Roberto Bertoia

Passage 2b

Recent months in Ithaca have seen an efflorescence of temporary, “pop-up” art galleries. Local photorealist painter Mariann Loveland’s staged a sprawling do-it-yourself retrospective from March through May. Students from Ithaca College put together a show of student work last month and called it “Collectanea,” while Corners Gallery owner Ariel Ecklund held a three-artist “Galerie Magnifique” a couple weeks ago. 

The creation of local arts organizers Pamela Lafayette and Caitlin Schickel, Temporal: A Pop-Up Gallery deserves special notice as a temporary gallery that promises to stick around. It opened last month at 123 S. Cayuga Street as a way of highlighting both artists and available rental spaces. Now in its second month and with new artists, it has expanded to occupy the large corner space next door to the corner of Green Street, previously home to the Loveland show and before that to Morgan’s (a women’s clothing store).

That space now houses the work of two veteran local abstractionists: Roberto Bertoia and Syau-Cheng Lai. Bertoia has been a professor of art at Cornell for over thirty years while Lai (herself Cornell alumna) has distinguished herself as a classical pianist as well as a visual artist.

Bertoia’s wood sculptures recall architectural forms. His pieces here are tunnel-like and also suggest row houses in their segmentation and conjoining. They are fitted together out of irregular blocks of cherry and walnut, richly stained and incorporating unexpected fragments of brass, rubber and Plexiglas.

Made up of a few detachable sections, Forest Passage rests on the floor and has the scale and character of a playground structure. Several smaller “Passage” pieces rest on pedestals, model-like. All have a complicated projections and an engrossing dichotomy of inside versus outside.

Lai is showing a generous selection of work dating back to 1997, making this something of a miniature retrospective. Her smaller, framed pieces on paper incorporate a range of drawing and painting media along with luxurious materials such as silk and gold leaf. They’re delicately layered and richly allusive: imaginary landscapes and maps, cities and architecture, exotic textiles, script.

Her long, horizontal scrolls have a raw, more expansive gestural quality and make ample use of the white of the paper. Cadenza consists of three unframed scrolls: atop each other and edited to fit the available wall space. As the title suggests, they present a music-like sequence. 

She is also showing in the front room in the second floor space next door: five large free-hanging pieces from her recent “Trees of Life” series.

Lai’s art finds an echo in that of Scout Dunbar, who fills an adjoining room. As a complement to her current show at the State of the Art Gallery, Dunbar is showing brand new pieces, most of them created on-site. The work is rough in character but her signature love of meticulous order pokes through in places. All allude directly or indirectly to the body.

Self Portrait: A Work in Progress echoes the format of Lai’s horizontal scrolls but bends around a corner. It is covered in dense clusters of black paint-marks—fingerprints or toe prints—with subtle outlining in pen and a precise vertical border in colored pencil.

Two young photographers, both of them recent BFA graduates from Alfred University, fill the rest of the second floor complex.

Lauren Gilson is showing three large unframed cyanotypes, their rich photographic blue given painterly elaboration in brown, pink and white. These brushed materials are listed as “coffee, wine, MSG, Pepto Bismol, and gesso.” Recreational chemistry is the more explicit subject of one piece. Altar presents, looking down, a painter’s table, crowded with a bewildering array of brushes and elixirs. Our Backyards shows an urban view in similar perspective but from a much greater height.

In Show Your Stains, we see a woman’s tattooed bare back and her head, veiled by hanging laundry. All three pieces are made from conjoined sheets of paper and here a playful analogy is drawn between domesticity and art.

Christopher Lange’s gelatin silver prints—from his “Tensor/Tessera” series—have been neatly framed and fill a long room with three groupings. Presented in three groups with the members of each of uniform size, they show big-city modern architecture: sometimes in clarity and near-symmetry, other times subject to various distortions and ambiguities.

In a carry-over from last month, Asa Greenberg is showing an updated and rearranged selection of prints and projection-based pieces in the basement.

This month’s gallery has coherence and a consistent level of quality that mark it as a step up from last month’s. Abstraction and photography are both local strengths but they are rarely brought together as compellingly as they are here.

According to Lafayette, the future is up in the air for Temporal, but new locations and a reopening later in the summer or in September are all possibilities.

Temporal: A Pop-Up Gallery will be open throughout the remainder of June. Saturdays 12-4 p.m. and by appointment: 607-351-6712.

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