The exhibition at Elga Wimmer PCC, Resonance and Memory: the Essence of Landscape, curated by Robert Curcio, displays eight distinctive artists whose fresh perspective on landscape reinvigorates the genre by infusing it with issues that span time, real space, digital intervention, and altered observed reality. This diverse show includes paintings, sculpture, digital drawings, photography, and glass works by Kathleen Elliot, Sandra Gottlieb, J.J. L'Heureux, John Lyon Paul, Rebeca Calderón Pittman, Gerry Tuten, Gail Watkins, and Martin Weinstein.
Martin Weinstein's seriously ambitious yet supremely playful acrylic images painted on layered Plexiglas explore the elements of time, space, land, and light. Each sheet contributes a divergent view of familiar places, seasonal changes, and light effects recurring through time. Together they imbue his innovative, soaring vision with a cosmic dimension. Weinstein's tendency to juxtapose or repeat pictorial elements out of linear synch echoes the energies that mold the universe, yielding exultant works whose layered sheets make actual space a concomitant of the illusionistic pictorial montage. Weinstein's works are an imaginative contribution to contemporary landscape practice.
Sandra Gottlieb's large-scale photographic seascapes thunder and roar with the dynamic immediacy of the ocean’s power viewed close-up, obfuscating the need for traditional pictorial structure. Gottlieb's photographs capture momentous waves that hover in space, embodying nature’s transitory energy as they prepare to burst into the disintegration of spattered, speckled bits of white foam. The images capture the ocean as it breaks into fragments, but simultaneously retains the unity of its transforming zones of frothy spray. The force of the sea is seen from within, rather than viewed at a safe distance. Gottlieb investigates the violence and the destructive potential of the ocean to wreak its havoc; the danger and might of the writhing ocean is made abundantly clear. These photographs signal more than a visual experience; they act as a reminder of the untamed wildness that symbolizes the infinity of the ocean's depths. They provide the viewer with a haptic sense of kinetic participation, which defies the expectation commonly held of visual ocean imagery.
Kathleen Elliot's flame-worked glass bio-forms hover on the edge between art and design, originating a hybrid that brings glasswork to a new artistic platform. The subtlety and variety of her delicate patinas enliven the complex shapes whose multiple meanings convey a blend of plant-forms, animals, and natural structures such as spider webs. Elliot's inherent poetry inheres all her works, whether they are free-standing in a related group, or are organized as a wall work with varied components. The anthropomorphic, luminously colored vegetable group, each piece standing on small legs, adds a humorous touch that recalls Hollywood-style animation. Her "Dora's Tumbleweed" (8" x 12" x 8") establishes a demure sense of personality that furnishes her work with a special focus.
Elliot's glassworks rejuvenate us by expanding our imaginations, illuminating our minds to the possibilities inherent in the delicate medium of creative glass.
J.J. L'Heureux's elongated photograph "Ross Ice Shelf" (32" x 144") is comprised of segments that are pieced together, yielding a portrait of the gigantic ice shelf that in its entirety is approximately the size of France. The photograph discloses nature’s menacing grandeur in a close-up view of an Antarctic ice shelf that evokes the menace of melting glaciers that endangers polar wildlife along with the global ecosystem. L'Heureux's vivid imagery highlights with emotional resonance and visual sensitivity both the beauty and the fragility of this momentous yet ominous landscape. Her unfathomable image conveys the cool beauty yet remote presence of an icy world whose survival is questionable. It symbolizes the transitory ephemeral conditions of all existence.
Gail Watkins's painting practice pivots on her interconnectedness with the natural materials that drive her consuming, intensive, multi-layered, process-based oeuvre. Watkins expresses her ingenuity through the diverse range of media she employs to build rich enigmatic surfaces in evocative abstract works on canvas. She uses Italian earth matter, coalesced with a binder, acrylic paint, and substances such as sand, glass, and stone; the imagery in her paintings is comprised of actual stones. Gail uses a power sander to smooth her hard, rocky surfaces, developing compelling works that reverberate with a sense of undulating organic power.
For Gerry Tuten, paint rules. In this respect she can be referred to as a pure painter. Her elemental works seethe with the power of paint in motion. Tuten's instinctual drive for mark making supplies an extra impassioned edge. The hybrid blend of subject and material recalls the art of J.M.W. Turner. Tuten's work is akin to abstract impressionism; colored strokes, drips, and smudges melt and merge in emotionally charged visual poetry in which direct light symbolizes spiritual enlightenment. Accident and control vie for ascendency to create a sense of surface tension that forges a link with transformative processes that animate the natural world.
John Lyon Paul's copper sculptures accentuate a reverential quality that encompasses his feelings of empathy for the plight of the world and all its inhabitants. The sculpture "Pilgrimage Scroll" is placed in a frame structure that expands the notion of a handwritten medieval manuscript. His desire for meaning pivots on his determination to express only the essentials of life. Paul’s content is honed to include what matters most in both individual and universal terms. The complex aggregate sculpture inscribes meaning through the carved light that penetrates the interstices of the Cubist-inspired sculptural shapes. The unified forms can be interpreted as a metaphor for our world as it exists in the universe. John Lyon Paul's works tap the commitment to distill universal significance in his aesthetic sculptural expression.
Rebeca Calderón Pittman employs digital media to enhance her direct observations of the settings she juxtaposes in her Recombinant Drawings on acetate; later these sheets are shuffled and parts of the scenes are recomposed. Her drawings and digital prints are combined on transparent vellum to provide an indistinct quality that recalls snippets of transitory phantasms, daydream states, and imaginary amalgams creating new locations. Her works explore the elusiveness of time and space, in which reality itself is open to question. Pittman’s elaborate process of recombining observed and digitally altered motifs highlights her questing sophisticated attitude toward the nature of time, space, and the reality that they co-create.
Each artist on view has formulated a complex oeuvre that is attuned to his or her overriding vision of post-modern landscape work in an era of ecological degradation. All the works embody a sense of hopeful commitment to manifesting their intentions to make their distinctive voices heard. These artists forge their art in a joyful attitude of engaging enquiry; despite the global environmental crisis the works show no trace of morbidity or despair. - Mary Hrbacek
Mary Hrbacek has been writing reviews of NY art exhibitions since 1999; she has covered shows in almost every museum in town.