New Season of The Collective Experience
September 8th marked the re-opening of the Cerulean Arts Collective Galleries. New art work by the Collective Members are displayed, quite playfully I might add, in the front windows and
the front gallery space. Plus, and not to be missed, five artists have their works installed in the gallery rooms and hallway. These artists are Laurence Bach, Charles Kalick, Monique Sarkessian, Frederic C. Kaplan, and Carol C Moore.
My first impression on entering Laurence Bach’s room is that it is prickly—so many of the
forms come to points or are sharp-edged. There are blurs, too, but these seem to heighten
the distinction of the highly focused parts. The color is saturate with some of the greens bordering on acidic. The compositions have a minimalistic quality of this over this over that. Only once, in “Another Vase #15”, did I lose track of the distinct flower subject into the indistinct purple of the flower backdrop. I see that these are multiple layered digital prints and I am not surprised. I can discern how they are made, that is, the layering, but there is a seamless quality, too. Everything is held in balance and distinction. So, what does this mean? These are tightly composed pieces where the formal elements take precedent over the subject matter. The eye does not so much move back into space as around with the design of line and shape. In nature these are pretty things, but here they are devoid of emotionality and rich in visual appeal.
Charles Kalick makes paintings that even a blind person can enjoy— by which I mean that
even an unsighted person would realize the complexity and activity of them through their texture. They are set up in a grid. And sometimes the compartmentalized color and pattern emerges
from the picture plane while others recede into it. I want to touch, I want to play, I want to take it apart and piece it together myself! The color can border on the garish, but that just makes it more exuberant, rather like Sol LeWitt. But I would put Kalick more in with Sean Scully who allowed nature into his grids through the interaction of the edges of one color box to another color box. With Kalick, though, this “nature play” happens in the middle of each part through its materiality. As a whole, many of his grids are symmetrical in their set up. But then, you look and find slight differences between the “twinned” squares. My favorites are when he takes a slight step away from the symmetry by introducing another component as in “Skewbald” and “Monument”.
The artwork of Monique Sarkessian caught my eye from the hallway just outside her space.
Every artist has a few introductory pieces in the hall aside from the body of work they present in their gallery-- and her’s were painterly studies containing red flowers. These small jewels, vibrating with color and built up paint, well prepared me for what I was to experience.
Sarkessian is a colorist who paints in the bold. Her colors are rich, her brush strokes are heavy and assured. Most of her paintings are smallish of size, but they feel large, color bursting out of the frame. I also appreciated some of her unusual ways of framing, floating canvases on a tilted white board fitted onto a squared one. You can tell that she is working from life, but somewhere between sight and expression, they take on their own symbology and life. Some, like “Chanticleer Allium 6” and “Where Your Glory Dwells 95” border on Surrealistic. Others are charming reactions to air and light like "Butterfly Joys". But I liken her to the Nabis, painters Odilon Redon, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard. Her artwork is spirited and spiritual, glowing off the walls.
Frederic C. Kaplan’s paintings are all large and atmospheric—even the small “cloud” ones. Sky, green apples, and architecture or architectonic structures appear in his paintings. But these are only subjects; his content is
dialectics—inquiries into different positions that lead to a new, sometimes fused, sometimes not as fused, view. To begin, there is a painting whose title is a question,
“How Is It Possible?” In yellows, it depicts an aerial vision of a plane with blocks dotting it interrupted by a depiction of an hourglass—literally Time and Space on a 2-dimensional surface. Perhaps the answer, or is it another posed question, is in “The Shape of Time and Space”, where a large green apple that looks more carved at than eaten sits above, and is separated from, a foggy area containing ungrounded slabs. I am left to wonder if the same forces that shape our time shape our space, and vice versa. Then there is “Sanctuary in Green” where a green apple sits in the lower left corner of a desert landscape counterbalanced by the yellow sun in the top, right corner. This feels like a still life that says “still life!”
Carol Moore is a storyteller interested in myth. My introduction began in the hallway outside her gallery space where two mixed media pieces, “Trickster #1” and “Trickster #2” greeted
me. Both depict anthropomorphic chairs—cushy armchairs the type you’d relax in, but that also give rise to the term “Thinking Chair”. In “Trickster #1” the chair is the lap portion of a figure. A vessel with a head grows out of the chair-back. Two cups are linked to the vessel, one on either side. These pour liquid onto the lap while swooped lines connect to hands, one protecting the lap, the other encircling the head.
In “Trickster #2”, features of the face—an eye, nose, and mouth—are embedded on the chair. Just above the nose, coming out of the forehead is a hand supporting a tray of stacked vessels. These pieces seem to be a personal story told by symbolism. In both the easy-chair takes on the characteristic of a self-portrait. For “#1”, perhaps, this is contemplation over an
experience—something that has fallen into one’s lap. For #2, perhaps, different dreams, ambitions, or decisions are being served up. Entering her space, this idea of symbolic autobiography furthers itself in the two mixed media works having cups as subject. In “From Here to There” a cup surrounded by a saucer sits at the bottom of the composition with repeated rounds mirroring the round shape of the dishes. They move up the page to form a skyline. In “In a Spin Again” a tilted cup near the lower right corner of the page is encircled with the right edge falling off the page and the left edge contained. This supports the notion of imbalance and swirling movement. The other eight works of this exhibition are prints, part of “The Legend of the Picaflor” series. The picaflor is a hummingbird and its story is graphically told. As with all great legends, it is a story of danger, disaster, overcoming adversity, taking chances, and discovery. And it is an effectively told love story, too.
The artworks of Laurence Bach, Charles Kalick, Monique Sarkessian, Frederic C. Kaplan, and Carol Moore will be at Cerulean Arts Collective Galleries at 1355 Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia from now until October 7th. The days and times of operation are Wednesday – Friday from 10 AM – 6 PM; Saturday and Sunday from 12 PM – 6 PM. More information about both the Collective exhibitions and Cerulean Arts other shows and classes can be found at www.ceruleanarts.com. More information on each of these artists and their work can be found at www. ceruleanarts.com/pages/artists-1.
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