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Big Orbit Members Show

Sara Zak's "A Small Crowd of Metamorphoses."

Artist Rich Tomasello ups the ante in the current Big Orbit members show. Last year, in recollection of the Sandy Hook school shooting, he exhibited two NRA edition action figure dolls—one a student and one a teacher—body-armored and bearing assault rifles. This year, it’s an IED. A double pipe bomb with attached kitchen-accessory-type timing mechanism and wiring. The components handsomely taped together with black electrical tape. The colorful plastic packaging shows a happy family scene, a father figure working on the device with a little boy and girl who may not actually fit the package safe usage criterion: for ages six and up. However, the packaging proclaims: “Minimal assembly required!” And “Ready to use!!”

Technically, this is not the Big Orbit members show but CEPA members Big Orbit show, in light of the ongoing CEPA and Big Orbit merger. Big Orbit members are now CEPA members. The exhibit consists of non-photo-based works by these artists. (A show of photo-based works by the CEPA members is ongoing at the CEPA main venue in the Market Arcade building.)

Some highlights among the paintings are Gary Wolfe’s gritty real world bust portrait entitled Phuntsok Fall, in the unusual media of oil and encaustic on tar paper, and Sara Zak’s painterly blurred figuration piece entitled A Small Crowd of Metamorphoses, showing two—no, three, it looks like—unrecognizable figures transitioning somehow and somewhere, leaving the picture frame. Ovid run riot.

And Michael Hanna’s unusual subject matter—in a Big Orbit show, anyway—Study in Black and White: The Vatican Posse, a casually posed group portrait of a dozen or so clerics in Italianate clerical garb—black cassocks and broad-brimmed hats—in Italianate outdoor courtyard, before a portico row of Renaissance white marble archways.

And George Gilliam’s excellent pixilated impressionism winter urban park scene, possibly Central Park, New York City. A lake of some sort in the foreground, and large rocks and trees without foliage, and what could be the New York City skyline in the background.

Polly Little, who paints animals in authentic bird and beast mode but with nuanced anthropomorphic suggestions, has a painting of red fox camouflage-blended into a grassy green and blue backdrop, looking warily but unintimidated back at the painter/observer. And Mark Lavatelli, whose paintings in encaustic have nature and culture components—woods scenes typically and ghostly and enigmatic verbal elements in stencil fonts—has one such with a climate change theme. Verbal element greenhouse gases and sources: methane, CO2, coal, shale.

Evan Hawkins, who makes strangely unreal drawings of real buildings and monuments, has an altered version of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Lafayette Square, not quite so lofty and with a different stone base, crumbling at the corners. And he alters the name of the monument to Tomb of Soldiers & Sailors.

Several colorful abstract paintings, including a random-looking arrangement of basically geometrical forms by William Herod; gestural, non-geometric forms by Jennifer Mutton; and an excellent work by Ciarán Ó Conhúir entitled Classic American Landscapes, a kind of checkerboard of small squares of darker hues below, lighter hues above, in thick enamels.

Among the sculptural works, there’s David Mitchell’s comical LED information crawl sign, apparently with a computer connection. It reads, “Searching…Searching…Searching…”

Stacy Lechevet has a formidable-looking wall-hanging sculpture comprising, among other items, a circular metal industrial, an old but apparently functional still barometer, hardened cement residue, and rusty tin can on a wire. Joseph Verrastro has a small sculpture—like an ancient religious ceremonial object—of a stylized quadruped of some sort, entitled Beast of Burden. And Kurt Von Voetsch has a head and shoulders harness piece with sheets of actual gravestone rubbings. “John Rummel, Artist, 1861-1942.” “Letitia Matilda Bliss…born 1872…married 1819…died 1864.”

You enter the gallery beneath a Scott Bye sculpture, a half archway leaning stack of bushel baskets. Homage to Cesar Chavez, and recalling Roman ruins broken arches in Christian nativity paintings, symbolic of the end of the old world order, beginning of the new. Here presaging a decent immigration bill? That millennium?

The Big Orbit show continues through March 8.

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