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Lavatelli, Parisi, and Cocktails

paintings by Mark Lavatelli at Indigo Gallery
photos and attendant artworks by Nancy Parisi at Studio Hart

Mark Lavatelli’s sensuous paintings in encaustic are currently on display at Indigo Art on Allen Street, and Nancy Parisi’s lush and enigmatic photos of hands and ancillary items and more stringent pencil drawings are on exhibit across the street at Studio Hart.

Trees are the dominant image in the Lavatelli paintings, trunks and branches in particular, in a sumptuously unpruned abundance approaching chaotic array. But nature can be chaotic, or seem so. The patterns it displays can seem arbitrary, capricious, aleatory. And so evoke an aleatory system to interpret and describe the patterns. Such as the I Ching. In one series, the chaotic branch imagery is overlaid with I Ching hexagrams, which are then literally translated, that is, in (presumably) equivalent Chinese words, in alphabetic letters. The Chinese words are then translated into (presumably) equivalent English words in the painting titles.

So, captions upon captions, amounting to a string of equivalent or near equivalent interpretations of the same reality, from pictorial image to verbal expression. The chance theme expressing that the original reality (of which the pictorial image is an interpretation) features chance, but also that interpretation is imprecise (and so, chancy) at every step along the way.

In his most complex pieces, Lavatelli juxtaposes what seem to be essentially different artworks side by side, in one case on different canvases of slightly different dimensions. On the canvas to the left, a purely pictorial scene of a snatch of landscape viewed through trees and branches. On the canvas to the right, a kind of patchwork of similar pictorial images, several Chinese ideogrammatic symbols, and stenciled English words, at first seemingly random and unconnected, but then, upon consideration, possibly connected in some syntactically indifferent poetic way, perhaps even a sound over sense punning way—words like limb, limit, climbing—suggesting then some skeletal narrative, some imagistic poem, about personal/artistic encounter with nature’s chaos.

The combination of encaustic—a technique that fuses color with beeswax, which is then applied in a semi-molten state to the canvas or whatever surface—and stenciled lettering recalls the art of Jasper Johns, but Lavatelli’s art goes beyond this reference, takes it to new regions. The natural region, for one.

Another category of recurrent imagery in these works (besides trees and branches) is natural elements. Comprising earth, air, fire, and water, but also a few others (perhaps according to some non-Western conceptual system) such as smoke and color.

The Mark Lavatelli display continues through September 26.

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Nancy Parisi’s photos are predominantly of hands. That is, most of the photos show a hand and some other item or assemblage of like items, such as a flower or flower petals, the relationship between which—that is, between the hand and other item or items—is often somewhat mystifying. Sometimes the relationship seems fairly straightforward, for example, a hand not exactly holding but supporting—balancing, as it were—a Queen Anne’s lace flower. Sometimes the relationship and composition seem fairly bizarre, for example, a delicate lobelia stem and flower tethered (it would seem) to a hand by some haphazard coils of fine wire. Or a stem and leaves of thyme similarly tethered (again it would seem) by some strands of knotted twine. Or a hand draped in flower petals.

But bizarre or straightforward, the photos explore the idea of intimacy as closeup to the point that even small items—a bumblebee, a flower—are never entirely in focus. In focus maybe in the middle, but near parts and far parts both fade into blur.

In contrast to the sense of studied and deliberate image-making in the photos, the pencil drawings have a pleasingly casual quick sketchy look.

These include an evocative First Ward view among elevators, and comical scribble in a frame depiction of the murky water of the Buffalo River.

Several of the drawings reflect a visit to New York City, including a view of the New Jersey Palisades from Riverside Park, some cast-iron staircases in Soho, and a four-part depiction of items in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Including one that turns out to be the lovely Artemis and her dog group that used to be in the Albright-Knox. One can’t help reading in the subtlest commentary on the de-acquisition of this and many other possibly minor but still exquisite artistic treasures. (What a word, de-acquisition. Is there a more virulent example of political language?)

The Nancy Parisi exhibit continues through September 30.

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You can drink with the artists Thursday (September 16) early evening and thereby qualify for a ridiculously discounted ticket to the Henry Grimes concert later that night. The Hallwalls Floating Cocktail Party, Allentown Edition this year, comprises three locales: SAMPLE, Allen Street Hardware, and Lagniappes, and features drinks and hors d’oeuvres (and Cajun style snacks at Lagniappes) for two hours beginning at 5:30 for $25 for Hallwalls members and $35 non-members. But attend the cocktail party and you can get a $5 ticket (regular price $18, or $12 for Hallwalls members, students, or seniors) to the Henry Grimes concert at 8 pm at Asbury Hall, Babeville. Grimes is the legendary musician who played with all the (other) great ones, then disappeared to skid row for 33 years before a diligent jazz fan found him there. But Grimes’ story is one of keeping on keeping on. Even on skid row—where they don’t let you keep your standup bass—he found alternate ways to hold body and spirit together, taking to writing poetry and metaphysical speculation. And now he’s back on the concert circuit. He recently returned from a European tour with Marc Ribot.

jack foran

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