Mar 202024
 

Akron Soul Train supports local artists through a residency program, exhibitions, and a shop in the front of the gallery which sells their work. Currently the gallery is showing work by Matthew Kurtz (work seen above) and Thomas Smith (work pictured below). Both artists are approaching the environment in different and interesting ways. Several of Kurz’s video pieces are focused on his upcoming performance for the solar eclipse. His photographs, for which he’s created additions to scenes he finds, are charming- as is his sculpture- a piano that moves his natural additions when played.

From the gallery-

Performance artist Matthew B. Kurtz presents Drumroll for a Total Eclipse: A Preliminary Exhibition, a prelude to his upcoming live performance with this year’s solar eclipse. Kurtz’s work fuses place, nature, sound, rhythm, and movement to question the mystery of existence. With humor, curiosity, and in tandem with his surroundings, Drumroll explores the process of trying to understand wonder.

For his upcoming performance on April 8, 2024, Kurtz will invite an audience to celebrate the total eclipse. Collaborating with the cosmos, he will perform a drumroll before “totality” passes over Northeast Ohio and creates the natural phenomenon known as “the blackout.”

“When I engage with a site for an art piece, I consider its history, recontextualize its objects, and insert my identity through intuitive gestures. I was raised to believe that humans are supposed to connect the lines between their innate feelings and the unknown. Making art is [my] attempt to reclaim this existential directive. These experiences are documented so outside viewers can participate in my examination of ambiguities, systems, and the sublime.” — Matthew B. Kurtz

Kurtz is also a musician. Check out his Instagram and Bandcamp to listen to his 2021 album 107.

For Thomas Smith’s sculptures he creates natural environments within man-made structures and uses the results as a commentary on the growth and sustainability of suburban development.

From the gallery-

In SUBARIUM II reprise, Thomas Smith combines materials from big box stores with contained terrariums to generate a sense of security and quality. However, upon second look, the viewer may see past the façade of what may look safe to what is substandard. Perhaps it is even denying growth and positive change. Smith’s sculptures dare to ask questions about survival, public image, and the landscape of today.

“Akin to an ecosystem enclosed in a terrarium, my sculptures depict a vibrant but, ultimately, unsustainable artificial environment. As plants within the terrarium grow, competition for space intensifies, turning the once-comfortable space into a struggle for survival. The metaphor extends to suburban America, where curated living conditions prioritize aesthetics over functionality, reflecting an impermanent American Dream.”

— Thomas Smith

 

Both of these exhibitions close 3/23/24.​

Mar 192024
 

On view as part of the permanent collection at Akron Art Museum is Joseph Stella’s oil painting, Tree of My Life, from 1919.

From the museum about the work-

Joseph Stella described his inspiration for Tree of My Life as an epiphany: “A new light broke over me. I found myself in the midst of a joyous singing and delicious scent … of birds and flowers ready to celebrate the baptism of my new art.” Throughout the painting, forms and colors are infused with symbolic significance. The gnarled tree trunk represents the weathering effect of life’s temptations, while red lilies, blue patches of sky, and white blossoms symbolize lifeblood, divine protection, and spiritual ascendance. Stella, who maintained connections to his native Italy while living in America, combined this dense visual poetry with elements of adventurous European styles. Tree of My Life thus presents a distinctive new vision, marking an important moment in the course of Stella’s career and in the progress of American modern art.

Happy first day of spring! (in the Northern Hemisphere)

Mar 162024
 

Watercolor paintings by Katherine Strobel

There is A LOT of work currently on view at Summit Artspace for their Winter Exhibitions (see the previous two posts) and it is worth mentioning these shows as well.

In the Welcome Gallery are watercolor paintings (seen above) by Katherine Strobel, for her exhibition, Bad Nostalgia.

Her statement about the work-

People forget to take pictures of things that don’t matter because it’s impossible to photograph qualities such as the feeling of an inside joke, the sound of an exhale through the nose, or dirty silverware that must be returned to the kitchen and replaced. These things act as set, pieces for what make up the rest of our lives. This series is a catalog of work that focuses on memory and candidness of a scene or subject. The people pictured are painted from life or candid photographs which are then emphasized from a naive image to something more. When an image is exaggerated with new colors and shapes it serves to make the mundane more desirable. The paintings are watercolors with a textured surface; the texture creates a sense of play with paper elements. In my work watercolor is often indicative of memory because of its ephemeral quality and transparent layers. This is because of how impossible it is to clarify every element that makes up a color when the layers are all compressed and viewed as a complete state.

Below are works from FRESH, an annual exhibition of local artists juried by Pita Brooks, Executive Director of Akron Soul Train. The website has all of the artists included and their statements and bios- definitely worth taking a look at what is being created in the area.

Michelle Eisen, “I’ve Made My Bed”, Silkscreen on hardboard

Steven Mastroianni “Fathomable Series #24”, Unique cameraless photogram, silver gelatin print

Finally, on view throughout the building are works by local students, teachers, and school leaders for Taking Care of Our House: Communities Coming Together and Making a Difference. The exhibition is made with the organization Art Resistance Through Change (ART-C). The works pictured below are a few of the sculptures created that included the personal narratives of the artists.

It’s worth mentioning that along with these exhibitions there are artists studios and galleries also in the building and worth checking out. Summit Artspace is open Fridays 12-7pm and Saturdays 11am-5pm.

Mar 162024
 

Stephen Tornero “Don’t Tell Me” Hand dyed wool, acrylic rods

Chad Troyer “Crashing Waves” (bottom) and “Calming Shores” (top) Jacquard-woven, gradating waffle weave; Cotton, linen, rayon, silk, birch

Jen P. Harris “Oscillator” (left) and “Sphinx” (right) Hand-woven cotton, canvas, gesso, and thread on wood stretcher bars//Hand-woven cotton, canvas, thread, and acrylic paint on wood stretcher bars

Trey D. Gehring, “Stacked” Woven cotton yarn, crocheted acrylic yarn, fabric paint

Etta Sandry “Pivot: Moi-même” and “Pivot: Big Squish”, Cotton and cottolin, handwoven on Jacquard loom//Cotton and wool, handwoven on Jacquard loom

There are some incredible pieces in Waffle Weave Invitational, one of the current exhibitions at Summit Artspace. A few selections are pictured, but head to the gallery’s website to see all of the work on view.

From curator Stephen Tornero (who also has work in the show)-

This show was conceived as an idea to focus on a specific structural variable of a textile, and see how many different variations artists, artisans, and craftspeople would be able to produce. While researching the development of weaving technology, a loom with the capability to create complex structures was developed around 600 CE simultaneously in different cultures. This structure could have been produced by these looms, but also could have been designed much earlier by hand-manipulation of threads by the weaver. The waffle structure is so unique in its ability to transform a textile- seemingly a two dimensional surface- into a three dimensional object that has depth as shown by many repeated square pyramidal cells. Historically, this structure was used to create a textile that would hold water in its cells for cleaning or drying, or to help insulate the body with tiny pockets of air.  This structure can be modified by changing the color of the threads with which it is woven, the fiber content of those threads, or even by expanding the amount of threads used in a cell, expanding the scale. 

Statements from the artists about the work pictured above (from the Summit Artspace website)-

Stephen TorneroDon’t Tell Me– “This piece is part of a continuing study of material, color, and structure in textiles. I have been mesmerized with the “waffle weave” structure and its ability to create large, three dimensional pockets of space. This pieces experiments with the combination of the flexible, fibrous wool yarns with the rigid neon acrylic rods. These two materials are combined in a large textile in order to explore the effects that this unique weaving structure will have on these materials. This use these two opposing materials in the piece creates a dialogue between the traditional usefulness of this wool weaving and its display on the wall as a work of art.”

Chad TroyerCrashing Waves and Calming Shores– “The gradating structure allows for the weft to float acrost the surface of the weaving for varying lengths, from half an inch to nearly the whole width. The warp is allowed to float for varying lengths, but not nearly as long as the weft. After it was taken off the loom, the weaving was stretched. Parts of it were pulled, and others were left loose, allowing the floats to be accented by the folding and tautness of the cloth. The two pieces are the same piece of cloth cut apart, however they both display a different state of being: turbulent & calm.”

Jen P. HarrisOscillator and Sphinx– “These small weaving-painting hybrids are part of an ongoing, experimental body of work in which I am developing a heterogeneous formal language that both honors and questions histories and conventions of painting and weaving.”

Trey D. GehringStacked– “Stacked follows a line of investigation by the artist into a poststructuralist analysis of language as a system of symbols that lack meaning beyond context. The piece melds the namesake with the woven structure itself creating a hyper-literal interpretation of the exhibition’s theme. However, an understanding of the theoretical underpinning is unnecessary and secondary to the enjoyment of the whimsical and humorous nature of the work.”

Etta SandryPivot: Moi-même and Pivot: Big Squish- “My woven work focuses on samples that explore dimensionality in woven cloth using techniques such as multi-layer weaving, pleating, and woven structures that are elastic, self-shaping, and otherwise transformative, like the pocketed cells of waffle weave. This work creates a series of translations between the flat draft and the materiality of the cloth. Weaving is a technically binary structure: a warp thread can be either raised or lowered. When drafted, woven structure is drawn as a flat grid. Woven in multiple layers, cords, and pleats, weaving maintains its inherent binary nature but takes on a new physical dimensionality. Between the flat draft and the woven cloth, there is an unknowable material transformation that reflects the nuance, radical variation, and possibility that emerges from a seemingly set and limited system. In these works, this variation is expressed through two large waffle weave samples that test the limits of the waffle structure. Each piece weaves the same design of increasingly large waffle cells. Moi-même presents a balanced the waffle weave in which warp and weft threads of a similar weight and color draw out a subtle loosening of the structure as the size of the cells increase. In The Big Squish, the waffle structure is boldly packed, extended and distorted by colorful wool wefts.”

This exhibition closes 3/16/24.

Mar 162024
 

David Kruk’s solo exhibition Nobody Here at Summit Artspace in Akron, asks questions about the state of culture (or lack of culture) we are currently experiencing. Is the difference between the Venus of Willendorf and a Funko Pop just time period and material? Using the Vaporwave aesthetic, a remix of past pop culture in itself, he explores consumerism and nostalgia. Walking around the empty spaces in his video game creation, one is left wondering- what comes next?

The artist’s statement about the work-

This exhibition will consider Mark Fisher’s concept of “lost futures” through the aesthetics of Vaporwave and Funko Pops. I am interested in how these anachronistic objects utilize nostalgia through the remixing of cultural references to engage with consumer capitalism. According to Fisher, this continual referencing of the past exemplifies contemporary society’s cultural stagnation and the erosion of collective imagination towards a radically transformative future.

The sculptures in the exhibition are intended to push these anachronisms a bit further; to undergo a life cycle of adaptation and re-contextualization. I enjoy thinking about the ways in which something like Vaporwave can function as a critique of consumer culture, questioning capitalism’s impulse to commodify everything in sight, including our identities and memories. Vaporwave was born from the internet, and its aesthetic continues to be quite popular within online communities. These communities may often be collectors of pop culture paraphernalia: such as Funko Pops, which I’ve become interested in for their cultural symbolic value. Collecting Funko Pops can provide a source of aesthetic stability for some, while simultaneously operating as totems for coping with the realities of adulthood.

Conceptually within this exhibition, I wonder about the ideological trajectory from ritualistic idol to mass-produced fandom figurine, how capitalism influences our engagement with nostalgia, how the concept of a collectible operates within the spheres of the household to the museum, and how an art object may change over time through being digested through the body of consumerism.

For the video below, available on the gallery’s website, Kruk discusses his work – from tracing images using an oven light as a child, to a growing interest in sculpture, to creating the interactive video game from the show.

This exhibition closes 3/16/24.

Feb 262024
 

Willie Cole, “American Domestic”, 2016, Digital Print

Tom Laidman, “Broadway”, 1993 and “Bois Ma Petite”, 1999, Lithograph on paper

Currently on view at Akron Museum of Art is RETOLD: African American Art and Folklore, a collection of art from the Wesley and Missy Cochran collection, organized into themes exploring aspects of African American history and culture. The show features many well known and lesser known artists including Amiri Baraka, Beverly Buchanan, Willie Cole, Trenton Doyle Hancock, William Pope.L., Tom Laidman, Jacob Lawrence, Alison Saar and more.

From the museum about the exhibition-

African folklore has been around as long as humankind, and the African diaspora in America has added new dimensions to its rich history. African American folk stories teach about culture, the mysteries of life, and the survival of a race of people bought and sold who continue to thrive in an unjust society.

“RETOLD: African American Art and Folklore” focuses on four themes: Remembering, Religion, Racialization, and Resistance. These themes provide a comprehensive retelling of the works featured in the exhibition. In many of the pieces, the artist’s muse connects closely with stories that have been told generation after generation. Folklore texts are featured throughout the space as a means to retell a richer, deeper story of African American culture.

There are more than forty artists represented in this exhibition, all holding one similar truth: their story of joy and struggle in the African American experience.

In addition to the artwork, there is also an educational video produced by Josh Toussaint-Strauss of The Guardian that explores the misconceptions about Haitian Voudou that is worth a watch.

How ‘voodoo’ became a metaphor for evil

Feb 152024
 

“The Flameless Green Dragon”, 2018, Elm and acrylic

“In Rhythm”, 2018, Elm and acrylic; and “Water Music”, 2002, Inkjet photocollage on paper

“Introvert”, 2019, Elm; “Engendering Life”, 2020, Green soapstone

Two left sculptures made of Italian translucent alabaster and “Harboring Emptiness”, 2021, Maple and acrylic

Above are several works from Barbara Stanczak Spirit and Matter, the artist’s recent exhibition at Akron Art Museum.  Stanczak’s sculptures are energetic shapes created in partnership with the natural materials used.

From the museum’s web page-

Barbara Stanczak’s sculptures are born from an essential combination: the artist’s creative vision and the natural qualities of her materials. This two-sided collaboration remains in effect throughout Stanczak’s entire process of conceiving and creating an artwork. A piece of wood or stone presents initial possibilities that help to set a direction, but invariably the course will change—the substance may be so hard as to resist carving, or it may contain internal structures that must be accommodated. But the artist does not surrender her own interests, as she has found that a successful work must become the physical embodiment of a rich and valuable idea. In her own words, “I can only hold onto my idea of the whole by letting go of ‘mine’ and focusing on ‘our.’ The material becomes a partner who needs my patience, respect, thoughtfulness, cooperation, skill, and persistence.”

Stanczak committed to working with wood and stone only after a long process of discovery. Born in Germany in 1941, she moved to the United States in 1960 to assist her grandfather in painting church frescoes, and later worked in handmade paper, metal, and a variety of other media. She also worked alongside her husband, Julian Stanczak, whose paintings and prints were celebrated at the Akron Art Museum with a one-artist show in 2013. As her own career evolved throughout her thirty-seven-year tenure as a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Barbara carved her first wooden sculpture in 1992. “I was tired of searching,” she recalls. “It was time to arrive!”

Stanczak continues to find wood and stone compelling because, as she puts it, they are constantly “teasing, tempting, and provoking me to see more, to see beyond, to see the micro and the macro of the universe.” She finds these universal qualities not in immediately recognizable forms like leaves and flowers, but rather in dense rings and layers, subtle features formed over decades or even thousands of years. As Stanczak exercises her own intuition, she aligns it with these natural processes. As the artist and the materials harmonize, it is as if two forms of intelligence are working together—as if spirit and matter are not so separate as one might expect.