Friday, September 26, 2008

Garden Variety: Journal Sentinel Review

The review mentioned in the previous post, that Mary Louise Schumacher wrote on her Art City blog, was also featured in the September 25th print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It was along side a review of the Green Gallery's current show, Cool White Cube, featuring the photography of Paul Druecke.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Garden Variety: Art City Review

Mary Louise Schumacher recently posted a review of Garden Variety on her Art City blog. You can read the review below, or in its original form HERE.

Garden Variety show at Armoury
By Mary Louise Schumacher
Thursday, Sep 25 2008, 01:40 PM

Over at the Armoury Gallery, 1718 N. 1st St., Minneapolis-based artists Erika Olson and Joseph Sinness have art on view through Oct. 4.

Plump seeds and pods erupt across the page in an ecstatic surge, a cannonade of strange, organic matter gushing and commingling, in Olson's gouache and graphite works. That this rapturous bursting, an illusion to reproduction, both plant and human, is restrained into submission by Olson's almost computer-like fine lines, flat areas of color and subdued pastel colors creates an intriguing tension. The stop motion-like, precise manmade-ness of the scene demands careful inspection and begs the question: what is more beautiful, naturalism or idealism?

What hurtles and collides in Sinness' visual garden, as opposed to Olson's stuff of earth, is more of the good-and-evil, metaphysical sort. Nature is on a punishing rampage, doing unprecedented things in many of Sinness' color pencil drawings. Giant sea barnacles appear to seize a red AMC Pacer in its tracks in one piece, while a monster, an amalgam of worms, weeds, bugs and fangs, prepares to pounce on a rabbit, unaware and innocently chomping on flowers in another.

"Clouder" is a violent, upward outbreak of cat heads, all writhing, each one emerging from another like bizarre appendages. Imagine an epic cat melee concentrated into a single, explosive heap. There is a lush, fullness to this odd cornucopia of kitties, too. With ears perked, their blue and orange Bette Davis eyes dart this way and that, as if they've got prey in sight. The battle of evil and light is rarely this much fun.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Contour: Show Postcards

These are the postcards for our fifth opening, to be held on Fall Gallery Night. The cover images is by Paul Kjelland.

In Contour: Press Release

In Contour @ The Armoury Gallery
October 17 – November 15
Opening Reception: Gallery Night, October 17th, 5 – 10pm

The Armoury Gallery is please to announce its fifth exhibition, In Contour, with an opening reception to be held Fall Gallery Night, October 17th from 5-10 pm.

In Contour features the work of Minneapolis based artist Sonja Peterson and local artists Paul Kjelland and Julia Schilling. All three artists use line, contour and silhouette to deconstruct and analyze the world around us, breaking environments and relationships down to their respective parts.

Minneapolis based artist Sonja Peterson will present a series of new and old works for the exhibition. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota, having earned her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is featured in book 77 of New American Paintings, a juried exhibition-in-print selected from over 1000 applicants.

Peterson works with large scale paper cutouts and drawings, then suspends them and sets the work against painted imagery on the wall behind. The use of silhouette implies a level of simplicity and reduction, but the complex nature of the shapes and repeating patterns, combined with the tedious process, imply a complexity that begs for consideration

Local artist Paul Kjelland will have a new series of his mixed media, photography-based works on hand. Graduating from MIAD in 2005 with a BFA in photography, Kjelland has since worked consistently, showing with Hotcakes at Aqua Art in Miami and Art Chicago, at Milwaukee International, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Luckystar and others.

Kjelland’s work takes a compartmentalized look at the constructed world that surrounds us. Using paper cutouts, screen printing and digital media, Kjelland takes apart our surroundings and reassembles them as a course of reflection and examination of the world around us.

Finally, Julia Schilling of the White Whale Collective will create a sight-specific installation for this opening. Julia graduated from MIAD in 2008, earning her BFA in Sculpture and minor in Writing, and has been involved in curating and exhibiting with the White Whale since it was formed this past January. She has also participated in various public art projects, including the collaboration 'Points of View' for the Riverwalk Association.
Schilling's work combines sculpture and drawing to explore landforms and methods of mapping. For this opening, her installation will employ piles, mounds, and words to address landscapes, elevation and way finding

Friday, September 19, 2008

Garden Variety: Review by Jeff Filipiak

This is the second review we recieved for our opening Garden Variety. It was written by Jeff Filipiak for the art review website, Susceptible to Images. You can read the whole review below, or HERE.Garden Variety: Works by Joseph Sinness, Erika Olson, River Bullock
By Jeff Filipiak

The origins of the current show at the young Armoury Gallery have more to do with domesticity than dirt. These artists wanted to explore issues at home, and during the summer happened to step outside and find inspiration in their yards. Their work ended up amidst plants and animals, exploring gardens from a variety of angles. They use visuals as a means of contemplating aesthetics, identity, and the place of 'natural' elements within human lives, especially sexuality. Joseph Sinness finds both innocence and kitsch in the garden; his favorite subjects, rabbits, might reflect both. Erika Olson's works explore reproduction, dominated by seed flows; while River Bullock focuses on our perceptions of plantscapes. Other than the Swiss chard growing in her soil-based installation, there is little evidence of food in these gardens – they are primarily visual, theoretical, and/or decorative.

In the gardens of Joseph Sinness (both the colored-pencil ones in the gallery, and the ones in his yard), grown for pleasure instead of food, he coexists with rabbits; in fact, he identifies with them against cats. His most frightening image is that of a monstrous cat (inspired, he says, by hearing baby rabbits scream in agony in the middle of the night). Rabbits are his symbol of innocence; equally prominent are symbols of kitsch, drawn from discos, Dolly Parton and Kylie Minogue. His works often feature some kind of conflict between two subjects; between something innocent and something dynamic, or between a couple and onlookers judging them. The viewer might draw their own conclusions from these conflicts – is a 'fall' occurring? Are we observing something natural, or something sinister? Sinness draws attention to some of the stakes, influenced by centuries-old Christian imagery as he provides imagery from Hieronymus Bosch to go along with the gardens and images of judgment.Erika Olson works primarily in watercolor, gouache and graphite; but her pieces are really about flows. She covers about half of each work (except for one sculpture) with a pattern that usually consists of three different varieties of images. Those varieties are drawn as if borne upon a current; they seem to float, stick together. Her works suggest motion, but are calm. She depicts flows of seeds, drawing our attention to plant reproduction; but her images extend beyond typical garden plants to what appear to be pinecones, diamonds and clam shells. These are flows orchestrated by a human hand, but resemble natural flows (they do not resemble typical garden or machine patterns). Her objects are sketched more geometrically than particularly, more suggestively than thoroughly.

While Olson and Sinness direct the reader's attentions to a few key elements, highlighting them by leaving as much as half of their surfaces blank, River Bullock does less to 'clean up' nature. She photographs, and her scenes are full. Not only that, but she lets her scenes overlap the photos, suggesting a lack of isolation, that these plants are part of a larger mass. Photos are not cropped to include distinctive elements on the edges, nor did she highlight key elements like one plant or one branch. Instead, these felt full, as if she was taking group photos rather than highlighting individuals. Four of her photos feature two plant layers (each apparently a different species) and a third layer, of darkness. She limits her organization of the materials in other ways as well – all her pieces are untitled, without labels (admittedly, I was curious to see a list of 'materials' for her soil plot). The viewer is left to draw connections between the disparate elements of her installation – photographs, a small actual garden plot (including dirt, plants, and worms), and a reading list. The soil adds a vital element to a garden show, literally grounding the works of the other artists. Bullock hopes to encourage viewers to do their own looking – and reading, since she provides a reading list on nature and plants, led off by Wendell Berry.

After viewing the show, we are left to wonder: what is the human place in the garden, where humans seek to organize nature in a domestic space? Sinness identifies with some animals against others; should we be taking sides? Gardeners take sides for the sake of food, of course, but is it also justified for other reasons? Homosexuality has been criticized as unnatural, yet Sinness explores it using natural images, complicating issues. Bullock tries to minimize the human role in some ways, leaving more to the viewer to determine, allowing 'weed' species more of a role in her gardens. Olson raises these issues most explicitly in her artist statement, asking "when nature is cleaned up, arranged and controlled by humans what value does that interaction hold for us?" Excessive oversimplification through monoculture, of the mind or on the ground, does not leave a role for natural creative impulses, whether of humans or nonhumans. So we must strike a balance between the selection and narrowing of focus found in gardening and in art – and the collection, identification, and nurturing which nourishes humans and nonhumans alike.

Jeff Filipiak is an instructor at several local colleges, and frequent contributor to Susceptible to Images. He is currently teaching a course on "Food and Power: Why Am I Eating This?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Garden Variety: Review by Angelina Krahn

This is a review by Angelina Krahn that was printed in the Shepherd Express newspaper today. The full text is below, but you can also view the original article online HERE.
Microcosmic Drama
By Angelina Krahn

Joseph Sinness' cross-hatched pileups of vegetation, bouquets of felines and swaths of lace converge with Erika Olson's cascades of organic material to reinterpret the pastoral and the prosaic in "Garden Variety," the Armoury Gallery's fourth exhibition.

Olson's gouache and graphite works on paper conflate the palette and restraint of Suzuki Harunobu's feminine woodcuts with the sensitive, stylized surfaces characteristic of Ert's fashion illustrations. Olson arranges and repeats small objects, choreographing gusts of jewel-like, faceted pinecones, seed pods or larvae across the page. The dramatic tension resides in the implied motion of these sweeping gestures across the tundra of empty space. Symbolically, the elements that comprise Olson's work are the fruits of successful reproduction among plants, by way of spontaneous intimacies with wind or the promiscuity of bees on stamens, but the intended sexual tension is countered by Olson's process. Executed by a precise and controlled hand, natural elements are synthesized into pure geometric forms.

In addition to the two-dimensional work, Olson has included Feigned Growth, a hibiscus-hued soft sculpture. While the flatness and sterility of the marks subdue any sexual undertones in Olson's works on paper, the sensual and tactile qualities are unmistakable in commingled stacks of fuchsia and orange felt cutouts beneath the fertile, overstuffed pods of Feigned Growth.

Sinness' Apocalyptical Dolly is a postmodern deity, though Parton's celebrity status, tacky theme park empire and silicone-enhanced proportions will likely outlive the butterflies and swallows roosting in her halo of curls in Sinness' homage. Another Parton-inspired piece, Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That? mimics the two shot composition of Apocalyptical Dolly, replacing the benevolent country diva with a fanged, grotesque gorgon chasing a rabbit off the page.

Sinness repeats rabbits and piles kittens; these feral breeders scamper throughout much of his work represented in "Garden Variety." The absence of these totem creatures in his figural drawings allows the viewer to set aside decoding what Sinness' describes as "new queer kitsch iconography." In the disturbing vignette I'm Doing This for Your Sake, an older woman watches intently as a young woman with protruding front teeth reluctantly drops a pill on her tongue. Sinness renders the pair with a realism he reserves for mortals. Every surface crawls with texture: lips curl, curls tumble, cloth buckles and creases.

Tucked in the back of the gallery, a series of local photographer River Bullock's untitled medium-format images more literally interpret the show's theme, with a portion of her garden plot transplanted among them. Bullock's photographs faithfully document nature, preserving patterns of leaves under the natural blue cast of daylight.

Garden Variety: Show Images

These are some images from our fourth exhibition Garden Variety. You can view the entire show by visiting our Gallery Online. This is an interactive feature that allows you to see the entire gallery and click on each piece of art to view it in detail. We have created the Gallery Online to give those who aren't able to make it into the gallery the oppurtunity to still view the whole show.
Joseph Sinness

Erika Olson

River Bullock

Garden Variety: Reception Photos

Here are some photos from our opening reception of Garden Variety. The show opened Friday, September 5th and will run through Saturday, October 4th with galleries hours on Saturdays from 12:00 - 5:00 pm. Or daily by appointment.