Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gina Occhiogrosso in Lay of the Land

Gina Occhiogrosso, "Nobody wants to be here, and nobody wants to leave", 22 x 30", Flashe and gouache on paper, 2012

The exhibition Lay of the Landon view through February 20, 2014, deals with landscapes as they are perceived and reconstructed by artists. Each artist in the show focuses on a different aspect of this reconstruction. 

In mixed media paintings by Gina Occhiogrosso, the landscape is not quite settled. The viewer is presented with the materials that may one day come to rest as an observable landscape, but at present the shapes and colors must be solved like a puzzle before recognition can take place. The various trajectories of abstracted forms become a shared concern for viewers who may hope for resolution, while suspecting that the perceived tension carries a weightier message.
Extreme Measures, 11x14, oil on canvas, 2013

The artist in her own words:

"My work captures flux, slippage or time-suspended through the liquid and flexible medium of paint. The fragments interact to suggest movement, unease, or tremor. The land in these pictures is not quite finished being transformed, not in its image, nor in its process.

We can wait for the next one, 12x16, oil on canvas, 2013
It is an insecure space from my childhood and a cautionary tale for our future. Sources for the work are images found on websites that record natural disaster related damage such as FEMA (tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes). Elements dangle, merge and are transformed. The work is about our changing domestic landscape as well as our political and economic landscape, and how these forces have worked to destroy each other.

Through exploration of extreme weather events and their resulting catastrophic landscapes, more recent work is distilled into suggestive or abstracted spaces. The materiality of paint becomes reinforced by the use of a palette knife, and other much more physical practices.

Color has become more acidic, referring to an otherworldly, prophetic landscape. While I am interested in the world and it’s economic and environmental drift, I am also interested in unique personal experiences where life becomes untethered, and spaces become increasingly psychological."

- Gina Occhiogrosso

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the Café Gallery: Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Students of Harriet Finck

The Café Gallery at the Art School at Old Church is pleased to host an exhibition of collages by local artists on view through February 13th.  The collage works in the show are created by students of the Art School faculty member Harriet Finck. This group of students interpreted Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a book of poetry comprised of over 250 myths to create collages. Cultures create mythology to explain the workings of the world and the interactions between gods, goddesses, and humans.  By gathering inspiration from these mythological stories, the students found the stepping stones for their work.  
Eve Kafka Barron, Underworld, 2013

The collages in this show were developed in the studios at the Art School in Collage: Juxtaposition, offered Friday afternoons.  The idea of collage is to place one piece of printed material against another. Through this process, students have created unique works of art that are expressions of personal interpretations of Ovid’s myths.

Exhibiting artists:
Marcy Cagan (RAMSEY, NJ), Susan Fidlon (FORT LEE, NJ), Arlene Hirschfelder (TEANECK, NJ), Eva Kafka Barron (TEANECK, NJ), Nancy Kihn (WEST NEW YORK, NJ), Joan Knauer (FORT LEE, NJ), Lisa Rabinowitz (UPPER MONTCLAIR), Dorit Shmuel (CRESSKILL, NJ), and Maxine Silverman (NYACK, NY). 

Stop by the gallery to see the last days of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Students of Harriet Finck!
Nancy Kihn, Waterworld II, 2013

Friday, February 7, 2014

Giovanna Cecchetti: Untitled Medicine in Lay of the Land

Giovanna Cecchetti, Untitled Medicine/Garden Song/Serpiente, 30 x 64", oil on linen, 2010

The exhibition Lay of the Land, on view through February 20, 2014, deals with landscapes as they are perceived and reconstructed by artists. Each artist in the show focuses on a different aspect of this reconstruction. 

Giovanna Cecchetti reconstructs the sounds and energies of the Amazon jungle through abstract visual imagery in oil on linen. These traditional materials communicate the experience of being present in a space of immense sensory input. The paintings are devised to arrest the viewer for a moment before providing access to a vibrant world. Cecchetti's landscapes are neither real nor imaginary. Rather than offering a simulacrum of the Amazon, the artist provides the viewer with a language of symbols for plants and insects that convey the dense energy of the scene without the use of visual mimicry or literal transcription. Never having experienced the teeming serenity of the rainforest in person for myself, the paintings in this exhibit are medicine indeed.

In the artist's own words:

"The selected paintings are part of a series I initiated in 2008 titled “Untitled Medicine.” This series is inspired by my travels into the Amazon jungle of Peru. Returning to the Amazon in 2009 and 2010 brought further depth to my understanding of the magical and mystical character of the jungle terrain. The visual imagery in these works attempts to capture the density of the landscape along with its soundscape. The jungle is rarely quiet and consistently active with insects, animals, flying creatures, reptiles, and the whispering of plant spirits. The tangled growth of trees and vines, ferns and palms visually overlay the seldom seen horizon and sky. One seems to merge into the jungle environment until one can no longer distinguish a self separate from one’s surroundings.

My work is very much concerned with formal issues dealing with color, shape, line, and composition as well as with space, time, and the visionary. I work within the tradition of formalist abstract painting and mark making practices. Using traditional materials of oil paints on linen, my painting methods incorporate a considerable preparation to ground, underpainting, glazing, and varnishing. To construct the imagery in the paintings I use a process of layering marks and geometric based shapes, often combining simple shapes into complex structures. I sand each layer of paint, which produces an effect of layers dissolving into each other, serving to mutually organize and confuse time. Between each serial layer of paint, I apply a thin film of cold beeswax, which I then buff in order to give a consistency to the surface as well as to preserve the underlying imagery while furthering the illusion of space between one layer and the next. When I consider the painting complete, I then buff the surface with a final layer of beeswax to produce what I call a soft surface, a surface that I feel invites the observer to enter."

- Giovanna Cecchetti

Giovanna Cecchetti, Untitled Medicine/Red Squirrel Spirit/Jungle, 28 x 40", oil on linen, 2009

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Matthew Albanese: Strange Worlds in Lay of the Land

Matthew Albanese, My Dream Your Nightmare, artist charcoal, sticks, crepe paper party streamers, sifted coffee, phosphorescent ink, 2011

The exhibition Lay of the Land, on view through February 20, 2014, deals with landscapes as they are perceived and reconstructed by artists. Each artist in the show focuses on a different aspect of this reconstruction. 

The creator of Strange Worlds, Matthew Albanese, brings us across the finish line to a place where we unknowingly accept the artifice as real, only to find that what we perceived as a landscape was in fact a table-top set, constructed down to the finest detail and photographed. What we at first perceive as part of this world we realize is part of something else entirely: a projection of the artist's imagination brought to life. But the result is not alienating. On the contrary, the photographs create a shared experience of wonder that is closer to our everyday lives than we first realize. When the illusion is revealed, a vast landscape becomes as familiar as a living room carpet. Awe is replaced by recognition of a shared fantasy of a beautiful, at times tumultuous and strange world.

The following is an excerpt from a book on Matthew Albanese's Strange Worlds:

"The poet William Wordsworth wrote about his “inward eye,” which served him like a camera, making it possible to resurrect in his mind, “a host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees.” Matthew Albanese’s strange worlds, captured in radiant colored images, are also brought back to life by way of the artist’s inner vision. These are worlds that seduce the viewer into believing that the forests and lakes, waterfalls and glowing nighttime auroras, the windswept savannahs, and even the surfaces of distant moons and planets are photographically accurate documents of specific environments. It is only when one learns that these natural phenomena are constructed of the most banal and quotidian of materials-spices, bottle brushes, salt, fake fur, and deconstructed feather dusters- and that they are only as large as a small tabletop, that the viewer becomes aware of having been gently persuaded and then seduced into believing in a reality that is entirely false. Rather than feeling cheated, deceived, and manipulated by the artist’s clever wiles, a strange pleasure, sometimes approaching awe, kicks in, taking the viewer into the state of suspended disbelief that we experience at the theater or in the movies.

Matthew Albanese’s worlds, whether superficially gentle or blatantly violent, place the viewer in an existential quandary. Are we the anonymous and blameless witnesses to a world of deception that both entices and mocks us? Are we asked by the artist to enter a territory entirely fabricated in the artist’s mind or does our suspension of disbelief override our knowledge of what is true and what is false? In permitting ourselves to become a part of the artist’s world, are we reading his own autobiographical narrative? Which is the human presence we recognize in these landscapes?

Carl Jung wrote that our “projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.” Matthew Albanese’s strange worlds serve two masters: they are projections of the artist’s unknown face, but also of our own.

-       From “The Inward Eye” by David Revere McFadden

Matthew Albanese, Wildfire, Scotch-Brite pot scrubbers, clear garbage bags, cooked sugar, 2011