1999-11-13 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance

By Susan Hartenstein

Two splendid exhibits are presently at ACA Gallery, 41 East 57 street, at the corner of 57 and Madison. They run until November 27. The first is a series of monotypes by Wendy Mark entitled "89 Clouds". The show coincides with the publication of "89 Clouds", a book of Mark’s monotypes accompanied by the words of Mark Strand, 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry. The second, "Contemporary Concepts: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture" is a group exhibition which includes works by artists such as Faith Ringgold and Benny Andrews.

Mark’s works capture the myriad moods and faces of clouds. Strength, lightness, whimsy, gloom, charm, majesty, playfulness. Because Mark has so intelligently placed and hung these marvelous pieces in a relatively small space, one finds oneself lost in, overtaken by the power and pull of these images. Small as they are, their strength and attraction far outweigh their size. In fact, there is a group of very small landscapes compacted with richness and sensuousness—as though some act of compressing them has concentrated and focused these two qualities. Mark makes wonderful use of the textural qualities resultant from this technique, to enhance the message and mood of her images. The process is to place etching ink and oil directly on zinc. The texture comes from the act of separation in pulling the paper from the metal and from the qualities of the linseed oil.

In "89 Clouds," the book, the verbal images of former Poet Laureate of the United States, Mark Strand, were written in conjunction with Mark’s visual images. The prints were in no way, however, meant to be illustrations of the words. Strand’s lines are somewhere between poetry and prose. Strand explained to me that they can be seen as entities, each separate onto itself, or can be taken as a unit. The commonality among them is that each contains the word "cloud". Strand’s lines embody the journey a creatively open and agile mind takes when observing clouds. His mind lifts in flight to some higher, freer plane of consciousness. It soars around, behind, below and through those magical bodies, up close and at a distance—sometimes simply playfully, sometimes profoundly, sometimes both.

"Contemporary Concepts" includes an intriguing variety of artists and media. Several works stand out in my mind. Primary among these is "Change 3—Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pounds Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt". The author of "Tar Beach," Ringgold does story quilts in series. They are pieces of visual art and of literature and they will "knock your socks off". "Change 3" is the best kind of quilt—each of its sections is beautiful unto itself, yet all the sections work together to successfully tell a story. The impact of each section is multiplied 50 fold by its companions. Ringgold paints the verbal story on her quilted canvas as well as the pictures. Thus, the words become an element of the visual. The result in "Change 3" is a unique, humorous, insightfully clever and visually stunning piece about denial, self-examination and self-discovery.

Sculpture ain’t just stone and metal. Luis Jimenez’ "Steel Worker Model" is a 35 inch high sculpture wrought in fiberglass. On the surfaces and in the creases of the sensuous iridescent fiberglass are caught the glints of light shining on this figure, eliciting the feel of strength and glamour that steel connotes. Through this and in the sinews of the steelworker’s body, Jimenez has endowed the subject himself with these same dramatic qualities.

Benny Andrews’ works in oil and collage flow with musical line. August Mosca’s "Queensborough Bridge", done in colored pencil, integrates actual lines of perspective without disturbing the viewer or believability. They serve as lighting does on a stage—to focus and direct movement and the viewer’s eye.

ACA Gallery presents works that are unique and intelligent. This column has informed you of some of them. See them and others in this exhibit. They are well worth the viewing.


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