Art Review: Young artists exhibit at Kortman

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111220736815653.jpg’, ”, ‘Frank Di Giovanni's "Snapshot: Nowhere to Sit at the Rainbow Club" (painting in oil).’);

To artists, space is frightening, compelling, invigorating or paralyzing. At times blank canvases are all these things at once. To this group of artists, the theme of space was a challenge thrown out to their friends by curators Frank Di Giovanni and Susan Smolinski. Kortman Gallery supplied the physical space, while this former Northern Illinois University group provided their insights.

The broad spectrum of work in this show is representative of the current art world. Anchored in the word of ideas, creative people are dipping into all media, pulling and twisting styles from the past and regenerating a look for today. No doubt these artists draw on each other’s work for inspiration, but their results are as diverse as they are exciting.

From open sky of Kati Fitzgerald’s papier-mache clouds, “Falling in Love Over and Over,” to Di Giovanni’s crowded bar scene in oils, we look at both our environment and artist’s use of materials to explore it. “Snapshot: Nowhere to Sit at the Rainbow Club” brings to mind Toulouse-Lautrec’s cabaret paintings, with foreground figures looming out to the bases of the paintings. Di Giovanni’s main figure extends off the top of the canvas as well. We don’t really see the face of this out-of-focus mysterious man. Neon signs and bar patrons balance out the composition, but their heads are very crisp-edged and high-contrast.

Niki Kriese goes abstract in her piece, “Flat Atlas.” But her expansive use of a cool, flat yellow and girly mauve brings this wonderfully designed painting up to date. The irony of the title hits you only after you have had time to absorb the delicate balances in the work.

Do we all have a foot fetish, or were we just hypnotized by the clunky soft-shoe video? Jenny and Sandy Allen’s video taps on and on, one foot bare and one foot outrageously clad in blue. A funny and fascinating exploration of time.

Then Jessica Rosenbaum explores domestic space. In a delicate drawing, a blender is swinging by its cord from a ceiling fan. In another, a toaster has the dreaded fork stuck into it. Real life is as edgy as art, remember.

Susan Smolinski explored time–specifically 8-8:40 p.m., Friday, March 18. At the show’s opening, she took a Polaroid photo of the shelf in the gallery every five minutes. Each shot was lined up along the shelf to develop, a reminder that time passes. We’d better appreciate it.

“There is More Somewhere, P593” delves into space feet first. Traditional perspective space, cut-hole space, flat white, building-like space. All of this–and more–integrates into a whole that is both mysterious and satisfying. The artist, Shelby Marie Donnelly, said it was a place he would like to live. As topsy-turvy as it is, you would like to live there, too.

The piddling, paper-trained puppy brings memories of Jeff Koons’ kitsch to the forefronts of our minds–just when we had managed to forget him. Mark Ignatious Dalpara’s ceramic pup will take some of us back in time to paper training, and some of us back to whenever it was that Koon’s kitsch became art.

“SP_ACE,” in support of Young@Art / Rockford Art Museum, continues through April 16 at Kortman Gallery, 107 N. Main St. The gallery is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Admission is free. Phone: 968-0123.

Writer and artist Susan Webb Tregay, whose work can be found in “2020 Visions,” can be reached through her Web site,

From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue

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