SIDE BY SIDE BY OMID
AEC Gallery, Covington, Kentucky, through February 16, 2013
by Fran Watson
Very few art exhibits simply happen. They started someplace, out of great and not so great thoughts, from the hearts and minds of creative individuals, and in some cases, from a combination of several kinds of creativity. “domino02” at AEC in Covington falls into that last category from artists working with engineers, both concerned for the state of water in this modern age, and determined to be involved with its conservation.
While the organization, OMID, stands by its basic goal of aiding rural areas of the third world, these goals are also inspirational to artists Thousands of pieces of art exist today based , as is “domino 02”, on the beauty and abundance of water. One of the many “rules meant to be broken” in art is the premise that two equal images on one canvas should be avoided, yet, this exhibit rests completely upon that curatorial idea. Each of the canvases shown measures just 20” x 20”. They are joined to appear as oblong pairs, which not only change their shape to 40” x 20”, but which lends visible importance to each piece comprising the unified shape.
Most of the paintings tend toward watery colors, which makes the two entries by Togo stand out with the sunshine and reflected sparkle of great weather on open water. High color and sweeping strokes confidently lend themselves to easy integration and with the low toned, textured work by Sara Montani on one side and in geometric gray shapes of implied depth by Susan Parks on the other. Montani’s next canvas segues into fellow Italian Michele Cannao’s, more figurative waver-y fish. Thus navigating the exhibit is simply a matter of following the artists from the right end of one piece to begin on the left of the next. Curator Catie Yellig did an excellent job of not only pairing the “Tiles”, as they are referred to in the catalog, but finding very subtle connections in the compositions.
Jeffrey Courtland Jones has constructed gentle squares of the palest pastel colors, indeed, almost invisible variations, inspired by the trails of irrigation pipes atop farmland north of Cincinnati. I found myself returning several times to more carefully investigate their gauzy parameters, finding more intrigue each time.
Strangely enough, the two tiles by Sonja Aeschlimann were the most figurative, yet the most abstract through a perceptible intensity of the artist’s involvement . Worlds of fine paint quality permeated each drop. Continual changes in the painting map the course of their creation, allowing the viewer a special knowledge of the process. Several water drops hang suspended from a line in motion on an almost blue background. Brush marks nearly cover the pigment, allowing it to fade unevenly. Further enhancement emerges in the form of mingled pencil lines wandering among the drops. Tile No.6 and Tile No.7, Aeschlimann’s two contributions, pulled me back several times just to experience their pleasure again.
Interpretations included undulating grids by Stephen Boris, horizontal stripes by Susan Post, stitched pages by Sheila Soleimani, John Humphries’ suggested black depths covering past ages and hidden treasure, delicate color variations by Debra Ramsay, and reflections on her time living in Yemen by Kim Burgas.
Variety of vision was the hallmark. Each artist chose his/her own interpretation allowing as much individualism as they could cram into the specified cube. Originality ruled in these circumstance, yet each artist could point to a specific, viable inspiration tied to water. The international backgrounds of the artists, all speaking on the same subject, in the common language of art, had to have been an element considered in the acceptance of the previous edition , “domino01” in 2012 at the Biennale di Venezia.
The AEC Gallery is large. I’ve never noticed how large until this show. Twelve artists submitted 24 tiles, displayed as twelve 20”x”40 pieces. The average gallery-goer may not find it easy to fully appreciate this collection of work exhibited in this manner, scattered throughout several separated areas. There is a reason for this seeming disregard for space. “domino02” was originally displayed at Xavier University. Circumstances occurred that caused it to be taken down after just a few days and AEC came to the rescue.
For more information about OMID, a nonprofit Cincinnati based organization devoted to affordable and sustainable technologies which address the global concerns of poverty and access to clean water, visit www.omid-usa.org.