Six Artists ‘Speak’ in ‘Form Language’ Exhibit at Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences 

By PAT JOHNSON | Mar 12, 2014
Artwork by: Paula Cahill ‘Entanglement’ by Paula Cahill is one of three monumental canvases the artist is showing in the ‘Form Language’ exhibit at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences through March.   

“Form Language,” the current exhibit at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, combines realism and postmodern conceptual and abstract art. The thread that holds the various pieces together, according to co-curator Jason Ward, is the artists’ desire to communicate through the use of their material and personal styles.

“If the artist creates to illustrate a personal narrative, then the artwork can speak to its own history; it will offer us … a complex series of marks and movements that describe the history of its creation,” said Ward.

Ward and co-curator Sheri Hansen gave a tour of the exhibit on Friday. Both co-curators are on the LBIF art committee and this is their first exhibit for the Foundation. The six artists represented, Evan Kitson, Kirsten Fisher-Price, Paula Cahill, J. Gordon, Jennifer Lingford and Dganit Zauberman, are graduates of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, as are the curators.  

Kitson works in the tradition of the old masters with materials that would be well known to them: silverpoint, conte crayon, graphite and charcoal. Silverpoint is a wire of soft silver held in a stylus and used like a pencil; as the silver continues to tarnish, it imparts a patina to the image. It’s particularly suited to the pictures of skulls done by Kitson, perhaps a metaphor for decomposition.

His portraits imitate Rembrandt and other Renaissance artists and serve as a kind of foil or contrast to the postmodern pieces of his friends. 

Installations of conceptual art works by Fisher-Price are minimal expressions. A line of corrugated cardboard pieces, a very long string with a bit of cotton hanging from the ceiling and a long strip of fabric wrapped in plastic are the hardest works to assimilate.  

The easiest to understand is the grouped series of six squares that are titled “Hidden Things I-IV.” These are small mixed-media squares, painted and covered in wax that are wrapped with string or stockings and hold bits of other materials in a concealed pocket, some more evident than others.   

“There’s no (apparent) narration to these pieces,” said Ward. “There is a sense of rhythm in the grouping of objects and a vibe that I can appreciate. And from knowing the artist, I understand the decisions she has made.”                     

Paula Cahill’s three large paintings, “Glass Bottom,” “Entanglement” and “Red Room,” are MOMA-worthy. In the best tradition of abstract impressionism, Cahill’s sublime colors and controlled space draw us eagerly into her painting experience. She creates the illusion of a staircase or a room by using simple perspective. “Cahill’s quality of execution allows us to live in the same space,” said Ward.

“All artists meet different sensibilities,” he continued. “They create an architecture unto themselves. In order to respond fully, at a certain point, you must set aside your personal narration and let the work speak for itself.”   

The other successful abstract expressionist is Gordon. This artist creates his own serene landscapes in drips and slabs of thick paint.

 “Eutopos, Outopos” is designed with a hint of trompe l’oeil humor. A straight line that ends in a small ochre dot, which appears to be a thumbtack, bisects the perfect color balance of whites, yellows and blues. A real nail placed on the other end of the painting in the frame pretends to hold the “string” end.

“Atmosphere,” a painting of whites and grays, is a refreshing landscape, said Ward. “The artist is always pushing the limits of his materials, asking, ‘What does the work need?’”

In Gordon’s “Meridian” a dark stripe is almost at the center of the painting but is not a design “mistake.”

“Design is more than rules,” said Ward. “The middle of the painting is not necessarily the center of attention; the texture or activity on the surface pulls you in, and because of his design sense, the eye will cover every inch of this painting.”

Zauberman creates her own beautiful empty landscapes that are turbulent, almost threatening as if a storm of some type was disrupting her internal geography. Despite the gestures of paint, the colors in each painting are harmonious and this may be because she scrapes the colors from the palette that created the first painting and adds them to the next painting. “It’s a fun series she is creating,” said Ward.

Lingford is primarily concerned with textures. Her group of photos, “Texture Studies 1-4,” is of a surface that contains a pattern that then disintegrates into chaos with each photo. Her fabric art is also textural. “Leaf Study” is particularly lovely as is a small square of “Embroidery” that is an intense bunch of stitches that cries out to be touched.

The six artists in “Form Language” are all prolific, working artists. Some are also teaching while they pursue their art career. All the works in the show were completed within the last three years, said Ward.          

The exhibit is up through March 31.   

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