"Purple Iris Valley" Chad Rasmussen, mixed media on canvas

The idea of “abstraction” in art has always held a definitive place in my heart ever since I began noticing my love for creative expression. Not only is the idea typically misunderstood by most audiences, it seems to be so because it denies certain concrete realities and meanings we hold dear. Ironically, abstraction seems to be the most enjoyable to review since I, much like a weather forecaster, don’t have to worry about being wrong. That being said, when I was asked to review Infrastructure: Raymond Thunder-Sky’s Drawings outside of representation at Thunder-Sky Gallery, I couldn’t have been more delighted. The show consists of 4 artists who, through manipulation and abstraction, reflect on the meaning of reality within the work of Raymond Thunder-Sky. The artists include Alex Bartenberger, Evan Hildebrandt, Chad Rasmussen and Michael Weber.

Entering the gallery I was greeted at once with “Side View” by Evan Hildebrandt. The massive mixed media piece on canvas demanded my attention and I was helpless to resist. What first attracted me to this piece was that it almost appeared as if it were a living, breathing organism. The flesh-like surface was activated by the use of what looked to be several different forms of plastic resin. The jagged use of reflective aluminum foil within the piece implied a sense of synthetic disruption, while further activating the space. Along with his piece “Fire is Hot” Hildebrandt displayed his knack for implying movement definitively.

Mirroring “Side View” in the gallery space were 2 large pieces by Alex Bartenberger. Upon viewing the pieces I was immediately struck by Mark Rothko’s seeming influence on the artist, only after being told that Bartenberger did not know who Rothko was during the creation of these paintings. “Pink Oil” appeared to me as somewhat sexually charged, exuding erotic energy without being aggressive. This piece commands our primal emotions in a compelling yet non-verbal way. It leaves the viewer with a pleasant erotic glow. After leaving the gallery “Pink Oil” remained steadfast in my mind.

As for works on a smaller scale, Chad Rasmussen came through with 3 pieces on canvas that were as busy as they were hypnotic. The surface detail of each piece is organic and colorful; starring at them one at a time gave me the impression that I was viewing microscopic divisions of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Had these paintings been a bit larger I would have probably been overwhelmed, but it seems the artist chose the scale most skillfully.

“Looking at Flowers” by Michael Weber revealed itself to be one of the more prominent pieces in the show. As with all abstracted art criticism, my description won’t give credence to the liveliness of viewing this piece in person. The loose use of color and space insisted that my mind remain in a trance-like state of imaginative play, free of walls and boundaries. Weber seems to have developed an ability to communicate through the various dimensions of feeling and emotion, and does so with authority.

Overall I was stunned by the amount of talented work coming out from underneath Thunder-Sky name. There are always so many questions after viewing such well conceived abstract works, as is true with all good abstract art. It would no doubt please Raymond Thunder-Sky himself to be a part of such a show.

–Dustin Pike

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