Conversations II


Buster Levi Gallery is pleased to present Conversations II an exhibit that features the work of six gallery artists with guest artists selected by them. The show will include work by John Allen, Sharon Brant, Adrienne Cullom, Cara Wood-Ginder, Grace Kennedy, Lynn Kotula, Martee Levi, Maria Pia Marrella, Mary Newman, Ursula Schneider, Lucille Tortora and Grey Zeien. The show will run from March 2 through April 1, 2018. The opening for the show will be on Friday March 2, 2018 from 6-8pm.

Conversations II is the second of a two exhibits that pair the work of artists whose work or ideas share similar concerns. The ‘conversation’ between the artists in this exhibition is purposefully open and could exist on either content or visual planes or both. Unlike Monet and Renoir or Braque and Picasso, the artists in this exhibit do not live or work in studios near each other, frequent café’s at night to discuss their work or are considered part of a movement. Instead, they work independently and see in each other’s work similar ideas that each work out in their own way.

Maria Pia Marrella has selected Lynn Kotula. Though both artists are primarily painters, Marrella has decided to show a photograph that was taken as a specific response to a still life set up in Kotula’s studio. Kotula has always worked from life in order to; “look for a way to translate what I see in the three dimensional world into the two dimensional world of painting.” In particular it is Kotula’s interest in color and shape that motivated Marrella. When she visited Kotula’s studio in late September Marrella describes how she was: “struck by her exquisite still life setup that was bathed with northern light”.  To Marrella the scene; “appeared to evoke a timeless artifact from a nineteenth century tableau.” The combination of color, light and shape offer an emotional avenue connected to the basic reality of the objects but also but also suggestive of another time and place. Kotula further describes her work; “I want my paintings to tell the non-verbal stories that only painting can tell.” In a similar manner, Marrella’s photograph combines the description of a group of objects in a specific space and light that is suggestive of ‘stories’ perhaps best left up to the viewer.

Ursula Schneider will be showing with Sharon Brant. Unlike Marrella and Kotula who are exhibiting similar images, Schneider and Brant are not. Brant is exhibiting a ‘minimalist’ abstract painting where a large evenly painted yellow field of color dominates the painting. Though thin strips of red and black border the yellow, the painting pushes forward spatially negating any real sense of spatial depth.  While her painting may be abstract, Brant is concerned about connections she attempts to make with life in her work. She was a founding member of MUSEUM, an artist-run exhibition and meeting space in New York City, which was intended as a politically progressive community center for artists with the goal of supporting ‘a more alive connection between art and society’.  Schneider’s work always has a connection to life. However, she emphasizes abstract relationships within the subjects she depicts. In the print of a backhoe in this exhibition, the images are flattened into ‘simplified’ shapes and she takes liberties with the color though based on reality also improvises from it. Schneider also combines different experiences; “I began my backhoe print by drawing backhoes which were used to clear the land for a pipeline in my neighborhood.  During my stay in Maine, where I was carving my woodcut, a powerful storm passed through the area, which toppled a large number of trees creating much damage to infrastructure and power supply. The storm is represented in the background of my print.” In addition, for Schneider, her images are both expressive and symbolic and consider this work expressive of destruction and resurrection. Brant likewise, describes her work; “I think my paintings are a picturing of where that inner art making impulse springs from.”

Lucille Tortora invited Mary Newman to show images taken in Iceland. Tortora is widely known as a photographer whose work stresses minimal abstract designs. In this exhibition, she is showing a landscape dominated by water, as is Newman. Similar though their motifs are, this is not the relationship that interests Tortora. Both images were taken with non-traditional film cameras; in Newman’s case, a pinhole camera and in Tortora’s, a Holga. Both cameras allow the photographer to create: ‘layered images, at once liberating and accidental’. The pinhole camera does not have a lens thus exposures may range from half a second to several hours depending on the light conditions. The Holga camera that Tortora uses has been modified to allow her manually advance the film, which results in double and triple exposures. Neither photographer using these cameras can predict how the resulting images will turn out. In Newman’s work the image possesses; “softness of definition, an ethereal, dreamy quality”.  In Tortora’s the multiple exposures give the image a ‘gauzy transparency’. For both artists, the unpredictability of their images provides their motivation.

Grace Kennedy is showing with Cara Wood-Ginder. Both artists make representational paintings, which often include high degrees of realism. However, for both, that is not the ultimate goal. Ginder states; “ I hope these paintings might subconsciously suggest to the viewer a variety of ideas, such as learning, study and discovery. I also think in the way that the objects are painted, there is a suggestion of appreciation for the slowing down of time to see life around us close up and in detail.” Kennedy’s recent works have similar goals where enigmatic images are arranged like ‘stage sets’ to contain scenes that are more suggestive than definitive. Their methodology, though both use clearly recognizable images is different. Ginder paints highly realistic common objects in the center of the painting surrounded by ‘chalk like’ diagrams that seemingly have little or no connection to the centered object. Kennedy paints works that; “ act as visual Exquisite Corpse where each found addition impacts the next and adds to the general sense of disquietude.” Though different in appearance and in a way mood: both artists require the viewer to feel and think.

Martee Levi has invited Grey Zeien to show with her. Both are abstract artists whose works in this exhibit share similar rhythmic characteristics. Levi has always been interested in the relationship between abstract art and music, especially jazz. Her recent works, one of which is included in this exhibition, is an excellent example. The work is a combination of separately painted canvas strips assembled into vertical columns in which each contains horizontal bands that meander across the canvas at various subtle angles. The result is two opposing rhythms fighting for dominance in a way that two musicians might be taking a solo at the same time each responding to what the other is doing. Zeien’s work also employs rhythm but in a different manner. Created with gold leaf on acrylic, the pattern is far more regular. However, ‘accident’ is not absent due to his choice of materials and color choices. First of all the gold leaf reflects light differently than the paint, thus it has highlights and shadows depending on the angle of the light source. In addition, the ground color is both intense enough to combat the curved stripe pattern of gold leaf while retaining a shallow depth due to the layering of color. The result is a pulsing surface that may not immediately recall jazz but would certainly feel at home with rhythmic aspects of many types of music.  

John Allen has selected Adrienne Cullom to show with him. In some ways this would seem and unlikely pairing. Allen’s work is characterized by intelligent and often witty comments involving art and life. Some example include carved phrases in stone or lead, or carves a log into a simple building painting the windows naively while retaining the cracks from the knots in the wood, and a series of sharpened colored pencils mounted on wood. For Allen, each artwork is a new experience to explore and try another idea. His works is not characterized by repetition nor does he obsessively explore one idea. Cullom, on the other hand does explore ideas to fully develop their potential for her. One example is the work in this exhibit, one of her masks. Each work takes at least a year to make and for her they suggest evocative ideas suggested by her titles, which include Harvest Mask in this exhibition.  However different in appearance and concept, Allen and Cullom share a similar approach in that neither is exactly sure how the work will turn out when they begin. Cullom has stated; “I don’t even know if it will be a profile, or if will have two eyes”. This is similar to the approach Allen takes, especially recently where he creates new works for each exhibit he is in having no idea before hand what that work will be. In a recent show at Buster Levi he painted an X on one thin wall and carved an irregular circle in another as his response to the geometric theme of the show. Another similarity that each artist shares, is the use of common every day materials. Cullom has that she has incorporated such found materials as her grandmother’s beads and old shirts. Allen also works with common materials whether it is flowers arranged in a circle and fitted into a wall or a broom reimagined as a sculpture. For both artists, there work is meant to be a way to experience or view the world.