Abington-monumental burned wood, cellophane collages and clothing

We’d been overdue a trip to Abington Art Center to see the solo series shows and check out what’s new in the woods.  We picked a cool enough day before the heat wave and ventured out.  Abington — like many small arts organizations — is suffering the effects of the recession.  They had to let go staff including their curator, the great Sue Spaid.  The solo shows — we don’t know who curated them — include works by Judy Engle, Alison Stigora, Atsuko Tajima and Jay Walker.  With one exception, we know all the artists.

Alison Stigora’s Torrent, 2010, burned wood

The surprise of the trip is Alison Stigora’s burned wood installation.  While other works have played with the Abington’s fireplace, Stigora’s elemental and monumental piece uses the site better than we’ve seen before.  It’s just stacked wood but wow, flowing like an unstoppable river, the piece occupies the room like the personification of restrained violence.

jay walker
Jay Walker, And I will build three structures, 2010, cloth, resin, wood and metal

Jay Walker’s starched clothing pieces — with their fashion sensibility, militarist stance and cinematic drama — raise thoughts of Neo in the Matrix and other warrior heroes who are hunks and fashion plates.  The headless figures are eerie and monumental and we want to say that bronzed and patinated,  these (can we call them statues?) would be great in a public plaza. Walker (who is also in the Bambi Biennial with tape on wood panels of iconic shrouded bodies) also installed a loose grid of blocky, carved-wood heads impaled on sticks, in the same space.  These are less successful for being familiar objects from recent art history — i.e., we’ve seen work like this before.

Judy Engle, collage made with packing tape

Judy Engle’s collage works using newspaper, magazine and catalog ad images create new interior designs from junkmail. Engle’s subversions – held together with layer upon layer of clear packing tape – are maximalist collage — collage by a self-taught artist (which she is). Unlike the spare, Haiku-like collages you see everywhere, in which one or two cut paper pieces pasted to an existing image push it into surreal territory, Engle’s works reach Jackson Pollock-like build-ups that are positively AbEx. f

Atsuko Tajima
Atsuko Tajima, reverse painting on kiln-formed glass

Process lies at the heart of Atsuko Tajima’s reverse paintings on sculpturally formed glass. The works are beautiful and contemplative.

richard metz
Richard Metz, gouache painting of nature spirits in the woods at Abington

In the woods, we found Richard Metz’s spirit paintings on a group of trees. Metz, who specializes in painting cartoon creatures on non-standard supports (suit jackets, bricks) has met his match surface-wise in tree bark. The artist is using bio-friendly egg tempera paint to not endanger the trees. But his toothy characters don’t hold up visually on the craggy and nubbly barks. Also, there’s something too skinny about a painting on a tree trunk to convey the intended hefty menacing mischief of  Where the Wild Things Are.