Sequences and multiples are a richly generative area for contemporary art-making. The focus demanded by the singular image or artifact can be played off of the imaginative leaps invoked by jumping from one thing to another.
“Divergent Series,” the current exhibition at Ithaca College’s Handwerker Gallery, brings together the diverse efforts of 15 faculty artists. The show is the brainchild of Handwerker Gallery director Mara Baldwin with installation work by the gallery’s art preparator Rob Licht. The presentation is thoughtfully arranged, ably bringing together the disparate two and three-dimensional artworks.
Two tall oil canvases by Lin Price combine broad areas of abstract color with small, realistically rendered figures to create an evocative, oblique narrative art. She Only Flies at Night and The Departure (both 2013) play with flatness and depth, the animal and human, sky and earth, rising and receding.
Dara Engler works in a narrative expressionist manner, donning costumes and using herself as a model for the female protagonist that forms her primary subject. (Animals are another recurring theme.) In her two oil-on-canvas pieces here she portrays herself as a fearless survivalist in a landscape of snow and ice.
In How to Skin a Squirrel (2014) she is grim faced, seated in a vaguely suggested winterscape as she carves the beast with a knife. Three carcasses occupy space to the right. Nothing Bites but the Frost (2014) is a diptych showing the artist’s alter ego ice fishing. The top canvas portrays her—barefoot and wearing red and black striped clothes—holding up a rope that dangles through the largest of several holes in the ice. The bottom canvas is covered in heavily stylized bands of aqueous turquoises and blues—painted thickly and in translucent stains. Particularly lovely are three greenish fish: painted with calligraphic contours and fills and patches of richly textured paint.
Recent IC hire Sarah Sutton is showing two painting triptychs that combine a crisp, Old-Master-like painting style with an oblique imagery that teeters on the brink of abstraction. The larger, gray-tone oil on linen pieces contain what appears to be apocalyptic and vegetal subject matter. The smaller, oil-on-wood panels are particularly compelling with imagery that resembles crumpled cloth, paper, and/or photographs. A Thousand Dead Oceans (2012) is particularly striking with its cool and shadowy tones and a “hidden” central figure that resembles an angelic child.
Three primarily black-and-white prints by Susan Weisend (2014) capture what appear to be ecologically devastated landscapes. Rich geological texturing is played off of the more familiar language of bare trees, distant hills and horizons, and glowing blue skies.
In a related vein is Carla Stetson’s Caution to the Wind (2014), an enormous mixed media drawing on three tall sheets of unframed paper. Combining graphite, acrylic, charcoal, and colored pencil, the piece builds-up a map-like landscape filled with atmospheric and topographical detail.
Janice Levy is showing three digital photomontages printed on canvas (2014). Each panoramic piece is itself divided into two or three disjointed but narratively associated images. We see images of young children played off against images of hands, bowls, food, plants—the suggestion is of need and sustenance. Photos printed on canvas often results in questionable image quality but the feel of these prints is quite rich—a comparison to painting is irresistible.
Breathing In (2014) by Jason Harrington is another highlight of the exhibition. The 4:54-minute animated video combines simple but evocative hand drawing with digital production and sound effects.
“Divergent Series” also includes work by Pamela Drix, Sara Ferguson, Patricia Hunsinger, Minna Resnick, Robyn Wishna, and the team of Megan Roberts and Raymond Ghirardo.
The Handwerker Gallery will be closed for Ithaca College’s Thanksgiving break and will reopen on December 1.