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Two exhibitions in conversation at LGTripp Gallery


Although the two artists took a course in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts MFA program together, Plamen Veltchev and Allison Stigora had not seen one another’s work in about five years. It was a surprise for them to discover that their work has so much in common. Both artists tackle ideas such as the illusion of control and our inability to know the future – Veltchev through drawing and Stigora through installation. Both artists are featured this month at LG Tripp Gallery.  Formally, the two exhibitions share many parallels, including an emphasis on line and form, layering, dramatic compositions, and visual movement.

fatal trajectories i ink on paper 50x80 inches 2010
Plamen Veltchev. Fatal Trajectories I. Ink on paper. 50″ x 80″. 2010.

Plamen Veltchev’s exhibition of drawings, Modern Conflicts, is in the front gallery. The ink drawings on paper show his academic training, but the glittering inks the artist uses pull away from that academic side. From this exhibition it is no surprise that he is inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. The clearly articulated, factual way Veltchev drew the circular fan or gear in the lower right-hand side of “Fatal Trajectories I” connects directly to Duchamp’s “Chocolate Grinder (No. 1) of 1913.” Like Duchamp’s work, these drawings are carefully and coolly considered. The poetry of these pieces comes from the meticulous drawing and the complicated layering of these imposing forms.

fatal trajectories ii ink on paper 50x80 inches 2010
Plamen Veltchev. Fatal Trajectories II. Ink on paper. 50″ x 80″. 2010.

Through email, Veltchev explained that he likes art that “delivers aggressive and meaningful messages.” By twisting industrial forms, layering, and using a variety of perspectives in each drawing, Veltchev creates an image that unveils itself slowly. The military forms appear weightless and thin, as exemplified in “Fatal Trajectories II.” This contrasts well with the scale and imposing imagery Veltchev presents. It would be interesting to see this approach pushed further by building up thin layers of various colors in the same area to create a particular color for a form or space.

Veltchev studies work by Rauschenberg and seems to connect to him through his ability to evoke chaos and danger through layers of familiar imagery and color. Like Rauschenberg, the formal side of Veltchev’s work is employed to convey particular messages to the viewer. These drawings put the viewer through a freefall of floating weapons and abandoned war-torn spaces covered in muted reds, blues, and black.

Alison Stigora 1
Alison Stigora. Leviathan. Site Specific Installation. Burnt wood. 2011.

Alison Stigora’s exhibition, Leviathan, is a site specific installation that fills the back gallery with a woven cascade of charred branches. The installation descends on an angle from the top of one wall and ends on the floor a few feet away from the bottom of the opposing wall. According to the director, Luella G. Tripp, each branch was placed individually to create the black wave. Stigora does not disclose how the branches are stabilized in the center of the installation so as not to detract from its mysterious nature.

Stigora specifically chose each of the branches in Leviathan for its curving lines. Each piece of wood Stigora burns is removed at a particular time, according to what looks right to the artist. Her process of burning brings up ideas about the cycle of life and of life coming out of death.

Alison Stigora shadows
Detail of shadows cast by Alison Stigora’s “Leviathan”

“Burnt wood is one of those materials that you can feel in your gut…the fact that something has been burned, has physically passed through fire, you feel that physically – the materials themselves already have a presence and a story,” Stigora wrote in an email that responded to several of my questions.

The form of the installation – the way it flows across the gallery – is dramatic. Getting up close and looking at the eccentricities of each branch, the spaces between them, and the shadows made by the installation is even more captivating.

A closer examination shows the blackened branches have a glittering surface that can also be found in the drawings by Veltchev in the front gallery. In both exhibitions, the delicate quality of these glittering surfaces expresses their exploration of humanity’s fragility, and contrasts with their references to powerful forces in nature and war.

The decision to place the installation in the hidden back gallery is effective because it adds to its other-worldliness. Viewers cannot fully see the installation until they are in the intimate back gallery and are overtaken by it. The overpowering size of the work forces viewers to feel smaller in comparison to the installation.

Leviathan is the first installation in LGTripp Gallery since its opening in 2010. Plamen Veltchev’s Modern Conflicts and Alison Stigora’s Leviathan are on view through February 26 at the LGTripp Gallery.