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The Voice of the Region

Artlink's Biennial Regional Exhibition

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Every two years, the city of Fort Wayne is graced by a collection of fine art that shows us just how talented our local artist pool can be. The 8th Regional Exhibition is a welcome respite from shows dominated by traditional fine arts, with a large number of young artists taking risks with their work. As in the past regional exhibitions, the artists are not only juried into the show, but then further juried for three five hundred dollar awards and a three person exhibition which will be in late 2011.

Darlene Kaczmarczyk, Professor of Photography from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Grand Rapids was the judge this year. In Kaczmarczyk's own works, he "was delighted to be asked by Artlink to jury the 8th Regional Exhibiton and impressed with the variety and quality of artwork I found on display." In describing her method of judging, Kaczmarczyk mentions a number of specific criteria and then paraphrases the critic Peter Schjeldahl by saying "the best work lets me stand for one charged minute in the artist's shows." Kaczmarczyk chose Jake Saunders, Justin Johnson, and George Morrison as the three award winners. These three artists are deserving of this opportunity, and will no doubt give us a great taste of each of their work.

Jake Saunders' Regional Exhibition pieces show a refreshing use of color, but still display a core melancholic feel. Pieces like "Three Studies for Portrait of Freud Hammie" (the judges favorite piece) are incredibly self-referential pieces of the art world, like some post-modern blur of memories half forgotten. The triptych composition, positioning of the figure, and geometric backdrop are all directly sourced from Bacon's triptych paintings from a half century ago. Saunders combines these with acidic, multi-colored op-pop patterned backgrounds, and uses the figurative painter Patrick Earl Hammie as his model, while referencing the friendship between Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in the title. This kind of conceptual play and formal articulation combine to make an incredibly rich piece. And while all of Saunders' work employs complex, relating symbols, "Three Studies..." seems to show a new direction perhaps where much of the conceptual value and narrative of his pieces are condensed into this independent piece rather than a body of works like his Varg Vikernes works.

George Morrison's minimalist ceramic works belie the meticulous nature of their construction. Each of Morrison's three objects contain myriad fine details which are applied with laser-like precision and give the objects a totemic feeling. These marking make Morrison's sculptures feel like the remnants of some long forgotten culture or some kind of unfamiliar vessels from the future. This dichotomy gives the pieces extra life and allows wide references for them, everything from Lee Bontecou's ceramic bases for her "ships" to a enlarged variety of common hardware pieces and parts. Morrison's "Red Vase," the largest, seems the most elegant, has a gentle color transition from red to a warm brown, and is the only piece which references a strictly ceramic history, verses the two other more sculptural pieces.

Justin Johnson, the last of the three winners, has had a great year in 2010, after his graduate thesis exhibition at the University of Saint Francis. While Johnson's work has stayed relatively stable over the last 5 years, it has become increasingly more versatile as he has added to his visual vocabulary, by including modern tools with the iconic religious and classical figures from past work. These mixed media works on paper are like graphic riddles as the viewers tries to pick apart imagery like a larger than life saw, imprinted with a clear maze pattern, piercing and possibly weighted down by a stone-like decapitated head of a man, all against a background of black and liquid gold.

Other than the three winners, there were a number of notable artists represented in the Regional Exhibition. This juried exhibit contains work from forty six regional artists and a total of over ninety four art pieces across all media and genre. Notable artists include Eric Stine, Jay Bastian, Dennis Hettler, Art Cislo, Dominick Manco, John Meyers, Daniel Dienelt, Michelle Diller, and David Seculoff. These artists work in wildly different styles, but they consistently challenged accepted artistic norms and created intriguing images because of this.

Eric Stine's pop collage pieces have been great to see recently (other works have been included in Artlink's "Landscapes" and "Toys" exhibitions recently). Dennis Hettler's large scale abstract paintings are working in some sort of early Elizabeth Murray style, with a strong manipulation of the canvases relation to the image. Daniel Dienelt's photographs are as amazing as ever, with these works seeming even more abstract. And David Seculoff's amazingly rich non-objective abstracts on paper remind the viewer of both Albers and Rothko simultaneously.

With such a diverse group of artists represented, Artlink's 8th Regional Exhibition outdoes itself again in proclaiming our art scene's strength. And this great opportunity for the exhibition winners will hopefully help them create a cohesive body of work, exhibit it, and give them a packaged body of work to shop around to other large art markets around us. As the number of Regional Exhibit winners grows, our scene will gain more and more potential career artists. Perhaps with enough of the artists, a gallery can come along with a complete stable of Fort Wayne artists. Bit by bit, Fort Wayne's scene is expanding and maturing, thanks in part to organizations like Artlink.

8th Regional Exhibition
December 10, 2010-January 12, 2011
For more information: www.artlinkfw.com

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