April 16 – May 22
The ZG Gallery opened its powerful Spring Group Show with the works of thirteen artists, each laying out their individual imagery along side stylistic differences in a generalized dissociation. There is a delicate balance in such a vivid experience, with many of the works holding connections to the “natural”, the exhibitions curator, Meg Sheehy points out, “The show is seasonal, and serves as a boost and equal exposure. It’s a profile of the Gallery and demonstrates the kind of work we’ll be showing.” These are pieces to see, not just to look at.
Queried on her pieces, Anna Joelsdottir shared early on, “I understand that they have one wall and good breathing space which is tricky in a group show of many”. Joelsdottir’s work, “no one knew or will ever know”, mixed media on Mylar, reflects a softening adjective, ethereal which lingers on from her most recent exhibition at the gallery. “The transparency creates an added depth/space effect that is hard to do on canvas or paper”, she shares. “I started to use mylar for installation purposes, folded in 3d you wrote about my installation at Zg last summer”, reminding me of a previous review. The artist remains eager to explore how this would work, flat, as individual paintings. This is one such piece which has made her métier. “I also wanted to see if I could do small paintings that look like they are large or could be large.”
Ben Butler cast an enigmatic captivating slice of the show with an, ‘untitled’, ink with earl grey tea, presenting an organic feel. With his system the viewer comes upon small boxes with tiny X’s through them, establishing an overall unique design while producing somewhat of a meditative state with relaxed grace.
The viewer is casually launched in a different direction and toward a different style with Martina Nehrling’s bold, bright colors and their own language. “Often I begin a painting with an agenda of content and formal strategies in mind,” Nehrling says. “But sometimes I just start, acting on a whim. I was turned on by the vibrancy of acrylic colors and when I discovered an acrylic medium that created a texture and shine similar to the stand oil I most often combined with oil paint I was pretty much committed to continuing with acrylics, at least for a while,” she adds.
Her, “Keeping Faith”, acrylic on canvas, is a departure from her normal, typical brush strokes. There is controlled chaos in this work. That ‘language of color’ steps up, speaking loud and clear. The work is illuminating. The freshness of the brush stroke and sense of spontaneity on the surface is essential to the directness of this language. “I love the immediacy of painting”, Nehrling shares. “Probably most painters would admit to this on some. I use acrylic paint to be specific. I love the buttery texture and elemental odors of painting with oils but I switched from oils to acrylic paint to more expediently pour and combine different consistencies of paint.”
The art of Molly Briggs, Ben Butler, Amy Casey, Bill Frederick, Dan Gamble, Gregory Jacobsen, Mark Murphy, Martina Nehrling, and Jackie Tileston also hold even keel in the exhibition. As does the calming, “Still”, auto paint on Plexiglas, of Steve Hough.
Justin Henry Miller emerges more curio vs. ornament. These pieces develop, “out of conglomerating the leftovers or detritus”, Miller holds of his contributions to the show. “Like these byproducts, the vintage photos I collect have been forgotten or discarded. I seek to resurrect these commemorations and give them new life.” Miller also appears intrigued in changing the narratives in these photos with his addition of paint elements. Figures in these images have the potential to operate as armatures for stories that extend beyond their original context.
“My paintings on vintage photographs begin with a search for images that interest me in some way. I am drawn to personalities with intriguing poses, facial expressions, and attire”, he says. In his, "War Changes a Man", oil on photograph, the artist plays off the central figure's uniform and his relationship to his proud parents. “In my mind he could be a soldier who has returned from a war, now altered by the effects of that endeavor, but still loved by his family”, Miller adds. There are traces of Man Ray beneath the fold(s).
The show is more than an accumulation of the art of painters having visited upon the ZG in the past. There appears an innate desire in these works, a common effort and intelligent attitude to touch upon the now, the day-to-day. Group shows of this size hold the risk of being unforgiving. This exhibition sidesteps all of that.
THE OXFORD UNION SOCIETY & CHARLES WARE
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