by Jack Foran
An exploration of color at UB Center for the Arts
Some spectacular artworks in the Splitting Light show—about color—at the UB Center for the Arts. The trouble is color gets all the credit. Materials, texture, tactile values, these get short shrift.
Introductory wall text says the idea of the show is to examine how color affects “mood and space and specifically how it acts structurally” in artworks and in general. Whereas the works of one of the artists feature some of the most unusual—to bizarre—media in the history of art. Flyspecks. Other works look from across the room like animal hides on a barn wall subjected to random shotgun target practice. From closer on they turn out to be not fur but woven wool, acid-dyed and spot-burned. Another is a bench you can sit on made of deep blue thermochromic material. Mood ring material.
But some extremely beautiful works, such as Gabriel Dawe’s several works in thread, particulary Gateway, an enormous waterfall-effect piece of a zillion hanging from ceiling to floor threads in subtly changing saffron shades across the width of the piece. A piece with a quiet but potent meditational inspirational quality, reminiscent of work of Mark Rothko. And a gender piece as well. Expositional text on a flier accompanying the show notes that the artist’s choice of material “relates to gender biases he encountered in childhood; he was not allowed to learn embroidery because he was a boy.” Another piece by the same artist, called Matrix, is as minimalistic as Gateway is sumptuous. A little thread network bag tacked to one of the gallery support pillars. The essence of reticent.
Some exquisite nearly purely light works—video projected light on wall surfaces, and LED light projecting from behind picture-type frameworks—by Hap Tivey. One a kite form projected into the angle of two walls, a string from one wall to the other causing a shadow line where the kite transverse support stick would occur, the top and bottom kite portions in different soft and changing colors. Another similar work with string in an opposite corner, more abstract in geometric form. A vaguely uvular-reminiscent waveform in an LED work, called Wavelength of Speech.
The flyspecks works are by John Knuth, and flies. One work on several panels has the collective title Stellar Dispersion. The expositional material describes Knuth’s technique, how he gets the flies to participate and cooperate. It says he “began experimenting with houseflies nearly a decade ago, landing on a method by which he feeds them pigmented sugar, which they regurgitate onto the canvas.” (Though I’m not sure regurgitate is the precise term for the flies’ activity.)
A piece by Shiva Aliabadi uses Holi powder, associated with a Hindu-origin religious festival of light and color. Three lengths of adhesive cellophane sprinkled with the powder in three colors, bright yellow, pinkish red, and a regal shade of blue to purple. The same artist has a room corner piece in squares of copper foil, suggesting a house in absentia. A negative space.
Breathtaking blue hues in a photo entitled Moon over Rocks, Monument Valley, Arizona, by David Benjamin Sherry. And brown in his photo of a natural formation pile of desert rocks, fractured and compact fitted like work of a master mason.
Erin Curtis has a site-specific work called Lost Landscape. Covering the gallery entryway glass walls with sometimes opaque, sometimes translucent horizontal strips of Grand Canyon imagery on one side of the entryway, tropical waters flora and fauna on the other.
Amanda Browder has a group of enormous hanging fabric works of different-colored, different-patterned patchwork segments. Sam Falls has the thermochromic bench. Anna Betbeze the woven wool and dyed and burned works. And Nathan Green some Op Art genre paintings in varicolored stripes.
The title Splitting Light is a reference to Newton’s experiment literal analysis of light by refracting it through a prism into the visible light spectrum. Splitting Light continues through January 10, 2016.
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