One of the biggest success stories to come out of Bucktown Center for the Arts is Emily Christenson and her nature-inspired works. Some early visitors to doeGallery were impressed with her art and took a postcard of one of her paintings back to a favorite gallery in Washington, DC. Within a year, Christenson's work was hanging on the walls at the Fine Art & Artists (FAA) Gallery in Georgetown along with some of the big names of the 20th Century. Luck certainly played a role in Christenson's story, but if the work hadn't been so good and so captivating, it wouldn't have gone any further than being a souvenir postcard.

At FAA, Christenson enjoyed two years of strong sales, a solo show of her work, and a review in the Washington Post. She was preparing a body of work for her second solo show, Rivers & Rain, Pieces of Denali, when she got a call that the gallery was closing after 15 years.

More than a year later, Christenson is premiering both a new Bucktown gallery/studio (called "e|c") and the 10 works that make up Rivers & Rain, Pieces of Denali. The show runs through the end of December, and the gallery is in the southeast corner on the second floor.

Peter Xiao, 'Guardians of State.' Click for a larger version.The centerpiece of the current two-person exhibit at Quad City Arts is a collection of four paintings recalling Peter Xiao's childhood in China.

From an artistic perspective, Xiao is rendering people more conventionally in terms of both figure and color, said Les Bell, the other artist in the show. In the past, he said, Xiao worked in a "cubistic" space, bending figures and objects and colors to meet the formal needs of the piece.

Bell called Xiao's use of color in these new works "smoldering," and said: "It's a much more complex level of narrative than I've ever seen in his work. ... I'm completely charmed by the drama of these scenes."

Bell also said that "you'd swear he was working from models to get these individual personalities."

But these works come from memory, and Xiao -- a professor at Augustana College -- said that "I sort of turned [auto]biographical for the first time. I always worked with the figure but was usually shy about putting myself there, because you want to be objective about things."

I've been thinking more than usual lately about the local art-gallery scene, for three reasons: a citywide open studio I attended earlier this summer in St. Louis with 151 venues; David Burke's September 13 column in the Quad-City Times in which he asked what's missing in the Quad Cities and suggested a gallery or two for the College Hill area currently under development; and a recent Quad Cities conference on networking among local art and cultural agencies.

I've called Davenport home since I moved from Washington, DC, 45 years ago, and as happy as I've been here, I've always missed a gallery scene.

The gallery I'm speaking of is a business that "represents" its artists, which is to say that the artists are chosen for the high quality of their work and according to a principled and focused policy - "young, emerging Midwest abstract painters," "modern and contemporary Expressionism," "21st Century works on paper," "the best in the two-state region," etc.

Furthermore, that's all they do. They don't sell frames. They don't sell supplies. They specialize. This is the sort of galleries that one finds in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Tampa, but not here. I mention these cities because they're the same size as the Quad Cities.

 

The Figge Art Museum exhibit Paper Trail: A Decade of Acquisitions from the Walker Art Center (running through January 3) is "a very significant show" from "one of the premier contemporary-art museums in the United States," said Figge Executive Director Sean O'Harrow.

But it's clear that O'Harrow's interest in bringing the show here is not limited to its importance. After accessible exhibits featuring duck decoys and the work of John Bloom, O'Harrow is not shy about provoking people with Paper Trail: "This show is really meant to push people further to the other extreme. ... This show is really meant to push our audience. ... We as an institution have to do this."

Some content is politically aggressive, while other works will baffle audiences. One piece, for example, instructs its audience to put a provided sweater on in a certain way. And Laylah Ali's two untitled drawings will certainly prompt plenty to claim that their children could do that. Many people will love the show, O'Harrow said, and many will hate it.

A retrospective featuring the work of roughly 20 artists, Paper Trail was not meant as a traveling exhibition, but O'Harrow convinced the Minneapolis museum to let a scaled-down version come to the Quad Cities - at this point, its only destination.

Students, he said, "can see every big name [in the art world] in the last 20 years." For a lay audience, the biggest name is Raymond Pettibon, who provided the cover art for Sonic Youth's 1990 album Goo.

For more information about the Figge exhibit, click here.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Laylah Ali, 'Untitled'

Paul Chan, 'Worldwide Trash (thanks for nothing Hegel)'

Chuck Close, 'Self-Portrait/Woodcut'

Santiago Cucullu, 'Architectonic vs. H.R.'

Amy Cutler, 'Hen House'

Thomas Hirschhorn, 'Body Mass Index B.M.I.'

Glenn Ligon, 'Self Portrait at Eleven Years Old'

Rivane Neuenschwander, 'Carta Faminta (Starving Letter)'

Raymond Pettibon, 'No title (He allowed her)'

Sigmar Polke, 'Experimente I-IV (Experiment I-IV)'

Edward Ruscha, 'Country Cityscape'

Piotr Uklanski, 'Summer Love Saddle Bag'

The fifth-annual Venus Envy Quad Cities female-arts festival will be held on Saturday, May 2, from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Bucktown Center for the Arts (225 East Second Street in Davenport).

Below is the performance schedule, as well as a sampling of works from the more than 50 visual artists included in the event. The exhibit will be up through May 22.

For more information, visit VenusEnvyQC.org.

Pamela J. White speaks about the painting like it's a pet.

"It doesn't like to travel," she said.

She's talking about Ad Reinhardt's Abstract Painting, which is the work most likely to get blank stares in the Figge Art Museum exhibit A Legacy for Iowa: Pollock's Mural & Modern Masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Sam Gilliam - 'Red April'Abstract Painting doesn't like to travel because it's the most fragile work in the University of Iowa Museum of Art's collection, said White, the museum's interim director. When you get close to the piece, you can see that the paint in the corners is cracked. And because of the nature of the work, there's no obvious way to restore or conserve it.

It initially looks like a black square. On closer inspection, it reveals itself as nine black-ish squares.

Figge Executive Director Sean O'Harrow explained the painting this way: "It's about the nature of color, the nature of squares. It's about texture. It's about a general feeling that you get from the work."

But just as important for this exhibit, Abstract Painting represents the challenges of modern art; this is the sort of theoretical work that baffles and frustrates many people -- in a My kid could do that way. "Whether or not you understand it, for people it's modern art," O'Harrow said. "And people recognize that this is what modern art looks like."

Max Beckmann - 'Karneval'Don't run away. Even if you dislike modern art (or think you dislike modern art), A Legacy for Iowa -- which technically opens April 19 even though the paintings can be viewed by the public now -- is a great opportunity to acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with the Figge: It's an ideal match of modern work and modern venue, facilitated by last year's flood in Iowa City.

corynnhanson-thumb.jpgAugustana Sights & Sounds, an exhibit of photographs from Augustana College and high-school students, will be on display at the Bucktown Center for the Arts (open Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 225 East Second Street in Davenport) through February 26.

Following the departure of the Left Bank Art League from Gallery West in the District of Rock Island, MidCoast Fine Arts plans to launch a new artist-staffed sales gallery at the site next month.

MidCoast Fine Arts has hosted exhibits at its Gallery West location at 1629 Second Avenue for nearly seven years, with assistance from an operational partner staffing the space and taking on utility costs - originally the ArtFX gallery, and most recently the Left Bank Art League. But Left Bank vacated the space at the end of December, ending a partnership that began in 2005.

Reader issue #713 For our fall photo contest, we made your job easier, and ours harder.

We asked for photographs of babies and pets for this year's contest, and we received 166 entries.

Sound and Vision's control roomSound
& Vision began as a group of guys searching for a place to
practice with and record their bands. Located at 1316 Fourth Avenue
in downtown Moline, it now features a recording studio, an art
gallery, screen-printing, recording workshops, DJ-ing, and custom
speaker cabinets.

"It
really started in my dad's basement," said Ray Malone, one of
eight contributors, in an interview at the studio. Between then and
the current situation, the men rented four different spaces, the last
being a two-bedroom house in Davenport. "When we were in a house,
the control room was set up on the second floor," Malone said. "We
did all of the recording downstairs. There was a lot of going up and
down stairs to move a mic an inch."

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