Director of Exhibitions
International Arts & Artists
June 26 through August 23, 2009
Artists' Reception and Gallery Talk:
Friday, June 26 from 6-7PM
Friday, June 26 from 7-10PM
Sunday, August 23 at 4PM
MARLENE ROTHACKER, the Director of Exhibitions at International Arts & Artists, oversees the marketing and development of all exhibitions for its Traveling Exhibition Service. With over 15 years experience in the museum field at Chicago's Field Museum and the Smithsonian, Rothacker will jury and curate radius250.
ARTSPACE is a non-profit, member-run gallery, which has been in existence since 1988. It has become an urban pioneer, moving to and improving "undiscovered" areas of Richmond. One of the most beautiful gallery spaces in Richmond and Virginia, artspace exhibits works by regional, national, and international artists.
Plant Zero, the home of artspace, houses sixty studios for working artists, a Cafe, event space, and offices for area arts-focused, non-profit organizations. Plant Zero takes up an entire block in the Manchester Arts District, which was primarily an industrial area until 2004. Manchester is just across the James River from Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, historic districts that have long been favorite destinations for visitors.
It was an honor to be asked by artspace to select the works for the 3rd biennial radius250 exhibition. I hope the pieces chosen reflect the diversity of media and expression from artists working within a 250 mile radius around Richmond. It is incredible for me to see such a range of interests and talents in the submissions, although that is not entirely surprising with the number of resources and opportunities given to artists in this area. It reminds me how fortunate we are and the high level of cultural exposure and new ideas that are shared among us. It did, however, make for a difficult selection process for me with so many strong works to choose from and having to balance that against honing an exhibition as well as physical space constraints.
Of the 635 works submitted by 180 artists, this year's radius250 showcases 68 works by 64 artists in a wide range of media including paintings, works on paper, photography, mixed media, fiber art, sculpture, and video. My selection process was measured by whether or not works had a strong composition and technical skill along with presenting exceptional creativity or evoking an emotional response. The jurying process is always subjective and based in my own personal experiences and sense of artistic merit. Opinions and tastes change over time and even come back around: I loved the Bee Gees in the 70s; I hated the Bee Gees in the 80s; and now I love the Bee Gees again. That may not be the best example (and I may regret writing that later) but seems important to say that this is just a snapshot of a moment in time and influenced by current trends and aesthetic sensibilities.
The works vary considerably in style and technique which I hope reflects my broad appreciation for diverse media and what individual artists are expressing with their work. I feel strongly that all the works selected met my criteria: all have strong compositions and technical skill. But each of these works also has something new or different to say or they evoke an emotional response in me that ranges from humor, inspiration or nostalgia to loneliness, intrigue or drama. Color is also an important factor for an emotional response where visual intensity gives a sense of energy, movement and vitality.
I selected four works for awards that I feel best exemplified these qualities. I have always been a fan of art that has a sense of irony like with Meret Oppenheim's fur tea cup. Erin Riley's two fiber works Mack and Central featuring a woven Mack truck creates strong irony with a steel truck made out of fibers but it is also rich in texture and muted tones making for a beautiful yet unusual landscape. Aaron Sizemore's painting When Flowers & Tubes Meet presents much information such as landscapes within other landscapes and layered figures that makes this work both imagined and real creating tremendous movement and a contemporary setting. Alex Grabiec's photograph Kitchen is full of nostalgia but also created a mystery to the scale of the subject matter and left me wondering, is this a doll house or my grandmother's kitchen? It reminds me of the work of David Levinthal whose photographs use plastic toys to create imagined scenes that play with scale and reality. I like that it was unclear how he created it because the objects could be life-sized or toy-sized and that wondering caught my attention and imagination. Scott Hazard calls his two works Introjection: Raleigh, North Carolina-Chimney Sculpture and Introjection: Durham, North Carolina - Sealed Door Sculpture photographic sculptures and I didn't know what that meant until I viewed the work in person. I thought he had made the three dimensional appearance through computer manipulation. But these are carefully cut and layered photographs that manipulate the original subject matter of a door or sky that is clever and striking.
With regard to the range of styles in this year's radius250, there are figurative works, detailed landscapes and other realistic interpretations of subject matter which have always interested me especially in the works of the photorealist painters and my own grandfather-a realistic watercolor artist trained in the 1940s at the Art Students League in New York. The paintings by Bob Carlson, Melissa Burgess and E.B. Kellinger and pastel by ceebs exemplify this approach. There are works with recognizable subject matter created from the artist's imagination like Micah Mullen's (honorable mention) painting of a waterfall landscape with heavily patterned designs that depict nature but breakdown into tiny squares, circles and other markings.
Some of the works have abstract constructions or striped down details whose strength are in their simplicity and powerful compositions as with the work of Jim Black and Nancy Bruce (honorable mention). Some abstract creations have landscape qualities as with the paintings by Elaine Rogers Brace, Jessica Sims (honorable mention) and Patte Ormsby (honorable mention). Others have figurative qualities like Paul Muick's (honorable mention) painting of flat, vibrant elongated figures and Jonathan Ricci's (honorable mention) mixed media collage with a figure of a bird layered over the design for sewing a pocket.
There is documentary photography like Marti Belcher's and Michael Borek's (honorable mention) images which both capture reality but with the use of reflection (Belcher) or creative positioning (Borek) trick the eye and enhance or distort the ordinary. Other photographs are altered through various techniques like Paul Hartmann's (honorable mention) image of a flying toy plane in a darkened room with overlapping sections that create a dream-like landscape.
The sculptural work by Ron Longsdorf and Mona Mullins Williams (honorable mentions) of house constructions evoked the sculpture of William Christenberry's decaying structures in rural Alabama. Other sculptures range from traditional media of bronze and stone to zippers and petri dishes that represent samples of various dates to give a variety of different expression in this media.
- Marlene Rothacker
"When Flowers & Tubes Meet"
"Introjection: Raleigh, NC - Chimney"
"Introjection: Durham, NC - Sealed Door"
Mona Mullens Williams