Saturday, September 30, 2006

SUSAN HAMBURGER/CONRAD VOGEL: RECENT WORK




September 27-October 22, 2006

The Allen Priebe Gallery of The University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh

Co-curated with Yael Lipschutz

Susan Hamburger mines the traditionally female dominion of the home to unearth social and psychological dimensions of decorative objects. Her large and sensuously painted Truss canvases exhibit lavish, bound drapery that advertises seduction yet simmers with inner unease. The beauty and neuroticism of these tethered window treatments allude to the attraction of middle-class women to the endless project of beautifying their domestic surroundings. By contrast the Ongepatchket series depicts archetypes of interior design held up to the American woman as aesthetic models: ornate vases lie coquettishly aside lush velvet curtains in these nimbly painted canvases. That Ongepatchket is a Yiddish word meaning overly done or garish signals that these paintings are time capsules returning us to the home, and design aesthetic, of Hamburger’s immigrant grandmother. Though the modernist viewer may read these flamboyantly decorative paintings as a cultural critique, or even mocking appraisal, of such furniture, the artist’s investment of her customary care in the work’s execution conveys the other side of her intent: a sense of the furniture’s original intimacy and personal meaning. The relationship between decorative objects and socio-economic groups is also at play in the “cut-out” series, in which eighteenth-century porcelain dining sets serve as inspiration for Hamburger’s ersatz dishes. The originals were produced in factories for the British middle-class. Affordable, the plates became ubiquitous household items in the mid-1700s and only hundreds of years later evolved into the high-class collector’s items they are associated with today. Hamburger cunningly transforms and alters the meaning of this original cultural convention by a relatively slight shift in material and decorative emphasis. The faux porcelain plates, rendered in ink on foam board, come to us as simulacra, copies of a decorative tradition that was itself so removed from the original that Hamburger’s transformations register with more handmade vitality than their sources.

Conrad Vogel peoples his vibrant and deftly linear set-pieces with vanquishers and slaves, conquerors and bedraggled masses. His repertoire of gestural, figurative imagery is collected from historical periods, such as the American Civil War, and from his personal travels through the West Indies. Vogel references everything from contemporary cultural clich├ęs and contradictions to the current war in Iraq. An awareness that two of Vogel’s primary inspirations are Candide and Uncle Tom’s Cabin helps one to recognize that his art is an unusually direct and principled cultural critique. But the theatrical nature of his work could not be clearer, as each rectangle is highlighted by a faux-baroque, high-arched frame, within which lurk his landscapes and heroes. Stylistically, the compositions draw upon traditions as diverse as the Japanese woodcut, the American comic book, and nineteenth-century peep-show theater sets. This last tradition, that of early optical entertainment and pre-cinema perspectival experiments, allows Vogel to breathe real life into his paintings, as he transforms thematic concerns into pop-up theatrical compositions. What results are highly beautiful, subtly sculptural reexaminations of the larger, original paintings. Though shrunk and compressed, the enigmatic three-dimensionality of these pieces allows the viewer to slip off the coils of culture and be overcome with actual wonder.


Text by Yael Lipschutz





























THE RAW AND THE COOKED


September 21 – October 29, 2006

Hampden and Central Galleries, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Victoria Calabro, Katherine Daniels, Marilla Palmer, Anna Pedersen Mark Power, Diana Puntar, Carol Salmanson, Gae Savannah

This exhibition explores the refinement of attitudes and ideas in the formation of a current sculptural aesthetic. It presents a physical argument on the merit of accepting the concept of sophistication as a qualification of artistic talent. How does the look of one art work versus another determine our ability to judge its value?

The title refers to a book by the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, which dictates how a certain degree of sophistication is necessary for wild men to raise themselves into a civilized situation, determined first by the use of language, especially in written forms, and second by whether or not food is cooked or consumed raw.

In art history, the language of sculptural expression has altered radically from its prominent usage as a means of expressing homage to heroes and civic leaders of bygone days, into a vernacular of specific statements on the value of appearance. It has relinquished its iconic status and become expressive, even dramatic.

Forms commonly mislead the viewer from reaching an immediate understanding of culturally tangent meaning. Works may be hard and heavy yet comprised of a substance that is usually regarded as fragile; they may follow the time-honored traditions of regional folk art but also ascribe to a mathematical cleanness and complexity; they may impose organic qualities that alternate discursively between the gestural and the visceral; they may resemble everyday objects yet ruthlessly impose a chaotic view of reality; they may use illumination to first motivate introspection but then dazzle and bemuse the viewer; and they may inspire deep meaning but do so through the use of materials that are transient, and intrinsically frivolous.

Both a specific choice of materials and effects, as well as the artist’s degree of intentionality in delivering a given aesthetic, have aided them in developing their individual statements. The Raw and The Cooked presents a cumulative perspective on the qualities which determine aesthetic accomplishment as a sui generis gestalt for the current era.



VICTORIA CALABRO



VICTORIA CALABRO



VICTORIA CALABRO



KATHERINE DANIELS



KATHERINE DANIELS



KATHERINE DANIELS



MARILLA PALMER



MARILLA PALMER



MARILLA PALMER



ANNA PEDERSEN



MARK POWER



MARK POWER



MARK POWER



MARK POWER



DIANA PUNTAR



GAE SAVANNAH



GAE SAVANNAH



GAE SAVANNAH



GAE SAVANNAH




GAE SAVANNAH