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Art Evolution on the East End of Allentown: Ceramics by Leeann Catanzaro at Indigo Art, Found Metal by Richard Rockford and Robert Then at Gallery TGW

From "ProFound Objects" at TGW
"Undulating Tray with Cups" by Leeann Catanzaro

Objects of Beauty

There has been a lot of recent activity among the storefronts around Allen and Franklin St. Café 59 crossed from the NW corner to the SW corner. East End Salon disappeared. Indigo Art crossed the street and moved into the larger space of the former salon. After a clothing boutique moved out of 497 Franklin, artist David Vitrano claimed the space for TGW Gallery. Vitrano was a member of a cooperative gallery on the same block 50 years ago. Not all storefronts in that area are as transient. Patricia’s, a colorful curiosity shop, has been on the east end block of Allen St. for 30 years.

On view now at the galleries Indigo and TGW are objects that capture the imagination in quite different ways.

Indigo Art opened the doors of the spacious new gallery with “Opulent Rituals.” The body of work by ceramic designer, Leeann Catanzaro, is the culmination of her explorations as an MFA candidate at Buffalo State College. This is not your grandmother’s crafty earthenware pottery. The fanciful yet functional tableware and sculpture is part Alice in Wonderland and part King George. Inspired by 17th century Baroque style, a term is loosely defined as “imperfect pearl,” the approach is characterized by exaggeration, decadence, abundance, and ornament. Traditionally, some potters “throw” clay on a potter’s wheel--others build vessels and structures using slabs and ropes of clay. Catanzaro is a contemporary artist who utilizes both methods. The twisting animated forms and ornamentation suggest organic matter. Her lustre glazes are richly colored with the iridescence of soap bubbles, sea shells, and shiny gold. As if floating on a lake, plain white tumblers rest within a foamy green container (“Undulating Tray with Cups”). She has worked extensively with the possibilities of a teapot. I smile at the idea of pouring afternoon tea from such pots. Her appreciation of everyday tableware is a love for the daily ritual of sharing meals with family and friends. Special dishes spark the desire to take time for these moments. The artist also creates sculptural pieces, such as “Flowering Gourd,” a lively piece that appears to have grown all by itself. The centerpiece of the gallery room is an inviting scalloped-edge white table, set for eight—plates, bowls, cups, candelabra, and teapot (of course). Sitting down to dine at Catanzaro’s table is guaranteed to delight.

Around the corner at TGW, is another kind of delight. Woodworker, Richard Rockford, and metalworker, Robert Then, have collaborated on their “ProFound Objects” installation—a garden of metal findings. The viewer is invited to see the old in a new way--honor the rusted, bent, and broken. These objects are the aftermath of the natural disintegration of aging structures, the sort of refuse that emerges from demolition sites. Trash or treasure? The artists have created new interest by retrieving the objects for the pleasure of looking. They are dusted off and carefully presented. Some are mounted on stands crafted of steel or wood--others hang on the wall. Each piece is named to offer a particular vantage point and a way to observe. The titles are descriptive and often humorous. Some of the forms appear familiar, such as “Red Rooster,” “Pennant,” “Crest, or “Ship that Rusts in the Night.” Other pieces are unidentifiable and they are titled accordingly—for example, “A Part of Something.” I especially enjoyed seeing one that reveals the remnant of a doorknob, the only clue to suggest a former purpose as a door. There is much interest in re-use these days. Incorporating the old into the new is an excellent use of materials. There is also value in allowing the relics to simply be. The ancient Japanese art of Wabi Sabi instructs in just this concept. There is beauty in the weathered and worn. Rockford and Then remind us to appreciate seemingly useless things found in the trash heap—find delight in what remains.

On view now at both galleries through June 28th.

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