On view through April 19
Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.
Reorientation showcases artists who use the Redux Contemporary Art Center's studios. Above all, it reflects the artists' versatility and their varying styles.
But for some reason, the best work of the artists isn't reflected in this show.
There's no harm in displaying experimental work, series-in-progress, or brave attempts at something new.
But that doesn't make for a great show.
Tom Stanley, chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Winthrop University and director of Winthrop University Galleries, has selected works that hint at the work that goes on at Redux without always showing it at its best.
Stanley seems more concerned with developing a theme; as curator he can hardly be blamed for that. He has chosen submissions that reflect different perceptions of human bodies, inanimate figures, and small organisms. This loose theme has allowed him to include portraits, wildlife scenes, candid photos, and tongue-in-cheek sculptures to make up a colorful and imaginative exhibition.
In some cases, the figurative theme looms large, as in Julie Henson's religious series. Other figures are dwarfed by their surroundings, like a party-loving otter in Townsend Davidson's "Blaze." The organic content — whatever form it takes — always adds a sense of scale to the overall image.
Henson focuses her distinctive black-and-white style on holy healers and church groups for this show. Many of her previous portraits have featured blank-faced characters, giving the subjects a degree of anonymity. This new series is full of detail, atmosphere, and expressive faces. In "Atonement," a withered-looking person lies on the floor, a hand on her head. In "Holy Rollers," ecstatic, closed-eyed adults surround a little girl. The girl has her back to the viewer, so it's up to us to decide how she's feeling. Hopefully, Henson will continue to explore Southern culture and encourage us to think about it.
Kirsten Moran's soft, gauzy portraits are more serious and straightforward than other work she's produced. Usually her oil on canvas images border on caricature, with a whimsical edge that makes them memorable. In this show, the most notable element of her paintings is texture. "Kira," for example, has thick lines that add depth to the background.
Kate Long-Stevenson is another artist inadequately represented in the show. She's a good portraitist and has a strong grasp of form and weight. "Nude I-VIII" are fine studies, but the two larger pieces on display are less appealing. In "Seated Figure," black and red paint dribbles from a nude figure's buttocks. "E.B." is a more experimental piece, complete with a pink scribble and more dribbling paint. There's a lot of zest and emotion in the piece, but above all there's a sense that the artist has tinkered too much with her original concept. This is one nude that should have been left covered up.
Steven Lawrence is a talented photographer, but "Boxer" isn't his best work. The black-and-white photo is cluttered, the composition is askew, and it comes across as more of a documentary snapshot than a serious piece of art. Lawrence's other entries are a much better reflection of his skills, particularly his portraits.
It doesn't help that "Boxer" is juxtaposed with the grandeur of Townsend Davidson's paintings. The bulk of "Blaze" is taken up with a coal-colored sky, with a coastal land mass low in the frame and an otter with a party hat at the bottom. That one particular painting captures the epic scale, clean colors, and sense of humor that can be found in most of Davidson's paintings.
Tina Christophilis is also aptly represented by two paintings in this show. The dark and moody "Woodland Hawk" includes ragged tree limbs and a background of dark green leaves and a misty blue sky. There's also a powerful use of color in "Raven," with its blend of green and yellow. It's good to see artists like Christophilis, Lynne Riding, Julie Klaper, and Kaminer Haislip represented here, but viewers will probably come away with Henson's series foremost in their minds.