Currently on view at AISLE in the West End, Fiends is a two-person show featuring works by veteran collagist Michael Scheurer and newcomer Lizzy Renschler.

If you’ve been paying even a modicum of attention, it should be clear to you by now that Scheurer has become a hot property. In the past year the artist’s mixed media works have been shown at Clay Street Press, the Northside space CANCO, and Covington’s AEC.  His participation in Fiends represents his third show in less than five months.  But much of the work on display in the narrow hallway that endows AISLE with its name is from last December’s A New Reality at the Artisan’s Enterprise Center.

Since the pieces’ last showing in Covington though, the glass panes that encase Scheurer’s mid-tempo shadow boxes have been replaced by pristine lites of low-glare museum glass, revealing their juxtaposed contents with a new clarity.  Fiends also includes a selection of the artist’s large-scale collages on dry-wall, a few of which were shown in his October exhibition at CANCO.  While these works are a dramatic increase in size, the Indian film poster inspired collages do not immediately expand upon his familiar practice.  Scheurer is unquestionably one of the area’s most talented artists, but to my mind, four local shows in one year is too much exposure.

In the adjacent room, Lizzy Renschler’s works on paper are a fresh addition to 2012’s already vibrant local offerings. Currently based in California, Renschler’s newest works resonate with vivid colors, graphic clarity, and the west coast’s laid-back aesthetic sensibility. But it’s her older drawings in Fiends that are the most sophisticated.

Among the pictures permeated by aggressive ghouls and insidious-looking ladies, lays a rich and complex sense of pictorial space.  In works such as the ink on paper Girls with Knives, Renschler adapts gesture and pattern to dissolve forms into one another. The leg of a knife wielding banshee is transformed into looping decorative strokes in one instant, and back into a leg in the other.  Unsure of their location in space, Renschler’s objects simultaneously advance and recede along the picture’s surface, creating the dynamic tensions that abound in her work.

The acid-toned hues in Springtime Oracle function in a similar manner, as near-complementary color relationships enhance an already agitated surface. The green snakes of a medusa-like figure stand in sharp contrast to the undulating red-orange waves that make up the picture’s background. These ‘wave forms’ that Renschler uses so effectively make regular appearances throughout the works on display and are reminiscent of traditional patterns found on Japanese kimonos.

Renschler’s pieces also present a material lesson in the use of found objects. Not content to merely transport unchanged items into the gallery environs in search of contextual magic, the artist employs legal ledgers, scrap cardboard, and other discovered detritus in ways which wholly subsume their past identity into the existence of a new creation.  Can you tell that Untitled Pizza is on a former pizza box? You bet, but it doesn’t leap out at you, or parade its former character before your eyes. Rather its recognition as a pizza box is an after effect of viewing the image on its surface. Knowledge of its previous utility adds an additional level of formal nuance; it is not –like so much found-object work- its raison d’être.

Like several spaces throughout Cincinnati, AILSE has cut back on programming for 2012.  It’s too bad, considering curator Krista Gregory’s keen eye for quality work and her penchant for tightly conceived exhibitions that examine boundaries rather than clichés. In this respect Fiends is no different. While Scheurer and Renschler’s work share little in terms of conceptual interest, they both possess robust visual elements that arise from the direct and confident manner in which these artists handle their chosen media. Fiends is on view through February 24th.

AISLE is located at 424 Findlay St. Third Floor. Hours: Tue-Fri 1-4pm. Contact: 513-241-3403 for details.

–Alan Pocaro

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