Following in the footsteps of past Redux directors like Bob Snead and Kevin Hanley hasn't been easy for Seth Curcio. When gallery co-founder Snead left for a grad program at Yale University School of Art and, later, Hanley departed, citing creative differences with the Contemporary Art Center's board, Curcio was left holding a big brick baby.
After a come-on-and-give-the-guy-the-job-already period as "acting" executive director, Curcio officially took the reins this summer. Now the vast amount of work he's put into sourcing and developing shows is starting to pay off. As if to prove his gallery can handle anything that's thrown at its walls, he's invited two aerosol artists to use the space as a large-scale canvas for their "visual propaganda."
Curcio's the kind of guy who seems quiet at first, but when he starts talking about progressive art he becomes as animated as a Pixar table lamp. And he's particularly passionate about Project Aerosol, a two-man show that brings a bit of Baltimore to downtown Charleston.
Rather than try to squeeze all their work into small, manageable picture frames, Jason Kear, a.k.a. KEAR, and the artist known as Sheepman have been given enough room to express themselves the way they'd do outdoors. Painting on a layer of latex, they've created a blend of graffiti and gallery-sanctioned, classically-composed art that's colorful and effective, attracting a large array of visitors to Redux with its accessible dynamism. According to Curcio, the opening reception was attended by a larger-than-usual crowd of nearly 250.
The turnout isn't so surprising when you consider how much the two artists promote themselves. Sheepman's favorite local open air ad-land is 'round the back of the Berle Shopping Center off Folly Road, sporadically transforming and repainting the space. KEAR's murals are well-known in Philadelphia and NYC as well as Baltimore.
As Sheepman's hit that city's streets with KEAR, it's clear that the artists have influenced each other. The materials they use, with paint dribbling down from the top of the walls, helps the different pieces compliment each other. Sheepman likes his green and aqua blues, while KEAR tends more towards urban browns and yellows, but they share a fascination with photorealism, close detail, and the role of nature in our citified world.
For these guys, every bare wall is a potential canvas. But they don't seem hemmed in by Redux's limited space; there's room for explosive self-portraits, with paint shooting through Sheepman's ears and out of his mouth in a spray of imagination; photos of previous murals; and even a gift shop of sorts, with a small room converted into a gallery of past Redux successes (etchings, serigraphs) and some reasonably priced products (such as a Sheepman mesh cap). But Redux isn't ready to sell out yet. Its art has always been for sale; this is just a more aggressive form of propaganda that suits the current show. I can't fault the gallery for its commercial pursuits — not as long as it keeps hosting exhibitions as vital as this one.