EX.EX. V: Ex­cerpt Ex­hi­bi­tion, La Tienda shop­ping cen­ter, El­do­rado, 466-2838 (in­for­ma­tion); through Jan. 10

Pasatiempo - - Art In Review -

The fifth in­car­na­tion of EX.EX.: Ex­cerpt Ex­hi­bi­tion, organized an­nu­ally by Santa Fe artist Dean How­ell, holds no sur­prises ex­cept for the venue. In­stalled in ad­ja­cent build­ings at the new La Tienda shop­ping cen­ter in El­do­rado, the exhibit spa­ces are nice enough, but the show has a slight dis­con­nect be­cause of the sep­a­ra­tion. The to­tal square footage, wall space, and ros­ter of in­vited artists ex­ceed that of pre­vi­ous EX.EX. shows. And as in pre­vi­ous in­stall­ments of How­ell’s ex­hi­bi­tion, there is the very good and the very bad in a gamut of medi­ums, in­clud­ing paint­ing, sculp­ture, ce­ram­ics, photography, draw­ing, mixed me­dia, com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery, col­lage, wood­work, print­mak­ing, and cast glass.

With nearly 100 pieces by 36 artists, there is a lot to con­sider. But the most ac­com­plished painter in the group in terms of re­al­ism and know­ing his way around the color wheel is Braldt Bralds. His two oil-on-panel paint­ings— The Gen­tle Man and Stilled Beauty— are small gems that con­vey a sen­si­bil­ity to­ward Ital­ian Re­nais­sance paint­ing with il­lu­sion­is­tic ef­fects of trompe l’oeil. Both dis­play rich pal­ettes and skilled drafts­man­ship. The for­mer piece is a straight­for­ward head-and-shoul­ders por­trait of a man in 16th-cen­tury at­tire, while Stilled Beauty is a study of a felled bird. Bralds’ fram­ing choices may be a bit con­stric­tive in com­par­i­son with the size of his paint­ings, but the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion is pro­fes­sion­ally con­ceived. Too bad his work wasn’t mounted in a bet­ter lo­ca­tion.

Fea­tured promi­nently in both ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces are paint­ings by El­do­rado artist Shel­don Kre­vit, whose style is best de­scribed as nonob­jec­tive pointil­lism — imag­ine a monochrome paint­ing of an iso­lated sec­tion of wall done by Ge­orges Seu­rat or Paul Signac. Whether Kre­vit is pre­sent­ing a macro or mi­cro vi­sion with his dabbed sur­faces in Love Is Love (a dip­tych) and That Is What (a trip­tych) is any­body’s guess. In each work, Kre­vit ex­plores sub­tle color shifts, one in shades of blue, the other in yel­low and tan, while al­low­ing his ges­soed sup­port to peek through. Of the two, That Is What feels more com­plete, with the two densely painted out­side can­vases play­ing well to the more airy mid­dle can­vas. But one may ask whether Kre­vit’s work is fine art or sim­ply a de­sign con­cept. And why his trip­tych is in­stalled a foot higher than need be is an­other ques­tion.

Two mixed-me­dia paint­ings by Steven Boone — Straw Bearer and Spin­ning the Wheel — are, at a glance, im­pres­sive. Both de­pict an in­di­vid­ual, one haul­ing a bun­dle of straw on his head and the other run­ning be­side a hoop pro­pelled by a stick. Boone’s com­bi­na­tion of ab­stract and rep­re­sen­ta­tional im­agery is nice, but one can’t ig­nore his sur­face treat­ment, which is laden with hard­ened globs and drips of wax. The added en­caus­tic com­po­nent does noth­ing to en­hance what ap­pears to be en­larged photo-based im­agery on can­vas. His col­laged frag­ments of ac­tual straw in the for­mer paint­ing make sense and give that par­tic­u­lar piece an ef­fec­tive three-di­men­sional qual­ity. But the wax over­lay on both paint­ings is over­done and too de­lib­er­ate.

An­other cul­prit when it comes to tin­ker­ing too much and not know­ing when to quit is John Stevens. Added to his mixed-me­dia work are such things as brass finials, por­cu­pine quills, strips of rib­bon and tape, and porce­lain eggs, all of which com­pro­mise what oth­er­wise would be some very good paint­ing. In 104-IX, 104-V, and six other pieces in the show, his ex­pres­sion­is­tic mark-mak­ing and oc­ca­sional al­le­gories us­ing col­laged pho­tos and sten­ciled let­ters and num­bers work well. But the at­tached minu­tiae around the edges of his work read as af­ter­thoughts and con­vey a lack of con­fi­dence in his abil­i­ties as a painter.

Con­stricted, an unas­sum­ing clay ves­sel by Mike Walsh, vis­ually de­fies the ma­te­rial from which it is made. Like a flex­i­ble rub­ber ball forced within the con­fines of four vertical steel rods set in a base, Walsh’s short-necked ce­ramic vase com­pels one to touch it. The il­lu­sion of its elas­tic­ity is com­pelling, and it’s hard to be­lieve its bulging bowl hasn’t al­ready popped like a bal­loon.

Rod­ney Estrada’s clay piece, Head— made up of a wood base and a found ob­ject— is a dy­namic bust of a male fig­ure that looks like a bronze. Its tex­tu­ral qual­ity is not un­like the im­pres­sion­is­tic sur­face treat­ment seen in Rodin’s fig­u­ra­tive work in that Estrada elected to leave his resid­ual hand­i­work vis­i­ble rather than smooth it away. The piece has a sense of move­ment due to its rough ex­te­rior il­lu­mi­nated by the rak­ing light re­flected from dif­fer­ent van­tage points. Mighty pe­cu­liar, how­ever, is part of a meat grinder at­tached to the top of Estrada’s Head. It’s a tad silly, yet sug­gests sym­bol­i­cally the men­tal work­ings of the mind or maybe a grind­ing headache.

The most so­phis­ti­cated use of found ob­jects— and there’s a bunch in EX.EX. V— is by How­ell in his Naked Jour­ney of Hu­mankind: Pri­mal Ex­pe­ri­ence #1 and Dou­glas Duffy’s Dick in the Box. How­ell’s piece, a wall­mounted as­sem­blage of nat­u­ral grasses, dried brush, wood, rope, fab­ric, and metal, is a four-legged, hy­brid desert crea­ture. It is part of a group of work al­lud­ing to the artist’s be­lief that there ex­ists in all liv­ing be­ings a vi­tal, in­trin­sic bond. Con­sid­er­ing the ma­te­rial from which it is con­ceived, it is eerily re­al­is­tic.

And can a work of art be de­ranged? Duffy’s adul­to­ri­ented jack-in-the-box may be just that. Al­though in­op­er­a­ble, the pieced-to­gether metal com­part­ment with gears in­side and a large crank han­dle out­side is oc­cu­pied by a fright­en­ing bo­gey­man-like head im­paled on a pro­ject­ing spring. Looking like a cross be­tween Gol­lum in Peter Jack­son’s Lord of the Rings films and Heath Ledger’s per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the Joker in The Dark Knight, it’s the stuff of night­mares. But its bizarre per­sona, cou­pled with Duffy’s crafts­man­ship, draws you in for a closer look.

While some of the work in EX.EX. V will make you cringe for its lack of artis­tic merit, How­ell’s idea of show­cas­ing the spirit of cre­ativ­ity is ful­filled. And de­spite hav­ing heard the man say that he may not do the show again be­cause of its tax­ing de­mands, one hopes he will con­tinue to do so— if only to buck the high-end gallery scene of pol­ished, pretty, and pre­ten­tious lit­tle things in Santa Fe.

— Dou­glas Fair­field

Dean How­ell: Naked Jour­ney of Hu­mankind: Pri­mal Ex­pe­ri­ence #1, mixed me­dia

John Stevens:

104-V,

mixed me­dia

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