Thursday, July 2, 2009

coming soon Anna Hepler: Intricate Universe...

Woodcuts on Kozo-shi, 18 x 22”, from the Wolfecut series, 2008

Several years ago, watching a swarm of gnats hovering against the sky, I was struck by the contradictory but beautiful effect. A delicate grey sphere suspended in the air, and awesome chaos of frenetic movement (Hepler)

Portland-based artist Anna Hepler uses simple materials to create a body of sophisticated prints, drawings, and elaborate three-dimensional spatial constructs. Over the past ten years her artistic obsession with the movement of particles suspended in space has taken on impressive proportions. She works in a variety of media around the central concept of a swarm. Her sources of inspiration include ephemeral natural phenomena such as flocks of birds, fireworks, and dandelion whorls. Says Hepler, “perhaps these moments fascinate me because they reflect a psychological state of release that is captivating and challenging.” Hepler aims to capture the dynamic essence of the forms expanding, condensing and dispersing.

She combines the idea of the swarm with an interest in skeletal frameworks either from the natural or built environment. Hepler is interested in portraying fleeting moments of suspended or built geometries. By combining visually cohesive forms, such as the oval or the sphere, and filling them with chaotic structures, Hepler takes on the duality she sees in nature’s systems. She is interested in such visually cohesive forms that nevertheless contain a chaotic structure–tangles of thread, electronic circuitry, swarms of insects in flight. “There is something terrifying about their massive intricacy and something beautiful in the rhythms of their minute and repetitive detail.”

Arrest, Array, installation view, Open Satelite, Bellevue, WA

The resulting visual investigation is incredibly elegant and filled with a peaceful, Zen-like energy. “ My work has always had a quiet aspect to it,” affirms Hepler, “There is almost nothing more restful than the perfect circle. The sphere is one of those perfect forms that allows you to appreciate chaos without being overwhelmed because you’re constantly held in stillness by the overall shape.” The work is quiet and apparently orderly in its overall form, but on close inspection reveals distortion and restlessness in its detail. The stillness is thus juxtaposed with a charged energy.

Dense and intricate, Hepler’s work evolves as a series of related elements. The imagery is primarily abstract, though she thinks of it as a kind of ‘reductive realism’ – that is, the images and sculptures are based on real and observed visual phenomena. Often she begins a new body of work with a sculptural prototype that becomes the subject of possible drawings, prints or photographs and culminates as a sculptural installation. For Intricate Universe, the artist will present three interconnected bodies of work: Projection Rooms, a group of three small dioramas, a selection of woodcuts from the 'Wolfecut' series, and a site-specific sculptural installation ARREST, ARRAY. The dioramas, woodcuts, and installation all describe, in different ways, the fleeting geometry of a flock as it is suspended in air.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

from POST-POST & The Apocalypse Somewhere: Zach Storm

Executed as if a visualization of stream of consciousness poetry, Zach Storm’s mixed media collages possess a remarkable vulnerability. The series provides a glimpse into various stages of emotional hurt the artist experienced as the result of the difficult break up of a relationship. The pieces consist of delicate line drawings in pen, ink or marker and added elements of stickers and collage creating small but detailed image montages. Through fantastic, surrealist scenes and cinematic film references, Storm blends sci-fi components with natural elements such as birds, butterflies and plant foliage.

Most works feature a solitary, often sad, male figure surrounded by word fragments and pictorial elements, such as birds or space stations. Words exist as equal components within the composition of the pieces. The artist’s delicate sense of humor is interspersed with celebrity name-dropping. The text serves as a visual and poetic element, providing meaning. Through his willingness to share his experience in such a straightforward and honest manner, Storm provides a glimpse into the hurt most of us have felt at one point in time while leaving or being left by a loved one, while simultaneously exploring humor as a way to cope with the most difficult of times.

Perhaps the most beautiful art is that which formalism and content complement each other, each enhancing the other’s most positive qualities.
James T. Demetrion

In Pursuit of Beauty brings together five artists who examine both the politics and poetics of the beautiful. They are: Julie Chang (San Francisco, CA), Timothy Horn (Melbourne, Australia), PIXNIT (Boston, MA), Tomás Rivas (Santiago, Chile), and Elizabeth Wallace (Boston, MA). This exhibition is inspired by a resurgence of visually sensual work. Unapologetically decorative, ornate, and concerned with elaborate surface detail, each artist explores beauty in their own way. They are exemplary of a generation of artists who have come into the 21st century art world with a renewed interest in beauty as a tool and a topic of investigation, making it an integral part of their artistic process. These artists utilize rich surface designs to draw the viewer to the work, only to surprise them with seditious content. Their pursuit differs from the classical understanding of beauty as perfectly proportioned and idealized by integrating imperfection rather than excluding it.

The updated, broader definition of beauty indicates a significant shift in the perception of ornate works of art, which for much of the 20th century were equated with ‘lesser’ decorative arts as opposed to ‘intellectual’ fine arts. The depreciation of pattern and ornament as symbols of political power and social status was strongly influenced by the 1908 essay Ornament and Crime by the important Austrian architect Adolf Loos. Loos saw ornament as a symptom of the degeneration of modern man and called for its elimination. Although seemingly a statement of the distant past, Ornament and Crime has held a powerful sway over much of 20th century architecture and design theory and propelled an aesthetic sensibility that considered ornamentation redundant or frivolous.

At first glance, the emphasis on surface design and the repetition of organic forms suggests a connection to the American Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. The 21st century variety, however, is much more baroque, opulent and possesses a sleeker aesthetic than the organic emphasis of artwork of the seventies. The Pattern and Decoration movement was seen as a reaction against the stark formalism of Modernism and its rejection of decoration and ornamentation. This exhibition can be seen as part of an aesthetic response against the visual austerity of Minimalist and Conceptual Art, the thick surfaces of Neo-Expressionist paintings and the provocative, political nature of Identity Art of the 1980s and early 1990s.

In an artistic climate where aesthetics take a secondary role (if one at all) to conceptual or content-driven work, creating intentionally beautiful work is a rebellious act. In 1999, Curators Olga Viso and Neal Benezra stated the following in the preface to their exhibition catalogue Regarding Beauty, which still rings true today:

While ascribing beauty to art may seem natural and appropriate, in recent decades beauty and contemporary art have been considered virtually incongruous. In an art world increasingly focused on global issues and social concerns, artists and critics alike have questioned beauty’s efficiency and relevance for contemporary culture. Suggesting frivolity, the machinations of the art market and a lack of seriousness and social purpose, beauty has indeed come under severe attack. The assault on beauty by the contemporary art world has left a confused and baffled art viewing public uncertain about one of the very cornerstones of western art and culture, namely the pursuit of beauty.1

In Pursuit of Beauty provides a glimpse into a generation of artists who enable the acceptance and influence of a sensual and ornate beauty in the critical art world of the early 21st century.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Spores" have landed in Beverly

Images of PIXNIT's new installation in downtown Beverly as part of the upcoming exhibition In Pursuit of Beauty at Montserrat Gallery.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Transgressive Beauty: Ryan McGinness

Ryan McGinness, (new work), 2008

Laced with countless pop culture references, lyrical lines, and colorful graphics, Ryan McGinness’ work provides a running commentary on contemporary culture. A master at integrating graphic form with poetic content, the New York-based artist continues to transform gallery spaces and the art world alike. Much has been said about the artist’s ability to bridge the gap between graphic design and fine art; McGinness, however, creates art for art’s sake and is not actively engaged in the commercial service industry. Most people define graphic design in terms of aesthetics or form, not recognizing the difference between art and design in conceptual terms of artist’s intention versus industry. It is important to note that instead of simply appropriating forms available in the public realm, McGinness makes all of his own icons. He takes the authoritative aesthetic of iconic language that has traditionally resided in the world of anonymous design and uses that power for his own work and in the process introduces a new visual language to fine art. Trained and well versed in pictorial communication, his imagery has moved beyond its graphic design beginnings and come into its own with a unique, yet universal, communication system. Read the complete essay in Arkitip no. 48, Ryan McGinness

Friday, April 4, 2008


Jeff Koons, Puppy, Bilbao, 2003

Jeff Koons spoke at Harvard (April 3, 2008) on the subjective and objective nature of art, his obsession with air, and the inherent sexuality contained within all objects. He attributed the success of a work of art to its ability to be 'chameleon,' to adapt to the times. Emphasizing that the contemporary viewer can add new meaning to historical works of art simply by looking and interpreting them.

He also discussed the integrity of the ready-made, and his use of the powerful aesthetic of mass-production to create unique works of art (ironic?). He sees the role of the artist is to manipulate and communicate with the audience and channel information for them. With a Buddhist demeanor, Koons got philosophical and spoke of art as the great connector and the artist as a platform for change, citing self-acceptance as the key to success and transcendence.

When asked about his love of painting he spoke softly of the warmth of the materials and the density of the pigments. He encouraged the audience to increase their parameters and simply follow their ideas, as they will take you somewhere. "Everything is already here, you just have to look for it..." He spoke of art as a form of becoming, a form of love even, and expressed his own desire for dialog and a shared experience. Stating that "everyday art presents itself, you just have to look."

When asked to explain his detachment from the physical construction of his work he replied he is involved in every detail of his pieces. He just chooses not to get lost in the medium/process, but rather focus on the idea and the vision of a work of art. "I can make anything, having the vision is key. If you can see something, you can make it."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Effort Distance

Jen Nazzaro, How Effort and Distance are Linked
Charcoal, graphite and crayon on paper, 22x30"

One of my favorite people is showing her new drawings in the Schlosberg Gallery at Montserrat this month. Jen Nazzaro's ethereal landscapes are created within a narrow color palette of black, grays and whites. Nevertheless, she is able to create a tremendously rich surface through exquisite mark making using charcoal and graphite.