Art Review: Tall, thin artwork at Kortman

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338520013186.jpg’, ‘Photo by Susan Webb Tregay’, ‘Artists and patrons chat at the opening of “onewidefivehigh" Friday, Nov. 18 at Kortman Gallery. Featured artists include Maggie Thienemann, R. Scott Long, Una Ryan, Steve Pitkin, Robin McCauley, Michael Bugler, Susan Webb Tregay, Zoe Ace, Margaret Hesler Hynes, Jim Julin, Marlene McCauley, Joanlee Stassi, Valerie Olafson, Kevin Cronin, John Deill, Karen Vaughn Harding, Tim Stotz, Deb Karash, John Verl McNamara and Lynn Fischer.’);

This year, Kortman Gallery’s invitational holiday show challenged Rockford’s artists to produce work that is five times taller than it is wide. Inspired by the notion of “sofa-sized” paintings, gallery owners Jerry Kortman and Doc Slafkosky got to wondering what people should put on all of those not-so-sofa-sized walls. Thus, tall and thin artwork reigns at this exhibit.

Steve Pitkin’s piece, “5 Poppies,” speaks of transparency and repetition, and it shouts “RED.” These poppies are photographs printed on a transparent support and sandwiched between layers of glass. There are also vestiges of dried, pressed poppies hovering in a layer beneath their triumphant red image. Mounted on a finely crafted, stair-step frame/display stand, the green edges of the glass complement the red and add the only variation in color to the piece.

Sculpture thrives under the proportion-restraints of the exhibition. Lynn Fischer’s ceramic and steel piece, “1 x 5 Column,” comprises a stack of five spheres that are both organic and onymous. Their glazes are rich and mottled, as though these unidentifiable objects have been buried for decades. But by whom?

A digital photo, “Push Up,” by Tim Stotz, combines surrealism, realism and a large, flat area positioned in such a way that it is more akin to a color field painting than a realistic sky. This combination of styles seems to be the edge of what is new in painting today. There is mystery in this work. Is it really a photo, or is it a collage—and what is going on here?

A small piece by Deb Karash (Untitled, Pin/Pendant/Wall Hanging) again ties together different materials, styles and textures to create wearable art worthy of the new millennium. An elongated green leaf is the focus of the piece. It is dotted with circles, sterling silver balls and just the right sized wedge of violet. This is mounted on a black and white-striped background, which is then laid on a brushed metal plate with a sprinkling of geometric stamps and nicks. This piece is a perfect balance of art and sensibilities.

“5 Levels of Spirits,” by Margaret Hesler Hynes, is a study in shape and shadows, realism, fantasy and abstraction. A blue, cosmic-like dome supports a fish (lying on its side—dead), which supports an abstract, raku structure of smoked, unglazed clay. Hynes has set up a problem for you to puzzle over, and a mystery that will never really be solved.

Twenty artists and sculptors working in all sorts of media contributed to this show. They include Maggie Thienemann, R. Scott Long, Una Ryan, Steve Pitkin, Robin McCauley, Michael Bugler, Susan Webb Tregay, Zoe Ace, Margaret Hesler Hynes, Jim Julin, Marlene McCauley, Joanlee Stassi, Valerie Olafson, a PHO featuring Kevin Cronin, John Deill, Karen Vaughn Harding, Tim Stotz, Deb Karash, John Verl McNamara and Lynn Fischer. Check out the show for your favorite artists, and you are sure to find new favorites as well.

“onewidefivehigh” continues through Jan. 7, 2006, at Kortman Gallery, upstairs from J.R. Kortman Center for Design, 107 N. Main St., downtown Rockford. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. In December, holiday shopping hours will be extended. For more information, call the gallery at 968-0123 or visit www.jrkortman.com.

Susan Webb Tregay is an artist and author living in Rockford. Check out her Web site www.tregay.com.

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!