Monday, October 3, 2016

A Review of Rehoboth Art League's 7th Juried Exhibition

By Guest Blogger, Stan Divorski 
Stan Divorski is an artist and avid art and photography collector who lives in Lewes, Delaware. He has a PhD in Psychology from Northwestern University, a Certificate in Painting and Drawing from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC and has studied modern art curating at the Chelsea College of Arts in London.
Kyle Hackett "Forward Restraint"

The Rehoboth Art League’s 7th Regional Juried Biennial Exhibition is a significant step in the League’s continuing evolution to a regional art force. The work is bold, resolutely modern and abstract.

The juror, George Ciscle, focused on the unique and mastery of technique. His emphasis on craft is part of what makes the exhibit current. After decades of the art world emphasizing concept over technique, the quality of execution is increasingly valued. Kyle Hackett’s oil painting “Forward Restraint” was chosen as Best in Show partly because it stood out from the crowd of portraits and partly because of the artist’s command of his medium. In his detached view of the subject, Hackett distresses part of the sitter’s face and leaves part of the background apparently unfinished, reminding us that this is his interpretation of the subject, not a copy of reality. 

Brook Hedge’s “Still Standing,” a deeply emotional photograph of a gradually subsiding barn garnered an Award of Excellence. Achieving her effects “in camera” rather than through post-processing in Photoshop, she demonstrates mastery of her medium. Harold Ross’ “Still Life with Pencil Sharpener and Steel Ball” initially appears to be an example of the “Photorealism” paintings of the 1960s and 70s. In fact, it is a meticulously crafted digital photographic print comprising 30-plus layers of imagery. It bears greater relationship to the Dutch Masters than to photorealism.

Amani Lewis "The Conversation"
“Relevance,” the relationship of art to social issues, is increasingly part of the art world’s language. Amani Lewis’ “The Conversation” examines the current status of African Americans. The central figures in her creation appear to be involved in a calm exchange, but are superimposed over images of angry protest. Protesters can be seen through the figures themselves, illustrating how social upheaval penetrates individual existence. Digitally cut and pasted images printed on canvas worked over with paint evoke the screen printed posters of 20th Century protest movements. 

George Thompson’s painting “Sometimes ‘IT’ Percolates uphill” depicts the permanent and reflexive damage to the earth of individual acts of pollution. He has chosen a jewel-tone palette rather than the “earthier” palette expected. It is up to the audience to decide whether this choice works against the artist’s intent or leads to closer exploration. George J.E. Sakkal’s photo collage “Climate Change: Earth at the Beginning of the End” depicts the detritus of western existence in a small, densely packed image that invites the viewer to practically stick their nose into the swirling mess.

Some current perspectives in contemporary art are not evident here. On display is what
Sondra Arkin "Shadow Drawing"
some would dismissively refer to as “wall art.” Missing are “installations” which become part of or transform the gallery space. The closest examples are Sondra Arkin’s Award of Excellence winning “Shadow Drawing,” and Jihyun Vania Oh’s “Trace My Memory.” Ms. Arkin’s wall-mounted wire sculpture is a delicate spiderweb of geometric forms that creates a shadow drawing on the gallery wall. Ms. Oh’s sculpture of leather, paper and other materials -- resembling a post-apocalyptic gas mask -- snakes up a corner of the gallery, stepping from wall to wall. Her ‘s is the only piece that seeks to directly engage the audience by encouraging viewer interaction. Below the work is a small sign that invites the viewer to “Open me.” Pulling a small metal ring opens a trap door, revealing a pop-up that transformed my understanding of the work.

Missing in their entirety from the exhibition are examples of video and performance art.

It is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million professional artists in the US -- nearly 1% of the population. Taking into consideration the additional number of amateur artists, it is easy to understand the challenge for artists to have their work seen and sold. George Ciscle’s curation demonstrates the value of artists who analyze what has gone before, both in terms of technique and theory, and seek that unique variation that lifts one’s work above the fray. The exhibit is among the best that I have seen at the RAL, but still leaves room to grow.


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