Review: ‘Breathing Room’

Creating order out of everyday chaos a group effort in Peerless exhibit

Order versus chaos, fueled by the overload of 21st century living, breathes easier in the Breathing Room, the current art exhibit on view at Peerless Gallery & Worksite through October 29th.

The multi-media exhibit presents a micro-macroscopic view highlighting the collaborative creativity of Caleb Coppock, Daphne Eck, Bethany Kalk, Cale Oglesby, and Cora Rasp. It includes a video installation, a 16- piece panel painting, graphite drawings, mixed media constructions, encaustic paintings, and mixed media assemblages.

Coppock’s and Kalk’s video “This Strange Phase(v2)” opens with a lunar symbol set in the overlay grid of a calendar month. The symbol waxes and wanes moving through the grid against the natural backdrop of varying viewpoints of air, earth, and water.

The typography of Eck’s poetry, sound of Kalk’s vocals with accompanying sound by Nathan Tensen-Woolery, and motion of the video evokes an uncertain balance held in check by the cyclical affects of the moon. Amid these overlays, this collaboration seems to pose a timeless reminder to question our own place in this micro-macrocosm.

The 16 painted panels forming “Accumulation 01” were the original projection field for “This Strange Phase(v2)”. Coppock, Kalk, and Oglesby have turned the field into an artwork itself.

“The entire show is interconnected,” Oglesby said. “We all painted on each of the panels, and are still working on it. It’s creating art in an organic fashion, almost like doing abstract painting.”

The circle in the square format reiterates a planetary reference. The layering of color, pattern and shape will evolve throughout the duration of the show. The Surrealist’s concept of the “Exquisite Corpse” in which each collaborator added to a composition in sequence by following a rule has been transformed here into an organic process as described by Oglesby. “Accumulation 01” is a work in progress, reading as the color of night with patterns formed by moonlight, the finished piece remaining to be seen,

 “Seeing” begins to emerge as a key theme in this exhibition, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Kalk’s graphite drawing “On the Bank of the St. Croix River”. In her description of the drawing Kalk writes, “For one month, I spent a couple hours a day along the bank of the St Croix River near Stillwater, MN. I measured and marked-off an area of the riverbank that was equal to the size of my roll of paper. Using the paper like a scroll attached to a drawing board, I sat on the ground and drew the ground to rocks, seeds, and grasses to scale.

“ Most of my work is all or partial direct observation. Even my Abstractions start from direct observation of objects of interest. I choose specific textures and forms to start the abstractions.” Graphite pencil and washes balance the more and less worked areas in the 14 foot span of paper. The drawing slows and accelerates the speed of looking, simultaneously revealing and concealing details of the bank.

Layout and organization are among her strengths, while the six graphite drawings from her “Small Specimens” series speak to the rhythm of eye-hand coordination necessary for drawing from observation. Though the immediacy of looking comes through Kalk’s drawing, her penchant for composition is the compelling factor in her encaustic paintings. “My brain loves connecting formal elements that fit everything together,” Kalk said. “I’m inspired by recognizing the beauty in life and extending those moments in a different way.”

The circular motif repeats again in Rasp’s mixed media boxes composed of found fragments glued on pin heads. “I’m constantly collecting little bits and little things” Rasp said. “Caleb came up with the pin idea, gluing on pin heads. From helping him I loved the idea. I wondered how it could be something more meditative.”

The optical illusion of each circle side by side alternately expands and contracts. The variation in color and accumulation of pin fragments keeps the attention moving throughout. “Cave Run lake” has a more dynamic circular movement as it flows into and out of a lost and found edge. “I want to create a space for people to reflect and enjoy” she added, “a moment for people to pause and take in beauty.”

Rasp and Eck created the mixed media assemblages of natural and man-made found objects arranged throughout the gallery’s space. The assembled objects create unusual juxtapositions of color, shape, and texture. Having them in actual frames might aid in elevating their consideration as art beyond the service of decoration.

 “There’s so much coming at us today,” Eck said. “What I like about our show is seeing the beauty in what is overlooked.”

The artifice inherent in art making is the transformation of material. Coppock’s drawings and paintings work to this end. “Compost 01” and “Compost 02” are a density of graphite in compositions which challenge the imagination. “It’s a compression of visual energy….mulchy composition,” Coppock said. “It’s the idea of drawing with embedded information.” Coppock’s encaustic paintings are layered formations that could conceivably refer to a map, a molecule, or both.

Coppock, Eck, Oglesby, and Rasp collaborated on “Aggregate 02(Breathing Room)” which comprises many fragments glued on pinheads to create a five foot in diameter, circular installation on the west wall of the gallery. A variation of an installation Coppock did earlier this year, it is the micro-macrocosm on a grand scale. The piece simultaneously pulls the viewer in and invites them to stand back, not unlike the sensation when viewing a full moon.

“There’s such an energy when you’re working with people toward a common goal,” Rasp said with Eck adding “the commonality is a similar work ethic, and being inspired by the same things.”  

“I was excited to be invited. We challenge and feed off each other’s information and constructive criticism,” Oglesby said.  “This show is what we think about, talk about, and look at,” said Coppock. “It’s a riff, letting one thing lead to another.”

Coppock, Eck, and Kalk conceptualized Peerless Gallery and Workspace out of many conversations steeped in shared curiosity and imagination. Possessing a like-minded sensibility, Oglesby and Rasp were invited to join them in creating Breathing Room, a space where “art” meets “life.”

Breathing Room at Peerless Gallery & Worksite, 3157 Farnam St. at Mid-town Crossing, through October 29, 2011, Tues-Sat, 11 am – 5 pm, http://wearepeerless.com

posted at 07:18 pm
on Monday, October 17th, 2011

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