by Clarissa Shanahan
Chestnut Hill Arts Initiative’s premiere show, ‘Summer Phase’, proved to be a thoughtfully curated blend of conceptual installations in a variety of mediums, featuring the work of ten different artists.This was a particularly contemporary and progressive show in an otherwise conservative area.
The initiative aims to create a presence of progressive and contemporary art installations in the commercial property windows along Germantown Ave. CAi is in partnership with The Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Chestnut Hill Community Association and Bowman Properties.
The old Magarity Ford Dealership features a site-specific installation piece by Tom Judd, entitled ‘The World is Flat’. It’s fills the enormous window of the dealership building with a painted world map. The piece is constructed of cardboard and framing, the markings and lettering from the cardboard boxes intentionally left visible, inviting us to view the map as a whole work, as well as reflect on the sum of its parts. It resembles a low-tech, whimsical class project. I had the opportunity to speak with him at the reception, and upon being asked what inspired this work, he said the size of the space inspired him to create something “patently silly and outrageous”, with the “exuberance of a sixth grade geography project.” It’s an irreverent, playful and exuberant piece.
There are two additional site-specific pieces, one from Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, ‘Blue in Green’, which is completely constructed with pipe cleaners, bits of recycled plastic, bottle caps….and it’s beautiful. With a big colorful net, created around the exterior of a storefront, wrapping the windows, stoop and railing, Lathan-Stiefel plays with ideas of growth and sprawl, supporting the notion of it being an organic, living thing. It’s beautifully crafted, thoughtfully designed for the site and has the feeling of being a super-stylized, children’s programming version of an underwater creature-capturing device. At least to me, anyway. It’s fantastic.
‘The Last Breath’ by Philip Scarpone, is an installation using natural materials – milled wood, concrete, natural wood and a ground covering – mulch? woodchips? This is a beautiful, quiet installation piece reflecting a delicate balance of geometry and nature. It makes you want to whisper when in proximity.
One piece that absolutely knocked me out, was ‘High Definition’ by Michael Kalmbach. This one is hard to describe, but the first thing I’ll say is that it’s unbelievably compelling. Granted, I am absolutely fanatical about interesting materials, and tactile surfaces and this piece did not disappoint.
The form is created with a poured acrylic, decorated with “stacks” of “dot strands”, in organic, ripply waves around the piece. I am in awe of this combination of really innovative uses of fluid acrylic, and other chemical means. Beautiful pieces.
Two pieces from Aaron Wiener with Visionary Fusion Glass Works were displayed in one exhibition space. Created with pattern-cut and fused glass (I do not, I confess, completely understand this), not only are the forms distinct, and have an organic sensibility, but he has used glass brilliantly, in a newly realized way – the texture is as present as the form.
One of the pieces is colored glass formed in a fluid, not-unlike Chihuly manner, however, the other piece resembles a lacy bowl made of iron. Except it’s not. I know! It’s very hard to say what it’s made from, just by looking. But, actually is crafted of quartz glass with a metallic coating fused to the surface. Fantastic.
Surprisingly for me, the two-dimensional work didn’t speak to me quite as much as the other dynamic sculpture and installations. However, it was an eclectic offering, which I pretty much always appreciate.
‘Danger in Nature’ by Alexander Conner, is a collection of paintings, roughly 6’ x 4’, (UPDATE per comment below from the artist: Each of my works are 4′ Tall x 3′ Wide making them 4′ x 9′ Wide overall. They are not paintings, but full scale Cyanotypes, and were exposed in my backyard.) made to resemble those photosensitive paper experiments that you did with flowers and leaves, creating white silhouettes on that specific denim blue. His paintings playfully reflected that relationship between nature and our experience of- and place in it. Christopher Motta’s photography, is self-reflective, and it seems, a rather intimate view of his own recollections. I appreciated these as well-composed images, but for me, the meanings of them, at least as intended, didn’t quite translate. Except as good imagery.
There were two paintings by Daniel Mahlman, entitled ‘Fun and Games’ [4’ x 4’], mixed media paintings, in an illustrative, line drawing kind of style. They’re playful, and seem to be making a statement about guns. And candy. I like them, I like that I’m still thinking about them.
I am sorry I missed a couple of pieces–one by Brookes Britcher, who curated the show, and one by Jaime Alvarez. Britcher, who is also the CAi project coordinator, was responsible for a mixed media installation piece entitled “The Apple and the Tree,” a reconfiguration of a previously created installation. Being interested, like Judd, in usable, accessible materials to create a conversation about utility and new ways to look at objects, Britcher used found materials procured from local stores and restaurants. The good news is the installation had to come down because the store is rented. However, you can catch Brookes’ work in upcoming CAi shows. Sadly, I didn’t get the opportunity to see the work of Jaime Alvarez, a piece called GW. It seems to me, upon later seeing images of this work, that I’m missing out.
There is, for me, a very tangible thread throughout this well curated show, a certain levity, a lightheartedness, and images of Jaime’s GW display a very definitively whimsical feel.
As a show, I’m heartened to see such an energetic and conceptual art presence here in Chestnut Hill. Good sign for things to come, I hope.
CAi, which evolved out of Project Sketchbook – a curated show of area student artwork, is creating another work for the fall, entitled “Lessons’, featuring the work of art educators, with workshops offered from the artists throughout the season.
CAi – ‘Summer Phase’
Closing Reception: 6-9pm / Friday, August 20th 2010 / Magarity Ford
Hours: Free to the public everyday
Germantown Ave, between E Springfield Ave. and Hartwell Ln.
Chestnut Hill, 19118