Friday, July 27, 2007

Essential Elements



Hera Gallery is pleased to present “Essential Elements”, a national juried exhibition with works selected by Judith Tolnick, director URI Gallery. The exhibition will be on view from July 14th-August 18th.
What are essential elements in artmaking? This deceptively simple question is one that elicited a wide range of responses to Hera Gallery’s current show, “Essential Elements”. Though many chose to interpret essential to mean a fundamental sense of form, shape and color, this vibrant exhibition pushes aside traditional concepts to make way for personal interpretation. Juror Judith Tolnick selected work that explores the artists’ perception of “essential elements” within their own conceptual framework. In her juror’s statement she writes, “[t]he exhibition theme moves away from any connotations of “essentialist” aesthetics and engages instead the vital, fundamental, core structures that occupy different artists variously and to distinctive ends.”
As Tolnick tucks away any pre-determined ideas of the term “essential”, the result is a colorful cacophony of paintings, sculptures, prints and photos. These 40 works submitted by artists from New York to Nebraska, often emphasize abstract interpretations of natural elements such as pods, trees, figures, and landscapes, investigating human relationships to nature, place and object.
Painting is a popular medium of expression in “Essential Elements”, appearing in various forms from non-representational color patterning to quasi-representational, imagined environments, to re-creations of actual landscapes. Recent RISD graduate, and Rhode Island resident, Beata Stepien-Liu, presents brightly colored linear abstractions that vibrate with tangible force. Inspired by the work of abstract painters such as Mark Rothko and Brice Marden, she describes her work as an, “…[exploration of] all possible interconnected relations between essential elements such as line, light, and color.”
Fellow painter, Julie Vinette of Massachusetts, presents hazily representational works brimming with vibrant color and strong, painterly movement. She writes, “ [m]y work is impacted by the luminosity and colors that suffuse each season, the transparency and reflections of light and liquid, and the striations that appear when speeding by…”.
Also inspired by her relationship to nature is fellow Massachusetts painter Kerry St. Laurent, whose work leads the viewer on fantastic wanderings through real and imagined landscapes. About her process she writes, “ I begin my paintings with fluid watercolor washes on smooth Clayboard panels or Yupo paper that act as a metaphor for my encounters with nature: spontaneous, organic, and unique. These washes are integrated with layers of paint, ink, and pencil that represent my ingrained influences as I reference maps, guidebooks, scientific texts, photographs, and my memory.”
A number of Essential Element’s artists find inspiration in the complexities of human nature, utilizing the figure in imagery, as well as referencing the presence of an individual. One such artist is Michael Reedy, Assistant professor in Drawing at Eastern Michigan University. Reedy presents a large, intimately detailed, and emotionally packed portrait of a naked man sitting cross-legged, while cartoon figures, and rendered guns push forward from the shadowy background. Reedy writes, “ [u]ltimately, I wish the work to question our perceptions, our hopes and fears, and reflect what it is to be human.”
Exploring similar issues is recent RISD graduate and sculpture artist, Ayumi Ishii. In this exhibition, she presents an amorphous shaped resin sculpture, familiar yet indefinable. Using subtle physical references, Ishii begins a conversation about objects evoking human experience. About her work she writes, “ By skewing our perception of the human body, I look for experiences that build and collapse the boundary between reality and imagination.”
Hera Gallery’s “Essential Elements”, presents a lively and thought-provoking exhibition that inquires into what is or may be essential for today’s contemporary artist.

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