This week: A selection of contemporary sculpture, paintings, and photography that challenges the boundaries of the medium in Baltimore.
Three succinct reviews featuring Alberto Cavalieri’s sculptural Have & Have-Not at Catalyst Contemporary; Parallax at the Gormley Gallery, a juried exhibit of experimental photography by women, both curated by Liz Faust; and Abstraction at C. Grimaldis Gallery, curated by Giulia Livi and featuring paintings by Bill Schmidt, Nora Sturges, Janet Olney, and neon and plexiglass assemblages by Annette Sauermann.
Have & Have-Not: Alberto Cavalieri at Catalyst Contemporary Through November 5, 2022 Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, noon-5 p.m.
Of course, our downfall will be our obsession with consumption. Through structural forms of concrete blocks, ingots of various commodities, and knots rendered both digitally and in metal, Alberto Cavalieri’s work provides the viewer with a sense of categorical order to the impending fall of humanity. While the idea that [inept/greedy governments + capitalism = societal collapse] is not a novel one, Cavalieri inquires about our current chaos with an intentionally clean take on the anthropocene.
In the front of the gallery, the viewer is first met with the artist’s most recent work, a series of blocks and ingots, organized in groups situated along all four walls, centered on the floor, and lining the left wall. Beginning with the block form, each is clearly stamped as objects of desire, consumption, or the human condition. Each set of concrete blocks represents a different theme of the building blocks of our societal predicament.
One set of blocks is debossed with corporate luxury brand names, some with cryptocurrency, another with “famous” contemporary artists, and a fourth with human experiences. These gray concrete blocks—marked with “something you wish,” “something you hate,” “something you broke,” “something you desire,” “something you lost,” “something you forgot,” “something you love,” “something you miss,” “something you want”—all neatly stacked in a pyramid form reminds the viewer that while luxury brands, famous artists, and new forms of currency may decay, our relationship to the structure of our own human emotions will hold the most weight.
Cavalieri's pyramid forms reminds us that while luxury brands, famous artists, and new forms of currency may decay, our relationship to the structure of our own human emotions will hold the most weight.
Leah Clare Michaels
The ingot is the second form that Cavalieri utilizes in his work. Most associated with precious metals such as gold and silver, this form develops a new association with precious commodities: food and oxygen. On the right side of the gallery, four small stacks of resin ingots are filled with beans, peas, lentils, and corn. On the opposite wall, a large installation of orderly dark green metal oxygen ingots lines the white wall. Here, Cavalieri is clearly pointing to the direction he believes society is going and soon, that these commodities will be in short supply.
As the viewer progresses to the rear of the gallery, there is a clear shift in the work: an absence of language and deviation in form. Knots, large-scale stainless steel, medium cast iron, and digital images fill the space. According to the exhibition text, the knot symbolizes “the narrative of the twisted, dilapidated, and crumbling civil projects from his native Caracas.” These minimalist knots are some of his most well-known works, often realized as large public art pieces. Over time, his knots have scaled up and have been informed by utilizing a computer-aided design program (CAD). With this recent choice, Cavalieri aims to make construction accessible to anyone. While the knots’ creation is inspired by Caracas, they feel at home in Baltimore: a fellow city consistently abandoned with half-finished projects and twisted business deals.
In the center of the gallery, a silver wheelbarrow matches the color of the gray ingots, neatly stacked inside, and next to the wheelbarrow a messy pile of them lies on the floor. While these ingots are unmarked, here Cavalieri suggests a structure not yet built. He invites the viewer to imagine how these clean ingots could be utilized: perhaps a new society with values not yet defined.
But who will be building this novel society? Is it the people who are the selected few who have access to the oxygen ingots? Or is Cavalieri suggesting that we have another option? Is he suggesting that we, now, could begin to build a society that values sustainability and conscious consumption before it is too late? The viewer hopes it is the latter.
This exhibit pushes the boundaries on what may be considered a photograph, including works of film, video, digital photography, video installation, and mixed media.
Leah Clare Michaels
Parallax: Women’s Photography Exhibition at Gormley Gallery Through November 18 Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p. m. Call for weekend hours
Curated by Liz Faust and featuring 30 women artists from around the country, Parallax expands the tradition of photography. The term itself refers to the supposed movement of objects when viewed from different positions. With this in mind, the show pushes the boundaries on what may be considered a photograph, including works of film, video, digital photography, video installation, and mixed media.
In her curatorial talk, Faust explained the theme that emerged from the compilation of work was death, that the show embodied the physical experience of dying but also the small deaths we suffer every day as part of the human experience. Some of these losses include immigration and loss of heritage–to changes in our bodies to the death of a loved one.
Faust continued by explaining that she suffered losses during Covid and culturally as a moment many of us are experiencing a shared spectrum of grief. But also as women and people who bleed this is something we experience regularly. Faust shared that while death became the primary theme of the show, the cyclical experience of life, death, and rebirth is also present.
The gallery is engaged in creative ways beyond simply framed photographs on walls. Austin artist Chantal Lesley’s works “The Dreamer” and “The Realist” interrupt the architectural pillars as three-dimensional plaster hands hold handkerchiefs adorned with embroidery and inkjet-transfer images of feminine figures. Jordanne Renner’s “Equation = me,” archival film on layers of Plexi, hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the space, allowing viewers to move around and gaze upon the many surfaces, each with a different figure in ghostly poses.
On the other side of the gallery, Anh-Thuy Nguyen’s video “Thuy & Rice” is projected onto a neatly packed rectangular bed of rice. The installation is intimate, as one cannot help but carefully walk around the bed and quietly crouch down to view the video work more closely. The artist interacts with the rice through the video by playing with it in her hands and face.
This theme of visually connecting the body with food and ritual representation can also be seen in Yashoda Latkar’s digital still image and video installation pieces, “Everything at once” and “Flour Play,” as food items cover her face and her eyes. After the photographs are taken, she wipes the food from her face with a piece of white Wonder Bread, signals a feeling of belonging nowhere, a body in between cultures.
The relationship between water, nature, and the body is another motif present in Parallax. Ashley Czajkowski’s video installation “Renascent I (Bathing)” shows the artist bathing the carcass of a coyote. The artist climbs into a clawfoot bathtub, which appears to be in the middle of the forest, and ceremonially washes the body, and later, skins the carcass. Faust says that this dynamic “mirrors the life, death, and rebirth process,” as the two bodies connect in the water. B. Proud’s still photograph, “Owen and Blue, Transgender Men,” shows a loving couple in an embrace. Their hands both cradle a pregnant belly, full with the water of amniotic fluid and a growing baby. Karen Klinedinst’s archival pigment print “Ephemeral/Ephemerals: Skunk Cabbage” displays ghostly reliefs of leaves on a blue background, acknowledging natural decay on the surface of water.
This incredible show shares the strength and diversity of photographic practices and personal, corporeal experiences with death, transition, and cyclical existence.
Abstraction: Janet Olney, Annette Sauermann, Bill Schmidt, and Nora Sturges at C. Grimaldis Gallery Through November 12 Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
As I engaged with this work, I couldn’t help but imagine that these four artists of varying aesthetics and expressions were all huddled together under an umbrella called abstraction.
There is both privacy and intimacy to Baltimore-based Nora Sturges’ gouache-on-panel paintings, and it is not solely established by their postcard size. Sturges’ work is informed by late medieval Italian frescos, but the humans in these paintings clearly exist in their own ecosystem, which feels both historic and futuristic in nature, thanks to the spectrum of tones in the color scheme and the tunic-style garments of the figures. In “Going Underground” the subjects of the painting seem to be embracing each other as they carry undefined objects to a secret location in the landscape. In “Remain in Light” the figures may be engaging in a ritualistic remembrance of the sun. In “Untitled,” a green shape bows to a red one as they float in a sea of blues and violets. While Sturges’ figures and forms may lean towards abstraction, there is clearly a language, a series of relationships, and perhaps even a societal shift that is occurring in these stunning paintings, but it is a private one between the artist and the cosmos that she has created.
The exhibition displays how four different artists speak the language of abstraction in diverse dialects.
Leah Clare Michaels
Janet Olney’s abstract acrylic works also present as otherworldly. The pieces feel as if they would decorate the homes of those who live in an alien future of the space-time continuum influenced by ‘80s graffiti artists who went through a neon period. The paintings, ranging from 14 x 11’’, 28.125 x 22.125’’, to 30 x 24’’, include complex and fluorescent shapes that fill the gallery space with an exuberant and playful energy.
The abstract sculptures of Annette Sauermann almost match Olney’s use of neon color, but plexiglass possesses a more muted tint. Still, Sauermann’s heavy use of white and clear plexiglass gives her pieces a sense of lightness that pairs harmoniously with tiny pops and accents of neon color. While the layered traditional forms of circles, squares, and rectangles appear sturdy and structural, they feel as if they could casually lift off the wall, and quietly float in space.
Bill Schmidt’s gouache pieces also seem to have a coded relationship written by the artist. Imperfect squares, hard curves, and inverted triangles interact in front of a series of sanguine yellows, blues, greens, oranges, blacks, and grays. These colors appear to be favored by Schmidt as they repeat in only slightly varied presentations.
The exhibition displays how four different artists speak the language of abstraction in diverse dialects. While the artists’ expressions of abstraction vary in medium and form, the cumulative high energetic expression of the works share the same frequency. In this way, viewers may experience a myriad group of abstract art, in a single space, offering universal and intimate perspectives.
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