Space Odysseys
    Brinsley Tyrrell,  Austin Thomas at William Busta

     A young tree addresses its slim, white trunk to the breadth of a field -- one strikingly simple yet dramatic vignette
    among many, as Brinsley Tyrrell re-imagines the dialogues of woods and glades, lakes and the flat or hilly sweep of
    northern Ohio’s plowed lands. The natural world speaks in the languages of chemistry, geology, and weather, and
    Tyrrell’s large enamel on steel landscapes, cooked at more than a thousand degrees in a large oven-style kiln, evoke
    the raw ferment of the scenes he depicts. The results are a sculptor's paintings, which not only flow parallel with the
    world, but merge with it.
     When British-born artists Brinsley and Lilian Tyrrell moved to an isolated farmhouse near Ravenna in 1975 they
    began what was to become an intimate acquaintance with the surrounding lands. Brinsley, who taught as a professor of
    art at Kent State University for nearly thirty years, is known for a diverse body of work that ranges from the large-scale
    bronze “Waywood Wall” on CWRU’s campus, to the stone “Behind the Brain” at KSU. Then there’s the series of quietly
    beautiful pastel drawings, exhibited at SPACES Gallery twenty years ago.
     These last were sketches of the Ravenna farm, which eventually served as inspiration for the current series of
    landscape reveries. The initial five enamel works, measuring 3’ by 5’, were created in 2007 as decorative panels for the
    West 117th RTA station in Lakewood on Cleveland’s west side. The current pieces are a further, lush elaboration of
    similar descriptive visual themes. They remember the conventions of impressionist landscape, eventually melting into
    rippling overall patterns and textures, reminiscent of the Postimpressionist approaches of Vuillard or Bonnard. Yet, like
    Charles Burchfield's synesthetic compositions which also depicted Ohio's Woods and fields, they stake out their own,
    dream-like, psychological territory. Tyrrell's very physical, jewel-like surfaces present visions that seem refracted
    through the darkness of secret places, remembering  days that lie buried, but still shine with the luminous veins of past

    Concurrently on display in Busta’s narrow Print and Drawing room are a group of engaging small collage/drawing works
    by Austin Thomas. These deceptively delicate studies, caught sometimes in the act of unfolding against or through the
    gridded skin of a graph paper background, explore enduring thoughts about the speciation of drawing and sculpture.
    And like Tyrrell’s enamel studies, they’re all about the magic of placement, and the mutable margins stretching between
    actual and imaginary terrains.  
     Based in New York, Thomas has exhibited at White Columns and The Drawing Center among other venues. In 2005
    the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC showed 28 examples of her ongoing collage series, combined with wooden
    three dimensional structures she calls “social sculpture,” in homage to Joseph Beuys’s famous formulation and the idea
    that social systems add up to (or can be rearranged to constitute) one great work of art. Her 2005 “Free Form Perch” is
    ten by nine feet in circumference and five feet high. The five concentric bench-like tiers unwind upward to a single
    topmost seat. Another of Beuys’s dictums was “Everyone is an artist.” Structures like Thomas’ bench or her recycled
    plastic “Double Lounger” (which is something like a deckchair built for two) and her extensive series of “Perch” works,
    give people a chance to participate in her work, becoming artists in a way, or even (briefly), art itself. Also influential
    has been the “anarchitecture” of 1970’s Situationism-inspired artist Gordon Matta-Clark, whose version of
    detournement involved the alteration of decaying inner city buildings. By slicing away sections of wall and opening up
    urban vistas he transformed and extended the history of abandoned places and their residual contents.
     Thomas collects rulers, which she cuts and shapes so that they can be used to make crooked lines. “Perfection is the
    booby prize of life,” she remarks, and her pseudo-geometric dodecahedron in “Perspective Study,” is, as one might
    expect, non-Euclidean (though in this case the outlines of her figure are pretty straight). Thomas builds an approximate
    order on the basis of chaos, using cut fragments of paper covered with scribbles, letters, and snatches of drawings. A
    dialogue between random disorder and formal simplicity (Thomas is also a fan of Ellsworth Kelly’s abstract clarity)
    ensues, like a song teetering at the brink of noise.
     In these works sense falls apart just when it begins to fall together –  they're sketches of the way life is, as organisms
    (like us) negotiate their desires across the permeable borders of being. In one of her blog posts Thomas writes, “Next
    up, experiments in and with new and different, reformed, informed and all encompassing forms of selfhood (folded,
    presented, performed, baked, butted, and drawn crooked).”

    -- Douglas Max Utter

    Ohio Lands Forever / Brinsley Tyrrell
    Recent Drawings / Austin Thomas
    June 4 - July 31, 2010
    William Busta Gallery
    2731 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115
The Way Beside the Apple Tree
Brinsley Tyrrell 2009
Plain Geometry, Austin Thomas