Gonzalo Fuenmayor, Jenifer Kent, Vanessa Marsh

Black & White
October 6 — 29, 2011

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce BLACK AND WHITE, a group show featuring art by Paul Chojnowski, Gonzalo Fuenmayor, David Gibson, Katina Huston, Jenifer Kent, Vanessa Marsh, Gay Outlaw, and Rob Tarbell. As suggested by the show’s title, the photography, etchings, and works on paper presented in this exhibition are all rendered in black, white, and tonal values. While this shared feature unifies the diverse grouping at the visual level, it is the use of alternative materials, processes, and concepts that provides the show with its organizing structure.

Massachusetts-based Paul Chojnowksi shuns traditional media by using fire, a phenomenon typically regarded for its destructive qualities, to create art. He first paints water on plywood or paper before subjecting the material to a blowtorch’s flame; whereas the most saturated areas remain untouched by the heat, dryer and thus more susceptible surfaces endure light singeing. The softly shifting gradations Chojnowski generates have an incandescent effect, fitting given that lights – whether in the form of a chandelier, car headlights, or a glowing window – are central to his art.

Like Chojnowski, Gonzalo Fuenmayor also inverts negative and positive space by using charcoal to articulate the black background enveloping his subject matter. This stylistic inversion is echoed by the conceptual disruption Fuenmayor achieves through his art. By depicting symbols of decadence (such as chandeliers, mirrors, and other ornate objects one might find in a Rococco or Victorian manor) flowering out of bunches of bananas, Fuenmayor calls attention to how 19th century colonial powers flourished on the raw materials of subjugated lands, including Fuenmayor’s birthplace of Colombia.

There is a sense of precariousness and caprice in David Gibson’s photographs, which capture the ephemeral interactions between light, water, mist, and smoke. The primordial haziness and subtle mirroring evident within the compositions enhance the psychological and theatrical dimensions of the empty, watery landscapes that comprise his subject matter. 

Katina Huston also interrogates the ephemeral by experimenting with the many effects of light. Using ink on mylar, she limns the shadows cast by objects such as bicycle wheels and musical instruments that have been carefully suspended from her studio ceiling. Sometimes her forms are clearly defined and carefully ordered, enabling the immediate identification of her subject. Other times, the fluid shapes embrace abstraction as they dissolve into each other, their lines tangling together in a mass of kinetic energy. By using crystal stemware to inform the work presented in this show, Huston pushes the limits of optics by embracing the distorting, elusive effects of refracted light.

Working on clayboard, Jenifer Kent repeats simple lines and marks in ink until they build up to larger, more holistic patterns and shapes. The strong internal coherence evident within each of Kent’s complex systems is reminiscent of organic phenomena such as fire, splitting cells, swarming bees, or the membrane of a leaf.

To create the settings for the photographs in her Constellation series, Vanessa Marsh applies images to panes of glass that she then inserts into a diorama-like box at various intervals. The resulting photographs, taken from the box’s open front, depict scenes of everyday life slightly unsettled by an occasional fantastical or inexplicable detail. The measured distance between fore-, middle- and backgrounds gives the work the appearance of a stage set, calling to mind stills from a William Kentridge animated film.

Although photogravure has been around since the mid 19th century, Gay Outlaw’s use of the process is esoteric by today’s standards. By capturing the time-lapsed movement of spinning objects – an effect that pushes the objects toward abstraction – Outlaw, a 1999 SECA award winner, produces prints that contest the truth claims of photography in its depiction of reality. 

Like Paul Chojnowksi, fire is a central component of Rob Tarbell’s art. Rather than scorching his material, Tarbell harnesses the smoke produced by burning slides, film, and other materials to “paint” scenes of elephants, acrobats, and whimsical circus acts. While his method takes an extraordinary degree of control and calculation, the precision evident in Tarbell’s work is counterbalanced by the smoke’s inherent spontaneity and the playfulness of his subject matter.