our own), along with unrestrained intuition coexist. The paintings are suffused with a dizzying diversity of stratified marks and scattered shapes amidst broad, amorphous bursts and rhytms of sizzling bright colors. There’s a palpable sensation of quick physical gestures, motion and transformation. An in-the-moment immediacy. Ostrowske’s style is a painterly stenography of sorts - shorthand explanations of the very actions and processes that brought the paintings into being.  Smudge, scratch and scribble; drip, doodle and delete; rub, rinse and repeat; expose, explore and erase; forget, flounder and find; initiate, improvise and illuminate; wail softly, whisper loudly and wonder always. Life can be like that.

   Meanwhile, versatile Jo Westfall has characterized her 2D and 3D works as “resource art.” Among her many fascinating entries in this exhibit are small, “portraits” of bruised, decaying fruit and vegetables, painted on grainy pieces of wood. In some ways they evoke the ancient aesthetic trope of memento mori – images made as warnings that life is short. Yet there’s nothing fearfully hideous about how these natural resources are depicted in their states of imperfection. Westfall’s exquisite technique imbues them not with the idea of death so much as a gentle savoring of their beautiful fragility.

    The caption accompanying the website (posted above) photo of Westfall describes her as “Designer of adornments, Delver of semi-conscious concepts, Explorer of seams.”  I would add, “Rescuer.” She’s a saver of found, castaway objects and various tactile materials. For her 3D pieces, she skillfully joins together seemingly unlikely candidates for the weaving process into elaborate assemblages that are a fascinating twist on conventional “fiber art.”  

    Read the list of ingredients for The Queen’s Astronomer: Repurposed fabrics and yarns, computer keyboard cables, drum tuners, piano parts, chair springs, zip ties, and phone cable. Or for Blow In It: Pneumatic hose, game controllers, phone cable, piano parts, coated wire clothes hangers, and AV cables. Here’s the sinewy meshing of ordinary computer guts, the common hardware innards of modern industry, or information and communication technology. But now, the original functionality of those components has morphed into a kind of metaphysical circuitry, transmitting a more purely aesthetic experience beyond the mundane and prosaic.

   So here’s to the warp and weft of 3D poetry.

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