Dramatic Constructs

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Bobbie Moline-Kramer, Time to Wake the Monkey (2017), oil & acrylic on wood, 6 x 6 inches

The Parallel Fields exhibition takes place at Lichtundfire.  It is a different sort of space in which curators, artists representatives, and the community can present new ideas and mount exhibitions. Having looked at some of artist D. Dominick Lombardi's projects for a few years I was hoping that he would maintain the same passion in moving forward as curator. Yes, I believe he has ventured in a new direction to formulate Parallel Fields using the exhibition as a dramatic construct. It's a tale to inspire us about life lessons and focus "on the mundane to the miraculous (which) is what leads to exceptional thought, creative foretelling and compelling art in modern and contemporary times." 

Plutarch's Parallel Lives was a work of considerable importance held up to illuminate the lives of famous men.  Such biographies illuminated the common morals or failings of their lives at the beginning of the 2nd century. A passage from Plutarch's Life of Alexander reads:

"I write not histories but lives: the showiest deeds do not always delineate virtue and vice; the showiest deeds do not always delineate virtue and vice, but often a trivial action, a quip or a prank , will reveal more of character than the fiercest slaughters, or great parades or sieges of cities. Thus just as portrait painters attempt to establish a likeness through the features or a look in the eyes (where character is revealed), taking far fewer pains with the rest, I must be allowed to devote myself mainly to the signs of the psyche."

Lombardi creates a discourse that makes a complexity about the three artists.  This is an ideal case scenario -- to balance the work of three artists and try to create a habitat around the issues.  There is a broader field here and Lombardi takes a broader stance with the title and alternatively the political, the painterly, and the wider scope of the food chain.

The three artists in this exhibition Kathleen Elliot, Kaethe Kauffman and Bobbie Moline-Kramer have each defined themselves over the course of the last four or five years by their particular subject matter and accurate portrayal of people or subjects pertinent to our time. These three artists have mined the issues that were important to each of them in their own voice outside the cacophony surrounding the marketplace.

When you paint from photographs you create a stylized version and you present as much as you can about the truth of the image without giving the viewer the whole of it.  With these newest works Bobbie Moline-Kramer is in a relationship with the paint and not the underlying image.  The series originally started with intense portraits, electric eyes that go straight for the viewer and keep their eyes straight on them. The portraits are small and intense is as if the sitter is seeking to bust out of the painting.

Abstraction is a curious paradigm in postwar culture and has its own sense of beauty very different from virtuoso painterly execution of realist painting. I want to guess that Bobbie Moline-Kramer starts with the idea of the mood that she is trying to create.  She takes these very academic realist paintings, and then paints over the figures giving them a strangeness and otherworldliness. Wrestling with abstraction and the momentum of it Moline-Kramer allows herself to let go and combines both modes of expression in these latest works. Moline-Kramer states: 

"The elaborate decorative backgrounds in my portraits work with the faces they frame. It's a structure that allows me to create a drawing, which is also about mark-making, color, pattern and texture. I like using the immediate recognition of a face as a starting point. I like the fact that you literally have eye-contact with a portrait."

In works like the Guilted Cage (shown above) Moline-Kramer uses plastic wrap and squeegee to paint in a manner like Richter.  It's the great smear effect (by using plastic to blur the abstraction in a more mechanical way). She thus creates a tension between the real and the abstract. This is what's exciting, especially if you make a mistake. Mistakes are often the best moment -- you have to creatively deal with them, and that's when you often do something completely new.

My favorite work in the show -- A Garden Smiling -- looks like a tribute to the great painter Joan Mitchell's palette and technique. Who is this a figure of? What is the relationship of the artist to this individual and the painting?

Having immersed herself in alternative spiritual practices of Carlos Castaneda and multiple dimensions of reality, Kathleen Elliot's work has evolved over the last 6 to 7 years to address the issues of food production. To paraphrase the exhibition press release: "The sensitive issue of food production is an interdisciplinary field that provides ethical analysis and guidance for human conduct in the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food.”

The masterpiece in the exhibition is the Glyphosate Corn, which calls out the evil found in our processed foods. Genetically modified corn has been sprayed with Glyphosate in products like Doritos and Cheerios. The work has become so much more conceptual than her glass fruits and flowers of 2012. Is the giant strawberry sculpture symbolic of the struggle of the Mexican farmworkers? Much like Claus Oldenburg, Elliot repeats her motifs, working with persistence, with serial accumulation and multiplication.

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Kathleen Elliot, Questionable Foods #4, Strawberry (2017) oil & acrylic on wood, 33 x 30 inches

Like Orozco, Elliot comments on the status of object production with works such as Questionable Foods #3 (2013) where she tries to extract the magic of assimilated exchange value in the massive object experience of strawberry production because all objects are subject to the same principles. As with the work of Gabriel Orozco, objects belong to a specific place and have to do with accumulation. As a result, we have a dramatic redefinition of object because it's no longer relevant. It has become something else.

Kaethe Kauffman's Muscle Movement Meditations range from macro photos of thumbs, backs, knees and toes which look as if they have been bound or cauterized.  Kauffman translates her experience with the real world and her spiritual studies, analyzing the body as a beautiful thing and transforming it in a serial progression of images that analyzes the taxonomy of that particular part of the body.  Kauffman speaks to the modalities of mind in pursuit of a message -- in Buddhism the mudra activates other parts of the body to communicate with the divine. The mudra links the individual self with the universe as evidenced in one's experience of the body.

Kauffman's work operates in different ways the duality of the micro and macro structure driven by the desire for elusiveness / the peculiar desire to go onto enlightenment.

The most important issue for Kauffman is the constant question of the body -- multilayered issues and suspended narrative about muscles, energy, containment and the interior body.

The resulting mystical images are neither directly figurative nor abstract. Those leaning more towards abstraction still appear to be something -- perhaps visions experienced by the meditating. Kauffman's work can be seen as a singularly crafted semiotics, and of how meaning is constructed and understood. Heretofore, the human body was considered an embodiment of signs, but with virtual realities, artificial life, and simulated bodies, the disembodiment of these signs is garnering prominence within the field. Kauffman’s notable works stand on the cusp of this transition.

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Kaethe Kauffman, #23 Wrist, Black and White, color photo collage, 36 x 48 inches

What is her relationship to the photo? It's as much about seeing and using a very simple subject and fixing it or literally tying and containing it. Kauffman keeps coming back to the symbol of the rope or the knot.

The practice of mindfulness of breathing is one of many Buddhist techniques for developing the stability and vividness of attention, culminating in the highly refined state of meditative quiescence (Samatha), in which the mind can remain perfectly focused for hours on end. The development of quiescence is closely linked to three kinds of "signs" (nimitta) that are the objects of meditation. The first of these is the sign for preliminary practice, which in the case of the mindfulness of breathing consists of the tactile sensations of the respiration. The second is the acquired sign (udgraha-nimitta), which may appear to different people like a star, a cluster of gems or pearls, a wreath of flowers, a puff of smoke, a cobweb, a cloud, a lotus flower, a wheel, or a moon or sun disk. All these signs of the breath arise from the space of the mind, and their various appearances are related to the mental dispositions of individual meditators.

I will leave you with this.... The essence of Buddhism sees the world as drama; it is what it is -- to grow to expand to swell. The self plays hide and seek with itself -- each one of us must go ahead and get lost for the fun of it. Wouldn't it be nice if you could wake up to one of these muscle movement meditations?  This is stuff that matters... the link between us all. - Kathleen Cullen

Ms. Cullen is a media consultant, art advisor and art dealer with 30 years art market experience.

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