Gesture in Black
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February 10 to April 14, 2001
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Arcturus Gestural Treasures
Art Gallery offers up new classical experimental works
by Donna Lypchuk
March 18, 2001
Tucked away in a Heritage Home between renovated warehouse buildings at Church and Gerrard you will find Gallery Arcturus – a non-profit exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art. Funded by The Foundation for the Study of Objective Art, this pleasant, well-lit space is an off-beat and charming surprise considering that it is located so far away from the galleries clustered along Queen Street and Yorkville.
Currently on display are two very interesting shows, which fall into the category of what I would call “classic experimental” art. Both exhibitions were put together by Arcturus curator Cathy Stilo, with an eye to educating both students and the general public about the often misunderstood genre of gestural art. You can see gestural drawings and painting anywhere in any gallery in Toronto, but rarely do you see it done well.
E.J. Gold, Gesture in Black
One space is devoted to a series of charcoal drawings by American artist E.J. Gold. A member of the infamous California Nine, a guerilla artist group of the sixties, Gold’s main claim to fame were his “soft and breathing sculptures”. This solo exhibit called Gesture In Black features a series of line drawings – all portraits done in charcoal of women’s heads.
This tight, glossy show of 14 works clearly demonstrates the Reductivist approach to drawing: stark and spontaneously drawn lines are used to express the subtleties of mood and character. Anyone who is interested in gestural drawing will definitely benefit from taking a look at this show. The first seven works have a flair about them that reminds me of Matisse.
These works are very minimalist and rely on the blankness of the paper to express depth and definition. In a drawing such as “Matador”, for instance, the artist uses very few strokes of charcoal to express the sly character of a man hiding behind a cape.
The second seven works in the show are more cubist in style. Several of the works raucously rape the style of Picasso complete with asymmetrical eyes, bullish noses and trapezoid-shaped faces. This is one of the best appropriations of Picasso’s truncated cartoonish perspectives that I have ever encountered in a gallery, and is not surprising coming from such a creative chameleon such as Gold who has created thousands of paintings, drawings and sculptures since the sixties.
He is also one of the few artists who can pull this off with authenticity, as he was part of the retro-cubist movement that was all the rate back then and is becoming all the rage again.
Deborah Harris, Angels in Procession
In the second gallery, art teacher and Arcturus artist-in-residence Deborah Harris presents 10 large gestural portraits called Angels in Procession. Created largely from oil and collage, curator Cathy Stilo notes that “each Christmas for the past 10 years Deborah has, in her own words, been delivered an angel.”
These figures emerge in the form of a collage each with its own unique posture and character. The works in this show range from the figurative, such as her bloody and brownish portrait of a red angel squatting with her back to the viewer to the completely abstract, such as her portrait of a greenish angel, who emerges merely as a pair of eyes in a lime green colour field.
One astounding collage features the angel completely splintered and fragmented into landscape filled with body parts, and yet another features an iconic angel, kneeling and coloured with the classic golds and browns you would find in a traditional religious painting.
This exhibition represents a very earnest attempt to detail the elusive nature of otherworldly spirits. Unlike Gold’s show, it is not very cohesive or united by a singular purposeful style. However, that is what is unique about it. Harris shows how the content of a painting can dictate its style, as opposed to being dictated by the eccentricities or limitations of the talent behind it.
Both of these exhibitions offer the viewer a lot of food for thought about how gesture can be used to create portraits. Ultimately, both artists fragment and reduce their subjects to find an essence: one using a few broad strokes and the other using collage. Both are extremely well-versed when it comes to expressing spontaneity and authenticity in their visual language.
This is refreshing in a gallery scene full of uninspired mimics who can’t grasp the importance of gesture.