All this useless beauty.
All this useless beauty.
West Hall Gallery 111, RPI Campus
March 27, 2009 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Image: "3rd of May", 2007, Ryan Parr
A group exhibition of paintings by contemporary artists -- Andrea Hersh, Elizabeth Cooper, Brian Cirmo, and Ryan Parr -- curated by Ken Ragsdale, artist and instructor of Basic Drawing at RPI.
Opening Reception: March 27, 5-8pm
Exhibition runs March 27 through April 17
Gallery Hours: M-F 10-4
For those of us with the good fortune to have easy access to art museums and galleries, it seems that the entire reach and breadth of the art world is offered to us on a regular basis. A veritable smorgasbord of style, media, content, and subject available for our consumption. The list of possible delights un-ending: old, new, sublime, offending, comforting, recognizably subject driven, confoundingly techno-quirky, or something, or anything.
In spite of, or perhaps because of all this temptation, I find that I unwittingly spend most of my time revisiting old friends. Every trip to the museum is a pilgrimage, and every foray through the labyrinth of the gallery world emerges not as a journey of discovery, but a crusade.
Accept, reject, reject, scoff, reject, accept regretfully, dismiss with scorn, and so on. A rare fit of acceptance will emerge amidst the crashing waves of dismissal and rejection.
What is it that we look for in art, in a painting, in an image? What do we ask of art to satisfy our need for it? And what of the artist? What is it that they intend to offer us that they feel we must have?
As something of an answer, I offer two quotes by contemporary painters:
"It is always my desire to be as moved, viscerally and emotionally, by the act of painting and the artifact of that act as I am by the natural world that makes me want to paint in the first place. This is rarely accomplished, but it is my desire." Stephen Hayes
"There are two words that I like very much. One is the Italian word, dietrologia which translates as "the quest for what lies behind the surface of events, based on the belief that nothing can ever be what it seems to be." As for the other word, I've misplaced it but I'm sure its around here somewhere." Robert Hanson
What intrigues me about the work in this exhibit is that the resultant image of every piece presents so much at one turn. As it is for the characters in the movie Diner who bet each other that they can't eat everything on one side of the menu. There is a wonderful kind of thrill in tempting such an ignoble fate.
Here we have the crash of subjective figuration with objective abstraction driven by the belief of the individual artist in their process. Ryan Parr's gridded strictures, Brian Cirmo's simplified formalism and unified mark-making, Andrea Hersh's reliance on the collage of photographs made outside of her control, and the layered physicality of Elizabeth Cooper's work all forming the basis for the meeting place of need and want and what is containable.
As Elvis Costello says:
Nonsense prevails, modesty fails
Grace and virtue turn into stupidity
While the calendar fades almost all barricades to a pale compromise
And our leaders have feasts on the backsides of beasts
They still think they're the gods of antiquity
If something you missed didn't even exist
It was just an ideal -- is it such a surprise?
What shall we do, what shall we do with all this useless beauty?
All this useless beauty