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December 2011
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
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Reel Bytes: Salt Lake City
Seeing in Words
Xaviera Simmons: Salt 4

Before departing for her new job at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sand Diego, UMFA chief curator Jill Dawsey installed salt 4, the latest in a series of contemporary art exhibitions that she initiated in 2010. Salt 4 showcases Xaviera Simmons, a New York City artist who trained as a photographer but whose practice extends into sculpture, performance and video. In addition to photographic work reflecting on the western landscape, Simmons has installed a site-specific, wall-bound sculpture that consists of scores of pieces of scrap word bearing words and phrases culled from Simmons cultural research. Simmons discusses the installation in this 15 Bytes interview.

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
The Love Train Comes to Town
Chicago's Tony Fitzpatrick at Kayo Gallery

Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick is the type of colorful character that is welcome fodder for arts writers. In an art world overrun with degree-toting professionals who nip and tuck their way into stable careers while dreaming of blue-chip status, Fitzpatrick is a larger-than-life figure more at home in the Cedar Tavern than Sotheby's. A self-taught artist, poet and playwright, former boxer and tattoo artist, he likes to hang out in seedy parts of town, keep company with the homeless and riff on art, literature, music and politics; he's quick with an opinion and relishes a verbal brawl. All of which makes for a good story. It also helps that his art packs a punch.

That punch comes in small doses -- collages roughly the size of a piece of notebook paper, and etchings half that size. The classic Fitzpatrick piece is a stage dominated by a central figure -- pinup girls, mothers, comic book heroes, ideograms, animals and insects -- surrounded by a menagerie of secondary signs. Every nook of his small surfaces is activated by these visual players -- poems, line drawings, clipped advertisements, skyscrapers, maps, and smaller versions of the lead characters. They are not so much background as context -- the whole world entering and exiting the collage's stage. Fitzpatrick's concerns are earthy, poetical, working class. He's part of a dying breed, an avatar of the Catholic, blue-collar, iron-belt Americana that was such a mainstay in our cultural mythology -- one that in the 21st-century is being superceded by an impoverished mythos of service-industry specters and suburban sun-belt sprawl.

This month, Salt Lake's Kayo Gallery has shipped in eighteen pieces from two of Fitzpatrick's suites of etchings: six works from the American Suite, etchings based on collages created in 2009 and 2010; and twelve etchings from Nickel Train: The Nation of Heat, Fitzpatrick's most recent body of work.

The American Suite etchings are variations on collages that appeared in his 2010 book This Train and take ideograms from the hobo alphabet as their motifs. "I don't intend to loot the hobo alphabet," he says of the line drawings hobos used to warn of danger, indicate safety and suggest strategy. "I would like to change each symbol and further this language that nobody any longer speaks." A simple V to indicate "Fake Illness to Get Food" is the sort of direct visual poetry and human concerns that speak to Fitzpatrick, but he embroiders the piece with tornadoes and rulers, amoebae and atoms, and a dozen other visual clues that embed the symbol in the fire of life.|2|

The works in Nickel History: The Nation of Heat series are only a few inches in each dimension and represent Fitzpatrick's latest works -- he opened his own exhibit of the full suite on the same night as Kayo's opening (he'll be in town for the closing reception of the Salt Lake show). "The Halloween Parade" evokes lower Manhattan's annual event where you can be anyone you want to be;|3| "The Autumn Tiger" is a gold and orange anthem to his favorite season; "Return" remembers Octavio Paz's refusal to serve as ambassador for a country that massacred its people, and the shock he felt at the violence and corruption he found when he returned; and "An Irish Story" |4| crowns the women who love and lament their men, "wild spirits tethered to reason by the thinnest of kite strings."Listen to Fitzpatrick talk, or read some of his writings and it's apparent that, like "Bazooka Hulk,"|5| he's got plenty of rage -- at corrupt politicians, indifferent corporations, crooked gallery owners, and an art market soaked in speculative cash -- but when you look at his art you see he creates out of love, not anger. He celebrates what's at risk, mourns what's been lost. The impetus for these pieces is a love of life and fellow man.

The Fish Market, etching by Tony Fitzpatrick
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Karen Horne . . . from page 1

Horne's paintings are not about the individual people, but they way they fit into and become part of the environment. “They have to be woven into the architecture or else you’ll get fixated on someone’s face. It’s a balancing act of detail and simplification,” says Horne.

The paintings on display include twilight as well as the darkest nights. One that particularly stands out is a twilight view of Red Rock Brewery on 200 West. The building, with its neon light, hovers between street pavement and clouded sunset sky. It is a study in color theory: orange and blue complements, color temperatures moving from warm to cool, and neutrals making the colors sparkle. The pavement, which a less experienced painter might see as gray, seems to glow blue, a subtle cross between turquoise and violet.

Horne explains that she manipulates her night photographs in Photoshop. She lightens them so that she can see more detail. While she uses the colors captured in the photo, she may also push the colors to make a better painting. The painting of the Broadway Cinema, for example is pushed to the cool side with silvery gray, cool pinks and blue. This painting will be featured on this year’s Christmas card from the Salt Lake Film Society.

Horne works on a toned stretched linen surface. The tone she uses may be the predominant color in the painting, or its complement. This helps her capture the overall tone of the painting and simplify the composition. Rather than doing a sketch or value study first, she usually dives right into the painting, though, she says, “I try to start a painting when I know how it’s going to look.” She does, however, begin by sketching her major forms onto the toned canvas with charcoal.

One of the nice things about having your own gallery with a studio attached, says Horne, is that you can continue painting and adding new pieces to the exhibit. There are works in progress on her several studio easels, as well as dozens of photographs tacked to the walls. As she continues the night series, she plans to simplify and abstract her subjects even more. She points to a large painting of the Capitol Theatre currently hanging in the exhibit as an example. The theatre marquee is loosely suggested in form and color at the top of the painting. Below are undulating shapes of figures and reflections that suggest movement. Through color and form, Horne communicates the feeling of excitement of an evening at the theatre.
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Given her lineage, it’s hardly surprising that Karen Horne is an artist. Her great grandmother was Alice Merrill Horne, founder of the Utah Arts Council. Horne grew up with a house full of wonderful paintings. Her mother, Phyllis, had trained in fashion illustration but became more interested in fine art. Karen, the oldest of six children, was always sketching as a child. At Skyline High School her interests were divided between art and participation on the school math team.

Despite all of the art influences, she set off for Yale University planning to follow a pre-med curriculum and to be a doctor like her father, an orthopedic and hand surgeon who still practices at age 79. In fact her medical lineage is as deep and rich as the arts side, with two uncles and a grandfather who were doctors. However, after fainting while watching her father in surgery, she decided she was not cut out to be a doctor. The artists she associated with in her elective art classes at Yale felt more like her “tribe.” Besides, she could exercise her math and spatial skills doing figurative sculpture.

At Yale, she studied figure sculpture as well as painting, and worked a lot with color using Joseph Alber’s theories and methods. After graduation, she went to Indiana University and earned a master of fine arts degree with a concentration on figure painting. She then moved back to New York City and worked for 12 years before returning to Utah in 1996.

Horne Gallery, which features Phyllis Horne’s work as well as Karen’s and a few other artists, began about nine years ago. When she first opened the gallery, says Horne, “I was curating shows here for other artists. We would have a thematic show and all the artists would paint to that theme. While I enjoyed that and seeing everyone’s work, I found that I wasn’t getting to my own work. Now we have a simpler format, with just my mom and myself and sometimes a few other artists.”

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