The Clean Edge May 8 – June 4 C-Link Gallery, Brazee Street Gallery

May 19th, 2015  |  Published in May 2015

Varieties of abstract art work are too wild and woolly to begin to try to categorize them, yet the one constant is its unmistakable opposition represental realism.  The real world surrounds us with its beauty and ugliness.  The abstract world takes reality apart and opens minds to other forms of imagery and a new ways of seeing.

“The Clean Edge” showing at C-Link  Gallery in Brazee Street Studios chooses hard edges as the abstract method of three exhibiting artists: Jennifer Grote, Robert Fry and Marcia Alscher.  C-Link is probably the most appropriate place for this type of art.  A small white space, bright and clearly defined by corners and openings, composed of just two rooms, the gallery itself seems part of this interpretation.

Participating artists show decisive edges utilizing all the rules of classical composition seasoned with some sophisticated dimensional surprises. Robert Fry takes quartz easily into the realm of fine sculpture by investigating its visual properties to its greatest advantage.  Smoothly sanded, it becomes shiny black sprinkled with flashing reflections generating a fantasy of subsurface light. Portions of the sculptures left gray retain a duller degree of sparkle promoting the intended artistic concept.

“Asea”, an ark shaped piece, portrays a broken wavy horizon dividing gray sky and dark, lively depths.  Its flat top is sliced  horizontally with a neat quarter-inch slit, as dark and positive as a knife stroke.  “Asea” intrigued me at first glance, but with the discovery of the slit, it became almost hypnotic.  All of Fry’s works yield unexpected facets of color, texture, and shapes which add little “kicks” to their inspection. Holes with  natural interiors, gouged pieces in strange locations, appear in Fry’s beautiful medium breaking up their smoothly calm exteriors with the perfect unexpected moment.   A natural jagged edge on the bottom performs this task beautifully in “Aurora”  intimating a peaceful black cloud hovering above its display plinth.

Jennifer Grote arranges sharp corners, overlapped edges, and a bit of drawing in an attention grabbing set of three large pieces.  Using natural plywood as the background,  she seemingly tosses pieces of neutral colored board, wood, and graphite and miraculously produces cohesive, geometric excitement.  This is where the classical components of composition subtly create harmony.  Having seen Grote’s work before, it’s obvious these precepts are part of her eye, as much as color sense and artistic intuition.  Grote has interrupted “sharp” and “hard” by introducing humanity in the form of hasty, scribbled drawing in places, the perfect foil to all of these brash forms.  But back to that plywood: the curves, drips, and color changes normally present in plywood become the graffiti that enhances the flat surfaces of the board, pushing their importance as they hover over the wood patterns.

Next to these, Grote again illustrates her command of space with an implied dimension piece.   Neutral forms quietly occupy the majority of this large 48” x 72” canvas “Elementary” when, in the upper part of the acrylic painting, bright orange stripes move out from the canvas, seeming to step out of their painted surface into the viewer’s space; a masterful piece of trompe l’oeil.

Smaller paintings by Marcha Alscher at first glance seem much too traditional as compared with  standards set by her fellow exhibitors.  Look again.  The trick of discovering art is in spending some time with it.  Alscher’s forte is playing with space, manipulating it with nearly imperceptible alterations. Her abstraction follows the definition of  removing or taking away, then takes it another step by skewing horizontals
so subtly that unless you really explore their surfaces, you may miss their importance.  Alscher  has chosen straight-on architectural subjects in small formats.  She, too, shows flat colors, using few, if any, visible brush strokes and restful, neutral colors. Sizes range from 8” x 10”  to 18” x 24”.  Two of these acrylic paintings are as close as sisters in their tones, their use of knife-like edges, and the straight window ledges and doorways deliberately, and ever so  slightly, tilted.   Both “From the Aronoff” and “Piazza Santa Croce” with edges of windows, doors, rooftops, all a mini-degree off kilter could have been located side by side instead of continents apart.

Well co-ordinated exhibitions of this quality are rare; therefore a word of praise for the quiet talent of Mary Heider, curator of “The Clean Edge”.  There was not a jarring interruption in the collaboration of these works.  This trio worked companionably together to form one fine exhibit.

–Fran Watson

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