There is no lack of curiosity when it comes to the Bemis Center. “Regionally” or internationally, visible (and invisible) for that matter. Their exhibits are presented with such dignity and innovation, consistently posing a challenge to artistic sensibility. Without any undue verbosity, here’s a review of the show located in the BemisUNDERGROUND.
Serendipitously, the show’s three winners (who will receive $500 and a group exhibition) were posted on Facebook 20 minutes before my feet hit the pavement and my curiosity piqued.
With less video work art than last year’s exhibit, I was drawn to Nicole Geary’s “Dig Project” which included a film of herself in process on an “earthwork” a kind of site-specific art which utilizes materials from the earth. In this case, white sand in an unknown locale. The workbench contained inlays of maps which clued the viewer into the fact that she was experimenting with the survey of land, putting stakes in the sand and digging. Leaving the tools of the project there in the gallery infused the presentation with a sense of possibility and mystery.
A winner, Gina Adams presented two pieces of ceramic pottery which were much larger in person than I imagined and looked strikingly ancient. The picture suggests some kind of engraving, such as a piece of scrimshaw, but up close it looks like it as painted with shades of ochre and is actually encaustic with oil paint, an ancient practice. The effect conjures images of ancient greek pottery — the ruins at Pompeii and some type of glyph decorative pattern which could be anything from the world of recorded human history.
Arjan Zazueta, a past contributor to the regional juried show created visual interest with framed embroidered paper towels. Embroidery can look like “femmage” but in this context, the geometric shapes suggested a variety of things at the molecular level. The texture of the paper towels had little or no contribution to the overall effect except of course a re-vision of everyday materials and a nudge toward the concept of “quilted.” With a variety of pastel shades, the work should look delicate, but rather it looks geometric and sterile and has an “atomic” energy.
Andrew Kaufman’s painting of an oriental rug bent like a piece of paper on a bright green background mixes so much concept and seems so simple at the same time. The oriental rug is an antiquated fixture reminding us of an historical home, museum or some facet of interior design from days gone by. The rug itself may have a meaning, a religious connotation to its pattern (which many do but I don’t know enough about) but you could tell he did use a stencil to create the rug pattern rather than paint which achieved the idea of “woven.” But what is most striking is that the rug is folded into an angle, inhabiting two planes, floating in a bright green and unevenly painted background suggesting nothingness. Pattern, shape, geometry, color and the figurative object all come into play in this phenomenal piece.
Benjamin Gardner’s whimsical, fantastical painting “If the Fates Allow” suggest a parade of ribbons and banners in bright hues and livens up the space, while Patti Roberts Pizzuto’ s “Nocturnes” place a planetary star-filled black night inside the shape of a house.
Another winner, Gary Noland’s “Zipper” was made with a variety of types of tapes. Duct tape, electrical tape and others such as wood grain contact paper and the debris from what must have been a disintegrating wooden floor are all present in a range of hues from aluminum to pastel to neons. Airy and industrial at the same time, as well as being the only piece made entirely from tape and debris, Noland’s work is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch and the best part is that we can look forward to more from Noland.
Many other works are on view until April 7th, 2012, each more unique than the next, and worthy of prize and praise.
Featured image (courtesy of Bemis Center): Ceramic work by Lauren Mabry, a winner of the 2012 Bemis Center Regional Juried Exhibition.
All other photos by Sarah DaCorta.