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Box Heart Gallery show connects artists on global scale

| Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Rachel Gillen's 'Crushed' on exhibit at the Boxheart Gallery in Bloomfield. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Jardely Jean-Louis's 'Yellow' on exhibit at the Boxheart Gallery in Bloomfield. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
K. Velis Turan: U.S.'Somerville' on exhibit at the Boxheart Gallery in Bloomfield. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Sia Aryai: Iran 'Eternity 1' on exhibit at the Boxheart Gallery in Bloomfield. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

If you are looking for an art exhibit with an international scope, you could wait until the opening of the 56th Carnegie International, scheduled to run at Carnegie Museum of Art from Oct. 5 through March 16, 2014. Or you could stop by Box Heart Gallery in Bloomfield now and see “The 12th Annual Art Inter/National... here and abroad” exhibit that opened last weekend.

For this exhibit, Box Heart received more than 550 entries from regional, national and international artists. Of these entries, gallery co-owners Nicole Capozzi and Joshua Hogan selected 20 artists and 24 works for display in a variety of media.

“We're always looking for a connection between all of the work,” Capozzi says of their selection process. “Where an artist lives or works is reflected in what they create. So, within that theme, the work could take on all kinds of meaning, from nature to urban themes, etc. And that's what we look for.”

However, Capozzi, who is the gallery's director, says that, this year, another theme has emerged: “The artist finding their own personal identity within their artwork, and how they interpret space in that way, was kind of the unifying theme in this show. That's what's different this year.”

Some do this quite literally, such as K. Velis Turan of Earlton, N.Y., whose quilt “Somerville” is a literal interpretation of her neighborhood in the Hudson Valley region. Depicting the backyards of houses nearby, complete with clothes on an outdoor clothesline, the piece is derived from her interest in shapes, colors, reflections and the effects of shadow and light she sees in her own neighborhood.

Others are more vague, but nonetheless compelling — if not more so — such as the work of Los Angeles-based artist Sia Aryai, who was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Finding himself growing up in a stringent cultural environment, Aryai secretly sketched female figures from smuggled foreign magazines. In the mid-'70s, he left Iran for England where he received his formal education and was free to pursue his artistic passions. Later, he ventured on to the United States where in the mid-'80s he immersed himself in the medium of photography. This gave him the perfect means and medium to capture the essence and the beauty of women through his own unique vision, approach and style.

In the gallery, two large pieces from his “Eternity” series — “Eternity I” and Eternity IX” — reveal a subtle sexuality in feminine portraits, masked in thin veils of milky-white pigment, both applied, as in hand-painted embellishment, and inherent in the intentional overexposure of each photographic image.

Rachel Gillen of Cincinnati chooses portraiture, as well, to interpret her place in the world, but you wouldn't know it upon first glance at her oil-paint-on-linen painting titled “Crushed.”

Gillen works with a wide range of subject matter, but almost always blurs the line between realism and abstraction. In “Crushed,” she has combined a multitude of portraits into one resounding abstraction. Not so much a representation of actual photos of her subjects, these multiple images, layered one atop another, reflect personal and universal interpretations of how we see one another. That is to say, usually in more fleeting than comprehensive terms.

Two pieces by Philadelphia artist Sarah Michalik highlight her time abroad at Temple University's Rome campus, and showcase the influences of place as a guide to her creative process. Both “Perception of Presence” and “Patterns of Immersion” highlight the electronic way in which she shared her new world and stayed connected to her old. Focusing on connectivity to each other, Michalik was able to represent social networks — Facebook, Skype, Twitter — in abstract, three-dimensional terms, in both pieces successfully.

Then, there is the work of Jardley Jean-Louis of Queens, N.Y., whose drawing “Yellow” is a physical representation of the bathroom in her home; yet, she uses it as a backdrop for additional objects that symbolize her inner emotional state. Look closely, and you will see two bodies — a woman in the tub, and (presumably) a man bound in a shower curtain at the base of the tub. It's a jarring piece worth not only a second look, but a third, even a fourth.

Finally, Russian-born artist Irina Koukhanova, who lives in Moreland Hills, Ohio, won the “Best of Show” award for her piece “Iron Enclosure No. 2.”

A large piece featuring two bronze sculptures of birds (one wearing a military helmet, the other a gas mask!) atop a wooden interpretation of a collapsed gate, Koukhanova's piece addresses both time and conflict, but more specifically it refers to German economist and sociologist Max Weber's (1864-1920) sociological concept espoused in one of his major works, “Politics as a Vocation” (1919), in which he defined the “State” as an entity which successfully claims a “monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.”

In this way, Koukhanova's crumbled gate is a metaphor referring to power, authority and an individual in modern society and sums up, graphically and dramatically, the predicament of modern human beings trapped in a socioeconomic structure of their own making.

As with every iteration of the Art Inter/National exhibit series, Koukhanova will be Box Heart's “2014 Artist of the Year” and will be invited to exhibit her work in a solo exhibit following next year's Art Inter/National Exhibition.

Last year's Best of Show recipient, Indian painter Kuzana Ogg, will have her exhibit “Urbane” on display in the gallery Feb. 5 through March 2.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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