First Blog Cuts the Deepest
Updated: Mar 22, 2020
This is the first WhatsArtBlog since the beginning of Social Distancing. I was fortunate to get in under the wire to experience a truly remarkable group of artists of the Cerulean Arts Collective— Kassem Amoudi, Ronnie Bookbinder, Fran Gallun, Charles Kalick & Kathleen McSherry. Their shows originally scheduled from March 11th - April 5th, are now in limbo for actual viewing at Cerulean Arts Collective Galleries. This is what "cuts the deepest", the idea that so many wonderful works can only be experienced secondhand here. But I will give you connections to seeing and buying the available art! For example, click each of the blue web address to to go to their Cerulean Arts page.
Kassem Amoudi (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/kassem-amoudi) is an abstract painter of spaces— I think of him as “The Prince of Places”. In his first exhibition with Cerulean Collective he presented exteriors, facades and court yards described in line and geometry and above all color. In his last show he focused more on interiors, rooms with open doors and open windows. Some of these were accompanied by poems about coming home and I felt my imagination making the leaps with his of being one place and remembering someplace else. I look at Amoudi’s work, which are simplified rooms and structures like fences, but I feel like I am seeing them truly through his eyes, his senses. For example, in Windows and Doors 19 a square composition holds a white square in the middle. This portion with its brushy blue surround makes me think that I am viewing a room from overhead. Then I notice a green stripe down the left side that couples with the two windows at the top right, and snap, the space goes upright in front of me. Suddenly I am standing at a kitchen counter with a sink, the sunshine outside. And the view of a backyard with a neighbor’s fence and a cool drink on the sill. This makes me smile, as do the active shapes squiggling their way – falling, climbing around the canvas. Whatever this is, it feels like a home.
“Fences” is a theme for six of the other artworks that are offered. They are all colorful and share a certain striped quality to be expected by something called fences. In Fences 1 a blue wall-like structure is divided by darker blue lines. Interrupting the wall in long swaths are peeks of pinkish-purple and green. I feel like I am on the shadowy side of a tall privacy fence through which I can get a furtive look at something I want to see.
By Fences 4 areas of green like lawn
appear and by Fences 5 (the image on the post card above), so does human activity in the open sections of the multi-colored wall with graffiti. Fences 8 completes the discussion. The solid fence has two sides —a white side and a turquoise side along a diagonal line. Each side has windows through which we can see people. Along the diagonal are two figures, one squatting, one standing. I wonder if there is any reconciliation.
For her exhibition Ronnie Bookbinder (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/ronnie-bookbinder) presents us with paintings and mixed media work that takes us on a ride through the city on a bike. Pop-A-Wheelie is a great place to get started with its in-your-face exuberance brought on by the diagonal composition and shift of scale between the front wheel which dangerously dangles over my head and back whee cut off by the painting's bottom edges.
But Cycle City (seen on the post card above) reminds us of the many places bikers, or more appropriately their bikes congregate. The twist of bikes is heightened by the black loops on a gray ground that tells us exactly how tangled this mess can be. Additionally, in both Bookbinder displays a quickness of wit and a quickness of brush that makes for excitement and energy.
Many of her works combine the bicycle with scenes of passing by. Each of these can be quite different. In On the Way we see a helmeted rider back-dropped by darkened houses: a moment stopped. In Canal Path there is no discernible rider. But the slants of the paths and the quick turns of paint place me right on that bike, preparing for a daring ride. Ready for a Ride has a group of bikes lined up in the bushes along a road just waiting for a start. While City’s Edge reminds me of looking at Philadelphia at night while driving along River Road.
Fran Gallun (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/fran-gallun) mixed media artwork varies in size from very large at almost 50 inches in one direction to very small as in a framed 8 inch by 8 inch gem. The subjectmatter is “still life” but because of the composition and materials would be better described as the QUIET interaction of vessels.
Taking a look at Friendship one sees a lineup of fanciful, very vertical-shaped vases on a polka-dotted cube of a table. Behind, a pale square holds a darkened moon and the room is filled with green light. The shapes of the vases are so animated that I think of them as “ladies out at lunch” with fancy hats and gloves, conversing. Companions has a similar theme but is more minimal. A grouping of six brown vessels share a shelf described by a simple narrow rectangular wedge. The colors of the composition heighten the effect as the orangy-brown and blues are complementary. The representation of the vessels are reminiscent of those found in ancient civilizations. The tooled glyphs above each vessel serves a variety of interpretations— perhaps mystical smoke coming out of each, perhaps a word that labels each, perhaps a
bit of decoration in the ground, or, in my imagination, a phrase each “companion” calls out to each other and to us as well. Blue Table (Nod to Matisse) has me think of at least two of Matisse’s works. One is Harmony in Red (The Dessert) for the composition, the other is Interior with Goldfish for its color.
The blues of Blue table remind me of the treatment Matisse gives to nighttime—not a blackened state but colored by a blue that he paints into, as does Gallun, to create a visibility. The moon sits centered above a room, flanked by two trees while orbs of fruit, vessels, and a chair with a plant glow with warmth.
Oranges in Moonlight is another still life in darkness. Here the gloom seems to be a deep gray that covers and obscures what is beneath. Still, the colors and shapes of an underpainting show through like shadows. All the while a window in the upper right made of pale rectangles and a circle recall the moon illuminating the sky. Larger narrow beams of gold and yellow frame the edges and a bowl of oranges and two vases glow.
Charles Kalick(https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/charles-kalick) builds his artwork ot of wood. He uses a very limited vocabulary to say much. The limited vocabulary includes the grid as each piece is made up of smaller blocks; the colors red, white, and black; patterns either
painted or carved. Generally, the composition in all of these has a symmetrical quality about a center axis— one side mirroring the other. But Kalick is a first class rule breaker, it seems, even of his own rules. In RBW5 this "consistency" relationship is clear-- center block with mirrored decorative patterns above and below and from one side to the other. But as I move around the gallery looking at other RBW works the playfulness of Kalick’s system becomes more convoluted by flipping certain blocks and turning others and even adding more carved shapes. So, we can come to something like RBW7 with similar pieces to RBW5, then to Two Pitchers (the image from the post card above) where the repeats shift to cause an
image of two pitchers with long handles that sit on a table. Ultimately Tower, a three-dimensional city-scape featuring a hi-rise building along the center brings this series to a delightful close.
Other pieces are constructed in the same vein but with additions of color. What Remains and Subterranean bring to my mind the early geometric abstractions of Sean Scully, works like Bear and Ridge. Like Scully’s work, Kalick’s possesses density and physicality and a textral quality that makes me want to pass my hand over them.
Kathleen McSherry (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/kathleen-mcsherry) is magic, making discards and obsolete objects useful again. As I look at her work I wonder if she is familiar with Erin Morganstern, an artist and writer known for her two books—The Night Circus and
The Starless Sea. Where Morganstern uses words to describe rooms that represent otherworldly spaces that seem to fracture time, McSherry uses combinations of objects-- some rich in symbolism, some rich in decorative appeal-- crafted together to tell us more about a number of subjects. Sometimes the subject is political or historical as in Industrialization Over Time. Where an ornamented clock case holds an insignia showing a map of the United States over a clock-face surrounded by black-and-white photos of a baby (perhaps being bathed?) ending at the bottom of a pendulum as baby parts. Gears placed throughout lend to the sense of American workers put through a time-based machine that dismembers people from
the very start. Another clocklike piece, Tree of Knowledge, at the very entry to McSherry’s gallery, makes me think of the occult or Tarot imagery. Blisters, a sculpture composed of a collection of wooden shoes is a colorful and obvious giggle project while The Concert and Tosca in Trenton makes music come alive.
Two of the pieces shown are light boxes. The Dream has a mannequin head with a bulging eye fixed on the smiling face of a mask with bright pink
sunglasses surrounded by a cloud of lacy paper, hence a paranormal feel. Three Sets of Eyes with its face lit by heart-shaped eyes of light has more of a Fun House effect. But the words around it join to deepen the meaning. On the left side are the words “Heterochromia Iridis”, an uncommon condition in which the two eyes are different in color; on the right is “Ground Ball with Eyes” a sports saying describing a ball that is hit to just the right place; above is Lyssa, I take it as a name; below is Three Sets of Eyes, the title of the artwork. The words make me think of a conceptual map to the imagery inside.
I hope that these descriptions of some of the artworks prompt readers to go see all that is in store on each artists’ page. I also hope that everyone goes to Cerulean Arts Gallery and Studio (https://www.ceruleanarts.com) where you will find a link to their exhibitions, a link to the prospectus for their Annual Juried Exhibition, and links to objects (fine art and craft) available from them. Consider, too, buying a gift card FOR AS LITTLE AS $10 (https://ceruleanarts.com/search?q=GIFT+CARDS) if you wish to further support Cerulean Arts Gallery and all that they do. Finally, check out their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ceruleanartsgallery/) to find more information, see pictures of all of Cerulean Arts exhibitions past and present, and to hit FOLLOW.
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