As published in The Easthampton Star on 7/14/09, opinion:
I was not predisposed to embrace “Textures: Artists as Alchemists” at the Surface Library Gallery in Springs. Something about the art being from a “cyber gallery” with an “eco-friendly green” bent and unusually textured seemed a bit clichéd and overcomplicated. And how much more can we really say about “repurposed materials” and the transformative nature of the cyber-marketplace?
Yet the art, stripped of its high-concept packaging, manages to speak for itself. Lynn Dunham, an artist herself, serves as guest curator using artists from her “Art Rent & Lease” program.
From the amoeba-like plaster of Paris shapes created by Vincent Romaniello with a lichen-like surface and dull muddy colors to David M. Mitchell’s chromogenic print photographs, the works offer a strong viewpoint and aesthetically pleasing qualities.
Mr. Mitchell’s photographs are clearly the stars of the show, although it is almost too easy to like their showy, filmy beauty. What makes them more intriguing is the puzzle of abstraction they present. If they are straightforward film photographs, what was the original subject and how far removed are we? It often seems as if he has managed to capture pure atmosphere in his “Linear” series.
Yet in another example, “Window 3 From the Luminary Collection,” the subject seems to be another painting or a drop cloth and paint-stained canvas strips. The thick acrylic facing (portions of which are apparently recycled), clear as it is, provides another distancing device, and the viewer can never be certain just what is being viewed. Once peace is made with that conundrum, however, the pure beauty becomes its own reward.
Ron Lyon’s “Equilibre Noir,” which uses oil paint on plexiglass, has a controlled balance and a harmonic use of color that are equally pleasing. The strips, which appear to be the length, width, and depth of decking planks, are painted on their widest side and projected from the wall from the narrowest side. No two are alike and some can be rigorously geometric in a Mondrian fashion, while other strips appear more like chaotic expressionism. Still, they make up a cohesive whole, with the use of opposite and complementary colors in balance with the structure of black and the cloudy gray of the material.
The sculptural nature of the piece produces its own paradoxes for those who might still subscribe to a formalist view of the world, but it is the melding of the best elements of the painterly with sculpture’s three-dimensionality that makes the piece so effective.
Having her own fun with previously established art historical convention, Tanya Bell produces imperfectly geometric strips of color and white within precise square canvases. Her taste in color runs to the uglier tones and hues of green, blue, and orange, like something not quite right or well. Using silver as a highlight and a bridge between color and white expanses seems to make the colors even uglier, but never so much that the paintings are not compelling to look at.
Lori Glavin’s cut strips of polystyrene held together with hot glue in a sky-blue field interspersed with white is the kind of piece that is equal parts clever and transcendently beautiful. The humble material takes on an ethereal and Asian-inspired appearance and is a great example of the aesthetic ingenuity of the artist.
The sculptures of Gregory Coates make similarly transformative use of notched wood and layer upon layer of plastic wrap. The texture here is less important than its surface, which is glassy, cloudy, and mysterious.
There are also works by Gabriel Shuldiner, Matuschka, Thomas Kurilla, Robert Brasher, Roger Thomas Justice, and Ms. Dunham herself. The exhibit is on view through July 26.