Revive @ Zygote Press

The creative act is often a matter of rubbing the present against the past with enough
force or skill to set the imagination alight. That’s the basic premise of a crackling exhibit
currently on view at Zygote Press. The brainchild of Zygote Director Liz Maugans, Revive
brings together eleven artists working in an array of mediums from ceramic sculpture to
painting, including the various printmaking forms that are Zygote’s specialty.

To start the ball rolling Maugans proposed that artists re-visit an idea or project that had
been shelved. In some cases the artists of Revive accept their mission in these literal
terms, breathing new life into an image or object languishing in studio corner or the back
of a flat file. Others, like Darice Polo, take it as an invitation to revisit the past itself. Polo
is best known for her remarkable graphite renderings of family photographs. At a recent
exhibit at raw & co. gallery, for instance, she explored issues of identity in a number of
drawings of her mother and other family members. These were almost indistinguishable
from the black and white family photographs on which they were based. Similarly at
Zygote she presents a portrait of herself as a child at the time of her first communion.
Again, only after minute examination is Polo’s work revealed to be a drawing -- and even
then the subtle surface shifts that betray the presence of her hand are sensed more than
seen. Next to this recent work is a glass case containing the actual communion dress and
accoutrements depicted in the drawing, preserved like holy relics. Such husks of past
selves are like the dead, whether risen to reproach or merely remind us of the
unbridgeable incongruities that divide us from our changing understanding of ourselves
and our aspirations.

The haunted particularity of the self is inevitably incarnated by any work of art. An acute
awareness of this seems evident in the abstract intaglio prints of Emily Blaser, where she
revisits lines and marks scratched on three plates at various times over the past few
years. Using delicate tones of gray and brown, Blaser examines the mysterious structure
of memory as she compiles sonnet-like progressions of shapes and references to texture,
rhyming tree bark with dripping water, or maybe the tight short hairs of an animal’s nose.
In one she contrasts a biomorphic outline with a graph paper-ish grid-- like a fingertip
tapping lightly next to a screen door.

Shelly Dicello’s two intaglio prints also display an almost painfully exquisite awareness of
touch and of the weight of each action and decision, and word, in our lives. For Revive
Dicello made a diptych titled Someplace: a cavalcade of deeply etched lines rushes in a
flowing arc along the bottom of one piece of paper, continuing in a tangled jumble of
marks and shapes along the next sheet. But her 1999 work of the same title is perhaps
more about the abrupt gravity of speech than the cumulative, acquisitive sweep of
decisive actions. A woman’s head rendered in blue is seen just above a yellow rectangle,
like a sheet of paper or a banner; illegible words flow out and down from the top margin of
this, as if coming from her mouth or mind, like spreading lines traced in the air by a hard
rain.

Annunciation by Susan Squires takes a smallish 1993 mixed media construction titled
Door and opens it up. The metaphysically charged result is a work that seems to exhale
Squires’ long charcoal lines from some space beyond the gallery wall. Like the
transcendent geometries of Richard Diebenkorn’s classic Ocean Park series, her
Annunciation evokes the rhythms of fundamental, eternal processes and presence.

  Also seeking beyond the usual boundaries of human manufacture, striving to parallel
and share the energies of natural processes, are two series of layered abstract prints by
Dan Tranberg, sampled at Zygote The first, completed as part of a collaborative project
with KSU’s master printmaker Noel Reifel several years ago, are dense compilations of ink
presented as diptychs. Richly random spatters and erosions converse about infinity and
complexity across the sharp demarcations of the rectangles that contain them. Tranberg’s
newer works are similar in appearance, but are digital prints painstakingly produced with
computer software. That such wildly different skill-sets and tools can be used to serve the
same essentially romantic aesthetic is one of the revelations these works offer.

  At first glance visitors might wonder why a small landscape by Cleveland sculptor and
conceptual artist Bruce Edwards, surrounded by a large mat and framed behind glass,
seems to glow. In fact it’s the screen of a DVD player, playing a visual recording of the
sky, and life in general, slowly moving past in the artist’s backyard. Edwards’ dog Solo
was dying in 2001 when he began this piece, taking digital stills with Solo’s head on his
lap. Later he tried to put the photos together in an endless loop, and for the Zygote show
he was inspired to finish this lovely elegy with the aid of new DVD software.

  The six other artists at Revive are about as diverse a group as you could find in a
single show, running the gamut of contemporary art’s means of production. Kristen Cliffel’
s wonderfully witty ceramic sculptures are scattered throughout, like the series of three
wall-hung, life-size cherry pies that gradually reveal a concealed gun, or her Bride
Teapot, which has a removable gloved hand inserted in its arm/spout. At the opposite
end of the conceptual spectrum, Reid Wood’s 240 Days is a selection of small digital
printouts reproducing some of the photo-collages he posts every day on his website. The
back wall of Zygote’s inner gallery room is taken up with four hand-drawn works
combining text and images in thought-provoking ways by Joel Ross. Tony Bowden’s
intriguing abstract painting titled Fight/Flight is built on a print-to-canvas technique.

Nearby, eight very sharp, small ink and gouache studies by Timothy Callaghan depict the
shifting qualities and incarnations of an imaginary “regular guy” named John. Andrea Joki
presents an artist’s book titled Things Disappear that is well worth flipping through, and
Anthony Bartholomew’s two constructions use black marbles (among other materials) to
explore the idea of the body as container.

  Probably there isn’t something for everybody at Revive, but for its size it’s a show of
rare depth and scope, exploring many corners of the human condition and spirit as it
offers insights into the ways artists’ minds operate.

[Free Times 1/24/07]