Old City – visual puns, earth focus and free form at LaPelle, Bodega and Knapp

I like to consider myself a pretty “punny” guy – I adore both visual puns and wordplay of all kinds – so upon entering LaPelle Gallery’s show by Roxborough artist Nick D’Angelo, I was very pleasantly surprised. The first piece I noticed had a realistically rendered standup bass lying beside a bottle of Bass Pale Ale, entitled Double Bass. Highly amused, I continued into the room, soon to discover that this piece would pale (ale) in comparison to the rest.

Refrigerator Art, a punning painting by Nick D’Angelo, at Rodger Lapelle Gallery

In this exhibition, all of the works are done in a largely achromatic palette. D’Angelo chooses small focal points to render in color, which predictably stand out a great deal. This is not to downplay the backgrounds, however, which are equally as detailed as the saturated areas, only colorless. One such piece is Refrigerator Art, a wood-panel refrigerator dotted with whimsical pictures held by “magnets”.

Mr. D’Angelo explained to me that he sets out to just paint life, or at least the way people tend to see it. The things we want to notice are always more vibrant, while a lot of things fade into the periphery. A great example is A Better Mousetrap. In this painting, a traditional wooden mousetrap sits armed with a piece of delicious looking cheese and a glass of red wine. Only the wine and cheese are in color, and the trap itself sits idle, ready to spring at any moment…

Nick D’Angelo revealing the reverse of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Aside from the formal observations, D’Angelo’s sense of humor is, as mentioned, pervasive throughout the entire show. When it was brought to my attention that the piece entitled 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall did not have ninety-nine bottles, the artist happily took the painting off the wall to prove to me that the others were really there.


Nicholas Gottlund’s bleach experiment at Bodega

Another Nick – Nicholas Gottlund – was showing his more recent work at 3rd Street’s Bodega. Working primarily as a photographer, Gottlund has begun doing some more earthlike, process-oriented explorations. The show at Bodega is roughly half photographic work, many of which are hazy shots of Midwestern vegetation or patterns in the dust.

One of Nicholas Gottlund’s photos

Gottlund’s other works are of a similar subject, except bypassing the medium of a camera. Letting plaster settle into a set form, or using a squeegee to wipe bleach onto photographic paper, are among his processes. Reproduction of the natural is Gottlund’s goal and when comparing the photos side-by-side with the physical works, it is clear that he accomplishes this in a subtle, yet effective way.


Cunanin by Jim Bloom, mixed media, 36.5” x 21,” Knapp gallery

The Knapp Gallery’s October exhibition was a bit free-form in its execution too… however in this case, for the curators. Having their Oklahoma City based artist cancel at the last minute the folks down at Knapp had to construct a show from scratch. What emerged was a preview of all of their upcoming 2011 exhibitions.

There are a total of seven artists’ works on display as the sampler packaged for the upcoming shows, not all of which I have room to discuss here. One Brazilian artist, Umberto Nigi, paints in the language of Rothko-like color fields. Originally from Italy, Nigi was inspired by the abstract expressionists on a trip to New York, and now produces minimal, expressive forms as an echo of their style.

Another highlight is an artist who goes simply by the name Razza. His large-scale paintings range from industrial gears and muted colors reminiscent of Cubist monochrome, to more colorful, flowing, almost musical compositions.

I was also pleased to see Philadelphia artist Jim Bloom among the lineup. Creating collages of cut up paper plates and scraps, Bloom constructs twisted portraits out of seeming junk. Scrawled words float around his images, surreally injecting the artist’s musings into our subconscious.

It’s certainly worth a trip down to Old City to check out Nick D’Angelo’s entertaining and masterful show, and whether you prefer the contemporary modernism at the Knapp Gallery or the natural reproduction at Bodega, there is certainly plenty to see downtown this October.