RAM Talks Art: Spaces Within opens Sept. 11 at RAM

Nicholas Sistler, "Last Straw," 2007, courtesy of the artist and Pinrtworks Gallery, Chicago. Image provided

By Patty Rhea
Curator, Rockford Art Museum

A new school year brings sharp pencils, blank notebooks and the promise of a fresh start. September also marks the opening season for art galleries and museums nationwide. Rockford Art Museum (RAM) kicks off autumn with Spaces Within, a show that examines art relating to the architecture of interior spaces.

Contemporary Chicago painters Richard Hull and Nicholas Sistler anchor the exhibition with their imaginary architectural interiors. Each artist creates unique environments through the use of confined spaces, bold perspectives and exuberant color.

Richard Hull’s paintings are a striking blend of figurative and abstract elements. Architectural structures, usually rectilinear in nature, typify his early work. A fantastic array of cityscapes, skylines and geometric shapes dominate the compositions. Looming figures, ambiguous in appearance, create an otherworldly presence. Employing diverse materials such as oil, wax and crayon, Hull scratches into surfaces creating an elaborate web of marks that further define form.

Nicholas Sistler’s tightly-cropped interiors capture a diminutive world in exquisite detail. Akin to 17th-century Dutch still-life and genre scenes, these uninhabited works, painted in gouache, depict domestic interiors. Despite their diminutive scale, these paintings have a monumental feeling. Visually compelling, these scenes appear as if viewed through a keyhole. Pictures drawn mostly from Film Noir stills become apparitions on random objects. Juxtaposed forms and jutting angles further jar and disorient.

The late Chicago artist David Kotker (1961-2005) makes a three-dimensional contribution to the Spaces Within exhibit with his attenuated bronze sculptures. Kotker served as artist-in-residence at Rockford Art Museum in 1987. The body of work presented in this show was created during that period of time, when the artist was in his mid-20s. Remarkably, the work has the look and feel of an artist’s mature work.

A distinctive quality to Kotker’s bronze work is the exquisite and varied finishes of the patinas. His sensitively realized totemic forms, tribal in nature, are reminiscent of work from the Etruscan Period.

Geometric principles are further explored in Spaces Within with a selection of works from the RAM Permanent Collection, including monumental work by Gordon Dorn and Michiko Itatani.

The opening of Spaces Within is just a few days away. A free gallery walk (and free children’s art activity) will be at 11 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 11. Admission is free all day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spaces Within will be on view at RAM through Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011.

Learn more about the exhibition and related educational programming at rockfordartmuseum.org.

Contact RAM Curator Patty Rhea at prhea@rockfordartmuseum.org.

From the Sept. 8-14, 2010 issue

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