FROM MICROBES TO MOUNTAINS
Beverly Fishman’s From Here to There, Frank Bowling’s Mapping Time and Space, Kurt Halsey Frederiksen’s I’ll remember you this way, and Jim Pallas's Objects of Desire: Fish, Moons and Hearts
Often, you stand in front of something stuck on a wall, and it screams static. But each of these four shows elicits motion, emotion — or a sense of an artist moving on.
Beverly Fishman: From Here to There
Not to be missed is an exquisite survey of works created by Beverly Fishman during her 11 years as head of painting and artist-in-residence at Cranbrook Academy of Art. The show is happening in conjunction with the publication of Beverly Fishman, put out by Telos Art Publishing.
The series begins with three large, oval-shaped, photo-based collages, suggesting studies of microscopic cells or beyond-microscopic strands of DNA. The next piece, a collection of squat cylinders protruding from the wall, draws similarities between these itsy organisms and the ethereal rings and light splashes of a solar system. Then a collection of more random shapes makes way for candy-colored pills and an ordered display of mounted pharmaceutical symbols, in three rows of three.
The most recent pieces have sharp edges and slick subject matter. Powder-coated metal panels with strips of vinyl imply EKG readings, racing, driving excitement, the heartbeat of America. The pieces are so slick that your mind almost seeks out some sort of logo. Crisp lines set against fading yellow-to-orange are mesmerizing. You’re left wondering, “What is it that I’m supposed to consume here?” Luckily, “Dividose: H.T.C.,” a real grabber, has a prime spot just in front of the gallery’s comfy black bench where you can relax and ponder it.
Be sure to also give some time to “Untitled,” on the gallery office wall. The acrylic-on-wood collage dates back to 1988 and provides an interesting point of reference to a progression that is visible throughout the rest of the exhibit.
Frank Bowling: Mapping Time and Space
Although Frank Bowling is often lumped into a family of abstract painters, many of the works in his current showing at G.R. N’Namdi Gallery draw from recognizable imagery, including flags, maps and landscapes. And the less tangible ones beg the eye to piece together some kind of meaning, just as the canvases themselves are often pieced together — strips stapled to each other with globs of acrylic and waxy glue-like (resin, maybe) substances or corners of cut credit cards hanging on for dear life.
Simple motifs guide the viewer from piece to piece: A few strokes that might pass for Poseidon’s staff in “Pisces I” lead to an oil-spill-and-water swirling of pink, blue, yellow and tan that, in turn, leads to what resembles fillets of fish protruding from a canvas and swimming upstream. In the next piece, a waterfall-like image empties into a calm pool of greens and blues. As a great manipulator of paint, Bowling combs the clumped color into rings, suggesting a mountain in a topographical map or a wave radiating from a raindrop in a pond. Bubbling the paint, he also suggests a wave-like motion, or perhaps a paper map floating atop that same pond. Looking into the “pond,” the viewer not only sees the bubbling map, but also her own reflection, and even her skewed surroundings stretching off the edges of the canvas.
But the first thing that strikes the eye in this piece is the artist’s use of color. Very bright, almost fluorescent hues are smeared, so as not to startle. And then a textured copper-and-green mix draws to mind a pile of oxidizing pennies inside a well. There’s even a “hole” to drop them into. Very nice.
Born in Guyana, in northern South America, in 1936, Bowling has maintained studios in London and New York for more than three decades. He was featured in this year’s Venice Biennale.
Kurt Halsey Frederiksen: I’ll remember you this way.
If you haven’t guessed yet by the full-sentence show title, maybe the titles of the individual works will tip you off. Try: “For as much as you hurt me I know I hurt you too” Or: “It didn’t rain every day we were together.”
Or you could just look flat at the painting; oftentimes the artist spells it right out with lettering in the painting: “I’ll always miss you.”
Kurt Halsey Frederiksen’s work is unabashedly, unapologetically and irresistibly emo — in other words, display sleeve; attach heart. As in emo music, there’s a comfort-discomfort struggle going on, and a sweet, inviting simplicity. And the autobiographical (?) characters are so freaking cute, you can’t help but sympathize with them. There’s a definite mood and movement to the pieces — from cuddling to silent frustrations, to emptier beds to sleepless nights, to bleary-eyed memories.
I would have actually liked to see more. There are six paintings and about 14 or so framed sketches. The paintings themselves are even more minimal than his past works, which have included semi-detailed backgrounds or objects or more than just one or two subjects. But there is some benefit here — with such stripped-down subject matter, there’s nothing to distract the viewer from the pure, focused emotions that each subtle gesture expresses. Simple strokes and shading add a depth to the pieces that elevates them above some of the pappier Pop Art out there.
Another plus is that the sketches are priced at $90 and $150, which might make them a little more attainable for the audience that this work most likely speaks to.
Jim Pallas: Objects of Desire: Fish, Moons and Hearts
Jim Pallas, best known for his interactive sculptures, offers a few objects that simply request to be observed. Well, there’s at least one that can blow-dry your hair. And they all still pose wry commentary that can’t fully be appreciated without at least some back-and-forth.
But for the most part, the pieces are exactly what the title suggests: Fish, moons and hearts. These symbolic shapes all represent a lot more than what they really are, and at times, not enough. Pallas collected materials washed up on the shores of Lake Huron — driftwood, feathers and fish bones along with shards of glass, foam, plastic bottles, rubber and other junk. And out of this drift stuff, he created fish-like creatures. Hung on a wall, they represent a prize catch, or, more realistically, the negative effects of pollution. More playful is the fish that Pallas created using discarded 45s as scales, and one warped record for the inverted eye as you’d see on a fish flopped on its side at the market.
The moon sculptures are pleasant and represent reaching and dreams, perhaps unattainable goals and romanticism. The real stars of this showing, however, are the hearts. A marled red heart sends twisted veins branching out toward the viewer. Similarly, a blackened heart sends out hair-wire feelers. There’s a heart made of rusty keys. One heart is basically a basket carrying different colored racquetballs. And there’s the aforementioned blow-dryer heart, which also includes sponge hair rollers, Maalox, an electric knife, a loudspeaker, light switch, switchboard and telephone.
All of these do the trick as far as symbolizing ill health (Pallas suffered a heart attack in 2001), love, love lost, the tactile trappings of love (domesticity) and back to ill health and heartburn with the Maalox.