Everyday Ignition - Eveline Luppi Gallery Wickford, Rhode Island
There was something I never expected to see in any Rhode Island beach town - a gallery that offered something other than sail boats swaying in sunny, reflective seas, or beach scenes with cute kids attempting to make sand castles. When my wife Diane and I were in a shop in the harbor town of Wickford, we noticed a few small modernist paintings scattered about with credit labels from the Eveline Luppi Gallery. We both wondered if this meant legitimate contemporary art, so we decided to give it a shot.
As we entered the gallery, we were immediately confronted with the vibrant and curious paintings of Norbert Karrass, a NY-based painter by way of old East Berlin. These first two works had a definite street art feel, with lots of quickly resolved painterly techniques forming a crowded composition of popish forms called "Darfur" (2009) (I didn't see the connection). The other painting, "What III" (2009), had a simple hooded, Guston-inspired head in eye-popping green that balanced the wall nicely.
On an adjacent wall was the painting "Gisela" (2006), a long-limbed and seated transvestite (?) that hints at the artist's interest in German Expressionist (severe) portraiture, which often focused on the unique and the fringe, a la George Grosz, Max Beckmann, and Otto Dix. "Golf" (2005), this exhibition's centerpiece, is very Beckmann-like, even early WPA Guston-like, yet the heavy Surrealism, the undecipherable perspective, and the variety of techniques employed by the artist make it fresh and new.
Karrass's skill in handling his colors amplifies the mood of his paintings, while his odd compositions make for memorable visual tension. This is no more apparent than in "Hudson" (2009), a whimsical and wild work that adds the artist's innate ability to maximize his mark making, in this instance, with black lines.
The second artist in this three-person exhibition, Robert Brugger, either paints straight on, on a relatively unmodulated ground, or he assembles bits and pieces of paintings and drawings into one work of art. The source of his imagery is his journal-like studies that he accumulates in sketch books of previously spied people and places. With the assembled works, Brugger re-creates select sketches as linear representations in charcoal, pencil, and paint executed on small, variously shaped paper and canvas, which are later joined on one common surface. Most often, the artist makes nonsensical combinations, as with "Self Portrait" (2009). This aspect reminded me a little of the casualness of Larry Rivers.
Other times, there is an obvious cohesiveness, such as "Everyday Ignition" (2009), where caffeine seems to be the culprit. In any case, they read like modern hieroglyphics. Overall, the common media and the subtlety of the line and color of these mixed media works keep his view on the world compelling and loosely methodical, a nice contrast to the ever-changing styles of the Karass paintings. In Brugger's older, more conventional paintings, he rides the edge of Modernism more firmly. In "Pink Square" (1998) and "Red Light" (1998), the artist is experimenting more with automatic writing and abstraction. Brugger, who is New York-based, was originally from Innsbruck, Austria.
Suzanne M. Klier, a New York sculptor who is originally from Freiburg, Germany, works reductively with stone in a more or less automatic way, as this keeps her forms both fluid and focused. I've seen this three-person exhibition on two separate occasions, and I am more impressed the second time I am seeing Klier's sculptures. Klier spoke to me about her Mesoamerican influence and her observations and interest in various forms of dance; however, I am seeing her sculptures as far more biomorphic and psychological, and much more about the unseen than the seen. Sure, there is a suggestion of limbs in motion as they propel and twist the forms -- a fact that I find uninteresting and common. But the twists and turns are more visceral than that, and the mix of techniques and the application of color are personal and inner-worldly.
For almost two years, Eveline Luppi has been providing an important service to the local community of Wickford and its surrounding environs, and she should be commended for it. She is a great supporter of a number of artists from New England, New York, Europe, and Latin America, and has been for many years. With some, she continues to work at her gallery till this day. Finally, Luppi is an artist in her own right, a journey that began with her studies at the Art Students League of New York in N.Y.C. under such luminaries as Knox Martin, Larry Poons, and William Scharf. - D. Dominick Lombardi
Mr. Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and in Chicago, Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY, and ADA gallery in Richmond, VA; a writer with Sculpture, Sculpture Review, DART, and NYARTS; and an independent curator.