Ebb and Flow (recently closed) is a three-person exhibition at Cincinnati Art Underground, in OTR. The work of Cincinnati artists Kristine Donnelly and Erin Mahorney fill the gallery walls. A sculpture by Florida artist Noah Z. Brock occupies the center of the space.
What connects these works, otherwise diverse in terms of media, is their use of transparency and opacity to define the illusory ebb and flow of visual space. Donnelly’s work deftly navigates a balance between positive and negative in her cut paper sculptures and flat works. Conversely, Mahorney paints large areas of heavy opacity to create emphasis on brief glimpses of open, airy space. Brock employs a transparent material and makes it disappear almost completely into a dense black void.
In “Pose”, Donnelly activates emptiness to the level of protagonist in terms of figure/ground relationship. Here, several rolls of hand-cut paper, mounted on the wall, unravel at varying lengths. Each roll is 8” wide by almost 9 feet long, cut in a detailed, repetitive wallpaper pattern. The ivory paper rests against a black wall that accentuates thousands of holes, boggling any mind that may imagine the countless hours involved in carefully slicing away so much extraneous material. Donnelly draws inspiration from pattern and textile design. Her intricate drawings are formed into draped sculptures, wall pieces, and layered framed prints. The use of Tyvek to create the draped sculptures enables thin, delicate lines to suspend the weight of masses of material. In the exhibition’s title piece, “Ebb and Flow”, this technique works to great effect, with a network of web-like paper strands hanging from two small strands on the ceiling, flowing down to its full bulk onto the floor. The delicate white piece resembles a lace veil. The framed, layered works provide another dimension for the artist to explore the medium of cut paper. Made from acrylic screen print and hand cut Hosho paper, these works have the added elements of figuration in the imagery, and of color floating in and out of the positive and negative spaces of the cuts. In “Big Leap: One”, screen-printed floral patterns in multiple colors create depth behind the darkest top layer. In “Remembering Hiroshige”, a circular moon and silhouette motif, recalling the famous Ukiyo-e artist, is repeated, while the silkscreened imagery incorporates a partially obscured figure.
Mahorney’s abstract paintings are derived from travels and nature. Cheerfully colored with reds, greens, pinks, and oranges, suggestions of flowers and leaves are rendered in fragments, and partially obscured by dense patches of white and light toned regions. They appear like musings of not-quite-clear memories, with moments of intensity searing parts of the canvas, while other sections fade into mist. In “It Might Rain”, white coneflower forms set against brilliant magenta and orange swim in a field of white and murky cyan, punctuated by long dark drips. Bold colors in “Bali Comes Alive” vibrate against their dark background, only to be swallowed up by a mass of thick white foreground strokes.
Brock’s single sculpture is a small fountain, previously exhibited at Aqua Art Miami during Art Basel. Called “Newton’s Bucket”, the artwork references an experiment by Sir Isaac Newton designed to demonstrate the nature of rotational motion. In the experiment, a spinning bucket gradually causes the surface of the water it contains to spin and also become concave. Brock’s sleek, modernist design incorporates a gently spinning bowl raised by a pedestal, white on the outside and black on the inside of the bowl. Due to the black interior, the smooth surface of the water does not appear to reflect any light, making it nearly invisible. With its deep black hole encircled by a rhythmically moving white lip, the piece succeeds in engaging viewers as they to peer down, hypnotically drawn in to see what’s there.
–Susan Byrnes is a visual artist whose work encompasses traditional and contemporary forms and practices, including sculpture, multimedia installation, radio broadcasts, writing, and curatorial projects. She earned an MFA from Eastern Michigan University and a BFA from Syracuse University. She currently resides in Cincinnati, OH.