Art Review: 'Kate Joyce: Original Furniture and Sculpture' and 'Back and Forth' at Borelli-Edwards Galler...
Two exhibits at Borelli-Edwards Galleries offer a well-rounded experience. Furniture maker and artist Kate Joyce displays original furniture and sculpture in the main gallery. And in BE2, a smaller space organized by curator Vicky Clark, the exhibit “Back and Forth” features new work by Kenn Bass, Dana Ingham, Lenore Thomas and Janet Towbin.
All of Joyce's pieces were conceived and fabricated within the past year.
“I see this work as the merging of three elements,” says the artist, who lives in Edgewood. “The organic, which is the wood, the industrial, which are the found objects, and the human, which is me.”
In addition to the utilization of hardwoods, many machine parts and objects have been incorporated into her furniture, as well as pieces that were salvaged from the Mine Safety Building, a 220,000-square-foot building in North Point Breeze where Joyce has a studio.
“It is my value and my goal to put a use to everything,” Joyce says. “I am a finder, and I love to invent a use or purpose for things which have been cast aside.”
For example, “Tractor Prie Dieu,” a kneeler like those used in churches or seen in paintings of saints, was created from an old rusted Case tractor grill from the 1930s, which Joyce's friend, Ann Davis of Typhoon Lighting, had found and kept in the warehouse.
“I decided to mount it so that it could stand,” Joyce says, having done so between two heavy slabs of white oak, which “were also found in the warehouse hallways, where many mysterious and attractive elements appear magically before me.”
The “Clamps Table” top is made of elm, with carved “rivers of the grain,” as Joyce describes them, that have been colored to emphasize their movement.
For the piece, four antique Jorgensen clamps were salvaged from an old woodshop in the veteran's building nearby.
“The imposing scale of these well-used hand tools allows them to serve in support of the table surface,” Joyce says, “just as the veterans have stood to support us with their service.”
Over in the BE2 space, Philadelphia-based artist Janet Towbin shows several mixed-media paintings from her “Urban Scrawl” series. Each is based on graffiti tags she saw in Milan during a trip there many years ago.
The scrawls of these unknown artists inspired her to create works on paper that would convey the same edginess, grit and immediacy of street art.
“Many of the tags I saw were on tile-surfaced buildings, so to reference that, I folded each sheet of paper into a grid before beginning,” Towbin says. “I then sequentially layered latex house paint, enamel spray paint and water on the folded paper. A sort of chemical reaction occurred between the latex paint, the enamel paint and water giving the sprayed lines a raggedy look with reticulated, organic edges.”
Dana Ingham of Stowe displays several cut-paper assemblages, such as the work “Concept of Irony,” which is assembled from pages of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard's dissertation of the same title. Its pages make up 144 hand-cut and folded boxes holding 144 hand-cut and folded paper chairs, each rotated 30 degrees creating 12 clocks arranged in an asymmetric pattern.
Artwork is usually expected to have meaning, but as Ingham made this piece, he says he was aware that chairs are symbolic, that the clocklike arrangement of chairs suggested time, and the pages of Kierkegaard's book implied meaning, “but meaning wasn't my intention,” he says. “Making something from these interesting parts was. It seems the less meaning is intended, the more that meaning appears. I welcome any interpretation.”
Lenore Thomas of Edgewood, who is an associate professor in the Department of Studio Arts at the University of Pittsburgh, displays a collaborative project involving screen prints of mechanical parts and smoke applied to panels that she started doing in 2007 with another artist, Justin Strom.
“We called it ‘Satan's Camaro,' ” Thomas says. “The general idea behind the collaboration was to see what would happen when we brought our two very different aesthetics together.”
Strom's work is primarily figurative and dark, and Thomas' is more whimsical, colorful and abstract.
The results are stunning, and in some cases, humorous, by way of title.
“I Make Awesome Decisions in Bike Stores,” is one of the last pieces in the series.
“In 2011, we decided to name every piece after one of Kanye West's tweets,” Thomas says.
Finally, Brooklyn-based Kenn Bass has installed a sculptural work that enlivens the floor space.
“Unified Theory,” which comprises tumbleweeds interspersed with colorful rubber balls, the kind you can get for a quarter from a hand-crank vending machine, came about as a result of time spent at a residency in January 2013.
“The weather and the sight of the stars and Aurora Borealis were particularly memorable, and I began to think about ways in which I could realize it through my work,” Bass says. “In my typical way, I came to the elements of the sculpture through side channels. … I don't exactly remember how I acquired the first tumbleweed. I started to think about the layers of meaning within it: movement, seed dispersal, rootlessness and its structural relationship to respiratory systems, air, breath.”
After the balls became a part of the dialogue, this expanded to Bass thinking about cosmological systems, dark matter, “the scaffolding that holds the universe together,” he says. Thus, the work is presented as a set of conditions to occupy a specific space for a fixed amount of time.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.