Review of Kim Flora, Mike Hancock, and Bill Renschler at Aisle Gallery

May 19th, 2015  |  Published in May 2015

Aisle Gallery on the third floor at 424 Findlay has a reputation for presenting high quality exhibits of local artists’ work. Spaces such as Aisle and Semantics in adjacent Brighton represent the kind of quirky but serious spaces that fuel vibrant art communities. Aisle has been absent on the scene for a few years. That’s partially why I was excited to see the work of Kim Flora, Mike Hancock, and Bill Renschler.

All the artists in the show present work that hangs on the wall. Hancock presents a suite of melted aluminum sculptures mounted on black velvet wall rectangles, Flora is represented by a set of multi sized encaustic paintings, and Renschler shows small paintings on paper.

At first the work feels mismatched as a group, with minimal dialogue between artists, but there is a consistent theme. The works on display all deal with time, revealed by odd relationships with seemingly straightforward content.

Hancock’s work S-10 is derived from an interesting story. The artist happened upon the smoldering remains of a pick-up truck while on one of his customary walks with his dog in Mt. Echo Park.  Upon inspecting the wreckage, Hancock discovered that the aluminum engine block had melted all the way to the ground. This left shiny twisted ingots where the metal had dripped off the truck. The extreme heat and implied violence in these small bits of metal carries the added weight of the mysterious backstory that lead to the car’s demise.  The transformation from mass produced industrial mechanism to shining and oddly intestinal lumps is an interesting one.  This is not to say that the work itself is especially exciting in person. The intention of materials in Hancock’s presentation is admirable, but the effect is dull.  The work could benefit from editing and the addition of some other element to activate the viewer.

Kim Flora has been a fixture in Cincinnati for a long time now, having graduated from the Art Academy, and currently working as the Chief Preparator at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  Flora’s work deals with landscape both natural and urban, to which her encaustic treatment adds a foggy tactile atmosphere. Some of the works in the show utilize recognizable images of architecture half obscured by layers of pigment and wax. These pieces are easily digested as romantic. The encaustic process seems straightforward in its ability to render something normal as mysterious and vague through successive milky layers.  Other works in the show transition into a much more exciting pure atmosphere where the encaustic both opens and closes the space. In these works such as In the Hot Hot Heat and North Bank, Flora reveals herself to be a natural master of the medium creating gorgeous floating fields simultaneously flat and deep. These pieces also succeed compositionally, as the fields of color are set against one another just so.

Renschler was the surprise of the show for me. The least visually ingratiating, these paintings shine for their clarity of materials, palette, and sophisticated and personal vision.  These works are a little harder to talk about as their content is woven into their form and process. Renschler paints them quickly, trusting the results initially then later editing and cropping to arrive at a final statement. Work like this is an acquired taste, as the viewer is asked to find beauty and diversity in dirt colors that are arranged into rudimentary configurations. The works are purely abstract or referencing simple still life configurations.  Close inspection reveals a sensitive hand and surprising range in color. The more abstract pieces were my favorite as Renschler gets more mileage out of less legible information.  Renschler’s work calls to mind poetry in its ability to create an experience in essential form.  In my favorite piece in the show, Renschler creates a composition that borders on representation.  There is a child-like feeling of importance in this piece and others. Renschler accesses a pure place from which to make his paintings, and it is nice to discover an artist trusting such a humble practice.

–Emil Robinson

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