Sunday, February 7, 2016

2016 Makers and Mentors

Sheldon Berlyn
"Makers and Mentors"
Rochester Contemporary Art Center
137 East Avenue, Rochester, NY

It is a surprise to go to see an exhibition where the paintings of a retired university painting professor are more colorful and vigorous then his notable students.  That is what I found walking into this new iteration of "Makers and Mentors" that just opened at Rochester Contemporary Art Center on East Avenue.  Sheldon Berlyn born in 1929 is active and astute and he invigorates the gallery walls this season and by example creates an inflection point that his students have to deal with.

Sheldon Berlyn painting at RoCo
"Makers and Mentors"

Sheldon Berlyn has been painting abstract works for over forty years and the style we see here at RoCo is a gradual evolution in form,  related to abstract expressionism.  We have seen works like Berlyn's in the paintings by Gerhard Richter ( using a squeegee ) and even with an artist like Jason Brooks ( photo-realist portraits of swirled paints ).  When you are at the gallery go into the semi-circular theatre and sit down to watch the short video clip of Sheldon Berlyn painting and talking about his method and you will understand a lot more about how his art is accomplished.  The part that you can't see is the instinct and experience that the artist brings -and that makes these paintings unique.

Visiting RoCo for "Makers and Mentors"

Sheldon Berlyn's kind of gestural abstraction can come from a study of other art, whether it is from a classical tradition like Caravaggio ( see the recent interview published in Art House Press ) or you can find it in music - a call and response.  Either way it is the artist's nervous system and the reflex and wrist action that makes his paintings dance.

"Blue Rising" by Sheldon Berlyn
Acrylic on paper, 2015

We got to meet some of Sheldon's select students and engage them in conversation at the opening of "Makers and Mentors" and I was attracted to the works of Juan Perdiguero that combined an atmospheric abstraction with a highly refined portrait of a primate.  The effect is kind of a hybrid between photography and painting, and I asked Juan about his technique he said it was all about drawing.  These portraits are painted with a tender quality that is very responsive to reality - these are portraits that communicate personality especially through the eyes, but that is not all - there are subtle textures that are arrived at through the use of a q-tip or other instrument to remove gradually, layers of black ink placed on photographic paper.  It is a reductive method but really interesting to see the results.

Juan Perdiguero
Ink on photo paper
"Mono Aqua"

Kathleen Sherin is attracted in her artwork to knots, tangles and splashes - or the appearance of these kind of random acts in her carborundum mono prints included in this show and they have a lively effect of movement and a liquid dance that shares some of the vitality that inhabits the work of Sheldon Berlyn.  Ms. Sherin's art is mostly in values of blacks and grays, and close up they have subtle textures that contribute to the total effect..

Work on paper by Kathleen Sherin

Russell Floersch and Gerardo Tan complete the exhibition with paintings and collages which really go off in directions of their own.  Mr. Floersch creates very stable ever dour images  that have an inner solemnity.  That have wit and are like visual puns in a way.  Gerardo Tan's collage work is complex, and text driven and seems to be a work in progress.

In their own experimental gallery space is "The Cubic Foot Project", which seeks to document living creatures that can be found by putting the square you see in the photo outside by the Genesee River and photographing what you find there.  So inside the cube during a period of two weeks you might locate a bird, or an insect, or a leaf, or other life form and this will contribute to our knowledge of our environment.  Thanks to Rochester Contemporary Art Center for putting on this insightful exhibition.

David Littschwager 
"The Cubic Foot Project" 
Rochester Contemporary Art Center
thru March 13,  2016