Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Article: Free Times, May 2, 2007

Issue #20.18 :: 05/02/2007 - 05/08/2007 
The Shifting Feel of Artista Vista
A review of Artista Vista


This year’s Artista Vista was vastly different from the earliest versions back before the Vista went up-market. Back in those days, space was a lot cheaper and there were artists’ studios in the area other than those at 808 Lady St. Carol Saunders was the only commercial gallery. Most of the exhibits were in temporary spaces, and most of the artists exhibiting were young, many still students. 

Clark Ellefson of Lewis & Clark is the creative force behind the development of the art scene in the Vista. In the early years, he found spaces for the temporary exhibits and installations, as well as hosting exhibits in his own gallery space at the corner of Lincoln and Lady. Always interesting and frequently innovative, those exhibits ended this year when Ellefson lost the corner space to rising rents. He still has his large workshop in the middle of the block, but the display and gallery space are gone. 

These days Artista Vista is a mature gallery walk, with commercial galleries being the predominant venues. The only nontraditional or nonprofit space left is Vista Studios/Gallery 80808.

The show by the resident artists at Vista Studios is one of the strongest — it includes works by Ethel Brody, Pat Callahan, Stephen Chesley, Jeff Donovan, Heidi Darr-Hope, Pat Gilmartin, Robert Kennedy, Susan Lenz, Sharon Licata, Laura Spong, David Yaghjian and Don Zurlo. 

Zurlo’s Blooming Bush explores subtleties of color within its thick medium-encrusted surface. The delicacy of the thin layers of color is not apparent until you get very close to the painting. Laura Spong weaves a calligraphic line through her equally nonobjective paintings that gives them a baroque complexity.

3D work is more plentiful than ever before. Pat Callahan’s assemblages make allusions to time, space and memory — with a bow to the master of the boxed assemblage, Joseph Cornell.

Jeff Donovan’s clay sculptures, such as Sentinel, have developed a rich weathered and brushed surface that melds together the painterly with the sculptural.

Pat Gilmartin’s The Crow haunted Her Dreams is completely devoid of texture or color. She juxtaposes the solid black form of the crow with the equally solid and simplified female head. The smooth arc of the crow’s body leads straight into the turned head of the woman.

Besides the 80808 show, both Yaghjian and Chesley have exhibits in the galleries that handle their work. Yaghjian has a new series of monotypes at if ART Gallery. The prints continue the midlife musings that have become some of his best work. In Between Two Chairs, the artist’s figure appears suspended, precariously and impossibly balanced atop two chairs. It’s not a matter of “if” he’s going to fall, but “when.”

The gallery is also showing works on paper by Yaghjian’s father, Edmund. In pieces like Crossing at Sparta, NY and Wheat Street 1950s he captures the particularities of place in animated lines.

Chesley’s solo show at Carol Saunders focuses on his landscapes, especially those with a certain kind of diffused light. Field, Trees, Sky, (Pines) is loosely painted, focusing on the intersection of the tree line and a glowing sky. The more gestural strokes in the sky are a counterpoint to the horizontal calm on the field below.

In School’s Out IV, City Art again features recent graduates from area art programs. The focus is on 2D work, particularly figurative painting. Max Miller’s handling of paint and subject is very sophisticated, far beyond the undergraduate level. From Lee Swallie’s huge portraits on paper to Stephanie Mustric’s darkly funny, almost film-noir paintings of women in power, this is a solid show.

Regional and local artists’ work can be seen at The Gallery at DuPRE, The Gallery at Nonnah’s and at I. Pickney Simons Gallery, which is presenting a themed show, Southern Landscapes, by gallery artists.

Three spaces on the edges of the Vista also merit a visit. Three in Search of a Studio at McCrory Galleri includes the work of painters Napoleon Jones-Henderson and John Wright, and sculptor Leon Woods. One Eared Cow Glass’s is filled with art glass from the hands of artists Tommy Lockart and Mark Woodham. And the Edmund Yaghjian retrospective continues at the S.C. State Museum.

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