The Memorial Art Gallery
The 65th Rochester - Finger Lakes Exhibition
Stepping out of the snaking line that leads to the entrance of the 65th Rochester - Finger Lakes Exhibition at The Memorial Art Gallery on opening night, I was greeted by the art of a friend from Geneva, New York, and that is a pair of color woodcuts by Phillia Yi. Her work has a lyrical application of clear color in abstractions where the scale is pleasing - the art is inviting and easy to live with.
Around the corner into the show there is a mixture of surprises among the 68 works selected by this year's juror, Michael Rooks from Atlanta's High Museum of Art. In some past years this show was so selective that few of the entrants had their works chosen for viewing, but this year we have a better representation of the artists in this region, and the only reservation I have is that there is not much in the way of sculpture or installation, though this is strong in our area.
of Alfred Station
Stephanie McMahon seems to be given the most space for her colorful paintings which to this observer are a mix of influences from Karin Davie and Mary Heilman to Jonathan Lasker - all in bright eye-popping hues. I like the fact that the juror has often chosen more than one work to represent an artist, so for example there are two photos from Kathy Vajda, and two for Nick Ruth. Nick's two semi-abstract works open the question of modern technology and start a conversation about communication and surveillance ( or are they the same? ).
Christine Sullivan from Elmira, New York, has one of the poster images - a map of the Finger Lakes with superimposed forms meant to illustrate our geology here, so even though the painting is handled like an abstract, in reality it is a view in the mind's eye of the physical structures - a geomorphology as she calls it of the lake district. The painting is a bit like camouflage, and it reveals and conceals at the same time.
of Canandaigua, New York
Visitors to this year's show can pick their favorite entry which will be announced at a later time, but for me my pick would be Willie Osterman's photo installation of the human body ( I think it is a self portrait ) titled " I Am That " from 2014. I love the depth of each of the boxes that depict a part of the human anatomy in a crucifer layout - but it is much more than that. There are optical illusions and depth because there are many layers to this art. There is a bit of an influence of the old glass plates used in photography as well as reference to contemporary artists like the Starn Twins ( minus the tape ).
Willie Osterman is my colleague at The Rochester Institute of Technology and there he demonstrates how to make these ambrotypes. Other works of photography in the present show like Edgar Praus' "Store Fronts" in Jackson, Mississippi remind me of color versions of Walker Evans ( and in fact one of the store fronts in this triptych directly evokes Evans' name ).
Bill Keyser's two sculptural pieces in the middle of the show make analogies to the human hand
( "Fetch" ) and to a dangerous fall ( " Black Ice" ). For a more academic approach to the human form look to Tom Golambos' big figures in his oil on canvas. This work is all about drawing and accuracy and the time it takes to shape and form a painting of two humans on bed sheets - it is very accomplished.
of Springwater, NY
Kala Stein exhibits a sculptural object that is also utilitarian ( serves as a vase ) and they have been featured from time to time in the gallery shop. I like the patterning and the way these fit together.
I was happy to see that the Finger Lakes juror included two works from Barbara McPhail - both are Monotypes which is a form of printmaking, on top of which she draws directly in color pencils. In "Where Once Was Ice" she directly calls our attention to climate change and the dire situation for polar bears, it is a bit ominous - even if these prints have pleasing colors for the most part.
John Kastner also has two pieces in the show, and I like his " I Had A Car Like That Once " of 2014. This gouache on board is obsessive in detail with a constant droll sense of humor - part R. Crumb and Peewee's Playhouse combined.
Going out the door, I really liked the big abstractions from Rebecca Aloisio from 2014. She lives in Victor, and the mixed media approach is fresh and she is a new artist for this viewer. All in all, I found the present iteration of the Finger Lakes Exhibition to be a happy one, and especially because The Memorial Art Gallery supports this community of artists in this manner. Go and see for yourself - what are you waiting for?!