Christopher Wood’s haunting visual haikus at HOUSE Gallery
A drawing every day
Every day in April, Philadelphia artist Christopher Wood drew a 9″ x 12″ version of a section of a birch tree as part of his Daydrawing series, and the thirty pieces are displayed together in the shape of a wall calendar in his show which just opened at the HOUSE Gallery. Each of the drawings are composed in graphite and charcoal on paper, creating sublime variations of gray tones. They are spare, serene, and wispy. The progression through the month is almost harmonic. The installation of them, as a unity, reads like a haiku. Unlike some of the other artists who have embarked upon one-work-per-day projects, these daily drawings seem to slow time down. Each of them reminds me of a detail from one of Emily Brown’s wonderful big heart-of-the-woods ink drawings, which you may have seen at Gallery Joe.
Manipulations of time and space
There are a number of other very different, quasi-figurative or abstract Daydrawings in the exhibition. I’ve included two images of them here to demonstrate the almost startling wide range of subjects that Wood has tackled with ingenious manipulation of positive and negative space.
The uncanny pairing of two spare, iconic images resonates with loneliness and a sense of foreboding. In one drawing, a diver’s legs enter a dark, otherworldly sea; and in the other, what might be a Minecraft torch–or perhaps a glowing Twin Tower–shimmers in a misty nightscape.
These intriguing drawings spur bits of memory that are associated with various contemporary archetypal images, and at the same time transport you to the unfamiliar. They are invitations to speculate upon the dimensions of time and space. The drawings are mysterious, spellbinding, perhaps eerie–like photographic negatives or x-rays.
The title of the show, Frequent Exceptions, is a marriage of two concepts–frequency, referring to Wood’s daily practice, and exceptions, referring to his esoteric interest in worlds that exist beyond our capacity to observe. I’m not sure I understand the connection, but the work is unusual, challenging, and engaging.
Artists Michelle Marcuse and Henry Bermudez run HOUSE Gallery in their home in Fishtown. This exhibit, which you have to make an appointment to see, will be on display there through May 27, 2017.
[Roman visits House Gallery 1816 in Fishtown, Philadelphia, to talk with artist Brian Cote about his abstract painting technique and view Cote’s new 5th Street series. — the artblog editors]
It was bitter cold and the streets were empty, but the warmth of a modest crowd and delicious bean soup made for an intimate night of the arts.
Henry Rodriguez on guitar and vocals
Henry Bermudez, Michelle Marcuse, and Brian Cote
Marcuse and Bermudez open their home to present the work of various artists and the many mediums of expression. It’s an atmosphere welcoming all who come. Brian John Cote, a resident of Fishtown, was the featured artist this night. His art has been exhibited in New York, Berlin, London, and at home in Philadelphia.
Cote has a unique approach and philosophy to his art of abstraction. He begins with a wood panel, applies paint, then adds polyurethane. He allows this to dry, sands the polyurethane, and applies a matte medium and begins the second painting layer. This process continues up to 30 layers, until Cote no longer needs to adjust the surface. Yet, the final layer reveals all the preceding layers through the evolution of the painting.
An organic discovery process
Cote does not intend for the end result to represent a clear or even a vague suggestion of a familiar image or object. He explains, “It’s more about a searching process…It’s within the process that some new shape is starting to appear…If there is a shape or image that I am familiar with, I get rid of it… The shapes and the colors I am not familiar with are those I keep.”
Larry Spaid, professor emeritus at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, and an accomplished artist, described Cote’s paintings from the 5th Street series (named after the place where most of the paintings were produced), noting that the paintings “remind me of layered microcopies…This is due to their square formats, overall organic shape usage, and hue choice…His layers are compulsive in their execution and rich in their visual and technical depth.”
Brian Cote, design concept for illuminated frame
Brian Cote’s work history includes graphic design and illustration; he also works as a house painter. These skills became evident as I read through his journals. Various detailed design concepts for some artistic framing designs appeared numerous times.
Brian Cote, “1984 Berlin 15″
It was the sketching–the first concepts of future paintings and philosophic prose–that allowed me to see the inner thoughts of this artist. Cote, although very introspective and sometimes out of touch, embraces the clarity of those occasional lucid epiphanies, as moment by moment becomes a part of our lives forever.
On Februrary 27, House Gallery 1816 will host a panel discussion entitled “The Painted Image and the Artist Identity”. The panel will include Charles Burwell, Brian Cote, Larry Spaid, Quentin Morris, Kukuli Velarde, and A.M. Weaver.
All photos by Roman Blazic. Roman is the second of three generations to participate in the arts. He is a board member of the Friends of Penn Treaty Park and staff writer for Fishtown’s Culture Awareness Center. Roman is an active supporter of the Fishtown and East Kensington art scene, and also contributes photographs to the local community groups and newspaper.
Written and Photographed by DoN Brewer
Renny Molenaar’s solo show at House Gallery is mind-blowing, DoN asked the artist about the installation, “I’m a compulsive collector. All of the pieces in the show are inspired by repetition of color. I was playing with the Puerto Rican artist Miguel Pinero, the book Short Eyes, the first Puerto Rican play on Broadway, a movie came out after that. He was one of the writers for Miami Vice. He has a line where he’s talking about junkies that mentioned different kinds of rainbows in different color schemes. And I love that line, it’s fascinating. Brown rainbows and gray rainbows and vertical rainbows. And then I started doing rainbows with crack vials.”
“I was living in the South Bronxand I had just read Langston Hughes, where he’s talking about heroin pussy, this is crack pussy, and I was doing rainbows with them and I started noticing garbage becomes a narrative, garbage becomes a story. So I started collecting garbage that attracted me, that told a story…I became very attracted to things that have color. Or I added color, so I did a show inMaine and I did an installation of rocks covered in fabric, just to experiment, it was funny. I came back toNew York, and I was invited to do a show ‘at a gallery’ and I wanted more rocks.”
“So I’m in the South Bronx and I tried to look for rocks and there is no rocks in theSouth Bronx. So, I found crack vials, I found mufflers, the mufflers are on top of the piano. This is terrible. That’s where the mufflers come up…they’re more common in the street than rocks. So I covered them in different colored fabric.”
Stacks Piles Accumulations Collections is disturbing and amazing with works made from crack lighters, crack bags and vials, found objects and fabric-bombed car mufflers leaving the question of the complicity of the petro-chemical industry in the distribution of drugs in the city all in a sweet rainbow of seductive color.
House Gallery,1816 Frankford Ave.,PhiladelphiaPA19125
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