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Balance and Weight Distinguish Bucktown Show PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Written by Johanna Welzenbach-Hilliard   
Tuesday, 23 August 2005 18:00
Corrine Smith strikes me as being a very centered person. I say this because the overall theme I see in her current show – at the MidCoast Fine Arts’ Bucktown gallery until September 30 with sculptor Matt Moyer – is balance, even though she never uses this word in her artist statement. Instead she says, “I am interested in the concept of opposites. The use of opposites can create a dynamic quality revealing high contrast and tension.” But by using opposition (specifically the opposition of geometric shapes and of colors) she expresses in her large, abstract paintings balance – whether she realizes it or not.

Without opposites and their intrinsic tension, there would be no equilibrium in the world. Light cannot exist without shadow; rough cannot exist without smooth. We use opposites as a point of comparison to see both sides of an object or an issue and to find balance.

Rick Series #42 (mixed media) reminds me of a dancing snowman in a top hat. The white, misshapen circles are his body, the empty one his head (hmm). Although the “snowman” appears to be topsy-turvy, he maintains his balance. Her use of color in this painting also demonstrates equilibrium. Smith balances primary red with sharply contrasting black and white set against a neutral charcoal and beige background.

Smith’s compositions intrigue me – they always pull me in. One of her most colorful paintings is Green Belt. She edges the large green rectangle in the picture’s center with bars of bright red, yellow, mauve, and blue. These cheerful colors are set off by an earthy, brick-colored rectangle on the bottom left corner. She makes good use of texture in her paintings, too. In Green Belt Smith incorporates a white spiral pattern on what looks like black cloth. A paper collage section superimposed on the painting resembles part of a stone wall.

Chief looks like a cityscape to me. Before reading the title, I saw a sideways skyline of boldly colored buildings (gray, plum, red, yellow) reflected over a muddy, brown river (the Mississippi perhaps?) – half in daylight (white), half at night (black). After I read the title … well, I saw the same thing!

I really like this picture. Again, the composition provides balance. The buildings are on one side and their reflections are on the other, and the black and white background makes the colors pop right out – as if they’re floating on the painting’s surface.

In Rick Series #11, Smith painted a playful picture in which vertical and horizontal vie for position. Round blobs of green, blue, and white, and one tan fiber-coated one, are clinging to a black pole, although some have started to lose their grip and fall. A large, ungainly, inverted black triangle manages to balance (there’s that word again) its bulk on a fragile-looking red square and on the green and blue blobs. As usual, she juxtaposes bold colors against a neutral background, giving the impression that the figures are floating in space. I almost felt vertigo looking at it.

3D Vocabulary #14 is part of the same series as her award-winning 3D Vocabulary #15 (which won second place at the 2005 Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition). This painting is vibrant: It throngs with life even though it is not a figurative painting. Smith superimposes rectangles upon rectangles, and squares upon squares.

The top half of the painting is crowded with geometric forms and rich colors (burgundy, deep red, plum, yellow, and blue), which are offset by a vast, white expanse below. I love the detail she used in her burgundy rectangle – a collage of a musical score torn into tiny pieces containing just one or two notes.

Sculptor Matt Moyer uses a lot of triangles and cone-like shapes in his work and I like that – it brings me comfort. Perhaps my subconscious finds symbolic meaning in triangular shapes such as the Great Pyramids, but most of all I like their balance; that single point on top is supported by that broad, four-pointed base. In this respect, Moyer’s sculptures tie in nicely with Smith’s paintings.

Wedges is a sturdy yet evocative piece made of wood-fired stoneware that is bolted to concrete and steel. Two three-dimensional, triangular wedges are thrust together – one supporting the other – and bolted at the top with an iron cap. Four large circles cut out of the wedges are like mouths gaping or like portholes to another world.

Moyer’s sculptures are heavy and functional-looking, although if they have a function, other than being interesting to look at, I’m not sure what it would be. When I read his artist statement, I realized he feels more or less the same way about industrial artifacts: “Though I am not always certain what the artifacts that interest me were used for, I remain interested in them for their shape, composition, surface, potential utility.”

Moyer comes from a family that has worked for the pipe-fitting union for three generations. According to his artist statement, this is where he gets his interest in tools and implements used in industry.

Cogs comprises three simple forms that are deceptive in their appearance. Though they look as if they are made of cast iron, they are really made of wood-fired stoneware. I was impressed by how Moyer imbued them with density, heft, and the rough surface texture one finds in old heavy iron objects.

Another ceramic piece, Mechanical Plate also has a metallic industrial aspect to it – even down to the rust and green oxide. Rather than a plate, it looks like an iron lid. Gasket Plate, however, could be an African tribal object – a wood carving one would find at Pier 1 imports. I really like its grooves and circles and the scorching on its surface.

Concrete Filter reminds me of the diving helmet from Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I could see owning it only if I were really into deep-sea diving – but I did like the way the metal grating over the hole hints at secret things it’s trying to hide.

Whereas a few of his pieces such as Wedges, Filter (with Hook), and Cogs are natural and earthly in aspect, other pieces, such as the two Artifacts, are downright alien-looking. The small Artifact looks like pre-Columbian artwork, but has an odd quality that makes it seem extraterrestrial. Made of wood-fired stoneware, it has a primitive animal/insect form (as found in Alien) with sharp ribs and small holes. The large Artifact, made of steel and concrete, looks like a droid out of Star Wars.
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