Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two Exhibitions and the Gift of Time

Song Birds and the Birds of Humility, Monotype
Artist: Rick Bartow

There is never enough time to get around to all the galleries hosting artist receptions on any given evening in Houston unless you plan to spend much of your time in your car driving (fast) from place to place and with little time to spare for looking at the art. Choices have to be made up front. Last evening Lydia and I made good choices.

At Nau-haus Art Space, an extension of Texas collaborative Arts in the Heights on 11th, we met Rick Bartow, an artist and musician and were gifted time; time to share his vision and time to listen to his song. In his brief but eloquent gallery talk, time was the subject. Not himself, not his monotypes or drawings, nor his music. He thanked us for gifting him our time we spent with him and his work, listening to his music. In return, he gave us his time by sharing his images, his vision, his song. Time, he said, is the most important thing we have. We need to stop thinking our time away. Put our time to good use and do.

Rick Bartow is part Irish, part Native American. His "tribal affiliation and heritage is Wiyot of Northern California." Transformation and mythology are integral to his life and much of his work.

This exhibition featured mostly works on paper including large strong colored mixed media drawings on handmade papers, monotypes --- a portfolio of some that were made in collaboration with TCA studio, as well as a few small paintings on panel.

I felt, looking at the images, that these were strong responses to private and/or shared events full of personal iconography---iconography that threads through this body of work.

Though not derivative of them, two artists came to mind when I walked into the gallery. Frances Bacon and Nathan Oliveira. In conversation with the artist, he did mention Bacon. But the images presented are Bartow's own personal statements.
For me, it is the way he blurs out parts of images, the way he layers one image on top of another, and the way he is so creatively moves back and forth between the positive and negative spaces that creates the connections for me. Having said that, they remain part of Bartow's voice and not Bacon's or Oliveira's. These "visual devices" seem appropriate and useful to him in describing transformation and myth.

Rick Bartow, For Ireland, Mixed Media on paper

Rick Bartow, Wind Over Cantebury, Acrylic Painting on panel

The opening reception for this exhibition was held on October 3rd. This evening was a private champagne reception celebrating the artist and set aside for his talk. As an added gift, Mr. Bartow along with artists/musicians Ed Wilson and Bob Russsel presented us with an informal and personal musical treat. Old Lead Belly tunes and some of Bartow's own were on the play list and the listening was as enjoyable as the viewing.
Thanks to Dan Allison and Nau-haus Gallery for this experience. Runs through October 26.
Our next and only other stop was to visit M Squared Gallery on 19th in the Heights. "Conspire" is the exhibition on view there, a collaborative exhibition of works by artists Ray Phillips and Michael Arcieri.

The exhibition included works by the individual artists in the back part of the gallery and their collaborative works in the front part of the gallery.
As you can see in the images below, many of Michael Arcieri's paintings are very realistic--- these in particular influenced by the Dutch Still Life tradition.

The work of Ray Phillips ranges from quietly abstract like the one below to much busier compositions like Edit. Some of his work is very similar to what is presented in this collaboration.

above: Edit, by Ray Phillips

Paintings below are part of the "Conspire" collaboration. In many, that old phrase
"Something old, something new" comes to mind with layered images from the present along with familiar imagery from the past. Text and pattern play an integral part in these collage-like paintings as well.
For instance one painting (sadly not pictured here,) a diptych, the image is a still life. A bowl of apples is on one side and a bowl of oranges on the other. (I am thinking Michael Acieri's hand in this part but there is much more that fruit.) On top of these realistically rendered still life paintings are other things, among these, diagrams or schematic drawings floating around. Then the text. The text (Italian and painted on backwards) is layered over the lower part of the whole painting. Apples and Oranges it says.

Rukus, Collaborating artists Ray Phillips and Michael Arcieri, mixed media

I have seen collaborations before but usually in the form of diptychs. In these, the two artists took turns it seems, painting on the same canvas. Interesting concept. Interesting work.

This exhibition runs through October 26.

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