Brenda Mallory . . . from page 1
A few works in the current show continue this approach. In "Interrupted Forms" we see an array of tubes from the outside, and their progress across the wall can be read several ways, such as by surrendering to the pictorial illusion that those longer forms in the center are closer, animating the ensemble and, as the word suggests, lending the whole a lifelike energy. In "Variable Order," on the other hand, we see the insides of tubes that have been split in half lengthwise, their black edges and machine screws the only contrast to their glutinous white membranes.
Some of these fabrications remain on the gallery’s website, while one still hangs in an adjacent room. They combine highly specific suggestions with archetypes both mechanical and organic, in ways that argue for continuity across what are commonly taken to be exclusive domains. Viewers familiar with the oddly appealing affect of Steampunk might feel a similar charge here in the pleasure of her inventions, as much aesthetic as practical.
Recently, though, Mallory’s thinking and expression have broadened, taking on more of the metaphorical and even allegorical implications of the working methods that draw her on. At first sight, the resulting works resemble prints or drawings, and indeed some of the raw materials came from those sources, which produced the patterns of lines that were then cut apart and put back together in inventive creations. The materials are the same as were employed in the constructions, with the primary difference lying in the new works more shallow relief. The wittily-titled "Warm Lines 1, 2, & 3" were stitched in chenille: French for ‘furry caterpillar' and familiar to Americans primarily through ornamental bedspreads. Mallory’s lines, however, are stitched into stiff paper instead of pliant cloth, and vary in width and weight as they cross and recross over each other and cascade from one panel to the next. "Drawn Lines 1, 2, & 3" transform this visual look into straight pen-and-ink: the same process of reconstruction translated from material to thought . . . and back again.
This recent aesthetic direction reaches its fulfillment in three works: "Grid Drawing #1, Rifts (horizontal)," and the magisterial "Rifts," each of which began as a drawing or print made in ink and wax that was cut apart and mechanically reassembled, using yet more ink and wax, becoming transformed in the process. "Grid Drawing" shows the most obvious reformation: a series of parallel lines having acquired the appearance of a basket weave. In her statement, Mallory explains her interest in line:
I have been working with thread and line as a metaphor for life and life’s interruptions. Often the damaged and repaired line is more beautiful than the pristine line.
Essential to how we should think about this is the presumption that the woven pattern is more pleasing—aesthetically superior—to the simple lines that were cut and reassembled in order to make it possible. Nor should Mallory’s foregrounding of metaphor be interpreted to take away from the pleasure in the visual massage that results. As she concludes:
The necessity of repair, the evidence of the struggle, the healing act of pulling order from chaos: these are the acts and images I want to see.
For anyone weary of a damaged and wounded reality, there is good news in the realization that it can be made not only new, but in the process, better.
Gallery Spotlight: Salt Lake City
The Littlest Arthouse in Utah
Marcela Torres's Lil' Gallery
Measuring just 8 x 8 feet, The Lil’ Gallery may be the smallest exhibition space in town. The brainchild of Marcela Torres, a student at the University of Utah with a double major in Sculpture and Art History, the shed-cum-gallery has been outdoors at the Art Building on the University of Utah campus since March and has already hosted a half dozen artists.
Torres approached this project as much as an artist as an administrator. "For this project my actions/artistic practice was to serve as an organizer and planner to create an art institution," she says. "Each step I carried out as a gallery professional but also as an artist creating a conceptual project. I created the idea, the language, the paperwork to build a board. I began to fund raise. I did much curatorial research and organizing to have a call for entries. I logistically planned for facilities and literally building the structure. These actions that are tied to museum or gallery work became the artwork, became the experiment in what could be thought of as a year-long performance, artistic action, project."
The gallery's frame was built by a farmer found on Craiglist, and Torres, project assistant Gregory Corey and a group of community volunteers finished off the space.
Those same volunteers now serve as the board of directors and curatorial committee. “We view the Lil’ Gallery as an incubation lab for wonderful ideas where physical size is irrelevant in comparison with vision and impact,” says Torres.
The first exhibit featured drawings and prints by Mary Toscano, Claire Taylor, Emily Tipps, Laura Decker, and Emiline Twitchell. Subsequent shows have featured both local and national artists. The current exhibit is Whitney Shaw's Ration: How Much Does One Person Eat through July 15th, followed by Lizze Mattala on July 18. The gallery is open during exhibition openings, select hours posted on their Facebook page, or by private appointment (send a Facebook message).
Torres began the project to "have an institution that was apart from the bureaucracy of other museums, non-profits, etc.," but if things progress Lil' Gallery may become part of that network. The original plan was to move the project downtown and be part of the Granary Row district with the support of CUAC Contemporary. Since that has fallen through, Lil' Gallery is currently on the University of Utah campus, but hopes to move downtown if there is a local business or land owner willing to partner with them. To achieve this, they plan to power the space with a solar generator.
With a space this small, it shouldn't take much to adapt to new situations. "Because essentially Lil' Gallery is a shed," Torres says, "it's casual and yet can be whatever you can dream it up to be."
Horne calls herself a “contemporary impressionist,” an apt description for an artist who is able to capture the mood of a moment using color to respond to changing conditions and the infinite phenomena of light. Although a viewer might not immediately correlate the bright fuchsia in “Gallivan Skaters” with night-time skating, in reality, so much of what is the essence of the experience of skating at night on ice is the reflection of the bright lights above, whatever hue they might be: electric blue, neon green, fluorescent yellow, fuchsia. In “Gallivan Skaters” we see a dominance of fuchsia, but there is also vermillion red, turquoise blue, other tonalities of pink, and even the icy glow of white as actual shadow in the night, and it is these exciting, lucid colors that give energy to this particular moment, give presence to this experience of these skaters on this night and this moment unlike any other as the change of light is infinite and might never be repeated.
This ability both to see and to express unique moments developed early for Horne, in a childhood full of creativity. “Growing up, we were always making something, and encouraged to create as well,” Horne says of her formative years. “We were never short of creative materials: clay, watercolor, drawing supplies, fabric, felt, etc.” An aunt that visited the family while they were in New York City says that as a toddler Horne showed her what she called ‘my birds.’ “In the closet I'd arranged my mother's high heels with various colored stockings. These were ‘my birds.’ My father was always saying ‘Karen sees things nobody else sees.’ As I go about the day, I'm always craning my head, on the lookout for compositions, color juxtapositions, etc. I do respond very directly to color and light effects, and sometimes feel a little spacey and removed from mundane life because I'm always visualizing paintings.”
Despite these early artistic inclinations, Horne’s future with the brush was only one of many options. “In my teenage years, I was very involved in math and science,” she says. “Somehow spatial relations came easily to me, and I loved the abstract quality of equations. I was on the math team at Skyline. But there were always artistic influences around me. I also loved writing essays and poetry. There were medical doctors in our family, but they were cultured and not just science nerds. They all loved and collected art as well.”
The pivotal transition happened for Horne as she began attending college. Although granted a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah, she found the prospect of Pre-Med at Yale more interesting. “Although I started Yale with satisfying my Pre-Med courses, lab work just felt alien,” she says. “I guess I loved the abstraction of math and science more than the reality of donning a white coat and working with beakers.” Once she began taking painting and sculpture classes, she said she found her 'tribe.' “I connected both with fellow students, and with masters from the past. These subjects suddenly felt more compelling. I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and my mind was blown.”
As much as Horne connected to the old masters, it was color that would be her primary interest and driving motivational force. “In my intensive [Joseph] Albers color course, I had to collect paint chips and magazine pages to do collage pieces. I remember my floor being covered with colored paper one semester, a sea of value and color shifts. This course was so valuable in helping me refine my color sensitivity.”
This passion for color combined with what Horne calls a “more gutsy, gestural and modern impressionism,” to form her unique artistic observation of the world around her. That world is frequently urban, and filled with people. Horne has repeatedly painted the museums, the eateries and the entertainment venues she frequents. Her “Evening at the Rose Wagner,” is a studied moment in time, capturing the color of light as it affects the myriad components of the entirety. Many of us have been in the same place, but spend most of our time thinking, “What about this traffic? Are we ever going to find a parking place? Do you have the tickets? Oh my hair! Are you sure this dress looks all right? Oh I cannot wait to see the new piece.” Neither the eye nor the mind is fixated on the present visual beauty. This is where the beauty and magic of the painting of Karen Horne and the ‘modernity’ of the painter of Salt Lake City steps in and captures the life that most are experiencing but are not really seeing, are not looking at. This is the life that will be astonishingly familiar to anyone entering the Gallery at Library Square.
Appropriate to this exhibition, which opened to coincide with the 2014 Utah Arts Festival, is a triptych of paintings that show Library Square facing the City County Building at the height of the festival excitement: “Rainbow of T-Shirts at the Utah Arts Festival," "Late Afternoon at the Utah Arts Festival" and “Evening at the Utah Arts Festival.” The subject of the Arts Festival has been one of fascination for Horne, who is reminded by it of the piazze of Italy, and sees it as a gathering place and time for all walks of life in Salt Lake City.
Like the “Gallivan” and the “Rose Wagner,” the pieces in the triptych are but glimpses of a moment at the festival, and like the “Gallivan,” the “Rose Wagner,” and all of the paintings that are on display, these capture the presence and the present of that moment in color responding to myriad phenomena of light in that brief impression of fleeting time, never to be repeated, and like before, offer more of a sense of totality of truth to these elements to the viewer, than the festival-goer in any of these scenes, given any given duration of time, without the presence of mind to see and to look, but thinking, “What shall we have to drink? Where was that booth with the pottery? Where’s John? What a lovely quilt! Oh my, it’s so hot! How much time do we have? I’m getting worn out.”
Instead of all of this distraction, Horne has her artistic eye and color palette focused on the realities and conditions of an early afternoon painting when the colors are fresh, cool, inviting, the greens are minty and cool, alive, vibrant, the building and canapés are blue, as are most of the figures; the full light of overhead sun has not hit them directly. The mood, accordingly, is one of welcoming and energizing readiness for the day ahead. Then, late afternoon hits, midday has passed, the shadows are long, the colors are lucid in this “golden hour” when the red is vermillion and the whites seem to glow, the blacks have a liveliness, and the patchwork of color is the throng of people at the day’s climax. A night scene shows fewer people and with less detail but with more lucid color, neon yellows and greens, and white penetrating the black that illuminates the scene and creating nightlife and an excitement of 'modernity' to this canvas, just as light articulates the color that is studied by the vision of Horne in every canvas, to find that essence of ‘modernity,’ the infinite present and truthful immediacy, as the artist must see and must look and we, those who know and will recognize, find ourselves face to face with the genuine reality of our own city, in these many paintings of Salt Lake City’s modern life.
Karen Horne is the eyes that see and the brush that looks giving full reality to the situation as well as mood and spirit and captures all of these aspects in pure color as one might not experience them one’s self given all of the time one could desire. For over twenty years now, Horne has been painting the people and scenes, and above all the colors, around her. Series of these works have been exhibited regularly at Horne Fine Art, the gallery she and husband Michael opened on 800 South in 2003. The current exhibit at the Gallery at Library Square should not be missed, however, as it brings together a marvelous collection of her works exploring the changing light of Salt Lake City, providing any local viewer both a sensation of recognition and discovery.