New Works on Findlay

By Chris Hoeting

New Works, which opened on September 6th, features a group exhibition of four-experienced artist from former gallery owner (PAC Gallery) now turned not-for-profit director (The Gallery Project) Annie Bolling. Bolling selected the work of the best and brightest female artists from her former PAC Gallery stable in an exhibition revisiting her recent past as gallery director. This exhibit spotlights four diverse approaches to contemporary art in Bolling’s latest curatorial effort at Carl Solway’s new Findlay Street Gallery Project Space. This group exhibition shares 1,200 square feet with introspective works by artists Kris Ebeling, Emily Hanako Momohara, Casey Riordan Millard, and Alice Pixley Young. A diversity of themes, such as immortality, loss, desire, and nostalgia emerge from the exhibition in these women’s work that have strong formal emphasis and distinct approaches in their respective media. The exhibition will be on view through September 28.

The Findlay Street Gallery Project Space is broken up between a rectangular common area that you enter into and a large shotgun white box that extends to the right. The first room is split between works by Kris Ebeling and Casey Riordan Millard that lead you into the main exhibition area. A series of three small mixed media pieces by Casey Riordan Millard appear at the entrance to the gallery. In this small series, Millard’s signature ‘Shark Girl’ is placed inside of three different landscape studies. In the scenes, Shark Girl sits in a classic three-quarter view a top of various rock/earth like natural shapes with a gaze out onto the illustrative landscapes and beyond. In Casey Riordan Millard’s statement, She reveals that, “Mortality is a constant partner…The predicament of the Shark Girl is that she never faces her inner turmoil and, instead, continues the outward quest for diversion.

The compositions created explore three very different approaches to materials that affect the value structure and mood of the artworks. The figure ground relationship is really an emotional stage for the shark girl and the background sets the tone for the figure to live inside its own head. The emotion is created around Millard’s illustrations of the Shark Girl and the scale of the figure in relationship to the landscapes. The results are a group of artworks that operate in a classic story book narrative that tell a rather sophomoric story of adolescent melancholy of the Shark Girl.

The standout piece is placed in the center of the three, titled Shark Girl on Landscape. The artwork is composed of a circular format. Shark Girl appears in a darker landscape surrounded by a rich palette of warm neutrals, dark green, and accents of red and orange. The composition bounces around the focal point of Shark Girl and her intense blue dress, which is flanked on either side by reoccurring motifs of moon lips and the eye figure. Shark Girl on Landscape has a touch of classical painting. By contrast the format and use of materials (less effective tonal quality) appear more integrated into the design than the two adjacent pieces titled, Shark Girl with Rain Forest and Shark Girl in Paradise.

In contrast to Milliards highly illustrative narratives are Kris Ebeling’s series of sensual work that focus on desire. Ebeling’s groupings of work are spread throughout the main gallery and entry space. In Ebeling’s large grouping of 11 framed pieces called Untitled (Consumption // Consummation) decorative abstractions work in tandem with fragments of illustrative faces, mouths and tongues drawn with graphite in the center region of the white paper backgrounds.

Ebering’s theme of desire is enhanced by a bright pink dripped, poured, and painted surface. Ebeling does this by covering the head of the figure and exploring the transitions between the mouth and the color both as the title suggests the dialectic between consumption and consummation. In Kris Ebeling’s statement she writes, “I am a hostess for the carnal and the elegant, drawing from our human desire to be satisfied and pleased by not only flesh but food alike.” She is addressing important themes in contemporary culture about desire.

Next to Untitled (Consumption / Consummation) hang three contrasting artworks that work off of a mid-toned wood ground with less graphic quality to the centrally placed images. The darker ground has an active surface from the wood backing that takes away from the painted/drawn image on the surface. In a grouping of mixed media high relief works in the back part of the gallery, Ebeling explores more three-dimensional forms with fetishized body fragments and orphosis made of clay.

Along the long wall across from Kris Ebeling’s works are two new triptychs by
Emily Hanako Momohara. She is known for her photography and digitally manipulated imagery, and use of cultural symbols in still life. In her two series entitled, Topical Arrangement and Fusion a common thread of dark tonal structure with large areas of black negative space surround the top half of each compositions. In Topical Arrangement #1,2,3, Momohara sets up a still life with floral arrangements that remind me of Chicago based painter Ivan Albright. In her still life arrangements Momohara appears to be referencing historical painting by exploring it through photography. She successfully creates subtle gradations of color and value in the series of floral compositions. In Topical Arrangement #2 Momohara incorporates an image of a rat, similar to the introduction of a skull in early Dutch still life painting. The rat appears as a symbol of what could be a reminder of death as a way to upset the order inside the still life. Emily Hanako Momohara second triptych entitled Fusion #1,2,3 is the most quiet of the exhibition and perhaps the most dramatic work. The three-quarters of black negative space is a bold use of the background space. The still life explores images of terrarium like natural landscapes and bonsai that Momohara appears to be pulling from aspects of her culture. She is cleverly able to quickly bring the contemporary still life conversation into a more modern dialogue of landscape and ecology.

Lucy R. Lippard writes in her book from On the Beaten Track “I use the word-to suggest the dreamlike process of memory. Will the complexity of undeniable if contradictory emotions that make up our responses to history and to out own pasts disappear from our cultural vocabularies because nostalgia is ‘constructed’?”

A triad of artworks by Alice Pixley Young sits in the back corner. The artworks by Young explore materials such as kiln cast glass, video, and assemblage in a series of site-specific installations. The grouping by Young is the strongest arrangement in the exhibition and covers the most territory conceptually. The largest of the three works entitled, You Can’t Never Go Home Again, Young has set up a tableau that operates like a still life by drawing on nostalgia. The artwork combines alternative processes and invites the viewer to interact. Inside one mirror is a looping video of a red fire burning in a forest. Peering through the fiery focal point reveals a landscape lost inside of a mirror.

Young comments that, “My work returns to themes of both the forest and the domestic space as iconic landscapes where much like mythology, fairytales and horror, we project the fears and beliefs of our collective unconscious. I use the forest and the domestic space as characters in my narratives: they become a presence both soothing and alarming, nostalgic and cryptic within the uneasy, staged realities they exist in.”

A rather strong work from Young is an artwork called Remembering / Un-remembering, which is an artwork created with alternative materials. She combines natural materials in her cast glass book that sits below a cast glass collar. Just under the book is a circular video that plays a slight of hand reaching in and out on the composition to add and remove red and white pieces similar to the ones that are fused in the glass book. On the video a game of adding and subtracting is played in Remembering / Un-remembering appearing to comment on aspects of staging realities of nostalgia as suggested by the title.

In this exhibition it is quite clear that when Annie Bolling curated this show she went to her reliable producers to show fresh work. New Work does not seem to thread together on one specific theme and the conflicts exists between this and the space. However a common bond between the artist’s genders create a loose enough structure to feature four respectable artists in a group exhibition worth seeing.

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