Weekly Update — Fleisher-Ollman’s Winter Invitational goodness

This week’s Weekly has my review of the winter invitational show at Fleisher-Ollman. Below is the copy with some pictures and a few changes.

Shawn Thornton
Shawn Thornton, one of five paintings in the show, oil on panel, 11×11″

Sly and serpentine works turn Fleisher-Ollman’s sixth annual emerging artist show into an Eden with bite. F-O is known for exhibiting the works of visionary outsider artists like James Castle.  But in this annual winter emerging artist exhibit it’s unusual to see a visionary.  So painter Shawn Thornton is the surprise.

Shawn Thornton, himself
Thornton at the opening reception, posing with two of his works.

His colorful, heavily-worked oil paintings of complex diagrammatic interweavoven lines, nodes, dots and symbols are like 2-D Rube Golderg machines without the punchline at the end.  Several of the five paintings look like super tricked-out gameboards — Candyland or Parchesi for four-dimensional thinkers. The artist – (BFA 2000, VCU) who in 2006 had brain surgery and radiation therapy for a tumor on his pineal gland – is puzzling out life’s flow, energy and meaning right in front of your eyes.  Deeply personal yet somehow universal, the works are fascinating and gorgeous.

Steven and Billy Dufala
Steven and Billy Dufala, Long Chuck, 2008. archival digital print, ed. 5. 41×82″ That’s Ann Northrup caught studying the Photoshop whizbang image.

Steven and Billy Dufala‘s digitally-rendered photo of an improbably-long sneaker is another puzzle.  The iconic trick shoe curls into a snaky S curve that evokes snakes, skateboarding and roller coasters,  This virtuoso Photoshopping of a dirty sneaker into a pristine icon is funny and unexpected from the two makers of rough-hewn installations like their Fleisher Challenge show last year.

Steven and Billy Dufala
Steven and Billy Dufala, Sledge Hammer. 2008. steel and oak. 33 1/4 x 12 1/2 x 6 1/2″

Also unlikely is the Dufala sculpture, Sledge Hammer.  With a a beautifully-finished wood shaft that looks like it’s an entire small tree trunk, the double-headed hammer is a fairy tale of a piece – it may be a lesson about double-dealing but the sculpture is pure seduction.

Nick Lenker
Nick Lenker, Sacrifices Will Be Made, 2008. clay, glaze, enamel, wood, metal. 16x8x8″
Always Remember Your Place, 2008. clay, glaze, luster; enamel, wood. 12x14x14″

Next to the hammer — and all the more fragile for being there – are Nick Lenker‘s two ceramic pots in a glass vitrine.  The pieces mimic ancient Grecian urns with beautiful repeat patterns and central images of nudes or draped figures in some ambiguous narrative.  But the wowza pots are 21st Century constructs – the images are made with digital ceramic decals.

Nick Paparone, himself
Nick Paparone with his IHop special universe, The Long Now, 2008. laminated poster, aluminum foil, carpet, motor and light bulb. 78x24x25″

Nick Paparone‘s mischievous installation of a spinning breakfast special (2 eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon on a white plate) in front of a laminated poster of the universe explores reality today.  The plastic breakfast is as real as the impossible picture of the universe, and the whole thing is comical.  Truly we are Lost in Space.

Josh Rickards
Josh Rickards, Drug Rug, 2008. acrylic and oil on panel. 21×22″

Josh Rickards paintings of people with mutant noses (think Ed Paschke) and 70s hair are wonderfully deadpan; and Charles Hobbs‘ hand-carved snakes and wood installations are beautiful.
Mark Stockton
Mark Stockton, Mr. Olympia 1974. 2008. charcoal on paper, 104×60″

Also good are Mark Stockton‘s figure drawings, especially the 8 ½ ft. tall charcoal drawing of a young, monstrously pumped up Arnold Schwartzennegger; David Clayton‘s mini landscapes; C. Pazia Mannella‘s snake-like zipper constructions; and Jeremy Drummond‘s aerial photos of snaking suburban housing developments.

Charles Hobbs, Untitled. wood, 44x40x4"
Charles Hobbs, Untitled. wood, 44x40x4″

Jeremy Drummond
Jeremy Drummond, 65-Point Plan for Sustainable Living, 2008. 65 lambda prints face and back-mounted plexi

C. Pazia Mannella
C. Pazia Mannella, Your Grace, 2008. zippers, thread.

Alex Lukas
Alex Lukas’ untitled book pages like this one feature a post-deluge metropolis right out of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.  2008. ink, acrylic, gouache and silkscreen on book page. 10×14″

With beauty, virtuoso craftsmanship and dark humor throughout, the exhibition’s an unexpected holiday present.

“You Open So Late, You Close So Early.”
Through Jan. 17.
Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St., suite 100.