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A Group Show at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery

The Big Cool

Recent weeks of chilly days notwithstanding, this exhibition is, in differing contexts, a summer salad of works dealing with light, placement, and materials in a group show highlighting the most representative examples of the Freudenheim stable of artists, from the photographer John Pfahl to mixed-media artist John Torreano. The exhibit is roughly divided into two categories: systems and patterns.

Pfahl’s continuing large-scale investigations of industry’s environmental assault on pristine landscapes bring to mind similar juxtapositions in the work of Cezanne, and the painters of the Ash Can School, famous for including the raw surrounds of the early 20th-century urban industrial landscape. Pfahl’s selection here, from his Waterfall Series, shows a no-nonsense cinderblock watch house perched on stilts above a spillway overlooking a scene of otherwise bucolic beauty. Two closely observed prints from his Rich Hours of a Compost Pile also recall painters of antiquity dealing elegantly with the properties of decay in the physical world.

Ellen Carey displays large minimalist fields of mirror-surfaced, color, positive prints in lacquer bright Pulls, underscoring the photographic medium’s original status as having no artistic merit by tacking her work up with push pins. Pulls echoes the actual physical work of the Polaroid process, peeling away the positive image that develops famously in 60 seconds.

Catherine Sehr’s process, certainly a most rigorous system, results in the most sensually liberating works on exhibit. Working on paper within her limited selection of gel pens, she creates undulating waves of pale color culminating in a skein of barely interconnected idiographic veils. Starting from one end and moving inexorably like a determined living thing, like algae or ants, to the other, all the while leaning over the paper on her knees cushioned by a pillow.

Among the artists who concentrate on creating intricate aesthetic challenges for the viewer are Robert Swain and Peter Stephens, both represented here in large-scale works that focus on content and form, especially its minute variations and fluctuations in surface modeling and exacting facture. Both artists’ commitment to detail bring the viewer ample opportunity to appreciate the fine points of reproducing movement-oriented perception and serial disintegration.

Charles Clough, founder along with Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman, et alia, of Buffalo’s premier international cultural arts center, Hallwalls, holds pride of place in the Freudenheim’s long history of artists who have vaulted into prominence. His painting on paper, Charlie’s Angels (pictured), covers one wall and is immediately engaging for its swirling arabesques of color. Pencil marks evident beneath the surface of the painting reveal the line armature Clough uses to build the serpentine, figure-like, fingerpainted composition.

John Torreano has, ever since his childhood experience as an altar boy in the Catholic Church, had a fascination with the quality of light found in minerals known as gems, especially their unique patterns and facet precision. His wall hanging consists of wooden lacrosse- and softball-sized balls strung on a steel cable like beads, each presenting a glitter painted surface resembling a seasonal decoration selectively studded with gems.

Over the designated time frame, the exhibition will revolve to highlight works by other gallery artists.

j. tim raymond

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