Sunday, June 22, 2008

Review- Armoury Opening

Another Visual Art Review from Rex Winsome...
The Armoury gallery opened their second show this weekend. Four artist's works were displayed: collage paintings from Dan Schank, abstract paintings from Elizabeth Ann Lopez, and an installation by Mark Schrieber and Erik Baden.

Dank Schank's cut paper and gouche works depict icons of comfort attempting to stave off dark storms and ominous caverns, through a lens of childlike decoration. Many of these works remind me of Salvador Dali's assertion that restful sleep requires a complex system of subconscious props and crutches. Schank's mounds of clothes and billowy quilted comforters propped up by splintered wooden structures can be read as an doomed arrangement of such props and crutches, set up against massive puffy black clouds, perpetual storms and endless musty caves. Schank uses formal decisions to reinforce the tension found in the content of the work. His use of pattern, decoration and smooth pastel line work flatten and abstract the images, while the cut paper, forms and layered collage attempt to create depth and representation.

The installation by Mark Schrieber and Erik Baden seem incompletely realized or represented. An awkward machine with spinning lights cavorts in irregular circles on the floor of a darkened room with waves of black markings creating a sort of hilly horizon on the walls. Clusters of letter and number blocks from a printing press also hang on the walls. I wasn't sure what to think of this peice, the dense clouds of small black marks are visually interesting, the machine on the floor looked complicated, but hastily constructed, the light show wasn't focused enough to contribute much. The Armoury's press release discusses mechanical drawing, so presumably the machine on the floor somehow created the markings on the wall, but I can't understand how. The piece would've been far more interesting if I could've understood the relationship between the elements invoved while viewing it.

The best and worst works in the show came from Elizabeth Anne Lopez. When most successful, Lopez's work befuddles and disturbs the viewer. Her day glow intersecting lines and decorative patterns destroy fields of color, scatter perspective and defeat the representative elements of the paintings. "Sleepless Arabian Nights" is most successful in this way. At first glance, the painting looks like random assortments of half realized objects, patterns, and color fields but once you allow your eye to enter the painting various avenues of understanding or placement are suggested. Following these, you quickly find they go nowhere and you're pushed back to the surface to find another dead end road. It's a wonderfully frustrating viewing experience. The less successful works are less complicated, too clumsily representational, or lacking the muddy color fields and neon line work that make the other works so successful.

This well-organized show of unique and interesting work by upcoming and semi-established artists, with a good balance of installation, large fine art works, and smaller more purchasable works makes The Armoury an exciting and hopefully sustainable addition to the Milwaukee visual art scene.
Rex Winsome  414 305 9832

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