Sunday, January 12, 2014

Local Art Seen: Second Friday Art Crawl, January 10

Renan Cruz
Friday evening was the first Second Friday Art Crawl in Duluth, and it was another special night. I began at the Washington Galleries, then visited with friends at the DuSu Film Festival Supporter Appreciation event, finishing up at Polarize, the expressive opening at the PRØVE. I saw a range of new work by new artists and old. The creative juices are flowing as we begin a new year.

Washington Galleries featured work by E.J. Arnold, Jamie Uselman, Faith King and Renan Cruz. I saw Cruz's "Elephant in the Room" last year at a PRØVE Gallery show. Here it was accompanied by three other pieces, each of them thought provoking.

I found Arnold's Pinto Bean People Series to be the highlight of the exhibit. Arnold, who was born in Tennessee, lived in Georgia before coming to Duluth four years ago. He said inspiration for the Pinto Bean People was derived from his Mexican heritage. The pieces were pen and ink featuring a pointillist stipple technique. I found the clusters of pinto beans in assortments about the gallery to be amusing.

E.J. Arnold, who makes a living as a tattoo artist, has developed a definite style. The technical evocation rises to the level of complexity in his pieces, which carry titles like Conjoined Pinto Bean Twins. The idea behind the series reminded me of a professor at Ohio University named Aethelred Eldridge who was best known for his black and white art accompanied by esoteric writings inspired by William Blake. I recall a show of his featuring Human Beans...

I had no idea what to expect at the PRØVE, and was happily surprised at yet another fun show with inventive, high caliber work. Polarize was the theme for this show.

Several pieces by Ryan LaMahieu were on the left as you entered the gallery space and I became aware of how distance enables us to see art in different ways, thereby making different connections. My first exposure to LaMahieu was at Double Dutch last year. The space is small and you view the works up close. His are detailed and thus this close proximity feels normal. To experience the pieces in a more intimate degree you want to be close. But when I saw the picture from a greater distance I was struck by how much they reminded me of some of Jackson Pollock's work. Pollock created a field of energy and color, evenly distributed, with no focal point or point of reference. LaMahiue in a similar vein creates a field of energy and color, evenly distributed across the surface of the work, except as you draw nearer you realize these are drawing and not splashings.

The other artists in the show had work that was equally compelling and engaging. Emma Rustan, Brian Ring, Cody Paulson, Tommy Kronquist and Jay Whitcomb represented themselves well, each in a surprisingly original and different manner from one another as they responded to the show's theme. If you were unable to attend but still want to see the art from this show, go to the PRØVE Collective Facebook Page and message them for hours when staff is on hand later this week.

Thanks to all who contributed to make these events successful and rewarding.

"Last Night I Dreamed of Paul Bunyan" by Brian Ring.
"Bull" by Jay Whitcomb.
Some of the finger food you missed.
Another surreal pinto bean inspiration by Arnold.
Detail, LaMahieu.

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